On Saturday, the Harvard Vegetarian Society hosted a debate over the morality of meat that pitted PETA representative Bruce Friedrich against a member of the Harvard Speech and Parliamentary Debate Society. The well-attended debate centering on the ethics of meat-eating was robust and impressive, and the Harvard Vegetarian Society should be commended for holding an event that highlights an important issue for our campus and our society.
As students from diverse backgrounds arrive at Harvard dining halls, HUDS has made an impressive effort to provide vegetarian eating options. The vegetarian dishes are always clearly marked, as are the options from which vegetarians can obtain protein. HUDS, however, can still do far more to accommodate those who choose not to eat meat. They must remember that while everyone can eat vegetarian dishes, vegetarians cannot eat meat dishes, and thus HUDS must increase the volume and variety of vegetarian options so that vegetarians can easily access a filling and healthful meal on a daily basis. To the dining services’ credit, they are moving in the right direction and hopefully will soon arrive at a point where students of all eating preferences feel happy and nourished after a meal at the dining hall.
Vegetarianism and the treatment of animals have become increasingly prominent recently. Factory farming is being recognized as an important health and environmental concern, and many have realized the potentially negative effects of meat consumption on climate change. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, “meat production accounts for nearly a fifth of global greenhouse emissions.”
HUDS and student groups should inform undergrads about the impact of their meat consumption on the environment, which might inspire students to eat less meat. Lowell House already has a remarkable student initiative that aims to do just that by encouraging students to sign up for “Meatless Mondays,” vowing to refrain from meat-eating once a week.
The issue of vegetarianism carries weight for numerous reasons in modern society, and the Vegetarian Society should be commended for bringing the debate to Harvard. Together, HUDS and student initiatives can inform the student body about the environmental benefits of eating less meat and encourage students to rethink their food consumption.