Is the Meatless Monday a vegan campaign?

Wednesday, September 30, 2020 Stef dela Cruz, MD 0 Comments

You've probably heard of Meatless Mondays – and you might have even tried it at least once. It's a popular way of introducing plant-based diets. However, it sends a confusing message.

If you ended up here because of a Google search, great! Welcome to the first of 30 daily self-reflection posts meant for those who want to go vegan, especially for those living in the Philippines. I'm writing a one-month local vegan guide, with daily questions for participants to answer on their own. That way, veganism is understood clearly and, with the ethics of it laid out quite plainly, one can become a vegan after (or even before) the 30 days are over.

So, let's start with today's first question:

Is the “Meatless Monday” a vegan practice?

If you actually like the idea of having Meatless Mondays as an option for the curious public, we need to talk – or, more accurately, you need to keep reading. Let's break it down further so that we can understand why the notion of Meatless Mondays is sadly problematic.

double standards with animals

The “meaty” truth

Meatless Monday is a non-profit initiative encouraging people not to consume animal flesh at the start of the week. The campaign has good intentions: It is meant to improve health and protect the planet.

However, it is not a vegan initiative – and that's where all the confusion stems from.

It's okay if wanting to be healthier or trying to be an environmentalist is what got you interested in veganism. However, let's upgrade that good intention to a better understanding of what keeping animals off your plate truly entails.


Here is an abridged version of the definition of veganism by The Vegan SocietyVeganism is a philosophy or a way of living that seeks to exclude – as much as practicable as possible – the exploitation and use of animals. In other words, it is grounded on the notion that animals are not objects to be used by humans.

It is not about doing what is good for us. It is about doing what is good for others.


Veganism versus speciesism

While vegan diets are indeed superior to animal consumption in terms of nutrition (yes, vegan diets are not protein-deficient, and consuming animal flesh is linked to all-cause and cause-specific death – but I digress), the health benefits are not what going vegan is about. Veganism exists to abolish speciesism.

Speciesism is the assumption that a species (in this case, ours) is superior to others, leading to the eventual exploitation of animals. Another example of speciesism is when we think dogs deserve to be given shelter and food, but we think it's okay for pigs to be bred into existence and later murdered for lechon (roast pig).

So, here's another question for you:

Is it possible to be vegan yet speciesist?

One might argue that, based on the definition of veganism alone, one can be vegan and still be speciesist, as long as no animals are harmed and used. But is that we want? Do we want to be people who don't harass women but think women are inferior to men? Do we want to be people who don't harass blacks but still believe that immigrants and refugees have no place in our country?

Do we want to be vegans who think animals are of little value that we are still speciesist at heart?

I mean, sure, we don't want actions that are outright violent – but we don't want thoughts that still perpetuate oppression, either. So, while one can stop exploiting animals and still technically be speciesist, we can aim higher as human beings.


Besides, we need more vegans who know that speciesism is an obstacle to promoting veganism. We need more vegans who understand that shifting the mindset to one that does not objectify animals is what paves the way to a vegan world.


Veganism as a moral baseline

To promote Meatless Mondays is to say it's okay to be speciesist six out of seven days of each week. To promote Meatless Mondays is to give the impression that veganism is something we can switch on and off, based on what day it is.

Veganism is a moral baseline – it is based on justice, and this isn't something we do once in a while based on what our calendar says. It's something we uphold every second of every hour of every day if we truly want to be morally consistent.

We wouldn't want to stop harassing women just one day out of seven days. We wouldn't want to give fare wages to employees just one month each year. We want to be fair all the time.

We want zero consumption of animals, all day, everyday.

Besides, veganism is a stance against injustice – it isn't something we do simply because it benefits us and prolongs our existence, which is the goal of the Meatless Monday. While the benefits exist, these are not the reason we steer clear of paying for the deaths of animals. The reason we go vegan and stay vegan is not because it does us good, but because it is an inherent good in and of itself.

In other words, going vegan is the right thing to do, whether or not the benefits to our health and our planet exist.


Vegan food for thought

Finally, there's one more thing I would like you to think of tonight before you go to bed. Be honest with yourself – it's not like there's anyone watching or grading you. Take a screenshot of this question if you have to so that you don't forget. Write down notes in an online journal if you want – it might help you as you go through your 30-day self-reflection, especially if you need to recall the things you've learned.

So, here's the final question:

How does veganism resonate with you in terms of your morals?

If you feel compelled to share your answer, post something on social media! You can tag me and use the hashtag #GustoKoMagingVegan (in English, it means #IWantToBeVegan) – that way, we can keep track of what others are saying, too!

In the coming days, we'll be talking about vegan alternatives to your favorite dishes. Believe it or not, there are vegan versions of barbecue, tapa, tocino, bagnet, lechon, isaw, dinakdakan, pares, aligue,  sushi bake, empanada, ensaymada, cheese, eggs, cake, yogurt, doughnuts, milk tea, bagoong, patis, mayonnaise – the list goes on. You'll be eating all the things you've always loved, except you'll be opting for versions that don't necessitate the death of animals. Where does one buy these? How does one navigate going vegan in a non-vegan household? These are just some of the questions we will be answering in this one-month veganism guide for Filipinos.

Watch out for a new post tomorrow to help you along with going vegan. I'll be posting reminders as well on my Facebook page and on my Instagram – we can make veganism easy for Filipinos. Because, seriously, it's not supposed to be hard. We just need to understand what veganism stands for and why there's truly a vegan in each of us. Then, we can deal with the practical questions you might have about how to thrive when you live a life that no longer objectifies sentient beings.

This is Day 1 of your one-month #GustoKoMagingVegan challenge. Congrats!

Stef dela CruzAbout the blogger
Stef dela Cruz is a vegan doctor and writer. She received the 2013 Award for Health Media from the Department of Health. She is the editor of The Manila Bulletin's Animal Scene Magazine. Get in touch if you want to invite her as a speaker!