I’ve been pleasantly surprised that food is a topic that continues to cross my desk and computer screen. I saw a lot of food-related documentaries this summer, which finally pushed me over the edge to give up meat for a while. I continue to listen about food, and continue to learn about the holistic, all-encompassing benefits of giving up animal products, red-meat in particular.
The problems with red meat are the most dangerous in food production. Combining pastures and the acreage required to grow animal food, a third of the landmass on earth is used to produce meat. Most of the food is corn, which makes cows sick (and in need of a constant antibiotics) and produce more methane than if they were eating grass. Cows produce greenhouse gasses at rates comparable to our transportation system. One pound of meat uses 1800 gallons of water and emits 26 pounds of greenhouse gases in production. (http://www.dothegreenthing.com/blog/what_a_difference_a_meatless_monday_makes) These are objective consequences, not to mention the mistreatment and sad life in industrial-scale farms.
After the animal’s life has passed, there is compelling evidence that meat and dairy consumption, at “Western-diet” amounts (averaging 3x more than other countries), is dangerous and has directly led to our heart problems at least, maybe diabetes, blood pressure, and some cancers as well.
So, if reducing or removing animal products from our diet is so beneficial, why aren’t more people doing it?
My guess is diet norms, and the information produced by the 74 billion dollar industry to perpetuate our high consumption levels. We’ve been told so long we need protein and calcium that we couldn’t get in sufficient amounts without meat and dairy; it’s part of our culture. We were raised to eat sausage or bacon for breakfast, a turkey sandwich or burger for lunch, and a roast beef or chicken for dinner, and one who doesn’t must be weak or malnourished. It doesn’t matter what the food is paired with; you probably won’t eat much of it anyway. They are side-dishes or toppings, those green things. The key to this dismissal of fruits and vegetables is the assumption that they are unnecessary. The truth is that fruits and vegetables are more necessary than ever, with epidemics of obesity, heart disease, diabetes, low energy and high work ethics, and there is compelling evidence that produce could be the cure.
How can we change?
Make vegetarian and vegan dishes the norm. Get yourself comfortable cooking and eating without meat and cheese before lessening butter and eggs. Choose to make butter a special occasion, meat once a month, and cheese a distinct taste instead of a regular topping. These are personal commitments that take individual initiative, and that take motivation. The best way to keep motivated is to find a supportive community who believes the same.
The Westminster Vegan Dinner is a long-standing monthly dinner that builds community with our neighbors as well as our campus friends. The first dinner of the year is Thursday, September 20th. The RSVP system has changed to a website where anyone can sign up for set-up, cooking, attending or clean-up. http://www.westminsterpresbyterianwooster.org/calendar/2012/09/20/wpc-vegan-pot-luck The meals are followed by a speaker with a message applicable to this conscientious community. All are welcome, and students are not obligated to bring a dish.
COW’s Vegan CoOp will begin Saturday, September 29th under the new leadership of Adair Creach and Jesse Tiffen, mentored by the CoOp senior Brian Lupish. These meals are bi-weekly, but will not feature any speakers. Instead, their purpose is to build campus community and provide a venue for environmentalists to innovate together. RSVPs are also expected online, looking for volunteers to cook and clean as well as attend.
For those who can’t attend these special events, or want to do more day-to-day, Kittredge is open for lunch and dinner, and is always vegetarian. There is a comment box outside of Kittredge for critiques, concerns and compliments.
Something to look for in November: meat-consciousness week. Monday through Wednesday will be a film series about the variety of reasons to go meatless more often, and the problems our massive meat consumption creates. Thursday will coincide with a Westminster Vegan Dinner or Vegan CoOp dinner with an emphasis on joining the regulars to cook a vegan meal. Friday will end with a Meat-Free panel of college community members who will answer questions about how they do it every day.