Students push for Meatless Mondays

A group aims to make all dining halls meatless once a week by 2015.

Molly Michaletz

Some University of Minnesota students are urging campus to wipe its dining halls completely free of chicken, pork, beef and all other meats for one day each week.

The small group started a petition late last month asking the University’s Dining Services to go meat-free on Mondays by 2015, following an international campaign to address the health and environmental effects of meat production.

As of press time, 57 people had signed the petition.

“Meatless Monday” is a global movement that encourages people to reduce their consumption of meat by 15 percent in hopes of improving not only their health, but also the planet’s well-being.

The petition argues that because students living in residence halls are required to purchase a meal plan, they should have access to plant-based main courses at least once a week.

Currently, Pioneer Hall participates in Meatless Mondays. All dining halls currently offer vegan and vegetarian selections, according to the Housing and Residential Life website.

University Dining Services was not available for comment after multiple requests, but student activists said UDS told them it’s open to discussing the option.

Fishery, wildlife and biology junior Kealy Porter said if the movement gains more traction, supporters want to present the campaign at dining hall tables to educate students on the importance of going meat-free.

 “We want people to start thinking about their health and what they are eating,” she said.

Diets heavy in red and processed meat increase health issues like heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, obesity and certain cancers, according to the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The petition also discusses the negative environmental impacts of excessive meat consumption, saying that “as an institution that prides itself of being a frontrunner in research, the University of Minnesota should be aware of the detrimental global effects of current agriculture practices in the United States.”

“Animal agriculture is [a] primary source of water and air pollution,” Porter said. “I think … committing to making a change in trying to reduce some of that at the student level would reflect the University’s mission very well.”

The average amount of water it takes produce beef is 20 times the water footprint of cereals and starchy roots like potatoes and yams, according to a 2010 report from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Institute for Water Education.

The same report found that compared to the average per-capita food intake in the U.S., a vegetarian diet can reduce a person’s water footprint by nearly 60 percent.

“It can be overwhelming to see what’s happening and think there is nothing we can do,” said fishery, wildlife and biology junior Moose Kusik, a member of the group.

The campaign is looking to spread beyond campus.

Five members of the student group Compassionate Action for Animals launched their petition at the Twin Cities Veg Fest in Coffman Union alongside Ward 2 City Councilman Cam Gordon, who’s working to raise awareness citywide.

At the opening of the Veg Fest, Gordon encouraged Minneapolis to celebrate Meatless Mondays. He also released a proclamation encouraging residents to join the movement to improve the city’s overall health and to protect animals and the environment.

“Ultimately, our goal is to raise awareness to get down to the grassroots stuff,” Porter said.