More than 2,500 Cornell students have pledged to forego eating any meat at least once a week as part of a campus and international campaign to aid the environment and reduce animal cruelty.
Sophie Zhu, grad, and Jack Nobel ’17 of Cornell Students for Animal Rights initiated the meatless Monday campaign in spring of 2015. The once-a-week pledge is part of a global effort by international nonprofit Mercy for Animals.
“It’s an easy way to get people to do something very small and make incremental changes,” Zhu said. “I would like to think that, through this campaign, thousands of gallons of water, thousands of pounds of grain, thousands of animals have been spared from a cruel death.”
Members of Cornell Students for Animal Rights often sign other students up by catching them between classes or at events and having them enter their name and email address. Weekly reminders sent to the students who pledge to go meatless include on-campus meal ideas as well as encouragement.
Zhu said she has received several emails over two years thanking the organization for helping them cut meat from their diet or become vegan.
“We expected that this would be something that students would sign onto because it’s an easy way to create change,” Nobel said. “It’s natural that you would want to help the environment if it doesn’t take a radical change.”
Many people are initially concerned about what kind of meals they will be able to make and if they can get enough nutrition into a vegetarian or vegan diet, Nobel said, but plant-powered meals at Cornell’s dining halls and the weekly emails “show how nutritious and delicious vegan meals are.”
Zhu, who attended the climate march in Washington, D.C. with scores of other Cornellians, said she was heartened to see signs advocating vegan and vegetarian diets at the march. “It’s important to advertise the environmental impacts food culture has on the planet,” she said.
Ky Barnett ’18 said she took the Cornell meatless Monday pledge when she was a freshman because of the meat industry’s effects on the environment and then learned more about animal cruelty, which led her to become vegetarian and ultimately vegan.
“To go meatless Mondays is to think about the impact you’re having on the planet and animals and even on your own health,” Barnett said. The campaign “gets people thinking, and gets people who are receptive to think about it more.”
“It’s an easy way to get people to think about what they want to do without putting too much pressure on them.”
Zhu and Nobel said students can learn more about animal cruelty and sustainable food from Bruce Friedrich, executive director of The Good Food Institute, a D.C.-based nonprofit focused on sustainability, who is speaking on Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. in G70 Klarman Hall.