USDA Cancels Meatless Monday
This scenario was not a "what if," but actually occurred in July 2012.
What the employees did not expect was the backlash from powerful business interests and their meat-loving toadies in the US government when they advocated implementing Meatless Monday in the USDA employee cafeteria.
Leading the charge against the meatless campaign was the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) and farm-state senator Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa who felt that the USDA Meatless Monday advocates were driving a "steak" through the heart of the beef industry.
In a news release NCBA President J.D. Alexander labeled Meatless Monday "an animal rights extremist campaign to ultimately end meat consumption." His news release added, "The fact is the consumption of beef is not only healthy, but the carbon footprint of the production of beef has dramatically decreased as a result of innovative environmental stewardship implemented by America's farm and ranch families throughout the country." Trumpeting the value of beef, he said, "When it comes to health, beef has an amazing story to tell. Beef is a naturally nutrient-rich food, helping you get more nutrition from the calories you take in."
Instead of mooing, Grassley took to bovine tweeting to express his displeasure with the USDA. One of his tweets said, " Shame USDA. One has to wonder whether the Dept of Ag supports Iowa farmers since it is promoting 'meatless Monday' for USDA employees." In another tweet he caught the attention of PETA when he wrote, " I will eat more meat on Monday to compensate for stupid USDA recommendation abt [about] a meatless Monday."
PETA responded to Grassley by posting a web page titled "Meatless Monday Raises Sen.'s Blood Pressure." On the page Alissa Mullins writes, "Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley is apparently anxious to show his campaign contributors that he will fight to the death (literally, perhaps) over Americans' right to be sick and fat. Sen. Grassley has attacked the conservative Meatless Monday program, which the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) was promoting as a way to encourage its staffers to eat healthier and protect the environment. But the USDA has withdrawn the initiative, opting instead to prove that it is the servant of agribusiness and let its employees pay the price. PETA has hit back with a "Meat-Free Mondays Through Sundays" campaign."
On the PETA page Mullins adds, "We're taking bets (place yours in the comments section below) on how long it will take Sen. Grassley to succumb to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or some other meat-related disease."
One wonders whether the 78-year-old Grassley will increase his animal protein on Monday and meat his maker much sooner. Commenting on this brouhaha while the issue was still on the public barbecue, PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk said, "From his reaction, it seems like a pretty safe bet that he's already got high blood pressure." Newkirk continues, "Were he a physician instead of a politician who truly puts his rancher money where his mouth is, he'd be guilty of malpractice."
Anyone looking for the Headquarters Greening Update that started the stampede against the USDA will no longer find it on the USDA website. It's been sent to the slaughterhouse following the protests. Fortunately, copies are still floating around the internet. Vegetarians in Paradise has a copy.
The key paragraphs that roasted the beefers and their congressional burghers are reprinted below:
"One simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias is to participate in the 'Meatless Monday' initiative. This international effort, as the name implies, encourages people not to eat meat on Mondays. Meatless Monday is an initiative of The Monday Campaign Inc. in association with the John Hopkins School of Public Health.
"How will going meatless one day of the week help the environment? The production of meat, especially beef (and dairy as well), has a large environmental impact. According to the U.N., animal agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gases and climate change. It also wastes resources. It takes 7,000 kg of grain to make 1,000 kg of beef. In addition, beef production requires a lot of water, fertilizer, fossil fuels, and pesticides. In addition there are many health concerns related to the excessive consumption of meat. While a vegetarian diet could have a beneficial impact on a person's health and the environment, many people are not ready to make that commitment. Because Meatless Monday involves only one day a week, it is a small change that could produce big results. Did you notice that our cafeterias have tasty meatless options? So you can really help yourself and the environment while having a good vegetarian meal!"
In a written statement provided to the Kansas City Business Journal, a USDA spokeswoman said, "USDA does not endorse Meatless Monday. The statement found on the USDA website was posted without proper clearance, and it has been removed. The agency also tweeted the same message.
Those poor folks who worked at USDA were only trying to follow HQ Greening orders to make their department more environmentally green, but they ended up as the victims who stepped on too many hooves in the beef industry and their paid employees in Congress.
This tempest in a stewpot really stems from the USDA's statement of its mission: "The USDA works to support the American agricultural economy to strengthen rural communities; to protect and conserve our natural resources; and to provide a safe, sufficient, and nutritious food supply for the American people."
The organization is not bipolar; it's tripolar. It can't support agriculture and at the same time be environmentally conscious and provide safe and nutritious food. Forced to make a choice between beef or health and environment, the USDA will side with the barons of beef. Producers of animal protein will never tolerate a government that advocates less of their output. The vegetarian and vegan movements are a threat to that industry and must be battled constantly.
Meanwhile, we extremists at Vegetarians in Paradise will continue to advocate Meatless Monday as we have since June 2010. We will keep adding to our vegan Recipe Index so that people will have some great suggestions for meatless and dairy-less meals that can be served on Mondays or any other day of the week. We will continue to lend support to people who want to embrace a vegan lifestyle that's healthful and environmentally sound.
Join us as we raise a finger to the Grassleys and Alexanders who want to mince meat not words.