Meat-free days or veggiedays are declared to discourage or prohibit the consumption of meat on certain days of the week. Mondays and Fridays are the most popular days. There are also movements encouraging people giving up meat on a weekly, monthly, or permanent basis.
Further information: Friday Fast
Abstention from meat, other than fish, was historically done for religious reasons (e.g. the Friday Fast). In the Methodist Church, on Fridays, especially those of Lent, "abstinence from meat one day a week is a universal act of penitence". Anglicans (Episcopalians) and Roman Catholics also traditionally observe Friday as a meat-free day. Historically, Anglican and Catholic countries enforced prohibitions on eating meat, other than fish, 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, Wednesdays and Fridays are meat-free days. In the Lutheran Church, Fridays and Saturdays are historically considered meat-free days. Among East Asian Buddhists, vegetarian Buddhist cuisine was eaten on days tied to the phases of the moon known as Uposatha.
Meat-free days have also been observed due to wartime rationing (e.g. Meatless Tuesdays in Canada and the United States—which also observed Wheatless Wednesdays—during World War I) or in states with failing economies.
In the People's Republic of Poland, meat-free days were encouraged by the government due to market forces. They were aimed at limiting meat consumption, primarily in favour of flour-based foods. The meat-free day was traditionally Friday, Monday or Wednesday.
Attempts to reintroduce meat-free days are part of a campaign to reduce anthropogenic climate change and improve human health and animal welfare by reducing factory farming and promoting vegetarianism or veganism.
John Wesley, in his Journal, wrote on Friday, August 17, 1739, that "many of our society met, as we had appointed, at one in the afternoon and agreed that all members of our society should obey the Church to which we belong by observing 'all Fridays in the year' as 'days of fasting and abstinence.'
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).
Friday is a day of abstinence and self-denial for Catholics in health, and, by tradition, this became a meat-free day.
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.
In the Orthodox groups, on ordinary Wednesdays and Fridays no meat, olive oil, wine, or fish can be consumed.
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.