No Meat March

Anyone can try being a vegetarian for one month, especially in March. March boasts restaurant “special menus” plus great dining guides and “how-to” starter kits. March is an easy month to try going meat-free, something you’ve probably wondered about at least once or twice. The real question is why should you try No Meat March? What is in is for you? Here are some ideas that might kick start you into thinking more about giving No Meat March a try.

Your Health
It has been debated whether becoming a vegetarian helps you to lose weight, cure diabetes, or decrease the risk of contracting cancer. What is clear is that a plant-based diet is higher in fiber, lower in saturated fats and sodium, and contains a broader nutrient profile needed for healthy living. Most people that go veg stay that way because they love the healthy feeling of eliminating meat and/or dairy products. Getting healthy helps you to lose weight, which does cure diabetes and decrease your risk of contracting cancers.

Your Children
Vegetarians are less likely to contract heart disease, and people that consume the least amount of fat and animal products have the lowest risks of cancer, heart attack and other chronic degenerative diseases. Your kids want you to live longer, and this is a great way to start.

Foodborne Illness
Did you hear in the news that a brand of pork was contaminated with some crazy, life-threatening disease, or that all ground beef sold from a major food chain has been put on recall (although everyone is totally safe)? Vegetarians, you have nothing to fear. Even many of the vegetablebased food outbreaks were due to water contamination from nearby cattle farms. Trust me, gross foodborne outbreaks in the news will make you say “Whew”!

Our Water
As Floridians, most of us enjoy swimming, and we all love seeing the manatees and dolphins play in our waterways. The reason our river turns green each year is due to excessive land-based nutrients in the water. A major contributor of nutrients is animal agriculture that spray manure collected from thousands of animals onto the fields surrounding the factory. When the land becomes saturated, our rivers and groundwater become slightly green. Our springs, the window into our aquifer, are pouring out millions of gallons of cold, green-tinted water every day because of the lawns and farms we have within our springshed. Don’t like it? Decrease the demand.

The Cost
Your meals are cheaper, and your grocery store bill will be noticeably less each visit. Head over to the Jacksonville Farmers Market instead of the grocery store, and you may only need to shop once all month! A bag of dry lentils costs less than $1 at the grocery, are 30% protein, super low in fat, and that one bag will cook more lentil burgers, stew, or rice and beans than any person wants in one month. Almost every vegetarian item costs less than its meat counterpart, so start saving money today.

Ending Animal Cruelty
You don’t need to see images of chickens without beaks or veal calves locked in crates without the ability to turn their head to know factory farms are wrong. Not only do animals live out their lives robbed of their basic instincts like scratching the dirt ground or rolling in mud, but they are force fed foods not natural to their diets (corn) and they are injected with antibiotics to prevent massive disease outbreaks and hormones to force faster growth. You are what you eat, and if you wonder why your chicken breast is the size of your plate, or the wings seem huge, know that you are likely ingesting these same chemicals. If you wouldn’t feed these chemicals to your kids, then why are you eating it?

You can be Elitist
Start tweeting about your new lifestyle and how disgusting “carnivores” are, even if you do end up changing teams at the end of the month. Think of this quote to help: “We are, quite literally, gambling with the future of our planet – for the sake of hamburgers.” Peter Singer.

Prevent Global Warming
While we wait for climate change to get federal attention, the real problem is hidden behind our love of the burger. Our diets, and specifically the meat in them, cause more greenhouse gases – carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and the like to spew into the atmosphere than either transportation or industry. It is internationally acknowledged that in order to tackle climate change we need to first tackle the American meat diet. We are behind the rest of the world, but maybe enough people can make a difference?

About Shannon Blankinship

Shannon Blankinship is the Outreach Director for St. Johns Riverkeeper and contributes regularly via the “On The River” column building awareness for the many issues that impact the St. Johns River. Shannon received her B.S. from Purdue University in Natural Resources Economics and Policy and her J.D. from Florida Coastal School of Law in Jacksonville. She is currently an elected official in Duval County serving on the Soil and Water Conservation District. She is a board member for the local nonprofit The Girls Gone Green and regularly contributes articles affecting animals and health. She is a Springfield resident and works to promote all things great in the urban core neighborhoods.