A controversy erupted recently in the dining halls of Bowdoin College in Maine when a campus-wide, mandatory "Meatless Monday" was declared. According to the school newspaper, The Bowdoin Orient, the event was meant to "raise awareness about the health and environmental issues of consuming meat."
Bowdoin College Democrats sponsored the meal as part of what the college paper described as a program called "Meet What You Eat."
The compulsory nature of the event irked some students, who protested by bringing in buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Others held a barbecue outdoors.
The reaction on Bowdoin's University Conservatives website was blunt: "The event was about paving the way to teach people about how eating meat is oppressive and how people should not have that right."
They're probably right. Why force all students (whose parents have paid for the meal plan) to be vegetarians, even for a day?
Traditional Anglicans and Roman Catholics urge believers to fast during Lent, specifically by not eating meat on Fridays. When I was a child, I believe that teaching applied to all Fridays---not just in Lent---for Catholics. I remember fish sticks being offered as the hot meal every Friday in my elementary school cafeteria. It didn't affect me one way or the other: first, I wasn't Catholic, and second, my mother packed me a brown bag lunch every day.
Looking back on it, it's pretty amazing that a large public school like mine would have taken that religious prohibition into consideration. I don't think my town was predominantly Catholic, but there must have been enough Catholic students that the school made provisions for them. Nobody was forced to eat the fish sticks as there were plenty of other alternatives, including lunch from home.
I wonder if Bowdoin College Catholics would have been given permission to sponsor a "Meatless Friday" in honor of Lent.
Somehow I doubt it.