Group finds ‘Meatless Monday’ participation inflated
By John O’Connell
Restaurant owner Daniel Sauer acknowledges he briefly followed the Meatless Monday movement on Twitter, wanting to learn more about it, but insists he never agreed to participate.
Doing so would have hurt business, explained Sauer, who runs 7a Foods on Martha’s Vineyard in West Tisbury, Mass. So Sauer was understandably surprised to learn a few weeks ago that a link to his business is promoted on the official Meatless Monday website.
He’s not alone.
Staff with the Animal Agriculture Alliance called every restaurant, food service, school and college listed as participating in Meatless Monday, finding many were never active.
Meatless Monday, celebrating its 10th year, encourages people to go without meat at least once a week “for their health and the health of the planet.”
The alliance’s investigation determined 64.2 percent of the 56 schools listed as active in the movement on the website no longer or never participated, and at least 43.2 percent of the 155 colleges and universities on the list no longer or never participated. Of 180 restaurants on the Meatless Monday list, 63 no longer or never participated, and 56 are no longer open.
Meatless Monday spokeswoman Cherry Dumaual issued a written statement in response to the alliance’s claims, indicating that her organization supports the efforts of participants but doesn’t monitor their ongoing participation.
“We learn of most of our participants because they reach out directly to us for information and resources, and many ask that they be listed on our website,” Dumaual’s statement reads. “Just in the last few months, the San Diego and Buffalo school districts, an eight-restaurant chain and groups in Turkey and Iran started Meatless Monday initiatives, all on their own accord.”
Sauer intends to contact Meatless Monday and ask that his name be removed from the list, where 7a appears as the top entry under the link, “Meatless Monday restaurants are getting their week off to a healthy start!”
Sauer emphasized he sources locally produced grass-fed and sustainably produced meats, and he doesn’t oppose the concept of minimizing meat intake. But he insists any claim that his restaurant has ever limited consumer choice simply isn’t true.
“People have certain expectations, and I’m sort of an everyday kind of place for people — an egg sandwich and meatball sub kind of place,” Sauer said. “I don’t want people claiming I’m doing something I’m not. I would support it if a school district wanted to do (Meatless Monday), but as a private business I couldn’t do it.”
Alliance spokeswoman Emily Meredith said her organization initially began contacting participants on Meatless Monday lists to learn more about why they were involved. It switched to a more thorough investigation after reaching a number of puzzled respondents.
Some schools it contacted considered the program but never started due to parents’ complaints. Other schools abandoned Meatless Monday because it wasn’t popular with students, Meredith said.
“We (contacted) several organizations who had no idea what Meatless Monday was,” Meredith said.
Meredith believes the discovery further erodes the credibility of a campaign led by an “extreme animal rights group trying to bring about the end of meat milk and eggs.”
Meredith emphasized USDA dietary guidelines recommend a daily dose of lean animal protein.