South Africa’s Meat Free Monday Campaign

Submitted by: Nadia Shah, Monday, October 6, 2014

<p>Meat free schnitzels with stuffed butternut. (Image Source: Fry’s Family Vegetarian Foods)</p>

Meat free schnitzels with stuffed butternut. (Image Source: Fry’s Family Vegetarian Foods)

‘Meat Free Mondays’ is a global campaign which aims to encourage the public to reduce their meat intake in promotion of animal welfare, personal well-being and environmental health by abstaining from meat once a week, every Monday. The campaign was initiated in America in 2003 and has since spread to 34 countries around the world, including South Africa.

In South Africa, Fry’s Family Vegetarian Foods is the sole sponsor of the campaign. According to Brett Thompson, National Corporate Social Investment Programme Manager at Fry’s Family Foods, the campaign has been well received with 7,000 South Africans taking the Meat Free Monday pledge online to not consume meat every Monday. Thompson has presented to 15,000 people and estimates the total number of active participants in South Africa to be 22,000 which equates to a 12,286 tonne reduction in emissions of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2 eq) per a year.

Why Mondays?

Mondays were chosen as the ideal day to go meat-free since people generally tend to consume large amounts of meat over the weekend. In addition, the campaign acknowledges that as creatures of habit, people are most responsive to change when it fits into their weekly routine and the start of the week creates the perfect opportunity to make a healthy change. However the campaign is flexible, if Mondays are not suitable, a different day can be chosen as going meat-free on any day of the week or reducing your meat in-take over all will offer the same benefits. Thompson notes that while the ultimate solution would be for everyone to adopt a fully vegetarian diet, the Meat Free Monday campaign is encouraging since it requires little effort and has helped many people to get creative with vegetables and discover new exciting recipes and meat alternatives which has aided their transition to a vegetarian diet. “Research shows that those who make incremental changes are far more likely to successfully change their lifestyle, be it giving up smoking or giving up meat,” adds Thompson.

“We encourage all South Africans to commit to the Meat Free Monday campaign by taking the pledge online and making a small change to their lifestyle which will in turn make a significant difference to the world,” said Thompson. Thompson notes the following three benefits of supporting the initiative:

The environmental benefits of eating less meat

“If we are serious about protecting the Earth and mitigating climate change, we need to rethink our resource intensive diets. Research conducted by the World Watch Institute found that livestock account for 51% of all greenhouse gases (GHG). This is because methane and nitrous oxide produced by livestock is respectively 25 times and 298 times more damaging to the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. If every South African abstained from meat just once a week, the reduction in GHG emissions would be equivalent to taking just over a million cars off the road for a year. Animal husbandry is also extremely water intensive and results in water pollution due to the run off of animal waste into our streams, rivers and oceans,“ explained Thompson.  By consuming less meat, the demand for animal products is reduced which in turn reduces the impact on the natural environment.

Animal welfare

The second benefit that Thompson states for eating less meat is the contribution that one can make to animal welfare “Compassion for animals is the number one reason people reduce their meat intake. In South Africa, 2.5 million chickens are slaughtered daily and in total 2 billion animals are killed for meat every year. Research conducted by Compassion in World Farming have found that as a result of the Meat Free Monday campaign in South Africa 11,200 cattle, 2 million chickens, 10,000 pigs and 22,300 sheep will not face slaughter each week. Most South Africans are not aware of the living conditions that livestock endure, 80% of animals in South Africa are raised in factory farms and are deprived of exercise, fresh air and social interaction. In order to survive these over-crowded and disease-ridden conditions, they are pumped with antibiotics and fed chemical growth promoters. People often think that free range meat is the solution however these animals are still subjected to cruelty in the form of hot-iron branding, castration, de-horning and ear-tagging. All animals suffer, whether the meat is free range, organic or factory farmed, in the end, their lives all end in acts of brutal violence at the slaughter-house,” explains Thompson.

Health

The third benefit of reducing meat consumption is improved health. Thompson explains that traditionally meat was only eaten on special occasions however with a culture of braais and adoption of a more Westernised lifestyle South Africans have become a meat reliant nation. “As a result we are suffering from the health consequences of excessive protein and saturated fat such as increased cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, cancer, and heart disease,” said Thompson. The campaign aims to reduce the risk of these diseases by promoting healthy eating once a week.

South African Supporters

The initiative has gained support at a number of institutions such as First National Bank, Nampak, Kauai, Eagle Wing Couriers and the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal. In addition, a number of celebrities have declared their support to the Meat Free Monday campaign in South Africa including music band, The Parlotones, Indian cricketer Yuvraj Singh and former Miss South Africa, Kerishni Naicker.  “We have campaigned at hundreds of schools around the country and the youth are particularly enthusiastic about the initiative, the first question is always - How do I become vegetarian?” said Thompson.  He added that in light of the serious global issues we face, South Africans should see the initiative as an opportunity to do their bit for the planet.

How you can participate in Meat Free Mondays

To show your support for the Meat Free Monday campaign, take the meat free monday pledge online by simply filling in your name and email address, you will receive a personalised pledge certificate and unique pledge number as well as monthly recipes and news updates.

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