Every monday morning, some of us on staff like to start our week with a plate of biscuits and gravy. It’s a little unhealthy, but nonetheless, our favorite breakfast. So, we were only slightly disappointed when, last monday at Huffman, we had to settle for vegan gravy. Besides the taste of veggies instead of sausage, what was far more disappointing about the breakfast was that it was in the name of “mindfulness.” Indeed, the name “Mindful Mondays” feels like a slight towards our compassion and ability to think critically about the agro-industrial complex that causes so many problems for the environment and the humane treatment of animals.
We know what we are doing when we eat meat. We know that it takes far more land area and energy to produce beef. We are aware that cows are responsible for as much as 25% of annual methane released to the atmosphere. Some of us have even studied the practice of raising chickens in battery cages and find the practice appalling. We still eat meat. We are not alone.
Some Mondays, there is a barrage of criticism on Yik Yak for Mindful Mondays by people who do not want to be told what to eat or what it means to be mindful. There is an equal, and perhaps louder group of voices who suggest that people can choose which dining hall they eat at, and further call those dissenters “whiny babies,” as one anonymous user put it. Granted, only one of the two dining halls is vegetarian on any given Monday, but let’s be honest: walking all the way across campus to avoid a Mindful Monday is significantly less practical than complaining.
Given, of course, those who do not eat meat should be considered in what is planned daily on the dining hall menu. After all, they are students here just like the rest of us with dietary specifics that need to be met. If anything, the dining halls do a great job at offering some dishes that are just vegetables, or a 2.0 vegetarian-made version of a dish (e.g. lasagna). So why not just implement more of these options on a daily basis?
Denison University’s mission is “to inspire and educate our students to become autonomous thinkers, discerning moral agents and active citizens of a democratic society.” Choosing to be vegetarian for any number of moral, health, or environmental reasons is certainly a laudable endeavor. But making that choice for everyone by instituting a day of vegetarianism in the name of “mindfulness” seems like it takes away from the University’s purpose to foster an environment of autonomous thinking and morally discerning students. A day without meat is fine. But telling students what “mindful” means is a problem.