Sustainability Column: Meatless Mondays

You’re curious but intimidated by the vegetarian station at Frank, you’re vaguely aware of Meatless Mondays and you’re frightened by vegans. You’re confused about the “right” thing to do. You wonder what’s the point of changing your plate? I’ll boil down this argument into three main reasons: it’s better for your health, the environment and the animals.

Judging from the number of students in Trudy to the amount of salads ordered at Frank, Colgate students clearly care about their health. Growing up being told “meat will help you become strong” can be confusing once you learn that meat isn’t so great for your health. Red meat has been linked with higher cholesterol, diabetes, heart disease and certain cancers. A study at Harvard linked longer lives with less meat consumption. You don’t have to completely eliminate meat from your diet to reap the benefits, but a small step in that direction could be Meatless Mondays.

Climate change is one of the defining problems that our generation will be tasked with tackling. Cars are more efficient, LED lightbulbs are more common and Colgate University has pledged to be carbon neutral by 2019. One of the largest, most surprising and most under-reported methods to reduce one’s carbon footprint is to cut back on meat consumption. While carbon dioxide gets the most attention for greenhouse gases, methane is about thirty times worse in terms of heat capture. Cows emit methane, causing red meat to have an especially large carbon footprint. In addition, eating meat requires more water to produce the feed for the animals, fossil fuels to create antibiotics and other drugs. It’s an inefficient process: we spend the time and energy to grow grains and other feed, and then feed that to animals to produce meat that we then consume. Extensive land is required for this inefficient process as well, and agriculture is the number one driver for deforestation around the world.

While you may think you don’t have a compassionate bone in your body, chances are you like dogs, cats or other common house pets. What if I told you that pigs are more intelligent than dogs? Would that make you think twice before reaching for that bacon? You don’t have to be a vegetarian to want ethical and fair treatment for animals. Industrial farming in the U.S. has led to dismal conditions for animals, leaving intelligent animals unable to form normal friendships. In some cases, confined cages render animals unable to move. Factory farms keep quiet about the horrifying conditions to make a profit, but it’s not hard to find videos and information online. Reducing the demand for meat is one way to protest the injustices for other creatures.

While you may really enjoy that late-night Ed burger, it won’t kill you to skip it just one day a week. Who knows, you may find out you like veggie burgers.