Column: Why you should go meatless on Mondays
Every five years, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, under the presidential administration, issues the dietary guidelines for Americans. Its purpose is to point Americans in the right directional, nutritionally and otherwise. In the initial draft of the newly released guidelines, they recommended we eat less meat. When reading the published draft, the said recommendation was removed.
Most concerning, excessive meat consumption is bad for human health. A recent WHO study concluded that eating processed and red meats raises cancer risk, notably colon cancer. While the study primarily targets processed meats, red meats are also considered “probable” sources of increased risk.
After the study was released, red and processed meats were categorized as Group 1 level risk. Based upon the “sufficient evidence,” red meats such as pork, beef and lamb are considered probable sources of carcinogens. As if that’s not scary enough, Group 1 also includes tobacco smoke. Health experts and scientists on the WHO’s panel also concluded that excessive consumption of red and processed meats contributes to an additional 30,000 annual deaths worldwide. Therefore, it can be easily stated that eating less meat, or cutting it out altogether, is beneficial for your health. Alternative protein sources, such as beans and legumes, have less sodium and less fat, and who wouldn’t want that?
Nevertheless, vegetarians are not left behind in the new guidelines. The published guidelines only advise current vegetarians on how to have a healthy diet, but don’t encourage non-vegetarians to switch over to a vegetarian diet. While the guidelines expand on the foundation of a vegetarian diet, it does not explicitly suggest more Americans adopt the diet. However, vegan diets are nowhere to be found within the guidelines, which also is a negative impact.
The guidelines also state we are eating too much “protein,” the "we" particularly being teen boys. It is clear that the writers of the guidelines are insinuating that meat is the primary contributor to protein sources. The guidelines do not specifically recommend that the general population as a whole reduce its meat intake, but directly mentions teen boys are eating too much meat.
Among the plethora of reasons to reduce or eliminate your meat consumption, helping the environment is one of the most critical. Animal agriculture is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. Combine the emissions from cars, trucks and planes and it is still a smaller contributor compared to animal agriculture. Animal agriculture also is responsible for consuming 70 percent of grain harvested in the United States. Think of how many people could be fed with that much crop.
Also, by reducing your meat consumption, or going vegetarian or vegan altogether, you are sparing animals from unnecessary cruelty and suffering. More than 56 billion animals are killed every year in factory farms, and by merely reducing your meat consumption, you can help make an impact toward animals' lives. There are immense plant sources for protein that compensate for meat, and I promise you won’t be starving to death.
This is a huge loss to animal activists for a few reasons. As stated on their website, the guidelines’ primary audience are policymakers. By withdrawing the clause stating to reduce meat consumption from the initial draft, policymakers will be less inclined to align themselves with animal activists. Doctors and nutritionists also pay close attention to the guidelines, and will be less concerned with advising their patients to eat less meat as well.
A simple way you can make a difference in animals’ lives is by pledging to go meatless on Mondays. It is better for your health and a quick habit to pick up. It’s only one day a week. There is also a recently formed MSU Veg Club recruiting members interested in this movement.
Those interested in trying to make a difference can sign up here.
McKenzie Mak is a political science sophomore.