The United States Department of Agriculture posted an online update on its website urging employees to participate in Meatless Mondays. However, after considerable pressure from the beef industry the USDA took down the post and stated that it had been released without proper clearance first.
The USDA posted that Meatless Monday’s were “One simple way to reduce your environmental impact.” The Meatless Monday campaign relies on information from the United Nations Food & Agricultural Organization stating that animal agriculture is a major source of carbon emissions and climate change that wastes resources. However the USDA received a wave of negative backlash from livestock producers and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association among others.
The chief concern among the NCBA is that the USDA does not support U.S. farmers and ranchers, and the president of the organization J.D. Alexander claims that Meatless Monday is nothing but an animal rights extremist campaign to ultimately end meat consumption.
“This is truly an awakening statement by USDA, which strongly indicates that USDA does not understand the efforts being made in rural America to produce food and fiber for a growing global population in a very sustainable way,” said Alexander. “USDA was created to provide a platform to promote and sustain rural America in order to feed the world. This move by USDA should be condemned by anyone who believes agriculture is fundamental to sustaining life on this planet.”
Alexander went on to dispute claims that health issues arise from the consumption of meat, and called out the USDA for specifically mentioning beef, when beef production has become more sustainable than ever before. The NCBA’s harsh response towards the USDA’s promotion of meatless Monday may be a little extreme; especially since the USDA just suggested people take one day out of seven to avoid meat. The USDA is also a government agency; under no circumstances should it back down when the meat industry begins to complain about them exposing some very real health risks. While no evidence is perfect, plenty of studies have shown the adverse health effects of consuming too much red meat. The meat industry may have become more sustainable, but beef is still a costly and resource depleting livestock, contributing to carbon emissions and requiring an excessive amount of land. It still takes more protein to feed an animal than the animal will ever yield, and raising cattle contributes to deforestation.
Despite all of the evidence against eating meat, only about 7% of Americans are vegetarians, a number that has stayed relatively the same for a decade. NCBA’s statement that the USDA should be condemned by anyone who believes agriculture is fundamental to sustaining life is a ridiculous statement. Agriculture is the basic source of food for our species, yet this does not mean that meat consumption must be. Plenty of farmers in rural America produce vegetables and other animal products in addition to meat. No one is debating that agriculture is not necessary, only the NCBA is implying that meat production is an essential aspect for agriculture, and thus opposing meat consumption simultaneously opposes agriculture in rural America. In the end it appears that the meat processors and factories that prepare our meat would be the most affected by Meatless Monday’s, and even then, it’s just one day a week.
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