(Plant) Food Day

Looking for an easy, cheap, and fun way to celebrate Food Day? Well, as the event’s organizers point out, four out of five American kids aren’t eating the recommended amount of fruits and veggies. One way to start changing that—while giving the animals a break—would be to eat some plants on Food Day.

Meatless-Monday-2012.jpgIt seems you can’t turn around these days without hearing someone reiterate the same basic message about the standard American diet: Simply put, we need to eat fewer animals.

New York Times columnist Mark Bittman sums it up when he writes convincingly about the benefits of eating a more plant-centric diet: “By reducing the amount of meat we eat, we can grow and kill fewer animals. That means less environmental damage, including climate change; fewer antibiotics in the water and food supplies; fewer pesticides and herbicides; reduced cruelty; and so on. It also means better health for you.”

Bittman joins Michael Pollan in his crusade encouraging us to eat lower on the food chain. After all, Pollan’s “In Defense of Food” popularized among sustainable food advocates the slogan, “Eat Food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

We know why eating more plants and fewer animals is good for our health, but it turns out that what’s good for our bodies is good for our planet, too. The animal agribusiness industry is one of the greatest contributors to global warming, which is perhaps one reason Environmental Defense notes, “If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains…the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. roads.”

Choosing more meat-free options also helps prevent cruelty to animals. More than a million animals (nearly all chickens) are slaughtered for food every single cattle_epa.jpghour in the United States alone. Most of them are raised in conditions so cruel and inhumane that few of us would even want to bear witness to their misery, let alone partake in it. As such vast numbers of animals are being pumped through this system, extreme cruelty will continue to be the norm.

So this Food Day, let’s celebrate that something so easy as simply eating fewer animals and more delicious plant-based meals can make such a big impact on the world. Very few issues have such clear connections among public health, animal welfare and sustainability. Whether it’s Meatless Monday or more, the time couldn’t be better to look down at our plates and recognize that we can simply live and let live—in so many ways—just by opting for the veggie burger.

Paul Shapiro is the vice president of farm animal protection at The Humane Society of the United States. Follow him at

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