7 min read

The Malleable Morals Behind Meat-Free Mondays

Paul McCartney once said that "if slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian," but I wonder if that is really true. Currently there's a campaign to encourage everyone to have a weekly Meat-Free day:

I have just pledged to go #MeatFree on Mondays for the #MFMclimatepledge. Show your support by joining in!

It's part of the U.N. climate change summit activities, and it is this challenge that has made me question as to why it might be so hard for some to not eat meat for only one day a week.

As a vegetarian, I often get asked, "but why are you a vegetarian? Is it because you don't like meat, or for some ethical reason?" Anyone who is, or has been a vegetarian, will have been faced with the question of why at some point. I've always found it rather strange that many other life eating choices mainly get accepted quite gracefully by society. "I'm dieting/carbo-loading/on a 5:2 diet" is always met with "Oh wow, well done," but when it comes to being a vegetarian, it still seems that this is a subject open to ridicule or contention, one to justify. Quite strangely, it is a choice that still seems to sit uncomfortably with many people.

Why is this? Vegetarianism has been around for thousands of years. Even Ancient Greek civilization practiced vegetarian diets, yet still in many social circles it appears to be alien concept. "You'll eat chicken though, that doesn't count, right?" No. "Oh, ok, well I've got some fish you could have?" Nope.

I can't preach; I've opted in and out of vegetarianism for the past twenty years, but must admit I am much happier when I am one. As alarming studies continue to show that children aren't aware of where their food comes from ("cheese is from plants" is a real quote from a 2013 study) and obesity rates in the UK continue to surge, I think it's more important than ever to educate the public on where and how food is grown and produced. I am not suggesting we force-feed people the cruel reality of the meat production (excuse the pun), but I believe we should give the public more credit, and provide more detailed information on how the food we put in our mouths on a daily basis is actually produced.

This brings me back to the Meat-Free Monday campaign. It actually saddens me that this should be a challenge in the first place. We take for granted the accessibility of meat: cheap cuts on sale in supermarkets, three for two offers, and anything from wild rabbit to rare beef steaks are readily available. Yes, greedy meat consumerism has been driven by trend and demand and is part of Western society's culture. Putting aside the welfare and ethical considerations of mass meat production, the "demand and I will receive" attitude towards any product surely only drives an already ethically failing consumeristic society, that can only like anything done to excess, implode at some point. Perhaps that is the point we are slowly reaching.

The Meat-Free Monday campaign highlights the benefits of reducing our meat consumption on carbon emissions and climate change. And rightly so. If the challenges of animal cruelty haven't been enough to reduce our consumption, then I'd like to believe that the thought of a personal contribution to reducing global climate threat will do so instead. And the enlightened among us can continue to make the right choice and choose meat that has been as humanely produced as possible. If it's more expensive? Just eat less of it. At the end of the day, as much as we can lay the blame on manufacturers and the food market, only we are in control of ourselves and our decisions, so lets make the right one.