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Meatless Monday: Moderation At The Dinner Table

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As Thanksgiving approaches, we explore the meaning of moderation.
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As Thanksgiving approaches, we explore the meaning of moderation.

You've probably heard of 'Meatless Monday,' but have you tried it?

Studies by the meat industry have shown half of all Americans have heard of Meatless Mondays, and more than one-fifth have participated. The idea of 'Meatless Monday' goes back to World War I, as a way to conserve resources for the troops. In 2003, Johns Hopkins University relaunched the initiative to encourage Americans to cut meat from their diets just one day a week, thereby improving their health and cutting the environmental impact of meat production.

There's also the animal rights angle, but up until now the Humane Society of the United States has stayed in the shadow of the Meatless Monday movement.

"Most of the work of the humane society is dogs, cats and wildlife, but we're concerned about the treatment of all animals," says Paul Shapiro, the HSUS Senior Director of Farm Animal Protection. "What we're trying to do here is help people understand that each one of us can make a difference for animals every time we sit down to eat."

Although many people have no desire to drastically alter their diet, Meatless Mondays can be a comfortable stepping-stone to slowly cutting back on meat.

"It's not all or nothing," Shapiro says, "It's hard to break a lifetime of ingrained eating habits. I think the point is just to make some progress. The vast majority of Americans are eating meat every day of their lives, and it doesn't have to be that way."

According to The Vegetarian Resource Group, a nonprofit education and advocacy group, roughly 5 percent of American adults are vegetarians. With skyrocketing obesity rates, Shapiro says, the mainstreaming of Meatless Monday couldn't come at a better time.


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