Letter to the editor: Why love one and eat the other?

Many people assume that the diet of a vegetarian or vegan is carried by a leafy salad. The options at UB for those refraining from animals and animal products would align with this notion.

The United States consumption of meat per capita is more than almost every other country on Earth by ten to twelve times over. This has been declining as more Americans leave meat off their plates. The recent Spectrum article, “Vegetarian options at UB are limited, especially diversity” (Luke Heuskin, November 30) cites similar statistics that emphasize the loss of the vegetarian seed-eating hippie image to something far more familiar. Heuskin also mentions three different motivations for making the switch. The largest motivator has been concern for animal rights – which has converted the most people away from animal meat – followed by health and environmental concerns. The piece gives more detail about the heavy impact animal agriculture has on our environment as more research comes forward linking meat to pollution, deforestation, and high greenhouse gas emissions.

I feel compelled to make a case for the other motivators.

Most people agree that cruelty to cats or dogs, for example, is morally wrong. This belief is so pervasive that laws exist across our country that serve to criminalize such abuse. The law in New York defines cruelty to animals as well as aggravated cruelty to animals. The former yields a misdemeanor crime punishable with fines up to $1000 and/or imprisonment of one year.

Aggravated cruelty can warrant a felony crime up to $5000 and/or imprisonment of five years. Such heavy repercussions can be faced if a person “intentionally kills or intentionally causes serious physical injury to a companion animal with aggravated cruelty.” What defines a “companion animal” and what makes this animal more deserving of compassion than those animals we see on the dinner plate every day?

The conditions that farmed animals such as chickens, pigs, cows, and fish experience would not be tolerated for our beloved pets. We would allow our dog more than half a square foot of space to live its entire life. If that pet were sick, we would take him or her to the vet instead of letting the infection spread to other animals. More images exist than most are comfortable looking at to confirm the horrific conditions that an animal will face before its painful, indefensible death. If there are simple actions each of us can take, to reduce suffering, how does one still continue to support modern animal agriculture?

Aside from this cold imagery, limiting meat intake also provides health benefits that will reduce human suffering at the hands of our nation’s leading killers. The largest killer of Americans today is heart disease. Cancer follows close behind, with 30% of cancers related to diet. A plant based diet eliminates all animal products, which are the main source of cholesterol and saturated fats. Eating whole plant food has been linked to a decrease in risk of cancer and disease. This can be attributed to the wide variety of plants that meet nutrition requirements across the board.

The largest challenge students face when making the switch to abstain from meat are the options available. You may find options at various dining locations on campus but the variety is limited. Especially for those eating the Any-19 or Any-14 meal plan, the plant-based options become slim very fast. There are only so many salads one can eat. In order to maintain sufficient macronutrients on a vegan diet, it is essential to vary the vegetables, fruits, and legumes one eats. The university still struggles to meet this requirement even with the onset of “Seasons Cafe,” a fresh juice bar in the Center for the Arts.

When switching to a vegetarian or vegan diet, it is uncommon that someone will lust at the thought of a salad as they used to with a burger. UB does not offer the popular meat alternatives that can help transition a meat-eater. There is a vast, expanding market for these alternatives that makes them cheaper each year. Crossroads culinary center, or C3, is the only place on campus known to very occasionally feature these menu items. UB has the chance to show support for their students in the form of expanded food options.

Several other SUNY schools, including Binghamton, Geneseo, and Brockport, have all adopted a campus-wide Meatless Monday effort. All of these campuses provide similar information to students to what I have outlined above, emphasizing the impact of a meat-free diet. Meatless Mondays at UB could prompt many students to make more informed choices for their health, the state of the environment, and the welfare of millions of animals.

I implore you to live beyond yourself and make impactful, thoughtful decisions. Our diet is a tool to make informed choices that transcend our cultural and genetic narrative to live full, meaningful lives.

Please consider signing the UB Meatless Monday Pledge found at http://www.ubuffalo.meatlessmondaypledge.com.

Kaitlin Halligan

Junior chemistry, pre-pharmacy major