Environment, Philosophy and Ethics

Caving In to the Cattle Industry

Recently, the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) made a recommendation in its regular newsletter to its employees, to consider participating in the Meatless Mondays initiative, which advocates going vegetarian one day a week, citing the health and environmental benefits. The advisory explained that the USDA cafeterias now contain plenty of meatless options to enjoy.  The recommendation concluded, “So you can really help yourself and the environment while having a good vegetarian meal!”

But within just a couple of days, the USDA had caved into pressure from the cattle and meat industry, and had retracted the message, claiming that it had been made without proper clearance.  It was promptly removed from both the newsletter and their website.

The message seemed reasonable enough, coming as it did from the federal agency tasked with promoting sustainable agriculture and dietary health. And while part of the agency’s mission is to promote the agricultural industry, crop farmers were quick enough to point out that they are part of that industry too. It’s troubling that the USDA would cave in and give priority to the meat industry over the health of its employees and environmental sustainability. Also, we can’t think of another industry that would dare to react with such misplaced self righteous indignation as the meat industry did last week. What if the energy lobby freaked out every time the Department of Energy told consumers how to cut back on their consumption?

There is a silver lining however.  Meatless Mondays is an initiative of the nonprofit Monday Campaign Inc. and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health that has shown a measure of success. Across the country, there are now thousands of corporate cafeterias, restaurants and schools who have embraced the idea of skipping meat on Mondays in favor of vegetarian options.  Perhaps even more significant is that we now know that there are at least some elements within the USDA who understand the many benefits of a vegetarian diet.  We hope they will try again.

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About Vegetarians of Washington

Vegetarians of Washington is a large non-profit vegetarian society based in Seattle, WA. We encourage people to discover the advantages and experience the pleasures of vegetarian food. We welcome everyone, whether you're an experienced vegetarian, a beginner or just curious. You don't have to be a vegetarian to join our organization, or to follow our blog! We run the largest vegetarian food festival in the country, Seattle's Vegfest, held in the Seattle Center in March each year. We also host monthly dining events and give free nutrition and cooking classes. We've written several nationally published books, including our latest book "In Pursuit of Great Food: A Plant-based shopping guide", which provides valuable information on what to buy and how to choose great food. Our other books include "Say No to Meat" which gives the information and real-world advice that new vegetarians need the most, in an easy question-and-answer style, the fact-filled "The Vegetarian Solution", and a wide range of delicious recipes in "The Veg-Feasting Cookbook". All our books are available in local bookstores, and via our website or Amazon.com.

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