I’ll just say this straight out. I’m not a fan of Meatless Monday. As an ethical vegan, I believe that it is wrong to use animals for our pleasure. It’s a black and white thing. So measures such as Meatless Monday which tout the benefits of not eating animals some of the time asks me to believe that animal exploitation and murder is okay at other times. To my way of thinking it most certainly is not. But, okay, no one claims that Meatless Monday is about the animals.
In society and even in the vegan community there can be a knee-jerk positive response to efforts like this one. On the one hand it doesn’t really sound so bad. In terms of animal suffering, isn’t any effort/reduction in consumption worth celebrating, even if there’s no intention vis-a-vis the animals? Well, I don’t know. I decided to put my cynicism aside and look a little closer at the Meatless Monday website to actually learn more about what they are up to. The following is a quote from their “Global Movement” statement:
Meatless Monday is now active in 36 countries and growing because every nation can bring its unique culture, customs and cuisine to the table in meat free and vegetarian dishes. Skipping meat one day a week is good for you, great for your nation’s health, and fantastic for the planet!
So the message is to incorporate more vegetarian dishes–like today’s featured recipe, Kadai Paneer, an Indian Cheese dish:
(Photo from the Meatless Monday website)
Never mind how much animal suffering was needed to produce this dish. This dish is loaded with cheese and yogurt. I seriously question whether eating this way is “good for you”, “great for your nation’s health” or “fantastic for the planet”. We know that dairy is incredibly unhealthy and I have no idea what environmental resources are saved by chowing down on cheese rather than beef or chicken.
While I think it’s tempting to think that when folks remove meat from their diets the result might look something like this:
when I think it might actually look more like this:
During our transition from omnivore to vegan, David and I spent a few months being vegetarian. While I would say that we did increase our consumption of fresh vegetables (all good) many of our meals looked like this cheese-laden eggplant parmesan. And I had a great time creating delectable egg dishes like this quiche:
Plenty of cheese and butter in that one as well. Oh, and I remember very clearly that this mozzarella sandwich was a lunch staple of that period:
Now I can completely cop to having had limited imagination and even less understanding of vegan cooking during that time, but I also think this is pretty typical. And I look back on that stretch as not only contributing to animal exploitation and abuse (possibly even more than I did as an omnivore considering the level of abuse in the dairy and egg industries), but also eating in a way that was hardly ideal healthwise. Consequently, promoting vegetarianism as a positive alternative to meat-eating (a la Meatless Monday) doesn’t make sense to me.
I transitioned to veganism when I had enough education to fully understand that by eating a vegetarian diet I was continuing to support the torture and killing of other sentient beings as well as the destruction of our planet. I believe that others have the capacity to understand the facts and make similar changes. Education and information will make this possible, but we need to tell the truth.
Every day of the week.