Students push for meat-free Mondays

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A giant yellow chick wandered the West Mall on Friday as students stopped to pick up “Support Meatless Mondays!” pins and sign a petition for an initiative by PETA.

Students Against Cruelty to Animals ­­— a campus group dedicated to the humane treatment of animals — invited youth animal rights organization peta2 to petition its Meatless Mondays initiative at UT. If the Division of Housing and Food Services passes the initiative, all dining halls on campus would serve completely meatless meals every Monday.

The organization’s goal is to have the initiative passed sometime this semester, said Kelsi Urrutia, SACA president and geography senior. They hope to have 3,000 signatures by the end of the week and to have the program in place in summer or fall 2011, she said.

“We’ve been looking for a really good cause for dorms on campus, and we knew that PETA was starting to do this Meatless Monday thing,” she said. “It’s not just about caring for animals and being humane, it’s also about the environment and other factors.”

Cancer, heart disease and strokes are all linked to high animal protein intake, said student activist Lucas Solowey, a peta2 representative who graduated from Concordia University in Montreal. Switching to a vegan or vegetarian diet can reverse the effects of heart disease and lower chances of cancer, he said.

“Eating meatless meals is good for a student’s health, even if it’s just one day a week, not to mention that it’s cheaper than meat-based meals,” he said. “I came all the way from Canada to support this cause.”

The petition, which states that UT can help combat issues such as climate change and student health by going vegan or vegetarian one day a week, has received an unexpectedly high amount of signatures from the student body, Solowey said.

“We’ve had overwhelming support with this petition,” he said. “We came to the University of Texas because they’ve been so supportive of our cause. Students gave word that they heard about the campaign and were happy that the school might implement the program."

The group got 2,600 signatures in three days of passing out pins in the West Mall and other high traffic areas on campus, said Ryan Huling, peta2 senior college campaign coordinator. The group will go to the Division of Housing and Food Services with the petition after it gets 3,000 signatures, and DHFS will then decide whether or not to implement the program and how to do so, he said.

Meatless meals for one day a week on campus could be beneficial, said computer science junior Jeremy Shapiro, who lived on campus this school year and renewed his contract for next year. Meatless Mondays have other pros aside from the environmental and health benefits, including cost and religious customs, he said.

“I do eat a lot of meat in the dining halls, but I’m kosher so I have to be careful about foods with meats and cheeses,” he said. “If nothing had meat, I wouldn’t have to worry about that.”