Initially started by students at Johns Hopkins University, Meatless Mondays encourage a more vegetarian lifestyle for college students across the U.S. by offering an increased number of meatless dishes in dining halls and incentives for trying them out.
The trend has spread to colleges in Florida, including USF, which began its own Meatless Monday program in January after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the group Students Protecting the Environment and Animals with Knowledge accumulated 2,000 signatures in support of the measure.
However, one school’s Meatless Monday program took the idea too far, which rightfully generated protest from students upset with the extreme measure.
Bowdoin College, a private liberal arts college in Maine, decided last month that its version of Meatless Monday would be truly meatless, as the school’s dining halls removed all meat items from its dinner menus that day.
“From a sustainability perspective, producing meat requires more water usage,” Jenna Burns, marketing manager for USF Dining Services, said to The Oracle in January. “And animal agriculture is the largest source of CO2 emissions in the U.S.”
As Burns stated, reducing or eliminating meat consumption can have positive effects on the environment, but it can also have a negative impact on students. Being omnivores, human beings’ diets are dependent upon a range of vitamins, which include some found only in meat products. If people only eat plants, their health will inevitably suffer.
In the end, it boils down to people’s personal ideology, and whether or not they subscribe to the motivations behind vegetarians’ beliefs, such as empathy for animals or concerns for the environment.
An institution of higher education, especially a liberal arts college, should know more about being critically minded and respecting everyone’s beliefs.
It’s hard to imagine that a college would have a “Meat Filled Friday” that prohibits non-meat items in campus dining halls, as it would be unfairly discriminatory against vegetarians, the same way Bowdoin College’s Meatless Monday is toward non-vegetarians.
Though USF’s Meatless Monday is still ideologically driven, USF Dining Services realizes they can’t force a minority’s convictions, even for a day, on others, which is especially important when it contradicts human dietary behavior that’s existed for thousands of years.
USF’s Meatless Monday offers alternative dishes and discounts for vegetarian meals, but it doesn’t ban all meat from the dining hall once a week.
Bowdoin College and others that may want to take this radical step in advocating vegetarianism could learn from USF Dining how to respect the opinions and eating habits of everyone, including the vast majority of people who choose to sustain a normal, balanced diet.