By Katie Doyle, Food Editor
If you’ve been in one of the dining halls lately, you may have seen, or been asked to sign, the Boston University Vegetarian Society’s petition to start up “Meatless Mondays” here at BU.
A member may have explained to you that on those days, there would be a 75 percent reduction in meat options. They may have explained that BU would be following in the footsteps of institutions like Columbia University, John Hopkins University, Yale University, New York University and University of Virginia that have already joined the movement.
There’s a reason that top-tier colleges and universities are getting on board with this initiative, and a reason Boston University should be, too, as there’s clear, tangible evidence that a vegetarian diet is beneficial for our bodies and for our planet. Just look at the legitimate, peer-reviewed studies that have shown that across the board that vegetarians live longer and healthier lives, with a much lower risk for cancer, Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and obesity.
While it can be easy to shrug off health factors, it should be harder to brush off the fate of the planet we call home. Our nation’s meat production is the number one cause of harmful greenhouse gases, contributing to pollution more so than all of the cars, trucks, planes, trains and buses in the world combined. It’s true that our environment is already in deep trouble, and although plant-based diets won’t necessarily be the saving grace of climate change, we’ve got to start somewhere. Meatless Mondays is one way to reduce our collective carbon footprint.
At a university where approximately 7 percent of students here identify as vegetarians, and 3 percent as vegans, according to Dining Services’ annual survey, one might hope that the petition for Meatless Mondays would be reasonably well received, especially when the benefits of are so clear.
Fortunately, the Vegetarian Society is making progress with the initiative, and a survey will be released within the coming weeks to gauge the students’ perspectives on it. Hopefully, the reaction will be a good one.
It seems as if any backlash against the Meatless Monday movement, or vegetarianism in general, has nothing to do with the actual pros and cons of an herbivore diet. It’s more of a rejection on principle, like when someone is served a dessert they really like, until they find out it’s vegan.
It’s similar to when the National Rifle Association accused President Obama of “taking away their guns,” when, in reality, he received an “F” on the Brady Campaign’s scorecard of politicians who have spoken out against gun violence.
While I know that’s a bold comparison to make, it sheds some light on the issue of Meatless Mondays. No one would be taking away meat options in the dining hall. Rather, there would simply be less meat options and more vegetarian meals, which can be surprisingly delicious if only given the chance. What the objection boils down to, I think, is the issue of getting wrapped up in rhetoric, rather than looking at the facts. You know what I mean: “This is America, and you can’t take away my (insert noun here).”
Here’s the thing, though: they’re right, this is America, which means we at BU are lucky enough to have access to quality meat, cage-free eggs and delicious vegetarian options. It’s a privilege to have both meat and meatless food at our disposal. Instead of resenting the effort to bring in a wider range of vegetarian options one day a week, we should embrace and welcome the opportunity to make a difference in our world, no matter how small (or big) it might be.
If you haven’t yet signed the Meatless Monday petition, you can do so now by emailing email@example.com. But, as a reminder, really any day can be a Meatless Monday, if you so choose. Simply challenge yourself to check out the dining hall’s vegetarian station and try something new, while also doing your body, your planet and even your taste buds a favor.