In an event that is already generating conversation around campus, Moulton and Thorne Dining Halls will not be serving meat during dinner on Monday, February 21. "Meatless Monday," sponsored by the Bowdoin College Democrats (BCD) and other campus groups, is intended to raise awareness about the health and environmental impacts of eating meat.
"I think the value of the event is that it has environmental importance, impacts an individuals' health—and there's also a moral dimension to it which we don't talk about very much," said BCD Co-President Katy Shaw '11.
BCD introduced the idea for "Meatless Monday" to Dining Services in early December.
"Meatless Monday' is a national initiative which the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health started," said Ben Richmond '13, a member of BCD who helped to coordinate the event.
"We heard about the event through friends in other schools...and we wanted to start it here as well," he said.
As an alternative to meat, Dining Service will provide additional items with high-protein content, such as eggs, beans and tofu. Moulton will also be serving an entrée with cashew nuts as a protein source.
"It's not a stretch for us to come up with a vegetarian menu because we have so many vegetarian options anyway," said Director of Dining Service Mary McAteer Kennedy.
"The chefs who write the menus just took a look at their vegetarian offerings and tried to come up with menus that they felt would be strong enough to have widespread appeal without the meat," she added.
While the event has garnered support from both student organizations and sports teams, several students found themselves defending "Meatless Monday" from criticism that the event is undemocratic.
"I'm really hoping that people realize that not eating meat for one meal...is not going to have the negative effects that they think," said Rachel Turkel '11, who introduced the event to Peer Health.
"Honestly, I wonder if the dining hall didn't serve meat on Mondays if people would even notice," said Turkel, who is a vegetarian. "We're told what we can't eat [every day]. If the dining halls serve lasagna then they're not letting us eat chicken parm."
"I like bacon just as much as the other guy, but I think it's worth experimenting," said Andrew Cushing '12, a member of Sustainable Bowdoin. "And I think [the] dining halls do a superb job at whatever task they're given. I think it's unfair to assume the worst."
According to the Scientific American, the production of half a pound of beef emits the same amount of greenhouse gases as a car traveling 9.81 miles.
"I always think of it as when you go to McDonald's—what you ate there would emit at least as much carbon emissions as driving there, which is kind of ridiculous when you think about it," said Richmond.
The organizations co-sponsoring "Meatless Monday" will have information tables set up in the dining halls to answer student questions.
Shaw added that going meatless has health benefits as well, such as reducing risk of heart disease and cancer and curbing obesity.
However, Kyrie Eiras-Saunders '12, who is allergic to soy, corn and wheat, said that she doesn't "appreciate [BCD] eliminating choice and having them write it off as a more liberal stance."
"Eating meat is what keeps me feeling full on a regular basis," said Eiras-Saunders. "They always have the Local Farmers Day and they do expos in the dining hall... We're not a small group in the middle of nowhere that never have heard of these concerns."
"At this point, it's being shoved down our throats," she added.
"It's not really participation if there isn't a choice," said Toby Sedgwick '12. "Saying you have to pay for something is not really giving [you] a choice."
In response, Richmond stated that "Meatless Monday" is similar to one of the several theme dinners throughout the year.
"On this night, there's going to be a meatless theme," Richmond said. "We understand that students need to be able to choose so we're definitely going to ask for feedback before going forward."
"It's a lot easier to evaluate the potential of a program after you've tried it once," added Shaw. "If we were to go to students to ask their hypothetical opinion [about "Meatless Monday"], I think that would be a different set of responses than students answering the same question after they've tried it."
From the perspective of Dining Service, Kennedy explained that Bowdoin students are always asking for healthy food options.
"As a dietician, I think it's a good idea to raise awareness about healthy non-meat selections that you can incorporate in your diet, and I think a lot of Bowdoin students are interested in health," said Kennedy. "That seems to be a theme that's getting stronger all the time."