On Tuesday, the Long Beach City Council will consider a Meatless Monday proclamation, encouraging residents to avoid meat on Mondays. If passed, Long Beach will join the ranks of Meatless Monday cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, Washington D.C. and Minneapolis Minnesota, as well as California State University, Long Beach.
City Councilmember Al Austin brought the proclamation to the council’s attention after receiving information from Farm Sanctuary, a non-profit organization focused on raising awareness of factory farm abuse and encouraging an understanding of farm animals.
“It’s not a requirement, but a way to promote healthy options,” Austin’s Chief of Staff Jonathan Kraus said. “If even one day a week someone can experience new menu options,” the proclamation will have accomplished its aim, according to Kraus.
He said councilmembers Lena Gonzalez and Suzie Price were in support of the measure as of Monday.
Long Beach resident and Farm Sanctuary General Council Drew Alexis spearheaded the movement to have the city council consider the Meatless Monday proclamation. He wrote his councilmember, Austin, after watching neighboring cities and school districts (namely, the Los Angeles Unified School District) adopt the measure.
“This proclamation is encouraging people one day a week to take meat off your plate,” Alexis said. “There’s no interference [in people’s diets] at all—we’re simply encouraging people.”
Other community members expressed equal parts dismay and skepticism at the proclamation.
“Are you kidding me?” said Vasilios Hapsis, the CFO of the Long Beach-based meat producer Four Star Meat. “People need protein in their diets [...] they need a balanced diet,” he said, adding that this usually consists of meat and dairy. He said taking meat out would leave dairy as one’s sole protein source, which he says is often higher in fat.
“In my opinion, the government should stay out of the bedroom, people’s lives, and people’s diets,” he said.
The Meatless Monday philosophy makes a case for cost of excessive meat eating on people’s health and the environment—notably, water use.
In urging the council’s attention on the matter, Alexis mentioned an op-ed written by California Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-San Fernando Valley) last November. Cárdenas said he had taken the Meatless Monday challenge himself after learning it takes 400 gallons of water to produce one pound of chicken.
“I am talking about making a conscious decision to compare the large amount of water it takes to produce that steak or pork chop you’re eating, with the likely smaller amount of water needed to produce delicious meatless options,” Cárdenas wrote. He implied that the amount of water needed to produce one pound of tomatoes (26 gallons, according to Cárdenas) appeared more desirable in comparison to meat.
Water use and other environmental impacts have spurred Farm Sanctuary’s advocacy of late, according to its (mostly vegetarian) personnel.
“We usually focus on animals,” said Farm Sanctuary Education and Outreach Coordinator Kelly O’Neil. However, she said Farm Sanctuary’s focus on the Meatless Monday proclamation is mostly geared toward advocacy related to the environment and people’s health.
Kraus cited obesity as a reason the council was interested in considering the proclamation and said the main goal of the measure is to encourage residents to “eat a more varied, plant-based diet.”
“Meatless Monday is more of a catchy slogan, really,” he said.
Hapsis said taking meat out of one’s diet does nothing to make it more balanced.
“A whole square in the food pyramid is dedicated to protein,” he said, expressing a discomfort for the influence of special interest groups and food politics.
O’Neil believes the proclamation has a good chance of passing in the city, due to what she says is people’s knowledge of social and environmental issues in Long Beach.
“Long Beach is a very progressive city—it’s open and friendly with gay rights and [other issues],” she said. “I think it has a better chance [of passing] in Long Beach.”
For more information regarding the Meatless Monday proclamation, click here.