The heresy of Meatless Monday

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

Meatless Monday merch – click

The gnashing of teeth. Charges of heresy. Outrage…sputtering outrage. In a heinous affront to the beef industry, the U.S.D.A. suggested–suggested!–that folks dining at the agency cafeterias–(brace yourself)–go meatless on Mondays. Oh the humanity!

From the New York TimesThe message seemed innocuous enough, coming as it did from the federal agency tasked with promoting sustainable agriculture and dietary health: “One simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias,” read a United States Department of Agriculture interoffice newsletter published on its Web site this week, “is to participate in the ‘Meatless Monday’ initiative.”

Certainly, we assure ourselves, the U.S.D.A., though faced with stiff industry opposition, staunchly defended its reasonable sugges…no, wait, what’s this? “U.S.D.A. does not endorse Meatless Monday,” a spokeswoman said in a statement. The newsletter, which covered topics like the installation of energy-efficient lights on the Ag Promenade and recycling goals, “was posted without proper clearance,” the statement said.”


Rep. Steve King, a Republican from Iowa (the nation’s factory farming capital with the ag-gag muscle to keep the cruelty well hidden), tweeted, “USDA HQ meatless Mondays!! At the Dept. of Agriculture? Heresy! I’m not grazing there. I will have the double rib-eye Mondays instead.”

Given the results of the Harvard red meat study, perhaps he will also have the double coronary bypass, not that we wish him ill. But it does seem likely that all that animal carcass has addled his thinking. We’re talking the Department of AGRICULTURE, for crying out loud; last time anyone checked, agriculture included growing vegetables and grains. “I will eat more meat on Monday to compensate for stupid USDA recommendation [about] a meatless Monday,” Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) tweeted.  “This is a reminder to USDA that it’s supposed to advocate for American agriculture, not against it,” Sen. Grassley later said. Geez, Iowa, chill. Don’t have a cow, man.

HuffPo image – click

Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), not to let Iowa outdo Texas in bombastic indignation, said, “In some of the toughest times they’ve seen in recent memory, Texas cattle ranchers and farmers deserve an Administration who works with them, not one who undermines them with boneheaded decisions from bureaucrats in Washington.”

Cornyn and Grassley celebrated their own “Meat Monday” with a lunch order that included “a total of 52 orders of barbecue beef sandwiches, brisket, sausage and ribs…” and posted a picture of the fleshy feast on Facebook. Yes, there’s Old Glory looming over the laden table, lest anyone forget that eating meat is a patriotic endeavor.

It’s possible that mere semantics is the culprit–it’s that “meatless” moniker that’s so offensive to the Livestock Overlords since it suggests, well, foregoing meat one day of the week while gorging on it for six. U.S.D.A. needs to try again, this time calling it what it is rather than what it isn’t. Perhaps Macaroni Monday will slip by without protest, or Miso Monday (um, ixnay to that one). Muesli Monday? Minestrone Monday? Yeah, that’s it, minestrone. Lots of vegetables and pasta made from grain, products of agriculture all (recipe here and here).

Lost in the blather, as always, is the meat in its former, living state, which is to say, the state of misery. And that’s before the trip to the slaughterhouse:

(T)he slaughterhouse is not a pretty thing. I mean, it’s a necessary process. It’s a highly efficient process. But it’s not now, nor never will be, a very pretty thing. Animals come there to die, to be eviscerated, to be decapitated, to be de-hided — and all of those are violent, bloody and difficult things to watch. So your first and foremost impression of at least the initial stages of the packing house are a very violent, very dehumanizing sort of thing.  ~Bill Haw, CEO of Kansas City’s National Farms, which operates one of the largest cattle feedlot operations in the country (source)

“I mean, it’s a necessary process.” No. Intentionally causing suffering is never necessary, and that goes for the elective violence of slaughter. Slaughter is elective because the appetite for meat is elective. Now we’ve walked it back to consumer demand and laid it at the feet of people who are generally good and often as not say they love animals.

It’s only fair to acknowledge that generations of clueless consumers have been sold a bill of goods about the necessity of meat and dairy products–have been manipulated by corporate animal-exploiting industries with slick, crafty ad campaigns appealing to tradition and the “critical need” for animal protein in human health, all the while keeping well-concealed the “violent, bloody and difficult things to watch.”

But now we know. We know about increased cancer risk and coronaries; about overuse of antibiotics and mutating pathogens; about environmental destruction and unsustainability; about animal suffering–oh god yes, animal suffering times ten billion.

The Meatless Monday campaign (and Meatout Mondays) is a simple way to enter the consciousness of a disconnected public that loves animals but continues to eat them because they always have. And where’s there’s a Meatless Monday, there can be a Compassionate Tuesday (I’m throwing off the tyranny of alliteration!) and a Justice Wednesday. And indeed, isn’t that exactly what the livestock industry–and the legislators who work for it–are afraid of?
Addendum: Subway recently offered up three vegan sandwich options in test markets in Maryland, Virginia, and Washington, D.C.  A review (written by a vegan) is in the Washington Post. Compassion Over Killing will help connect you to Subway decision-makers who could take it nationwide.

9 Responses

  1. Much baloney about nothing. (no pun intended)

    Even as a big game meat hunter and omnivore myself, I applaud any move toward a more vegetarian diet — or at least away from the relatively new trend of shoving as much red meat as possible into the American diet.

    Indeed, I myself will sometimes go a day — or two or three — without eating any meat, and always have a vegetarian breakfast and lunch.

    We could wrangle on endlessly about the ethical and health implications of eating meat at all.

    Regardless, it doesn’t take guru or rocket scientist to clearly see, Americans eat way too much meat. The biomechanical/organic human body clearly was not meant to gobble down sausage for breakfast, sliced ham for lunch and beef steak for dinner, day after day. But the meat industry would be happy if we all did.

    I reject the notion that any idea is more important than any human being, or humans on the collective level.

    And thus, my view on the notion of preserving the idea of the meat industry status quo — regardless of the toll it takes, and in slack-jawed deliberate ignorance of the benefits of “Meatless Monday.”

  2. As a vegan of over 30 years who has documented the abuses at abbatoirs and stock yards, I thank you for posting this. Let’s not forget the other victims of the “cattle” and cows milk industry, the wolves, the wild horses and the thousands of coyotes murdered on the altar of flesh.

  3. And, Nancy, the wild bison in Montana if they “dare” leave Yellowstone and meander into, say, Idaho, where two bulls have been shot in the past two weeks on the pretext that they might be carrying a disease that could infect cattle. Fiddlesticks!

    I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what fear — the other side of the greed coin — makes one do. It causes one to be a control freak. It undermines all efforts to change and evolve and advance. It keeps one static and rigid instead of forward-moving and flexible. It looks longingly at the past and wishes to go back to “the good old days.” It centers on self — and self’s immediate circle of family and friends. It binds and restricts instead of freeing the victim of fear.

    Fear is a killjoy. And the antidote to fear is, from what I’ve seen and experienced, to love more. More deeply, more widely, more selflessly. And that love simply must embrace ALL our fellow-beings, lest we be overcome by lust for others’ bodies, tell ourselves lies about how natural it is to oppress and exploit and kill and eat those bodies, and thereby lose our soul — our spiritual sense of right and wrong.

  4. Have to add one more thing — an amazing quote I just found on this new blog from Vegan Rabbit:

    “Was there ever any domination that did not appear natural to those who possessed it?” ~ John Stuart Mill

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  6. Well I do agree on go “meatless on Monday” because this will promote a healthier diet and it would be beneficial to us all. But the question really is “Can you go meatless at least a day?”

  7. It all does sound so childish doesn’t it? I know that’s what I think when I hear people say (in response to a vegan message) – “Oh yeah! I’m gonna eat a big steak just on account of you!”— Never thought any fool would actually do that in a public display no less! If they could only see how ridiculous they look!

    I have a hunch though… I’m prone to be suspicious when it comes to the inner circus of government-gate activities. I’m figuring maybe it wasn’t an “oops” of an oversight by the USDA. (?) Maybe someone actually thought it would be a harmless idea (a nudge without negative consequence). (?) And isn’t it a coincidence that Cass Sunstein (who made a deal not to push his “AR agenda” while serving as administrator in the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs) resigned within 2 weeks of the whole “meatless” fiasco. (?) Sunstein did manage though to have input on the revised (more beans) USDA food plate. Makes you wonder doesn’t it?

    In any case – Looks like the animal ag folks and the USDA have kissed and made up… With $170 million dollar meat buy-out as the incentive! Apparently love means never having to say “eat your vegetables”. :/

  8. […] of MM, something that rightly drew sharp criticisms from various commentators, including a member of this blog. That the trend continues to gain momentum despite stubborn opposition from beef industry defenders […]

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