Viewpoint: A vegetarian's support of Meatless Mondays

Sunday, November 8, 2015 - 1:16pm

As a vegetarian, Meatless Mondays are convenient. I can eat whatever I choose in the dining hall that day, with more options than I normally have. This day makes me feel that the University is supportive of my dietary choices, which I have made to reduce my carbon footprint. While I enjoy these days, many grumble and moan, complaining about the walk to another dining hall. However, these objections are completely separate from the intent of Meatless Mondays. Implementing this day is a way for the East Quad Dining Hall to cut its carbon footprint and raise student awareness about the impact of the consumption of meat on the environment. This day allows the Michigan community to share in this effort, regardless of dietary preference.

Diet is a daily choice that has an enormous impact on the future of the Earth — this cannot be overlooked, and students should not be ignorant of this fact. A vegetarian diet decreases an individual’s carbon footprint by 1485 kilograms of carbon dioxide annually. If just 365 individuals were to eat all their meals at East Quad on this day, it is the same as one individual adopting a vegetarian diet for an entire year. In a Forbes article discussing the livestock industry’s greenhouse gas emissions, decreased meat consumption is cited as one of the most effective individual measures to prevent climate change. The same article estimated that 51 percent of greenhouse gas emissions can be attributed to the livestock industry. The recent World Health Organization report linking meat consumption to cancer risk only adds another dimension to the educational opportunities associated with the implementation of Meatless Mondays. I commend Michigan Dining’s efforts to make students aware of the impact of their diets.

Educating students about the impact of their diets follows the University’s values. In its mission statement, the University states, “We look for tools and strategies to enhance sustainable practices in all facets of operations and seek to lead in the global quest for a sustainable future.” Furthermore, the University aims to foster “a community of learners.” The implementation of Meatless Mondays proves that these two values can go hand in hand. In this instance, the University is leading by proactively striving to achieve its mission.

I object to the argument that Meatless Mondays are an offense against student agency. Other dining halls still offer meat on these days and are accessible to the students who would prefer to follow an omnivorous diet. The University has the right to take measures to cut its carbon footprint and educate its students surrounding the environmental impact of meat consumption. After all, we are at this University to learn. We cannot selectively learn what is convenient or oppose advances for the reason of habit.

I will go one step further: I support the implementation of Meatless Mondays at all dining halls across campus. This would not be an attack on student liberty, but an opportunity for the University to make a statement about environmentalism and reinforce University values. As a University, we should practice environmental stewardship and take measures to reduce our carbon footprint. Meatless Mondays are a great step forward on behalf of Michigan Dining. These days provide a way for the entire Michigan community to make a difference. It is the University’s responsibility to raise public awareness surrounding this issue specifically, as well as other environmental issues.  

For these reasons, I object to the unfounded student attacks against the University’s leadership. Let’s get behind Meatless Mondays, rather than attacking a University initiative that benefits the environment and educates the University’s students. Meatless Mondays are an opportunity for us all to lead by example rather than an opportunity to complain and ignore an inconvenient truth.

Luke Higgins is an LSA sophomore.