The movement toward more plant-based meals is taking root on college campuses across the country, with more than 200 universities, including the University of California, Santa Barbara, leading the charge with “Meatless Monday” campaigns in their dining halls.

There has never been a more exciting time to expand our dining horizons. Skipping meat one day a week is not a sacrifice but an adventure. And this is reflected in the choices students are making. According to a study conducted by Technomic, over 20 percent of college students are reducing their meat consumption and for good reasons.

One of those reasons is concern for the nine billion chickens, pigs and other animals raised for food each year, most of whom suffer in factory farms. For example, mother pigs in the pork industry are typically confined in tiny crates barely larger than their own bodies for virtually their entire lives. Unable to even turn around, these sensitive, intelligent animals — all of whom have their own personalities and preferences — experience tremendous physical and psychological pain. Most egg-laying hens suffer a similar fate, as they’re crammed into tiny cages with each bird granted less space than the screen of an iPad on which to live for her entire life. By choosing meat-free options just one day a week, we can all help prevent an enormous amount of cruelty to animals.

Human health and the health of the planet also benefit. A report issued by the Environmental Working Group simply states, “Producing all this meat and dairy requires large amounts of pesticides, chemical fertilizer, fuel, feed and water. It also generates greenhouse gases and large amounts of toxic manure and wastewater that pollute groundwater, rivers, streams and ultimately, the ocean.”

Our current rate of meat consumption is simply unsustainable. Increasing numbers of family farmers are also voicing their support for Meatless Monday as a means to achieve a more sustainable, community-based agricultural system before it’s too late. By reducing the total number of animals raised for food and looking to local farms for our livestock and produce, we will place greater value on humane, sustainable agriculture in which animal welfare is a priority.

Kenny Torrella is the food policy coordinator for the Humane Society of the United States. Vegetarian meal options are provided at all UCSB on-campus dining commons.



 A version of this article appeared in the Thursday, September 19, 2013 print edition of the Daily Nexus.
Views expressed on the Opinion page do not necessarily reflect those of the Daily Nexus or UCSB. Opinions are submitted primarily by students.