Wiederhold: Meatless Mondays, effective protest of factory farming

Remember back in your high school history class when you learned about Meatless Mondays? Remember learning about how, during World War I and World War II, people were encouraged to limit their meat consumption to support the effort? Today Meatless Monday is still in existence as a public health awareness program that draws attention to the devastating effects of industrial farming.

Although the stakes may not be as pertinent to the security of our nation as the threat of world domination by the Axis Powers, Meatless Monday still has at its heart the goal of defeating a powerful – albeit less publicized – enemy: the adverse environmental impacts of factory farming.

So why care about factory farming? Raising livestock in confinement at high density – factory farming – is harmful to the environment.

First off, concentrating a huge amount of animals in one place creates an enormous waste problem. For example, a factory farm of 35,000 hogs produces over 4 million pounds of waste every week. The excessive waste can then contaminate ground and surface waters, disturbing aquatic ecosystems. On top of that, the hormones and antibiotics given to livestock are polluting our waterways as well.

Secondly, livestock must be fed an enormous amount of food before they’re fat enough to become dinner. Livestock consumes 80 percent of all corn that is grown in the United States, and about a third of the world’s arable land is used for feed-crop production.

The overabundance of agriculture encourages land degradation, soil erosion, water pollution through runoff of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, water scarcity and habitat destruction. Imagine how much land and water could be saved if people were to eat only grains instead of meat.

Another negative impact of factory farming is the effect it has on the world’s climate. Believe it or not, eating meat contributes to global warming. The U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 18 percent of greenhouse gas emissions come from livestock production. According to Greenpeace Brazil, cattle ranching is the leading cause of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest.

In a world where temperatures are increasing, droughts and severe weather are occurring more frequently, polar ice caps are melting and sea level is rising, these actions are simply irresponsible and unacceptable.

Campus Auxiliary Services has just launched its own Meatless Monday campaign as a sustainability initiative on campus. Part of this campaign involves getting participants to pledge to cut meat out of their diets at least one day a week.

I would encourage all diehard “meatatarians” out there to give this a try. You might find that it’s not that hard to go a day without meat; have cereal and an apple for breakfast, a meat-free sandwich for lunch and pasta and salad for dinner.

Meatless Mondays draw attention to the enormous negative effects industrial farming has on the environment and take little effort. This is a small sacrifice to make in comparison to the huge good it will do for the planet’s heath.