Thursday, 23 September 2010

Just Another Meatless Monday...

Sir Paul McCartney, environment experts and greener living MPs are calling us to go meat free on Mondays. Driven by Sir Paul, the campaign is quickly gathering public, as well as celebrity and government support, nevertheless I question its unbreakable link to Mondays. Should the emphasis really be given to any one named day of the week? If you fail to have a meatless Monday, do you then wait another week to go meat free? I fear many people will come to this same unavoidable conclusion and like starting a new diet or quitting an addiction put off the inevitable.

To be fair, Sir Paul did address this in a hearing at the European Parliament. His statement that day called on people to adopt one meat free day a week, so why can't the overall campaign reflect this very stance? Yes, Meat Free Monday sounds good, catchy even. A marketing dream ticket to success, but it comes with a negative spin. The families I know still enjoy the traditional Sunday roast and celebrity chefs do little to dispel this. Mondays have been chosen to offset the meat gorging the day before, but this may be counterproductive. Mondays are leftover days – cold meat sandwiches, cold cuts and salad, casseroles, and chicken curry to name a few. I hope I'm proved wrong, but I understand other European countries set a different meat free agenda – usually a Wednesday or a Friday. This seems to me more logical. If you shop just once a week, Wednesdays or Fridays can lead to “bare cupboard syndrome”- you make do with what you've got left. Experimental and delicious meals made from back-of-the-cupboard ingredients. Whichever way you look at it, culinary challenge or kitchen nightmare, surely a middle-of-the-road day is a better meatless contender?

You may assume from this that I don't back the concept. I do and applaud Sir Paul's efforts all the way. I even voted for the recent Early Day Motion put forward by John Leech, an MP for Manchester, that all UK Parliament canteens should go meat free on Mondays, but I think our perception of meat needs more work. Meat used to be considered a luxury and still is in many parts of the world. It's this the West seems to have conveniently forgotten. For some, global warming is not a concern, but if forgoing meat just for one day was re-marketed as a way of giving to others it would offer a whole new perspective. The grain used to fatten meat would feed more than the meat itself. Think of how many third world countries we could help. Instead we offload what we don't want as aid or sell them back the fruits of their own labour. Why should impoverished countries have to rely on this outside assistance? We deny them their right to self-sufficiency and expect them to be humble with it.

The Meat Free Monday campaign for me raises far too many questions and not enough answers. As a veggie it holds little sway, but I think meat eaters could do with more clarity. Are we saying it's okay to eat fish like Christians would do on “fish supper” Fridays? Should veggies and vegans be going that extra step and abstaining from faux meat alternatives? Going meat free for one day is not sufficient to alter the state of the planet, nor is it a huge undertaking either. Like “Ready, Steady, Cook”, anyone can create a meat free masterpiece in 20 minutes.