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Gutless decisions can’t halt Meatless Monday’s momentum

By: Robert Lawrence

History seemed to have repeated itself this week as another government entity folded to industry complaints over Meatless Monday promotions in its cafeterias.

Last July the Department of Agriculture retracted its promotion of Meatless Monday in a sustainability newsletter to employees after facing pressure from the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, which I discussed here. This week, news broke that the House Administration Committee decided to halt the promotion of Meatless Monday within House cafeterias in response to criticism from a coalition of groups representing the livestock industry.

This decision is another example of the meat industry’s influence on government in a way that holds the public’s health in disregard and ignores the growing scientific evidence of the health-damaging effects of the typical high-meat American diet.

CLF has provided technical assistance and served as a scientific advisor to the Meatless Monday campaign since 2003. Meatless Monday encourages consumers to skip meat one day each week to improve their personal health and the health of the planet. The campaign began in response to the call by the Surgeon General in Healthy People 2010 for a 15-percent reduction in dietary saturated fat (Monday represents about 15 percent of the week and animal products represent the majority of saturated fat intake).

Growing in popularity and acceptance in recent years, Meatless Monday offers a simple way for individuals to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables, reduce saturated fat intake, and consume protein from a greater variety of sources – three key recommendations in the USDA’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines. Contrary to the industry’s accusation that the campaign seeks to “publicly denigrate U.S. livestock and poultry production,” Meatless Monday does not advocate giving up meat altogether – rather, it promotes moderation and encourages participating institutions to offer both meat and meatless options.

In his response letter last summer to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack, Dean Michael Klag of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health offered solid explanations for how Meatless Monday is, in fact, pro-agriculture and confers benefits to the health – and budgets – of Americans.

While this situation is certainly disappointing, we like to view it as a compliment to the strength of Meatless Monday and the ripple effect it is having on American consumer trends. Sasha Lyutse, a policy advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council, articulates similar sentiments and trends in her recent Huffington Post blog post.

If you’d like to share your thoughts on this matter, feel free to comment below or visit Meatless Monday’s Facebook page to join the discussion on the newsfeed from Thursday (6/20).

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