Sunday April 17, 2011
One day a week, cut out the meat
By AIDA AHMAD
Those who want to reduce or even totally remove meat from their diet can do this by taking small steps.
MEDIA mogul Oprah Winfrey is a supporter. So is Olivia Wilde, star of the new Tron movie and FOX’s hit series House. And more people, organisations and establishments are getting on the meatless bandwagon under the banner of Meatless Monday, an international campaign that encourages people to drop meat from their plates on Mondays. Their goal is to help you reduce your meat consumption by 15% in order to improve your personal health and the health of the planet.
According to Meatless Monday, a non-profit initiative of The Monday Campaigns together with the US-based Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health, the water needs of livestock are tremendous as an estimated 1,800 to 2,500 gallons of water go into a single pound of beef whereas soy tofu produced in California requires only 220 gallons of water per pound.
But why Monday?
“From an early age we internalise the rhythm of having structure and planning ahead, and studies suggest we are more likely to maintain behaviours begun on Monday throughout the week,” says US-based Tami O’Neill, project associate for Meatless Monday in an e-mail interview.
But just going meatless is not enough. “That is why we provide information you need to add healthy, environmentally friendly meat-free alternatives to your diet each week.
“Furthermore, if you do eat meat on other days, we strongly recommend grass-fed, hormone-free, locally-raised options whenever possible (to cut down on carbon footprint in transportation),” she says.
Recently, Pearl International Hotel Kuala Lumpur adopted the Meatless Monday initiative and created a special menu for it. “We are promoting this awareness internally and externally,” says Datin Chiann Tan, the hotel’s vice president of Business Development and Finance.
“Internally the hotel will have a meatless menu on Mondays at the hotel staff cafeteria. For the hotel guests, executive sous chef Alex Chin has specially designed a meatless set lunch menu that will be available on Mondays. There will also be a meatless corner during buffet promotions in the hotel on weekends.”
Going meatless not only helps to improve your health but will also save our planet by reducing carbon footprints, minimising water usage and reducing fuel dependence, she adds.
The hotel is also hoping to increase their promotional efforts so they can be officially recognised as a Meatless Monday campaign representative for Malaysia.
“Before launching our programme, we sought advice from the associates in the United States. There is still a lot for us to do, like setting up a Facebook page on this campaign and getting the people interested in this cause. I, too, as well as my colleagues fully support the Meatless Monday campaign although we are not full-fledged vegetarians,” says Zoe Soo, the hotel’s public relations officer.
Their set lunch is priced at RM15++ per person and consists of a Chinese and Western menu. Call the hotel hotline at 03-7983 1111 ext. 3330 to find out more about their upcoming programmes for the Meatless Monday campaign.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates that the meat industry generates nearly one-fifth of man-made greenhouse gas emissions that are accelerating climate change worldwide.
Which is why reducing our meat consumption can help to slow the trend of man-made green house emissions, according to Matthias Gelber or “Mr Green Man” as he is dubbed.
“The statistical average Malaysian emits about 10,000kg of carbon dioxide per year. That computes to about 26 million tonnes of carbon emission in Malaysia as a whole. If you have a weight of 50kg, then the carbon dioxide emissions represent 200 times your weight,” he points out.
The Meatless Monday campaign will help to reduce our carbon footprint, says Gelber, an entrepreneur who flies frequently in his line of work. He also travels regularly to give talks on the environment.
Gelber admits that this leaves him with a huge carbon imprint, but he offsets this by avidly supporting tree-planting schemes run by organisations such as the Plant-A-Tree-Today (PATT) Foundation, a UK registered charity.
He also carefully weighs every invitation for talks to avoid unnecessary travelling, he adds.
Ironically, Gelber who was voted the “Greenest Person on the Planet” in 2008 (by 3rdWhale, an eco-media company in Canada that provides web-based green applications on mobile phones), hasn’t quite fully shifted into the vegetarian mode as yet.
“Nobody is perfect. I am definitely not,” he laughs. “My principle is if I go out to eat, I will usually not order meat dishes. However, if I am an invited guest to an event where the food served already has meat then I might eat some. I do include plenty of vegetables and fruit in my daily diet. One of my favourites is dhal.”
The Meatless Monday campaign is a good way to encourage people to eat less meat to improve their diet as well, reiterates this tree hugger and eco-warrior who hails from a tiny village with a population of 500 in Lippe, Germany.
“When I go back to my hometown in Germany, I have a hard time declining meat dishes, which is the main staple there. My mother was even shocked to hear that I want to avoid meat as far as possible now,” he jokes.
In November last year, more than 12,400 Malaysians pledged to go meatless for a day in conjunction with International Meatless – Animal Rights Day.
“This was the highest figure ever achieved by Malaysians, surpassing the total of 10,755 pledges in 2009,” says Malaysian Meatless Day Campaign committee chairman Pishu Murli Hassaram.
The Meatless Monday campaign was started in Malaysia in 1996 and is aimed at creating awareness on the benefits of going meatless and getting the public to change their eating habits, he says.
“There are between 45 and 50 vegetarian restaurants in Penang now,” says Hassaram who is based in Bishop Street, Penang. “The yearly International Meatless Day carnival also helps to promote Penang as a heaven for vegetarian food. We hope to have this year’s carnival on the second or third Sunday in November.”