Don’t worry, it’s for health reasons. A quadruple bypass and two stents in a clogged artery, to be exact.
I was surprised to read that our former President no longer includes meat, eggs, or dairy in his diet. Even more surprising was the fact that animal welfare and environmental protection were not mentioned once when he explained his drastic dietary transformation—not even as corollary benefits! When asked directly if he was a vegan, he reluctantly acknowledged that he was.
Americans embraced and encouraged President Clinton’s love of fast-food and meat. It was something most people could relate to and reminded us that he was just an ordinary American. Could he have publicized his vegan diet 15 years ago without hurting his chances of reelection? Probably not. But what is it about veganism and vegetarianism that makes our elected officials so uncomfortable?
For one, the meat and dairy industries exert great influence over Congress and executive agencies like the USDA. With campaign contributions at stake and pressure from persuasive lobbyists, it is not surprising that beef, pork, poultry, and dairy products are supported and promoted by the government.
But why then, with his campaigning days safely behind him, was President Clinton so hesitant? Do veganism and vegetarianism denote weakness in the eyes of the public? Since when are compassion and empathy for animals and concern for future generations and the environment something to hide? I understand that Mr. Clinton’s primary reason for eliminating animal products from his diet was health related but I am disappointed at the missed opportunity to educate Americans on the other benefits—supporting the humane treatment of animals and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions (Right, Al Gore?) Animal welfare will not improve until the people we elect to write, implement, and enforce the laws feel comfortable candidly discussing the realities of these industries and their treatment of animals.
So, Mr. Clinton, I’m asking you to acknowledge the other benefits of veganism that are so noticeably absent from your dietary discussions. What have you got to lose?