Suggesting ways that individuals could lower their carbon footprint and improve their health, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggested in an internal newsletter that its employees consider going meat-free at the start of the week.
“One simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias is to participate in the Meatless Monday initiative,” it said in its monthly Greening Headquarters Update, posted online last Monday.
“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.”
But within hours it had been forced to remove the newsletter after a furious response from the meat lobby, led by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, whose leader called Meatless Monday “an extremist campaign by animal rights activists aimed at ending meat consumption” and said the USDA did not understand efforts being made to raise food in a “very sustainable way”.
As a result of pressure from the livestock industry, the government department released a statement saying it did not support Meatless Monday, MFM’s sister organisation. The newsletter was posted online without proper clearance, it added, and has since been removed from the USDA website.
As well as a duty to promote Americans’ health and wellbeing, the USDA also has a responsibility to promote agricultural businesses and rural communities involved in rearing animals for meat.
Meatless Monday pointed up the absurdity of such a position in a statement: “We are naturally disappointed that the USDA does not wish to endorse Meatless Monday, particularly since cutting out meat once a week helps achieve two key recommendations in the USDA Dietary Guidelines. — reducing saturated fat intake and increasing consumption of fruits and vegetables.
“What’s more, Meatless Monday benefits other important segments of agriculture such as produce and grain farmers. With our growing health crisis and news of higher meat prices due to the summer drought, it’s a perfect time for people to join in and try delicious, healthy meatless meals once a week.”