Students should consider reducing meat intake with ‘Meatless Mondays’

The movement toward more plant-based meals is taking root on college campuses across the country, with more than 200 universities leading the charge with “Meatless Monday” campaigns in their dining halls.  

Participating in Meatless Monday is a simple change that can have a profound and positive impact on our health, animals and the planet, and there has never been a more exciting time to expand your dining horizons. 

Whether you’re dining out or eating at home, there are so many cuisines to choose from — Indian, Ethiopian, Chinese, Japanese, Mexican and so much more — even veggie burgers and hot dogs! According to a study conducted by Technomic, more than 20 percent of college students are reducing their meat consumption for delicious veg-friendly meals — and for good reasons. One of those reasons is concern with the humane treatment of animals. 

Nine billion chickens, pigs and other animals are raised for food each year, most of whom suffer in factory farms. Mother pigs in the pork industry are typically confined in tiny crates barely larger than their own bodies for virtually their entire lives. Unable to even turn around, these sensitive, intelligent animals — all of whom have their own personalities and preferences — experience tremendous physical and psychological pain. 

Most egg-laying hens suffer a similar fate, as they’re crammed into tiny cages, each bird granted less space than the screen of an iPad on which to live for her entire life.

By choosing meat-free options just one day a week, we can help prevent an enormous amount of animal suffering. 

Another reason more people are going meat-free? Human health and the health of the planet. 

A report issued by Environmental Working Group put it simply, “Producing all this meat and dairy requires large amounts of pesticides, chemical fertilizer, fuel, feed and water. It also generates greenhouse gases and large amounts of toxic manure and wastewater that pollute groundwater, rivers, streams and, ultimately, the ocean.” 

President Clinton, once known for his love of fast-food, has swapped the Big Macs, chicken nuggets and fried shrimp for veggie burgers, beans and fresh fruits and vegetables. After years of battling heart problems — even undergoing quadruple bypass surgery — Clinton took his doctor’s advice to reduce his meat consumption and increase his intake of plant-based foods. 

He reports that the results have been tremendous: losing 24 pounds, feeling more energetic and seeing a welcome drop in cholesterol levels. 

President Clinton isn’t the only one turning over a new leaf; from Usher to Oprah Winfrey to Ellen DeGeneres to Kristen Bell, people everywhere are eating less meat. Even Mike Tyson, once known for biting off a human ear, is now limiting his ear consumption to those of the corn variety. 

Increasing numbers of family farmers are also voicing their support for Meatless Monday as a means to achieve a more sustainable, community-based agricultural system before it’s too late. Our current rate of meat consumption is simply unsustainable. 

By reducing the total number of animals raised for food, we place greater value on humane sustainable agriculture in which animal welfare is a priority. 

Thankfully, eating meatless doesn’t mean “less” at all. It means more choices, it means “better living” — for us and for animals — and it means a more sustainable future. So next Monday, think about going meatless — the options are endless.

Bon appetit!

Kenny Torrella is the food policy coordinator for the Humane Society of the United States. He can be reached at [email protected]