DEPENDING HOW you count it, Meatless Monday, endorsed by City Council this fall, is a movement that's been around for a decade - or a century.

In 2003, the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health Center for a Livable Future put its official stamp on Meatless Mondays - simply eating meat-free on that day to avoid the known health liabilities of meat and get more mouth-time for fruits and veggies.

But there were also "Meatless Mondays" back in World War I, launched by the United States Food Administration to conserve resources. (Animal agriculture is a notably inefficient package for nutrients.)

It was more the taking of animals' lives for our dinner plates that motivated the animal advocacy group the Humane League to push the city for its resolution.

Put together, these all make a compelling case.

Rachel Atcheson, director of the Humane League in Philly, explained that in addition to members educating their own representatives, her team worked particularly with Councilman Bill Green (who introduced the resolution) and Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown. "They were key in getting other [Council members] on board," she said.

The resolution, which has no enforcement aspect, clearly appealed to Reynolds Brown, already known for her nutrition-related efforts, including a 2010 city menu-labeling law.

So will she observe Meatless Mondays herself?

"Absolutely, positively in capital letters," the Councilwoman replied, expressing a preference for "black bean soup and a nice salad" as her go-to meatless meal. She's devoted to helping constituents take charge of their eating habits.

"Obesity is a crisis in the African-American community," she noted in discussing menu labeling, but "research shows that when consumers are provided with information on the front end, they make better decisions."

So Meatless Monday lets us all take a look at what we're eating and modify it in an animal-free direction. It's a step - but how big?

In other words, maybe the resolution has no teeth, but does it have legs?

Mark McDonald, press secretary for Mayor Nutter (who was out of the country at the time), said the mayor had no Meatless Monday events on his calendar, but he reminded me that "the mayor does not eat red meat."

McDonald said the idea of a meatless day is in sync with city programs like the Healthy Corner Stores Network, which helps boost access to fresh, healthy foods.

So far, the School District of Philadelphia has no plans to implement Meatless Mondays, a spokesperson said. Atcheson has meetings scheduled with a couple charters and two suburban school districts to explore how such a program could work.

The idea is not without opposition, though.

It was no surprise that the USDA quickly retracted an endorsement in its own newsletter after howls from Big Meat. Or that Glenn Beck fears the "nanny state" running amok. But it's also a campaign that makes some vegans queasy.

Logically, after all, if we're cutting out meat for saturated fat and cholesterol, we should be cutting out dairy. Ditto if we're concerned about livestock's contribution to climate change, or about the pain and death intrinsic to any form of animal agriculture. Why cut one "bad" thing and leave the rest untouched?

Ideologically, it seems arbitrary: Rutgers law professor Gary Francione announced "No Small, Factory-Farmed Fish Fridays" to satirize rejecting one animal product while promoting others. He suggested instead that "Vegan Monday" (or whatever day) would at least be an ethically consistent step.

In terms of day-to-day eating, though, Meatless Mondays are a doable goal for mainstream eaters and one that advocates hope will inspire further goals, whether motivated by health, environment, or animal-free concerns.

As Reynolds Brown noted, if people are coming at their food with open eyes, they're more likely to modify their habits. Among its other offerings, Meatless Monday can be a showcase for eye-opening vegan meals.

Resolutions such as this one start a much-needed and, most importantly, ongoing conversation on changing eating patterns.

So . . . go meatless! And keep going!

writer, musician and 12-year vegan.

"V for Veg" chronicles plant-based

eating in and around Philadelphia.

VforVeg@phillynews.com or

@V4Veg on Twitter.