By Rachel Hangley ’15
When people hear that I don’t eat meat, their first reaction is to ask “why?” and oftentimes, “do you miss it?”. I reply simply saying that no, I don’t miss meat and that it really wasn’t that hard to give up at all. Society is changing so that a person can easily find vegetarian options in the grocery store and at any restaurant, and they are just as tasty as anything else on the menu. The response to the first question of why I am a vegetarian has changed over the years, but as I get older I only come across more and more reasons that support my choice to give up meat.
I would have become a vegetarian much sooner if it weren’t for my parents fearing that I would not get enough protein (a myth about vegetarianism that people still believe despite having been proven false over and over). I have always loved animals and couldn’t stand to think about how they were so cruelly and inhumanely treated in order to get on my plate. When an argumentation essay was assigned in my English class in high school, I took the opportunity to thoroughly research why vegetarianism was a positive life choice and I used the paper to convince my parents on the subject. I finally decided to take control of my diet and personal choices and gave up eating meat, regardless of the push-back I faced from my family. This step was perhaps the first tangible way in which I became an activist for what I believe in. This choice originated in a desire to boycott an industry that grossly tortures billions of animals a year and neglects the value of life. As I learned more about sustainability and environmentalism, I found out that my choice to become a vegetarian also had myriad environmental benefits.
If you Google “vegetarianism,” you can find hundreds of facts and statistics about how much environmental harm is avoided by becoming a vegetarian. On average, the dietary greenhouse gas emissions for vegetarians are 50-54% lower than the mean, and for vegans they are a full 99-102% lower. If all Americans forewent meat, the environmental impact would be equal to removing 46 million cars from the road. Not to mention all of the direct environmental harms other than climate change that meat production contributes to, such as overuse of water and pollution of ecosystems.
The facts are staggering, but people do not have to completely give up animal products to have a significant positive impact on the environment. Meatless Mondays is a great program that is being implemented by individuals, families, schools, and companies all over the world in order to decrease meat consumption and its environmental impacts. For example, not eating simply one pound of beef per week, an individual can save the equivalent amount of water as they would by not showering for a full year. This shows that little steps can have a huge impact on the environment, especially when adopted by many people. Furthermore, giving up meat one day a week not only benefits the environment; it is better for one’s health. A primary goal of the Meatless Mondays campaign is also to educate people about the personal benefits of skipping on meat. Meals can be delicious, nutritious, and protein-packed without any animal products, and this is what Meatless Mondays is trying to show, one meal at a time. This is especially relevant in public schools, where young kids are beginning to form their lifelong conceptions of what their diet should consist of.
At Colgate, I’m hoping that Meatless Mondays will have the same effects. By implementing Meatless Mondays at Frank Dining Hall in just the main entree stations, it gives people the opportunity to try new, meat-free foods and maybe decide that they enjoy those options. We are not trying to completely overturn anyone’s lifestyle, but rather introduce students to different ways of living that incorporate the bigger picture. What one decides to eat is not a self-contained decision as it has a huge impact on both the environment and the lives of billions of animals, and one should at least take these into consideration when choosing what to have for lunch. Rather than seeing people who don’t eat meat as crazy, animal-loving tree-huggers (but what’s so bad about that, anyway?), it is my hope that the public will begin to appreciate the value and benefits of limiting the meat that they eat, even if it is only once a week.