KARES and Dining Services held their winter term Meatless Monday earlier this week. This time, the club downplayed their advertising for the event, according to KARES President and senior Callie Smith.
“We tried to make it less of a big deal because in truth it’s becoming less of a big deal,” Smith said. “The people who are against it are becoming much quieter about it because it’s becoming a more unpopular opinion to hold.”
Smith said that in her first year at Knox, KARES held their first Meatless Monday, which received a fair amount of backlash from the community. In the more recent Meatless Mondays, the number of students supporting it has increased.
“On the surveys we’ve collected, the favorability for it started around 50 percent at first, and that was pretty rough, but just this past time when we did a survey last term, we had about 70 percent favorability,” she said.
Secretary of KARES and senior Laura Ernst said that the club is trying to make the event more about the environmental impacts of meat consumption and less about animal cruelty.
“It’s not a thing about vegetarianism, we really wanted it to be an awareness thing about the health effects of it and the environmental impacts about concentrated animal feeding operations and water use because meat uses a lot of water,” Ernst said.
Smith cited the use of corn and soybeans to feed livestock as an environmental problem related to the meat industry that directly relates to the growth of these crops in Illinois.
“Most of Illinois and the surrounding states are chiefly in corns and soybeans. There’s a huge industry here. It’s the livelihood for a lot of people and certainly it takes up most of the states. … What people don’t realize is that the majority of that does not go to feed people, it goes to feed livestock.”
The major complaints that KARES have received regarding Meatless Monday have related to the food options available on the days of the event.
“That’s probably one of the biggest complaints, besides that it should go away completely, is that there’s too much fake meat,” Ernst said.
She said that these issues have been discussed with Director of Dining Services Helmut Mayer, but because he plans meals very far in advance it has been difficult to implement the options they want to see right away.
“We’ve talked to Helmut before about changing the options, but because he plans it so far in advance … it takes a little bit of time and compromise to get him there. There is room for an improvement and we can work on the options,” Ernst said.
According to Smith, in previous years fraternities have held protest barbecues on the day of Meatless Monday. She said that as students are becoming more accepting of the event, this kind of backlash has died down.
She noted that few people have come to voice their opinions or criticisms of the event to KARES or Dining Services.
“We had a forum a couple years ago for people to voice complaints and have them be noted and taken into consideration for planning in the future, but literally no one showed up,” Smith said.
Currently, Meatless Monday is held once every term. Smith and Ernst both said that they have talked with Mayer about possibly increasing its frequency to twice a term.
Deli meat is still available in the cafeteria on Meatless Mondays in order to accommodate students who need meat in their diets for health concerns.
“If you have no alternative for one reason or another, we’re trying to be respectful of that,” Smith said.
Ernst and Smith noted that Meatless Monday is not held to force or encourage students to be vegetarians, but to make them reflect on the environmental and health impacts that meat consumption have.
“The idea behind Meatless Monday is not to say, ‘no meat ever,’ it’s just to say, ‘not meat all the time.’ If there’s people in the world who don’t even get meat once a week, it shouldn’t hurt people here to not get meat once a term,” Smith said.