Plant-based eating is rapidly on the rise — even in the military — and the meat industry is running scared.
The effort is being led by Senator Joni Ernst from Iowa, which happens to be one of the largest animal agribusiness states in the US that also passed an ag-gag law in 2012. Enrst, who describes Meatless Mondays as “misguided at best,” introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that aims to stop military facilities from instituting Meatless Mondays. With support from Big Ag, that amendment recently passed the House of Representatives. In the Senate, similar legislation is still pending.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) actually sent a letter of support to Capitol Hill stating: “Meatless Monday is not a program based off of nutrition or sound science. It is an anti-meat, anti-animal agriculture, and anti-farmer policy agenda disguised as science.”
Meanwhile, prevailing scientific opinion is overwhelmingly in support of reducing meat consumption. Prestigious medical groups like Kaiser Permanente and the American Heart Association tout the benefits of eating less meat. The World Health Organization (WHO) has categorized processed meat as a carcinogen, and animal products have long been linked to heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, and many types of cancer.
By encouraging more meat eating, lawmakers clearly aren’t looking out for the health or wellbeing of American soldiers.
Human health isn’t the only issue at stake. A diet lower in animal products is better for the environment and the animals who suffer horrific abuses on factory farms. (Notably, Sen. Ernst grew up on a farm, and ran an election ad promising to make lawmakers in Washington “squeal” the same way she made piglets squeal as she was castrating them.)
This controversy comes in the wake of large-scale success by the Humane Society of the US (HSUS) to help institutions — the military included — cut back on consumption. According to Politico, they helped the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in Connecticut reduce meat consumption by 10% in three years, a development that will have positive benefits for students, the environment, and animals.
These legislators and their industry buddies are going against public sentiment, which is increasingly in favor of cutting back on animal products. Several years ago there was a similar outcry from the meat industry (the NCBA in particular) when the USDA touted the benefits of Meatless Monday in an industry newsletter.
Despite industry efforts to stop it, Meatless Monday has only grown in popularity. It’s been supported by everyone from Oprah to Al Gore, and has made its way into primary schools, colleges, major corporations, hospitals, and a whole host of other organizations. And that’s just one example of the ways plant-based eating has taken hold in mainstream culture.
Sorry, Big Ag: plant-based progress can’t be stopped.