On Feb. 5, UI Student Government and the Office of Sustainability launched a Meatless Monday initiative as part of the “Climate for Change” theme semester. The goal of the event is to provide students in the dining halls with meat-free options every first Monday of the month.
According to the article “University of Iowa holds first Meatless Monday at dining halls,” the initiative was created at the university to close the gap in sustainability efforts when it comes to composting, recycling, local produce, and the food that is prepared and served in the dining halls.
The article had input from UISG Sen. Abigail Simon, who contended that there are many reasons to go vegan or vegetarian, but meat is detrimental to the Earth. Simon said, “A carbon footprint is the amount of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases emitted into the atmosphere by consuming fossil fuels — Meatless Mondays can help reduce carbon footprints.”
In researching the history of the nonprofit group Meatless Mondays, the organization cites reasons such as wartime effort and public-health concerns on why people should limit their consumption of meat; two reasons omitted or barely mentioned in the response from UISG. Not provided on the Meatless Monday link used as a source for the article was the statistic that held livestock responsible for 15 percent of greenhouse-gas emissions, a reason given by UISG for the new event.
As a response to the UI, former Iowa Rep. Josh Byrnes tweeted his concerns that the UI claims to support America’s farmers while hosting a day that blatantly retracts that support. Additionally, he took issue with the false information used in the article referring to climate change and livestock production. Another user tweeted interest in the matter, explaining to the UI that the event snubs the industry that funds the state while employing 36,000 livestock producers that provide sustainable, high-quality product. That user also notes that if UISG would like to see meat grown sustainably, the members should visit an Iowa farm.
Keeping in mind that UISG could have represented its event as a way to eat healthier while starting college, it chose to slightly mention that, yet focused on livestock and climate-change arguments that do not even match the voice of the nonprofit they are claiming to support. As Iowans and public universities like the UI prosper off the success of the state, it is important that members of UISG support Iowa farmers and healthy eating initiatives that supply correct information on healthy eating and effects of meat-heavy diets.
Overall, many that seemed unsettled with the UISG initiative took concern with the framing of the event, because it does disregard a product of Iowa farmers. As provided by the Office of Sustainability, dining halls contain food only grown, raised, or caught within a 250-mile radius, and processed foods must contain at least 50 percent local ingredients. Dining halls at the UI feed many students while supporting the work of local farmers. The work of those farmers deserves more respect and information than UISG was willing to give.