A couple of days ago an email appeared in my in-box inviting me to take the Veg Week Challenge. Among the many invitations I get to challenge myself in various ways, not least by doling out money for some dubious benefit, this one actually caught my attention. You might think I’m already challenged enough with the Alternate Day Fasting Diet and all, but the reasons put forward for taking this one were so persuasive I threw caution to the winds and signed up.
The International Veg Week Challenge is an initiative of Animals Australia to mark International Vegetarian Week which is about celebrating a compassionate choice for a kinder world.
Early October (October 4th) is also when World Animal Day is celebrated, the aims of which are closely aligned to the Animals Australia mission. An international annual day of action for animal rights and welfare, World Animal Day was initiated in 1931. It coincides with the Feast Day of St Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. In addition to raising awareness of animal rights and welfare, it highlights the plight of endangered species.
The challenge involves committing to a vegetarian diet for one week, which isn’t a particularly big deal for me, as I don’t eat a lot of meat anyway. There are some meat dishes I enjoy but if I never ate meat again, I don’t honestly think it would be a sacrifice. There are so many delicious alternatives, some of which I discovered during the Meat Free Week Challenge earlier this year. Including meat as the mainstay of every meal has become an ingrained habit I suspect, passed down from earlier “meat and 3 veg” culinary traditions. Advertising campaigns like the Australian Meat & Livestock Corporation’s “Feed the Man Meat” were remarkably successful in entrenching the fallacy that red blooded men rely on the protein supplied by meat and if they don’t get enough will go pale and fall about fainting.
There are compelling reasons for considering shifting to a plant-based diet. Cutting down or eliminating meat from the diet can provide significant environmental, animal welfare and health benefits. According to Animals Australia, by taking the veg pledge for just one week, I will save the lives of two animals, reduce water consumption by thousands of litres and dramatically lower my carbon footprint. Just one of those reasons is more than adequate motivation for something that’s really no hardship. You can find out more about why it’s a good idea at WhyVeg.com
To date 24,308 people agree with me and have signed the pledge.
For those who might be in a quandary about what to eat when there’s no meat, there are plenty of suggestions on the Veg Week Challenge website, including meal ideas, a shopping guide, a Capital City guide to vegetarian eating places and links to vegetarian cooking classes. I’ve found all it takes is a bit of ingenuity and creativity and it’s really easy to create great tasting and satisfying meals without meat. Below is an example of one of my recent efforts – roasted sweet potato, chick peas and pine nuts with mushrooms, sugar snap peas and goat’s cheese, accompanied by a salad.
For me, the most forcible of all the reasons to do this is that going meat-free is a way of taking a stand against factory farming, an abhorrent practice. It’s hard to believe, but if all Australians went meat-free for just one week (or 7 measly days), almost 10 million animals would be spared from being imprisoned in a factory farm. Each week, 41,000 adult sheep, 56,000 cows, 123,000 pigs, 211,000 lambs and 9,000,000 chickens are killed for human consumption. Cumulatively that’s one huge mountain of carcasses and all to feed our insatiable craving for a foodstuff we can just as well do without and certainly can for just one week. But if you’ve missed this week to join the challenge, the great thing is you can pick any week and you’ll still be making a huge difference.
by Anne Green