Douglas: Go ‘meatless’ this Monday


Sam Douglas, Columnist

For the majority of my life, I hated vegetarians. No, let me rephrase that. I hate feeling excluded from the group that’s in the right. That’s not to say that people who aren’t vegetarians are wrong — there’s nothing wrong with omnivores. It just so happens that there are plenty of benefits to getting protein from beans instead of bratwurst.

But I also love meat, whether it’s a savory steak, greasy fried chicken or a burger from Edzo’s Burger Shop (now for dinner!).

My best friend is a vegetarian. Every time I would eat with her, I was positive I could feel her wrath as she silently, judgmentally sliced my self-esteem with her eyes, just as easily as I sliced into the filet mignon on my plate. While I’m sure she’s never actually considered my omnivorism an affront to anything, I felt so guilty about eating meat that I saw my own frustration reflected in her eyes.

Not only does vegetarianism lower certain health risks, it also has environmental effects. Good environmental effects. According to a United Nations report conducted in September, 14.5 percent of anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions result from the livestock industry. Beef cattle contribute 41 percent of that, while dairy cattle contribute 19 percent. Poultry meat and chicken eggs each add an additional 9 percent and 8 percent respectively. 

I was my own hero in a Sophoclean tragedy: “Omnivorous Rex.” I knew the benefits of vegetarianism, yet I craved meat. My hamartia: vegetarianism or omnivorism. Should I choose to deprive myself of my favorite food group, or should I stand by while my health and the health of the environment deteriorate?

While the U.N. study goes on to cite ways of reducing emissions on the production side of the livestock industry, I soon discovered there were ways I could help, too.

In my hour of desperate need, I heard a family member describing a school district that decided to serve only vegetarian options one day per week. After further investigation, I discovered that the “Meatless Monday” campaign has become a global phenomenon, from Turkey to Taiwan. Even the Norwegian Army has implemented a Meatless Monday meal plan. A movement that originally began as a system of rationing in World War I under then-head of the Food Administration, Herbert Hoover, Meatless Monday (along with “Wheatless Wednesday”) returned in World War II to serve in a similar capacity.

In 2003, Sid Lerner revived the concept in a partnership with Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health’s Center for a Livable Future in response not to the starving populations of Europe, but rather to the increased “prevalence of preventable illnesses associated with excessive meat consumption.”

And they are indeed prevalent. Higher consumption of red and processed meats increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes; heart disease can be reduced by 19 percent by replacing foods rich in saturated fat (meat and full fat dairy) with polyunsaturated fatty foods (vegetable oils, nuts and seeds). In one study, conducted with 44,561 participants, vegetarians proved 32 percent less likely to develop heart disease. In addition, by eliminating red meat, you can eliminate a substantial risk factor for colon cancer.

There’s a new public white board space near the entrance of the University Library as a part of the “2 Degrees and You” exhibit, and recently the prompt concerned how we can slow and reduce the effects of climate change. My suggestion is to choose a day of the week not to put chicken in your stir fry, or to choose sofritas instead of beef for your burrito at Chipotle. I’ve done it, and I am glad to know that my decision not only keeps me healthy, but also eliminates risks to our planet. Plus, I found a way to turn my tragedy into a comedy of sorts: I can have my cake and eat it too. Happily.

Sam Douglas is a Communication sophomore. he can be reached at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected].