Meat-free days are declared to discourage or prohibit the consumption of meat on certain days of the week. Historically, this was generally done for religious reasons (e.g. the Friday Fast). In the Methodist Church, during the season of Lent, "abstinence from meat one day a week is a universal act of penitence." Anglicans (Episcopalians) and Roman Catholics traditionally observe Friday as a meat-free day as well. Historically, Anglican and Catholic countries enforced prohibitions against eating meat on certain days of Lent. In England, for example, "butchers and victuallers were bound by heavy recognizances not to slaughter or sell meat on the weekly 'fish days,' Friday and Saturday." In the Eastern Orthodox Church, both Wednesdays and Fridays are meat-free days. In the Lutheran Church, both Fridays and Saturdays are historically considered meat-free days.
Meat-free days have also been practiced due to rationing during wartime (e.g. Meatless Tuesdays in Canada along with the United States, which also instituted Wheatless Wednesdays, during WWI ), or in states with failing economies. Today there are attempts to reintroduce meat-free days as part of a campaign to reduce anthropogenic climate change and improve human health and animal welfare by reducing factory farming.
It has been endorsed by the city councils of Ghent, Belgium; Hasselt, Belgium; Mechelen, Belgium; São Paulo, Brazil; Bremen, Germany; and Cape Town, South Africa. The City of Los Angeles has declared all Mondays to be "Meatless Mondays," citing actions by the Baltimore City Public School System, Oakland Unified School District, along with other school districts in Arlington, VA, Oneida, NY and Longmont, CO, as well as the cities of San Francisco, Takoma Park, MD, and Annapolis, MD, Marin County, CA, and the Council of the District of Columbia.
In the People's Republic of Poland, the meat-free day was a custom cultivated by the government because of a deficit in the market. It was targeted at limiting meat consumption, mainly in favour of flour-based foods. The meat-free day was traditionally Monday, or later Wednesday. For older generations non-meat day is Friday.
- "What does The United Methodist Church say about fasting?" (in English). The United Methodist Church. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
- Buchanan, Colin (4 August 2009). The A to Z of Anglicanism. Scarecrow Press. p. 182. ISBN 9780810870086. "In the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, there is a list of "Days of Fasting, or Abstinence," consisting of the 40 days of Lent, the ember days, the three rogation days (the Monday to Wednesday following the Sunday after Ascension Day), and all Fridays in the year (except Christmas, if it falls on a Friday)."
- Green, Jennifer (25 May 2006). Dealing with Death: A Handbook of Practices, Procedures and Law. Jessica Kingsley Publishers. p. 224. ISBN 9781846425127. Retrieved 27 April 2014. "Friday is a day of abstinence and self-denial for Catholics in health, and, by tradition, this became a meat-free day."
- Barrows, Susanna; Room, Robin (1991). Drinking: Behavior and Belief in Modern History (in English). University of California Press. p. 340. ISBN 9780520070851. Retrieved 27 April 2014. "The main legally enforced prohibition in both Catholic and Anglican countries was that against meat. During Lent, the most prominent annual season of fasting in Catholic and Anglican churches, authorities enjoined abstinence from meat and sometimes "white meats" (cheese, milk, and eggs); in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England butchers and victuallers were bound by heavy recognizances not to slaughter or sell meat on the weekly "fish days," Friday and Saturday."
- Vitz, Evelyn Birge (1991). A Continual Feast (in English). Ignatius Press. p. 80. ISBN 9780898703849. Retrieved 27 April 2014. "In the Orthodox groups, on ordinary Wednesdays and Fridays no meat, olive oil, wine, or fish can be consumed."
- Lund, Eric (January 2002). Documents from the History of Lutheranism, 1517-1750. Fortress Press. p. 166. ISBN 9781451407747. "Of the Eating of Meat: One should abstain from the eating of meat on Fridays and Saturdays, also in fasts, and this should be observed as an external ordinance at the command of his Imperial Majesty."
- "Making Do with Less": Rationing in Canada
- The Way We Ate: The Year Harry Truman Passed on Pumpkin Pie
- "City to launch ‘one meat-free day a week’ campaign". 2010-07-27. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
- "South Africa scores for farm animal welfare, the environment and human health". Compassion in World Farming. 2010-04-12. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
- Traynor, Ian (2009-05-22). "Meat-free revolution to help save the planet". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
- Pollack, Martin (2010-07-30). "City launches Meat-free Day". City of Cape Town. Retrieved 2010-08-03.
- Lowery, Wesley (2012-11-12). [ "City Council asks L.A. residents to go 'meatless' on Mondays". Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, CA). Retrieved 2012-11-12.
- "Meatless Mondays". LACityClerk Connect. 2012-11-09. Retrieved 2012-11-12.