Fischer and Rao: Make Mondays meatless

Earlier this week, President Levin sent an e-mail to the Yale community announcing the launch of the University’s new “Sustainability Plan.” This plan, created by the Yale Sustainability Task Force, covers topics ranging from water conservation to food and dining and sets ambitious targets for the coming years such as decreasing carbon emissions to 10 percent below 1990 levels.

We applaud the Sustainability Task Force for outlining specific steps that the University can take to tackle some of the most pressing environmental challenges facing us. However, we feel that it has failed to adequately take into account the challenges posed by what the United Nations has declared to be “one of the most significant contributors to today’s most serious environmental problems”: animal agriculture. We feel that making a concerted effort to reducing the consumption of animal products on campus would be one of the easiest, most meaningful and most cost-effective strategies that the University can pursue in order to achieve its sustainability goals and truly assume the role of a global “sustainability leader.”

Numerous studies in recent years have documented the enormous toll that industrial animal agriculture takes on our world. According to a 2006 Report by the UN Food and Agricultural Organization, animal agriculture is responsible for the production of 18 percent of greenhouse gases — more than the entire transportation sector combined. The report details how animal agriculture is also a leading contributor to other serious environmental problems including deforestation, loss of biodiversity, air and water pollution and land degradation. According to an extensive two-year examination conducted by the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production, factory farming, which produces over 95 percent of animal products in the United States, “poses unacceptable risks to public health, the environment and the welfare of the animals themselves”. Given the alarming findings of these various studies, it is becoming abundantly clear that a dramatic change in our practices is necessary in the near future if we hope to reverse the dangerous and environmentally damaging trends that are currently underway.

Yale’s Sustainability Plan does address the issue of “food and dining,” but the measures the plan proposes are not at all attuned to these findings. Specifically, the Sustainability Task Force suggests that Yale should ensure that 40 percent of its food meets one of four “sustainability criteria:” local, eco-sensitive, humane and fair. While this measure is certainly a step in the right direction, it implies that Yale need not take any significant measures to address this underlying issue of utmost importance. Under the plan, the grand majority of animal products we consume on campus will continue to be supplied by sources that are admitted by the University to be inhumane and unsustainable. Nowhere in the Sustainability Plan does the Task Force consider the possibility of actually reducing the quantity of animal products we consume as a campus, though it is widely agreed that reducing meat consumption is crucial for tackling the numerous environmental problems that we face today. Eating less meat doesn’t require new technologies, detailed planning or additional spending — all it requires is a small-scale change in our habits, a miniscule price to pay when we consider the profound environmental impacts such a change will have.

Whether we want to admit it or not, all evidence suggests that we cannot continue to consume animal products at the rate we currently do and expect our planet to continue to sustain us. As an international leader in sustainability, it is time that Yale confronts the facts and creates policies that reflect this reality. A great place to start would be for Yale to join the worldwide movement of “Meatless Mondays.” Meatless Mondays is a campaign to reduce global meat consumption by 15 percent. Leading institutions such as Oxford and McGill have recently gone meatless on Mondays, and earlier this year the city of Washington, D.C., passed a resolution urging its residents to do the same. Additionally, millions of individuals around the world have gone online and taken the commitment to make Meatless Mondays a part of their weekly diet. Bringing Meatless Mondays to Yale would be a feasible, healthy, effective and cost-minimizing measure that will allow us to begin to reduce our dependence on the inhumane, environmentally destructive practices of modern animal agriculture.

Comments

  • silliwin01

    Until Yale dining can offer meatless options that are even remotely appealing, this idea will be constrained to the fertile and idealistic minds of people such as the authors of this editorial.

  • RexMottram08

    If the whole world practiced “sustainability” we would starve.

    Modern agriculture beats the Yale farm every time.

  • FailBoat

    Paul Ehrlic famously predicted that the entire world would starve in the 1970s because we’d run out of food.

    Then we invented modern agriculture and proved him wrong.

    Sustainable farming is a luxury for affluent multi-billion dollar academic institutions with nothing better to do.

  • Woland

    If you don’t want to eat meat on Mondays, fine by me, but leave my own dining choices alone.

  • critic

    It would be great to know who these people are, what college they are in and if they have any affiliations with organizations interested in meatless Mondays…

  • rachthecookie

    Actually, it’s not your “dining choice” that is being discussed. It’s Yale’s purchasing choice. Your dining choice means that you have the right to decide to go to a store or restaurant and buy meat on a Monday and eat it, if you so desire. Yale is not required to offer specific dining options, just because you want them. If you decide you want fois gras for lunch today, would Yale be interfering with your “dining choices” because it does not offer it? No. You can decide to go buy your own fois gras and eat it, just as Yale and other similar institutions can decide to not purchase as much of a particular item in the effort to lessen its environmental impact and be a more responsible member of society. The ability to eat meat is not a “right” that you are owed by the Univeristy. It’s a luxury and a choice, one which a large population of the world does not have, and a destructive luxury at that.

  • YaleMom

    Whenever I hear people start talking about biodiversity, I just tune it out! What a word! You girls should have written about how to cook delicious vegetarian meals. There are a lot of chubby hubbies (overweight husbands) out there who need to lose some pounds.

  • joe29sb

    @YaleMom. One of the two writers of this editorial is male. I hope you don’t really think that only women are vegetarians (or that only women should cook). I share your concern about the rapidly rising obesity rate in America. A major cause of that is meat consumption. If the USA didn’t use taxpayer dollars to extensively subsidize modern factory farming, people wouldn’t be nearly as fat. Instead of tuning out ‘biodiversity,’ you should perhaps google it and realize how tremendously important it is planet-wide.

  • YaleMom

    Oops! Sorry Shebani! I thought you were a lady!

    And Joe of course big boys can be vegetarians. Think of all those guys in India and the Middle East! They wouldn’t have anything to eat if it weren’t for vegetables! You need to learn your history Mister!

  • silliwin01

    Also honestly Monday is a miserable day and nothing improves like having a nice juicy steak waiting for me in the dining hall to give a slight glimmer of happiness before staying in the Sillibrary or Bass until 2 in the morning, and so I think unnecessarily forcing hippy beliefs on an unwilling populace on perhaps their worst day of the week highlights the delusional and out-of-touch “we are superior” mentality so lovingly embraced by the plethora of annoying liberal elements (of which these author’s are a part) at Yale.

  • adamstempel

    BUT I LIKE MEAT! :-(

  • Yale12

    Rachthecookie: It is a right we have if we’re paying $10 a meal. It’s not as if the University is providing us these services for free.

  • Goldie08

    @ Silliwin – when have you ever had a “nice juicy steak” in a Yale dining hall?!

    For the record, I went to Fogo de Chao last night. ‘Twas glorious.

  • silliwin01

    Haha I was exaggerating – the point remains is that I like the days they have the freshly sliced steak or turkey because the quality generally surpasses that of days in which the meat is either integrated into dishes on left presliced in trays, and certainly embarasses the quality of anything they try to prepare that lacks animal substance.

  • rr22

    i think reducing our consumption of meat as a society is a really good idea.
    but is there any way to do this besides having yale dining services force it on us?
    how about they start offering really yummy vegetarian options?
    and educate the students so they know to choose meat less?

  • TD10

    This reminds me of YSFP’s first initiative, “organic Thursday,” which usually amounted to some sort of glorified stuffed cabbage. Naturally, we placed a standing order for Chinese food.

  • robert99

    If anyone quotes the united nations on anything you can be sure that they are really lost.

  • FailBoat

    Female vegetarians outnumber males by a ratio of between 3:1 and 2:1

    In other words, being a vegetarian is apparently more feminine than voting Democrat or drinking diet soda.