(VEGETARIANISM) Today, October 1, is World Vegetarian Day, bringing awareness to the ethical, environmental, health, and humanitarian perks of vegetarian living.

Established by the North American Vegetarian Society in 1977, World Vegetarian Day was endorsed by the International Vegetarian Union in 1978, “To promote the joy, compassion and life-enhancing possibilities of vegetarianism.”

October marks Vegetarian Awareness Month. Time to celebrate with a veggie platter! Photo credit: ML Harris/Getty Images

World Vegetarian Day initiates October as Vegetarian Awareness Month and officially ends on November 1, World Vegan Day, which is recognized as the anniversary of the creation of The Vegan Society in 1994.

It seems as though vegetarian awareness is starting to make an impact on society as Americans are finally eating less meat. The department of agriculture projects that the country’s meat and poultry consumption will fall to about 12.2 percent less this year than it was in 2007. On the other hand, beef consumption has been in decline for approximately 20 years.

While more and more are converting to meat-free lifestyles (including celebrities like Natalie Portman, Bill Clinton, and Ellen Degeneres), why not try it for yourself? After all, even restaurant chains like McDonald’s are turning over a new leaf and accommodating vegetarian customers.

Why go vegetarian? People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) writes, “Every year in the U.S., more than 27 billion animals are slaughtered for food. Raising animals on factory farms is cruel and ecologically devastating. Eating animals is bad for our health, increasing the risk of developing various diseases and illnesses, including heart attacks, strokes, cancer, diabetes, and obesity.”

Think about it: The average meat-eater consumes approximately 100 animals every year. By forgoing meat, you save that many lives.

Worldvegetarianday.org presents an easy 4-step plan for getting the non-vegetarians in your life to take part in the Vegetarian Awareness Month pledge:

  1. Let people know that October is Vegetarian Awareness Month and tell them why vegetarians everywhere are celebrating.
  2. If you haven’t already, explain why vegetarianism is important to you. Tell them about the benefits of meat-free diets (it may help to have our printed pledge cards which list seven major reasons to choose a vegetarian diet).
  3. Tell them if they go meat free this October (no meat, fish or fowl) that they could win up to $1,000!
  4. Have people fill out the pledge cards and mail them to NAVS. To be entered in the contest, pledge cards must be postmarked no later than October 31.

Not ready to go veg? Read our 15 top reasons to go vegetarian, and perhaps you’ll change your mind. Or, at the very least, try taking the Meat-Free Mondays Challenge!

By making a simple change in your diet, you are taking part in a lifestyle and world-changing campaign where what’s good for you is also good for the animals and the planet. Simply devote at least one day a week to eating meat-free. We highly suggest trying one of Megan’s Meat-Free Monday recipes!

— Alisa Manzelli, exclusive to Global Animal