Campus / Featured / News / May 2, 2013

Student feelings about Meatless Monday mixed

Freshman Lourdes Renteria serves a meatless burger in the Oak Room Monday, April 22. Advertised as “Meatless Monday,” Dining Services only served vegetarian options in celebration of Earth Month.

Freshman Lourdes Renteria serves a meatless burger in the Oak Room Monday, April 22. Advertised as “Meatless Monday,” Dining Services only served vegetarian options in celebration of Earth Month.

Last week’s Meatless Monday was intended to demonstrate the environmental impact of consuming meat. But survey results from after the event show that this message may have been lost in translation.

As a part of Earth Month festivities, Knox Advocates for Recycling and Environmental Support organized with Dining Services to eliminate meat from the menu in the cafeteria for one day. Originally proposed for the cafeteria alone, it was extended elsewhere, exempting the Gizmo and the Grab ‘n Go. Deli meat was still available in the cafeteria.

The endeavor elicited varied reactions from student diners, among them freshman William Riess.

“Here’s what I knew about Meatless Monday: I knew I wasn’t going to be able to get my burgers. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to eat meat. I felt like other people were forcing their choices on me — I think it’s standing behind vegetarianism and the whole cult of not eating meat,” he said.

When asked if he saw any connection between the meat-free day and Earth Month, he responded that he did not, and that he felt they “didn’t really emphasize that — I was like ‘Why? Why is there no meat?’”

Sophomores Adrian Hurst and Colleen Flint, on the other hand, held a generally positive view of the event.

Both environmental science majors, Flint said that they were “really looking forward to there being more vegetarian options. I was really glad they were doing Meatless Monday, and I think it’s really important.”

She explained that many of her friends back home attend big schools where monthly meatless days are an accepted and unquestioned part of the culture.

However, Flint said, “I feel like it’s a lot of the same food, like we’re both eating the same things we usually eat.”

Hurst agreed, adding that, “With vegetarian food, there’s ways to make kind of more original things, rather than just like junk food like the fake meat patties. There’s ways to build a more complete vegetarian meal.”

According to the results of KARES’s survey, which was comprised of roughly 300 responses, 2 percent of respondents identified themselves as vegans, 13 percent as vegetarians, 25 percent as “carnivores” and 60 percent as omnivores.

Further, 41 percent viewed the event as positive, 34 percent as negative and 25 percent remained neutral. Some who listed “negative” noted in the comment section that they were not necessarily opposed to the event, but disliked the way it was presented.

Thirty percent of students would rather not have any more Meatless Mondays, 20 percent responded that Meatless Mondays during Earth Week would be fine, 24 percent would like to see it happen once a month and 26 percent every week.

Secretary of KARES sophomore Emily Cooney felt that, overall, Meatless Monday came off positively, though she saw many changes that they could have made.

A main concern, as identified by the survey, was that they took the meat away without replacing it with fun and creative vegetarian meals. Next year, she hopes to collaborate more with Dining Services and perhaps even incorporate local farms.

Of equal or perhaps greater concern was the matter of effectively conveying the event’s message. Cooney recognized that many students viewed it as promoting vegetarianism, rather than making an impact on the environment by cutting down on meat consumption.

Inspired by the feedback, a follow-up campus-wide email was sent out, stressing the fact that “this day was not about forcing a vegetarian ideology on the Knox populace, but rather to start a conversation about the negative impacts the meat industry has on our planet.” It also listed several facts, including that “the meat industry plays a significant role in climate change and accounts for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions.”

She hoped Meatless Monday would get people thinking about the amount of meat they consume and the impacts of cheap meat and meat production.

“It’s more about presenting an idea,” Cooney said. “We are so focused on meat, especially in the Western world, and we don’t need it every single meal, every single week — [especially when] the meat industry is linked to a multitude of issues.”

Any further changes would have to be gradual and involve campus support and raised awareness.

“We wouldn’t want to polarize the campus — instead we want to explain why we’re doing it and get people to want to do it, because that will influence them more in the future anyway,” she said.

When Director of Dining Services Helmut Mayer was approached by KARES members, he was willing to allow them to give it go. Reflecting on the day, he said, “If I do it again, it would have to be planned properly — what little I can do, I’ll do,” noting resistance to dietary changes at Knox in general as a challenge.

“In general, people are afraid of food; it doesn’t really matter if it’s meat or not,” he said. “I’m the captain of the Titanic — and a big ship is very hard to turn around. So, if it’s planned properly, then a lot of things can be done.”

Kiannah Sepeda-Miller, Associate News Editor
Kiannah Sepeda-Miller is a senior majoring in anthropology-sociology and double minoring in journalism and English literature. She began writing for TKS during her freshman year and served as co-mosaic editor as a sophomore. Kiannah studied and reported in Morocco under Round Earth Media in the winter and spring of 2015 and was subsequently published in Al Jazeera. She completed an editorial internship at New York magazine the following summer.

Tags:  earth month earth week environment kares Meatless Monday sustainability vegan vegetarian

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Kiannah Sepeda-Miller
Kiannah Sepeda-Miller is a senior majoring in anthropology-sociology and double minoring in journalism and English literature. She began writing for TKS during her freshman year and served as co-mosaic editor as a sophomore. Kiannah studied and reported in Morocco under Round Earth Media in the winter and spring of 2015 and was subsequently published in Al Jazeera. She completed an editorial internship at New York magazine the following summer.




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  • jc

    “A 1% reduction in world-wide meat intake has the same benefit as a three trillion-dollar investment in solar energy.” ~ Chris Mentzel, CEO of Clean Energy

    “As environmental science has advanced, it has become apparent that the human appetite for animal flesh is a driving force behind virtually every major category of environmental damage now threatening the human future: deforestation, erosion, fresh water scarcity, air and water pollution, climate change, biodiversity loss, social injustice, the destabilization of communities, and the spread of disease.” ~ Worldwatch Institute, “Is Meat Sustainable?”

    “If every American skipped one meal of chicken per week and substituted vegetables and grains… the carbon dioxide savings would be the same as taking more than half a million cars off of U.S. Roads.” ~ Environmental Defense Fund

    “The livestock sector emerges as one of the top contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global. The findings of this report suggest that it should be a major policy focus when dealing with problems of land degradation, climate change and air pollution, water shortage and water pollution, and loss of biodiversity… The impact is so significant that it needs to be addressed with urgency.” ~ United Nation Food and Agricultural Organization’s report “Livestock’s Long Shadow”

    “It’s not a requirement to eat animals, we just choose to do it, so it becomes a moral choice and one that is having a huge impact on the planet, using up resources and destroying the biosphere.” ~ James Cameron, movie director, environmentalist, new vegan

    VeganVideo.Org TryVeg.Org

  • jc

    There are many reasons why the number of vegans has doubled in the US in less than 3 years. Here are two uplifting videos to help everyone understand why so many people are making this life affirming choice: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fKr4HZ7ukSE and http://www.veganvideo.org/.

  • :|

    It sounds like KARES needs to do a lot more displays and things about the negative affects of meat consumption. It seems like one of the problems with Meatless Monday was that the point went right over some people’s heads.

    I think that there are so many environmentally-conscious people at Knox that sometimes we don’t realize there are still a lot of Knox students that aren’t necessarily knowledgeable about these issues. For some reason, the meat issue gets a lot less attention in the “outside world” compared to things like bottled water. I think a lot of people think of vegetarianism as a moral choice (i.e. vegetarians don’t eat meat because they’re against killing animals) and have no idea about the environmental side of the coin.

    That “cult of vegetarianism” quote made me laugh. Not eating meat makes you part of a CULT now? When’s the first meeting?

  • *

    Eating meat is more cult-like than not eating meat. Everyone does it and doesn’t question how bad it is for you and how bad it is for the environment – not to mention the cruelty against animals. I hope that people on this campus become more open to the idea of cutting down meat consumption. There’s really no reason we need to eat meat or animal products. Our bodies aren’t designed for it.

    Vegucated is a really great documentary that covers the environmental, health, and compassionate reason why people should go vegan (or vegetarian). And it’s on Netflix! I would encourage anyone mildly interested in cutting down on meat and animal products to watch it. It portrays going vegan in a really positive light and won’t make you cry (like many vegan documentaries…)

    I hope we have meatless Mondays every week and people will realize it’s really not that hard to give up meat for one day. There are so many things you can eat if you just get creative with the food in the caf. And if you’re worried about protein, eat your vegetables. Many veggies have way more protein than meat does.

  • Foreign alumn

    Might it be an idea to expand on the vegetables section as a start? Last year I had trouble making genuinely diverse and satisfying meals out of the exact same salad bar every day. Increasing greens funding by decreasing (not removing) meat spending might go a great way in adjusting and expanding Knox students’ dining preferences. At home we usually have greens every evening, while I saw a great many people dining on all sorts of carbobombs and dead cattle in the caf. Meatless Monday is one alternative, but apparently it turned out to be a shock to some. Prof. Schwartzmann grows some very unusual herbs and plants in a community garden in town, which taste surprisingly good. All that is needed now is a good way to present those ingredients in meals that don’t need to be “all-out rabbit food”, but give general enjoyment and satisfaction with less meat.
    Meatlovers don’t necessarily have to go cold turkey. Meat is not bad, excess is. Expanding food choices will show more results than taking some away. More carrot, less stick. Keep up the good work, I look forward to more news.



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