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Students encourage weekly vegetarian diet, says pledge is more than 'meats' eye

While 95 percent of Americans advocate for humane treatment of animals on farms, according to a study by the American Farm Bureau, a much smaller percentage of Americans are willing to act on their beliefs by cutting meat out of their lives, even for a day. 

But Lizzie Krisch, a Humane League campus coordinator at Rutgers and a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior, is committed to persuading University students to adopt "Meatless Monday," a day of abstaining from eating meat every week. 

Most pregnant mother pigs in the pork industry are confined to cages where there is not enough room to turn around for four months at a time, Krisch said. On top of this, the mother pigs are forced to breed for their entire lives.

“After learning about the mass suffering on industrial farms, I feel like it’s my moral obligation to speak out against it and let others know. The majority of students don’t endorse animal cruelty, and they should end their support of these large-scale farms,” she said.

The way animals raised for food are treated is atrocious, said Rachel Atcheson, director of Campus Outreach for The Humane League. Less than humane treatment of farm animals is usually not behavior many people endorse, but are indirectly roped into because of how society functions. 

As an animal protection organization that focuses on large corporate campaigns and conducting vegetarian advocacy, The Humane League sponsors "Meatless Monday."

"Meatless Monday"'s website asks students and professors to join hundreds of other University students to sign the pledge to replace meat, chicken and fish with plant-based meals each Monday.

“Any student can choose to reduce their meat consumption ... (The Humane League is) working with dining services to add more vegan options to their cafeterias ... We want to spread awareness so that people can make informed decisions about their choices,” Atcheson said.

Ashley Rhinehart, a Food and Nutrition Manager for The Humane Society of the United States, quoting the Sierra Club, said if everyone decreased their meat consumption by 20 percent, it would be as if everyone switched from driving a sedan to driving a hybrid car.

In line with advocating for environmental and health benefits, The Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University released a newsletter in January 2015 promoting a meatless diet.

According to the newsletter, cutting back consumption of meat minimizes the usage of valuable resources like fresh water and fossil fuel and going meatless just one day per week reduces the risk of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes.

“The American Heart Association is saying we should eat more plant-based meals,” Rhinehart said. “Even Bill Clinton went vegan for his health when he was having multiple heart attacks, and he hasn’t had to go back to surgery since then.”

Vegetarian athletes include people like tennis player Venus Williams, NFL player David Carter and former boxer Mike Tyson, Rhinehart said.

Thousands of schools, hospitals and universities around the world — and even the Norwegian army — celebrate Meatless Monday or a similar weekly hiatus from meat, Rhinehart said. 

University students, too, can get involved on campus.

Krisch said she gathers "Meatless Monday" pledges on campus, usually outside libraries or student centers.

As one of 20 campus coordinators throughout the country advocating for vegetarianism and veganism on college campuses, Krisch said there are many ways to spread the word on campus.

By handing out leaflets to as many students as possible, Krisch said campus coordinators collect "Meatless Monday" pledges. They also display posters around campus to have students order a Vegetarian Starter Guide, and they leave Vegetarian Starter Guides around campus in the hopes that interested students pick them up.

The Rutgers Vegetarian Society additionally hosts movie screenings and speaker events. So far, Krisch said the response has been "fantastic."

She realizes most students do not know where their food is coming from and she is trying to help educate as many people as possible.

“I care about this topic, because I’ve seen videos of animal cruelty on today’s factory farms and it’s appalling,” she said.

Going meatless, even for one day a week, saves animals, Krisch said. Each year, tens of billions of animals are slaughtered for their meat in the United States alone after being raised in factory farms.

“'Meatless Monday' is a great way to expand your palate and diversify your meals,” Krisch said. “The challenge is fun and you won't believe how easy it is until you try it.”

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