Today, I had the pleasure of eating at Weybridge for one of their nightly dinners (yes, they post their menus too!). Afterwards, like any responsible student, I checked my Facebook before beginning my homework, only to find a flurry of “Meatless Monday” status updates. I then checked my email and soon began to understand what they were talking about.
With relatively little notice (Director of Dining, Matthew Biette, sent an all-student email explaining “LessMeat Mondays” at 3:56pm today), students learned that this evening they would be subject to a “trial run of LessMeat Monday… an environmental initiative brought to you by a group of students in Environmental economics,” in which an additional vegetarian dish would replace a meat dish.
Placated by the knowledge that there still would be a meat dish, I soon reached the next line: “While we encourage all students to choose the environmentally friendly vegetarian option, we also respect the right of each student to eat meat.”
Freshly thinking about hierarchies and binaries, thanks to my women and gender studies course, I could understand how this email sparked people’s interest. It clearly placed the “environmentally friendly vegetarian option” in a greater position than that of ‘meat eaters’ whose ‘rights must be respected.’ Is the freedom to eat what I want to eat a right I should be worried about? I didn’t think so, but now I’m slightly confused.
As college students still in the stage of emerging adulthood (thanks to PSYC 216 for that buzzword), we already have enough to worry about. Is being in another minority position just because I happen to be a “meat eater” who chooses the “less environmentally friendly option” really a binary Middlebury wants to establish, promote, and add on to that list?
I appreciate that this class hopes to use “LessMeat Mondays” as a learning experience and a teaching tool about the “environmental benefits of going meatless,” but I do think there is a potential conversation here about the way in which it was presented.
I’m all for environmentally friendly practices, and am just as dazzled by Eric Schlosser (and his awesome presentation on campus last year) as the next Middkid, but I think we need to think about and discuss the most effective and least-alienating ways in which environmentally sustainable food practices can be presented and encouraged. And I’m not sure that this email guilt-tripping meat eaters did that too successfully.
What did you think of Less Meat Mondays?
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