By Olivia Scheck
MANHATTAN — When he's not listening to music, writing for the school newspaper or refining his ultimate Frisbee skills, Upper West Side high schooler Andrew Udell is working to reduce the world's consumption of meat — one February at a time.
Udell, 17, is the founder of an online campaign called Veguary (pronounced Veg-uary), which challenges meat-eaters to end or reduce their consumption of tasty animal flesh for the month of February.
Now in its second year, Veguary has expanded far beyond Udell's group of friends at The Heschel School on West End Avenue, where the idea was originally conceived, recruiting followers from places as distant as Ohio, Florida and New Mexico.
As of Wednesday, more than 700 people — up from 450 last year — had "pledg[ed] to be a veg," according to Udell and the group's website, Veguary.org. Even more people — 835 — have become members of the Veguary Facebook group.
"We could have never foreseen that many people getting involved," the high school junior remarked during a phone interview earlier this week. "It is really spreading and we are making a difference."
While Udell and his associates, Heschel junior Lizzie Davis and senior Skyler Siegel, practice vegetarianism year-round, Veguary devotees can choose from a range of "-arianisms," including flexitarianism (eating no red meat), pescatarianism (eating only fish) and reductarianism (minimizing meat consumption), for their month-long dietary pledge.
"Its not about getting the whole world to be vegetarian," said Udell, who said his interest in the issue was sparked when a friend gave him a copy of Michael Pollan's "The Omnivore's Dilemma."
"It's about making people more aware about the meat industry and what they're eating."
The hub of the Veguary campaign is a website that the group created, with the help of an art teacher, using the free publishing software WordPress.
Next year, Udell said he hopes to bring Veguary offline, hosting cooking classes and events at local vegetarian restaurants (his favorites are the Peacefood Café on West 82nd Street and Angelika Kitchen in the East Village).