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Faces of the Animal Protection Movement, Page 4: Melissa Li Moves Ahead with Meatless Monday

Portland, Ore., doctor spearheaded humane eating promotion in hospital

All Animals magazine September/October 2012

  • Melissa Li                         Shawn Linehan/For The HSUS

by Ruthanne Johnson

Portland, Oregon

Persuaded one of her state’s largest hospitals to adopt Meatless Monday effort

Advice for advocates: “Try everything. See what works. And be optimistically persistent. There are many avenues towards the same goal.”

Melissa Li spends much of her workday at the autopsy table. As a gastrointestinal pathologist at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland, Ore., Li sees firsthand the sickness and disease caused by unhealthy diets. “I believe it is the responsibility of all medical professionals to promote health and prevent disease, not just to treat the symptoms,” she says. And part of that responsibility is advocating a healthy diet, which for Li means one free of animal products and the cruelty inherent to factory farming.

So last year, when she read a web article about a Colorado hospital that had adopted a Meatless Monday program, she forwarded it to Jason Lee, St. Vincent’s retail restaurant manager. Lee replied that while he liked the idea (multiple meat-free options were already on the menu), the Portland hospital eatery—which serves 2,000 meals a day—was a long way off from that kind of change.

Li was initially inclined to drop the matter, but she found new inspiration after meeting HSUS president and CEO Wayne Pacelle and joining The HSUS’s new Oregon State Council. She began by forwarding Lee The HSUS’s award-winning Meatless Monday video. Then, after learning on a council conference call of another hospital that had easily implemented the program, she connected him with HSUS food policy manager Kristie Middleton, who provided free menus, recipes, and promotional posters and table tents. Just three weeks later, St. Vincent launched its first Meatless Monday, offering meat-free lasagna and stir-fry veggie dishes to appreciative customers.

While Li hopes more facilities within the Providence Health & Services network go meatless on Mondays, she’s content to feast on the meals served up by St. Vincent’s kitchen each week, such as rich Indian dishes with curry and coconut milk, and tacos with cilantro, lime, sautéed veggies, and black-eyed peas.

Li says her favorite aspect of Meatless Monday is its potential to reduce the number of animals suffering on factory farms and how it encourages people to become healthier. Her least favorite? “That Meatless Monday is not every day!”

"She seized the idea, found the right people, and made the connections to make it all happen. Making changes like this is doable—you just need to find the right people and make introductions sometimes and be a cheerleader."   — HSUS food policy manager Kristie Middleton

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