By Erica Meier, ’96 (BA in Sociology and Environmental Policy)
As an alumna of Clark University, I was thrilled to learn that campus dining services implemented Meatless Monday a few years ago and students are now offered a wide range of delicious meat-free options on the first day of each academic week.
Why am I so excited to learn about Clark’s participation in Meatless Monday?
It was while living in the Heart of the Commonwealth – and studying at Clark – that I developed a strong interest in speaking out for those who could not: farmed animals. Though I was already a vegetarian since high school, it was through meeting other students at Clark that I discovered the true horrors of meat, milk, and egg production. It was the first time I saw images of egg-laying hens crammed inside tiny wire cages barely able to move – it’s an image that I will never forget and it’s motivated me to join the campus vegetarian club. I was soon handing out veg-friendly information to fellow students at Red Square, setting up educational tables in the UC, and talking with dining services about offering more meat-free meals. It’s a passion that has turned into a life-long commitment.
Since graduating from Clark, I’ve devoted my career to protecting and speaking out for animals. I’ve worked at several non-profit animal advocacy organizations and even spent three years as an animal control officer in the nation’s capital enforcing anti-cruelty laws. In 2005, I was hired as Executive Director at Compassion Over Killing, a national non-profit farmed animal protection organization whose work has been featured in several national news outlets. This past summer, ABC World News Tonight with Diane Sawyer ran an exclusive story about our undercover investigation inside a California dairy cow slaughterhouse that prompted the US Dept. of Agriculture to shut the facility down due to inhumane handling of animals.
Over the years of working to protect animals, I’ve seen the darker side of humanity, capable of extreme cruelty – I’ve even gone inside factory farms to witness first-hand the suffering forced upon these animals who are treated so miserably. Such atrocities would be considered criminal if inflicted upon dogs and cats.
I’ve also seen the brighter side of humanity, which seeks justice for animals raised for food. Livestock is perhaps the most abused animals in our society. They are also denied adequate legal protections.
One of the most effective ways we can express our compassion for all animals is by simply choosing to leave them off our plates. Meatless Mondays is a great way to get started. By reducing our meat consumption or by going meatless even just one day a week, we can begin making a difference in the lives of countless animals. We would also be protecting our health and the planet.
It’s wonderful to see other Clark alum also dedicating their time to advocate for a kinder, cleaner, and healthier world. Mark Bittman, columnist for The New York Times and bestselling author of How to Cook Everything, has been calling on Americans to eat less meat while urging the meat, milk, and egg industries as well as major food companies to put an end to some of the most abusive practices forced upon farmed animals.
Meatless Monday is a common-sense approach to a number of critical issues facing our nation, whether we’re concerned about animals, environmental protection, or health issues. I’m proud to see my alma mater do its part – let’s support that effort.
Looking back, I now realize just how much I learned at Clark — so much more than just my chosen area of study (sociology and environmental policies). The Clark community fostered the idea that each one of us has the ability to change the world for the better. In the words of Anne Frank: “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before beginning to improve the world.”
We can start today simply by making our next meal a vegetarian one.
Erica Meier is a Clark alumna (1996) and currently the executive director of the DC-based animal advocacy organization Compassion Over Killing. Online at HYPERLINK “http://www.cok.net/” COK.net