Happy Birthday, Veggie Day!
One year ago, the northern Belgium city of Ghent became the first city in the world to declare a weekly meat-free day to promote sustainable and healthy living. Today, the city is celebrating a year of “Donderdag Veggiedag” (Thursday Veggie Day) with stalls, entertainment, music and vegetarian food in the Groentenmarkt.
Since Ghent started this initiative, other cities as well as restaurants, schools and universities in countries such as Germany, the US, Israel, Taiwan, South Africa and Finland have followed suit, and meat-free campaigns, such as “Meatless Monday” in the US and Sir Paul McCartney’s “Meat-Free Monday”, have gained momentum.
PETA’s education department launched Meat-Free Monday as a cross-curricular global citizenship project in schools. Fitting in perfectly with the Eco-Schools and Healthy Schools initiatives, as well as the government’s nutrient- and food-based standards, schools serve meat-free meals on one day each week, and pupils learn that they can prevent animal suffering, combat climate change and reduce their risk of heart disease and other ailments later in life by reducing their meat consumption or by adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet.
We’re now into the project’s third school term. With seven schools participating fully across the UK, dozens more testing a Meat-Free Monday menu in Brighton and Hove, and an increasing number of teachers and caterers expressing interest, is the project having an effect? A schoolwide survey conducted at Barham Primary School in Wembley, London, found that a little more than 100 pupils are now eating more vegetables and half of all the children at the school said that they understood more about the issues. Parents’ reactions have also been overwhelmingly positive. And just think about it – between them, the seven participating schools have also already saved 74,318 carbon dioxide equivalents; 49,689,954 litres of water; 62 tonnes of grain and 4,032 animals!
Ultimately, children and young people will go on to make their own decisions about what they eat, but Meat-Free Monday provides them with the knowledge and experience with which to make informed, responsible and compassionate choices.