The Case for Meatless Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday

Eating meat just one day a week could cut emissions, stave off climate despair, and help start a movement.


Eleni Vlachos, The New Republic

September 13, 2021


“I always wanted to be a vegetarian,” my dad said. I was filming an interview with him for a documentary about food and our relationship to animals. I looked at him incredulously. While he knew I abstained from meat, my dad cooked it daily, often directly on the burner to char it. Encouraged, I asked what he thought about vegans and vegetarians. “Weirdos,” he said instantly. (Daughter included.)


When I screened this documentary at over 100 universities across the country, my father’s pronouncement never failed to elicit a laugh. But behind the laughter lay an important lesson: Because their omnivorous views were represented in the interviews, students later reported, they felt listened to. And because of that, they were willing to listen to alternate messaging in the film in support of not eating meat.


It’s a technique that anti-smoking advocates call motivational interviewing. (And one a friend suggested I try after witnessing my earlier attempts at vegetarian outreach, which involved storming into a KFC in an ill-fitting chicken suit.) Motivational interviewing emphasizes the need to listen to a person to assess their readiness to change and respond accordingly. Rather than force one particular approach on every smoker, the interviewer first asks questions around their motivation.


Along with motivational interviewing, one tool for behavioral change involves breaking big asks up into smaller, more concrete steps. The smallness helps them feel manageable, but the “concrete” part of the equation is important, too. And the interview with my dad illustrated that, as well. After Dad called vegetarians weirdos, I defended them and shared facts about animal cruelty. To soothe me, Dad acquiesced, if only slightly: “Everything should be in moderation.”


Intuitively, moderation makes sense. Yet moderation has an ambiguity problem:


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