Girton Goes Vegetarian!
by Sara Stillwell, Girton College, Cambridge
The industry of livestock farming is responsible for more greenhouse gas emissions than every car, train, bus and plane in the world put together. But eating meat maintains a system of suffering that pollutes our consciences just as much as our atmosphere. The average meat-eater in the UK consumes forty animals a year and the vast majority of these will live in a system more "factory" than farm. Sentient beings who can suffer, grieve and feel fear are kept in crates and cages, have their tails routinely docked without anaesthetic and are so selectively bred that their weedy legs collapse under the weight of their over-swollen bodies. Factory farming is the single biggest cause of animal suffering in the world today.
Girton College Vegetarian Week encouraged Girton Cambridge students to consider and recognise the moral and environmental costs of meat-eating through taking part in a five-day pledge to not eat animals from 10th-15th November. Through opting for the vegetarian option instead of the meat option at the cafeteria students spoke with their stomachs. Posters papered around the college with hard hitting facts about the meat industry stimulated debate about the issues surrounding meat eating and hopefully raised awareness. However, the world is not going to turn vegetarian overnight, no matter how compelling the arguments for it are. Only around thirty-five students took the pledge - what seems a relatively small number in a college as large as Girton. However, taking part in the week had positive effects for participants; student Jâms Coleman commented that the external influence and official occasion of the week gave him to impetus to try to do something he'd been wanting to for a while and now eats a lot less meat in new awareness of 'just how much [of it] is factory farmed. People don't realise the extent of the terrible lives of animals.'
Furthermore, small initiatives can have a surprisingly large effect. Judging by the average consumption of a Briton, the reduction in meat consumption in Girton on those five days in November was equivalent to around nineteen animals. This demonstrates the power we all have to reduce the negative impact of our food choices. Even if we cannot make a life commitment to vegetarianism, the accumulation of our efforts could be massive if we only put less meat in our mouths.
The Girton Vegetarian Pledge was the joint project of Manavi Sachdeva, Girton JCR (Student Union) Green Officer, and Sara Stillwell.