Meatless Monday is an international campaign that encourages people to not eat meat on Mondays to improve their health and the health of the planet.
Meatless Monday focuses its initiative on Mondays for multiple reasons. Friday is traditionally already a meat-free day among Catholics and Orthodox. Monday is typically the beginning of the work week, the day when individuals settle back into their weekly routine. Unhealthy habits that prevailed over the weekend can be forgotten and replaced by positive choices. A weekly reminder to restart healthy habits also encourages success. A 2009 trial published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine provided individuals with weekly health prompts and encouragement. Approximately two thirds of participants responded with improvements in their overall health, eating habits and physical activity levels.
During World War I, the United States Food Administration (USFA) urged families to reduce consumption of key staples to help the war effort. Conserving food would support U.S. troops as well as feed populations in Europe where food production and distribution had been disrupted by war. To encourage voluntary rationing, the USFA created the slogan “Food Will Win the War” and coined the terms “Meatless Monday” and “Wheatless Wednesday” to remind Americans to reduce intake of those products.
Herbert Hoover was the head of the Food Administration as well as the American Relief Association during Woodrow Wilson’s presidency, and played a key role implementing the campaign, which was one of Hoover’s many attempts to encourage volunteerism and sacrifice among Americans during the war. The USFA provided a wide variety of materials in addition to advertising, including recipe books and menus found in magazines, newspapers and government-sponsored pamphlets.
The campaign returned with the onset of World War II, calling upon women on the home front to play a role in supporting the war effort. During this time, meat was being rationed, along with other commodities like sugar and gasoline.
Meatless Monday was restarted in 2003 as a public health awareness program. The campaign was endorsed by the Center for a Livable Future (a division of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) as well as over 20 public health schools. In April 2009, Meatless Monday launched an informational video noting the effects of meat consumption on climate change.
Meatless Monday is based in the United States, but meatless days (Monday in particular) are gaining popularity worldwide. Meat-free Mondays exist in the United Kingdom both as an advertising campaign for Goodlife Foods and as an environmental campaign. On June 15, 2009 Paul McCartney and his daughters Stella and Mary launched a Meat-free Monday campaign with an official website. In October 2009, Meatless Monday was launched in São Paulo with government support by the Brazilian Vegetarian Society. In December 2009, Meatless Mondays launched in Australia.
In May 2009, the city of Ghent, Belgium became the first city with ‘official’ weekly vegetarian days. Veggie Thursday (or “Donderdag Veggiedag” in Dutch) was created by the Ethical Vegetarian Alternative, an organization partially funded by the Flemish government. Israeli magazine Al Hashulchan (On the Table) introduced the Sheni Tzimchoni (Vegetarian Monday) initiative in June 2009. Dozens of Israel’s top restaurants will create innovative meatless meals on Mondays throughout July and August 2009. On April 6, 2010, San Francisco became the first US city to officially declare Mondays to be “meat free”, calling it their Vegetarian Day. Several other countries have meat-free days as well, including Canada.
In March 2012, the Government of Croatia also supported the initiative, excluding meat from the menu of the Ministry of Environment and Nature Protection on Mondays.