Tel Aviv University students last week joined their peers in Oxford, Harvard, UCLA, Columbia and dozens of other universities in the international campaign to hold a "meatfree" day once a week. The campaign is led by celebrities Paul McCartney, Yoko Ono and others, along with climate scientists and public health institutions.
During the launching of "Meatfree Monday", hundreds of vegetarian meals were handed out to students free of charge, including smoked tofu appetizers, seitan (wheat gluten) shawarma, soya goulash and an Indian legume dish.
Students were also invited to attend lectures on the link between steaks and rainforest destruction.
Most university cafeterias joined this initiative and from now on will serve a special vegetarian dish every Monday.
The event took place two days after the international "Meatout Day," which celebrated its 25th anniversary this year.
Prof. Dan Rabinowitz, former president of "Life and Environment", the Israel Union of Environmental NGOs, said: "Changing our eating habits, as suggested by "Meatfree Monday", is the simplest and most effective way for each of us to help, quite without effort, the global campaign aimed at stopping climate change."
5 million cars off British roads
Eran Ben-Yemini, president of the Green Movement, told the students: "The success of "Meatfree Monday" is a unanimous vote by each of us for a healthier environment and a more sustainable planet. It's a new breed of activism: assuming responsibility through the food we choose to eat, or, more accurately, not to eat. I sincerely hope this first-of-its-kind event in Israel will spread to other institutions to become a wide-spread public campaign, the way it is in many other countries. Change begins on our plate."
A special UN report published in 2006 said the animal-based food industry is the leading contributor to global warming. According to that report, the animal-based food industry is responsible for 18% of GHG emissions, more than planes, cars and ships combined. Renowned research institute Worldwatch claimed that according to calculations also taking into account the fish and meat processing industries, as well as other aspects of farm animal husbandry, the industry's GHG emissions reach about 51% of total emissions.
The UN report also showed that 70% of the South American rainforests were destroyed in order to clear land for cattle grazing, and that a large portion of the remaining parts of the rainforests are used for fodder production.
"The animal-based food industries also seem to be the main contributor to reducing biological variety (i.e. causing various animal species to become extinct), due to their contribution to forest destruction, as well as air, land and water pollution with animal excretions, antibiotics and hormones," Anonymous for Animal Rights said.
About 17 months ago, Dr. Rajendra Pachauri, head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), called for a reduction of meat consumption.
During a controversial speech in London, Dr. Pachauri presented data according to which a single day of vegetarian eating is equal to taking 5 million cars off British roads. In Israeli terms, this equals to taking half a million cars off our roads.