As a college student at Northern Kentucky University soon to be out in the “real world,” I’ve found myself thinking about how my actions affect those around me and the world as a whole. I know that like me, many other college students also want to make the world a better place. Animal welfare, environmental sustainability and public health are all social issues that have left students with the realization that change is needed, but sometimes it seems like an overwhelming task. Through interning at the Humane Society of the United States this summer I learned about Meatless Monday, an international campaign to cut out meat one day a week. Thankfully NKU’s Dining Services recognizes the positive impact of Meatless Mondays, and has continued to participate in this movement. Taking this simple action one day a week has many benefits such as helping animals, the environment and your own health.
Meatless Monday is a powerful way to help animals, whether you are a meat lover or eat less meat already. Each year 10 billion- yes, billion- animals are killed for food in the U.S. alone. These animals don’t live on the sunny pastures or in cozy barns that are often depicted on meat, egg and milk packages. Farm animals spend their short lives in the cramped and filthy conditions of factory farms, where they are denied access to fresh air, sunlight and soil beneath their feet. Mother pigs are confined in crates barely bigger than their own bodies, leaving them completely immobile for most of their lives. Egg-laying hens are packed tightly into cages, giving them each the space of an iPad to live their whole life. By choosing to leave animals off our plates, even just one day a week, we will dramatically lower the number of animals that are raised in grossly inhumane conditions.
Cutting out meat one day a week is also a great way to do your part to help the environment. In fact, the United Nations found that raising livestock contributes more to global warming than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. Not only is it a leading cause of greenhouse gasses, but animal agriculture is also a large source of water and air pollution. Large amounts of water are also needed to produce meat. It takes approximately 441 gallons of water to produce a pound of chicken, but only 14 gallons to produce a pound of wheat. Going green can be as easy as skipping meat one day a week.
Meatless Monday is also a great step to take in improving your health. Heart disease, diabetes and cancer are some of the most common diseases in the country, claiming many lives each year. But fortunately, you can lower your risk of all these by cutting down on your meat consumption. If you think what you eat doesn’t matter, just ask former President Bill Clinton. After being diagnosed with heart disease Clinton adopted a vegan diet, which has now helped him shed 24 pounds and reverse his heart disease. He also says that he has more energy and has never felt better.
If we want a world with less cruelty, a more sustainable environment and a healthier public we can start right now by rethinking what we eat on Mondays. Replacing meat with more healthy options, such as grains, beans, nuts, fruits and vegetables, has never been easier. And this movement is spreading across the nation, with more schools and universities getting on board. I hope you will join me by participating in Meatless Monday, both on campus and at home.