More vegetarian options necessary on campus
Posted November 10, 2009 at 11:31 pm in Opinion
Walking around USC, a student passes about seven fast food or chain restaurants that serve cheap burgers or beef tacos for every one eatery that can make an edible salad. Such is the sad state of accessible food in most American cities.
For those students who test the waters of vegetarianism, there is a dearth of options. But with USCâs sustainability grade still lagging at a meager C+ on the Sustainable Endowments Instituteâs College Sustainability Report Card, student health wouldnât be the only thing to gain from more vegetarian venues.
With an annual per capita average of 270 pounds, Americans are the worldâs biggest meat consumers. Granted, meat tastes (really) good, but the main two reasons for adopting a vegetarian diet are too important to ignore.
Without mentioning ethics, eating meat has been found to cause deadly illnesses and contributes greatly to pollution and global warming.
High cholesterol and heart disease have long been foes of public health, but they have become of particular concern as obesity rates continue to climb in the United States.
Researches at Dumfries and Galloway Royal Infirmary found that fruits and vegetables contain salicylic acid, a chief ingredient in aspirin, which has been found to decrease risk of heart disease and breast and lung cancer.
The researchers then compared an otherwise homogenous group of vegetarian and meat-eating monks and people from the community, and found that the vegetarians had bodily levels of salicylic acid that were 12 times higher than in non-vegetarians.
Animal protein has also been linked to numerous types of cancer. Dr. T. Colin Campbell, a professor at Cornell University, has conducted experiments in which he substituted plant-based protein for animal-based protein.
The results showed the substitution helped halt or even reverse the advance of cancer in test rodents.
Larger-scale studies on meat and human health have yielded similar results. A National Institute of Health study followed 500,000 individuals between the ages of 51 and 70 for eight years. Those who regularly consumed red meat had rates of esophageal, colorectal, lung and liver cancer that were between 20 to 60 percent higher than those who ate little or no red meat.
The consumption of meat impacts not only oneâs own body, but the entire society and ecosystem we live in. A lengthy 2006 United Nations report identified many hazardous environmental problems directly resulting from animal farming.
Animal agriculture was found to contribute to 18 percent of the worldâs greenhouse gas emissions, compared to the 13.5 percent that is emitted by the much more publicized transportation sectorâs emissions.
Animal farming produces 65 percent of all human-produced nitrous oxide and 37 percent of such methane, which are estimated to each have at least 21 times more effect on global warming than carbon dioxide.
For those stragglers who still donât believe in global warming, the UN report also cited meat production as a âmassiveâ water and land polluter and likely the number one contributor to water pollution in third world countries.
Worldwide, 70 percent of fresh water usage goes towards animal agriculture.
Additionally, the meat industry plays a major role in global deforestation and the spread of animal-born diseases.
This is not to say that every time somebody eats a burger, they starve a child in India, raise the ocean levels an inch, spread the flu, contract cancer and have a heart attack. But there is evidence that meat is a primary contributor to many global problems.
Naysayers will claim that one person altering their diet wonât change anything. But if you vote in political elections, avoid littering or turn off your lights when youâre not home, you probably do believe implicitly that your actions have an effect on the world.
Avoiding meat in college can be especially difficult, as cafeterias donât always have a good variety of vegetarian dishes. USC recently began an initiative called V2O that is meant to increase vegetarian, vegan and organic options in cafeterias, but has so far not declared a vegetarian-only outlet where students can spend their dining dollars.
Such a restaurant would have many benefits for USC and its students. It could buy produce exclusively from the many local farmersâ markets in the area, thereby supporting local agriculture and ensuring fresh food.
This in turn could boost USCâs C+ grade, which itâs held for three years.
With the addition of a healthy and accessible food outlet, new students might find it easier to keep off the dreaded weight gain that accompanies new college-level stress.
Most importantly, an exclusively vegetarian restaurant at USC would send a strong message that vegetarianism is a viable diet option.
Max Hoiland is a senior majoring in cinema-television critical studies.