Published on April 22nd, 2013


Earth Day 2013: Why I Say “No” to Meatless Monday . . . and What to Do to Help Our Planet Instead

Earth Day’s today, and all weekend there have been events and meetings designed to educate people and enlist them in the cause of planetary health.

Unfortunately, way too much of this talk will focus on “veg centric” diets with vegan diets recommended as the be all and end all “green” choice for those committed to saving Planet Earth. People who want to transition towards veganism in baby steps will be urged to take the Environmental Working Group’s Meatless Monday pledge.

I personally am not about to take that pledge though the Environmental Working Group’s slogan “Reduce your impact, improve your health”  sounds like a “win/win.”  EWG, for example, tells us that a four member family skipping meat and cheese just one day a week would be as good for the earth as taking their car off the road for five weeks. And if every American cut out the meat and cheese once day a week it would do the good of not driving 91 billion miles or taking 7.6 million cars off the road.   EWG furthermore promises that reducing meat consumption will lower our risk of obesity, disease, stroke and cancer.

Sadly, it’s not that simple.   Far from contributing to personal and planetary health, Meatless Mondays encourage people to feel “feel good” about their “green” consciousness while distracting them from exploring and adopting genuine, sustainable solutions.   Although the Environmental Working Group has talked up “greener” meat —  and not just “less meat” or “no meat” —   the catchy “Meatless Monday” slogan perpetuates the myth that meat is evil and that plant-based diets are good.

Here’s why I’m keeping my Mondays meaty!

  • The true threat to our environment is not animals — which have been covering the earth with manure and emissions for tens of thousands of years — but the globalization and industrialization of agriculture with its unconscionable, factory-farming practices, toxic use of pesticides, herbicides and commercial fertilizers, plundering of natural resources, draining of the water table, and bankrupting of small farmers and cottage industries.
  • As for all that climate-warming gas, animals emit far less gas when they eat natural, grass-based diets and not unnatural, hard-to-digest feeds manufactured from soybeans, corn and other grains. Plowing pastures and rangeland in order to plant crops is not sustainable and won’t do much to feed the hungry or save the environment. Only about eleven percent of the land on planet earth can be farmed, a percentage that cannot be increased without deforestation, irrigation, chemical fertilizers, and other destructive ecological practices.
  • Old-fashioned organic mixed-use farms are the answer.   And animals are essential, not optional, for healthy farms. America’s top soil has been devastated by mono cropping, lawns and other unsustainable practices.   While mixing, rotating and composting plants is a start, land cannot be restored without the help of animals.  They are needed not only for their rich manure but for rotational grazing.   Animal waste is truly a horrific problem with factory farming but is valuable and collectible on small, mixed-use farms.   Overgrazing has certainly damaged much of America’s land, but the solution is sustainable grazing practices. And that solution, properly handled, serves the land far better than leaving it alone for “conservation.”As Joel Salatin has described so well in Folks, This Ain’t Normal,  The Sheer Ecstasy of Being a Lunatic Farmer, Everything I Want to Do is Illegal and other books, diversity, interdependence and layering are the keys to honoring and restoring our land.
  • Animal foods are often blamed for the diseases of modern civilization, including cancer and heart disease.  But the 20th century saw a decline in the consumption of meat, dairy and butter consumption, but a sharp increase in the consumption of sugar, corn syrup, white flour, liquid and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, artificial flavorings, preservatives and other known health hazard of processed, packaged and fast foods.   Contrary to popular belief, science does not support the idea that saturated fat and cholesterol found in animal products contribute to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.   All health problems associated with animal products lie with factory farming and other commercial and non-sustainable farming and food processing practices.
  • As for plant-based diets, vegan diets especially can lead to vitamin, mineral, fatty acid and amino acid deficiencies and imbalances, contributing to myriad health problems, including cancer and heart disease.
  • The idea that eating low fat could be eco-conscious defies traditional wisdom and common sense.      The low-fat gospel is a key reason why factory farms — including so-called organic factory farms — grow freakish hens with size DD breasts.  Big Agra’s goal with such chickens is to minimize the less-profitable dark meat and maximize the low-fat white meat preferred by “health-conscious” consumers.   The low-fat message pleases Big Pfood immensely because it profits mightily when whole foods are divided into several different products — which is to say multiple profit centers.   All of these, of course, will require manufacturing, packaging and long distance hauling   As for skim milk, nature put fat in milk for a reason, and that reason was not to kill us.  When people drink skim milk, their bodies need and crave that missing cream, leading to compensatory bingeing on ice cream and other unhealthy treats high in both fat and sugar.   Low fat thus leads to increased consumption, more packages, more products, higher profits,  ill health and environmental destruction.
  • The Environmental Working Group in its Meatless Monday promotions has reported that buying vegetables locally helps the environment, but buying eggs, milk, fish, poultry and meat locally has only a minimal effect.  Indeed, EWG cites this as a primary reason to cut back on all meat and adopt a “veg centric” diet. Such a bizarre finding could only be the case if the researchers evaluated the environmental impact of buying animal products from factory farms — including “Big Organic” operations — located close to home.
  • Animals play a critical role in restoring our soil and growing nutrient-dense vegetables and fruits.  Without animals nearby, farmers must use fossil fuel fertilizers and/or compost and manure transported from far away.   Not good for the environment!
  • Finally, if  people give up or minimize meat, what will they eat instead?    EWG suggests grains, beans and tofu.   In other words, vegetarian foods that are most likely grown and transported from a distance.     Furthermore,  the mistaken goal of eating less meat  will drive many consumers to buy processed and packaged vegetarian entrees full of soy protein isolate, corn syrup, MSG and other excitotoxins, “natural” or artificial colorings and flavorings as well as other dubious and non-green ingredients.   Furthermore, many of these so-called health foods contain GMO ingredients. Clearly, they are not an option for wellness seekers or environmentalists.

What to do instead?  Let’s commit one day a week to menus in which everything is local. One day a week to support old-fashioned farmers and ranchers and the co-ops and farmers‘ markets that support their efforts. For me, that means Meaty Mondays feasting on delicious local and in-season fruits and vegetables and grass-fed, sustainably produced meat, eggs and dairy. Mondays that taste and feel so good may soon become Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays as well. Now that’s an idea that’s truly sustainable.



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19 Responses to Earth Day 2013: Why I Say “No” to Meatless Monday . . . and What to Do to Help Our Planet Instead

  1. Wow Kaayla! This is the best article in support of Earth Day I have read in a long time! I’m sharing it!

  2. LIZ says:

    Wonderfully done!!!

  3. Beth says:

    Love this! Smart, sensible, and so obvious!

  4. Jim Jones says:

    Sure that would be great, but let’s face it the ‘average consumer’ whomever that is will not pay the price for organic, grass-fed beef even if they could get it. Last I checked there weren’t many local producers in most of our large populated areas.
    This is not a response to the ‘meat is bad’ messaging. This is to support the fact that large, industrialized farms and humanities ongoing drive for abundant, cheap animal protein is ruining the planet. Period.
    Your solution is overly simplistic and unrealistic. I love meat, eat organic and grass-fed, but I know we have trained people to think meat should be cheap and it will be easier to get them to boycott meat for one day than it will be for them to willingly pay >$5/lb for grass fed, organic beef.

  5. Sherwood Pillai says:

    In areas which had access to coastal or tidal waters, ‘fast food’ would frequently include local shellfish or seafood, such as oysters or, as in London, eels. Often this seafood would be cooked directly on the quay or close by.'”

    Please do have a look at our new web-site

  6. Aurore says:

    There are a number of slightly bizarre assumptions at work here.

    1. Yes animals are neccesary for organic mixed use farms but anyone with such a farm will tell you that the ratio would not mean eating animals every day. Historically we also did not eat anything near the current quantities of meat that people eat.

    2. If you are really eating the animals on your farms you would eat every bit of them. Not just the fillet. Very unlikely that many current meat eaters do this.

    3. Not eating meat for one day a week is hardly a vegan diet, in fact it has been shown that on “meatless mondays” most people eat more vegetables – something almost everyone does not eat enough of.

    4. Most meat eaters eat intensively farmed meat most of the time. Almost every time you eat at a fast food place or restaurant or someone’s house (even your own) you are eating the flesh of animals raised in cramped conditions and slaughtered in commercial slaughterhouses. Think back on the last 10 times you ate meat – can you say that on every occasion you ate humanely treated and killed produce?

    • Dr. Kaayla says:

      I have always argued for small mixed use farms, locavorism, “nose to tail” eating and pastured, free-range, grass-fed and biodynamic organic products. This is how I and many others eat everyday with very few exceptions. As omnivores, we also love vegetables and plenty of them, and see nothing wrong with choosing vegetarian meals or even vegetarian days, provided the meals do not feature processed, packaged and non local products. My objection is with the Meatless Monday campaign’s relentless propagandizing of plant-based diets as superior for personal and planetary health. They are not.

    • DrKaayla says:

      I am a big proponent of nose-to-tail eating. Indeed coauthored a book called Nourishing Broth about using the wisdom of using bones and cartilage for broth.

  7. Mac Chakrabarti says:

    “Contrary to popular belief, science does not support the idea that saturated fat and cholesterol found in animal products contribute to obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. ” Does that mean the research of Dr Caldwell Esselstyn
    and T Colin Campbell Ph.D
    cannot be considered science?

  8. Lana Salant says:

    I just LOVE your article and you are bang on. No maybe some cannot afford grass fed pasture beef but they can sure afford free range eggs and possible chicken. And even if not that they shouldn’t be passively aggressively pushed towards veganism which let’s face it,.. is the ultimate agenda of the Meatless Mondays gang. The MMers would prefer you have a soyful monocropped meal for physical and environmental health?? I live in Vancouver BC Canada and my city has fully embraced Meatless Mondays endorsed by our local govt. I am appalled to think it in the schools. I could rant on and on about it. Anyhow your article was sent to me because I recently started a campaign called “Mindful Meat Mondays” in a community I started last year on ironically EARTH DAY called “Ethical Omnivore Movement” where we spotlight one of the many small ethical pasture based farms/ranches we endorse along with a recipe from one of the talented chefs that are part of our community.. usually cooking grain free ancestral themed meals. Would love it you checked us out and came and said hello. This was our second installment. posted on our facebook page EOM – Ethical Omnivore Movement and website.

    Hope you enjoy and hope to hear form you soon.
    Lana Joe Salant

  9. Carol says:

    The true threat to our environment is overpopulation. Eating meat is not a problem, growing crops is not a problem – over population of the earth is the problem. It doesn’t matter what we eat because the more people there are the less there will be to eat regardless of its source.

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