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Goodbye, Stew Monday

Wed, 10/21/2009 - 7:33am
Karen Langhauser, Editor-in-Chief

At the start of the school year, the Baltimore School District, which is comprised of over 80,000 students, was the first in the country to adopt the “Meatless Monday” policy in their cafeterias. The international movement aims to “help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

The Meatless Monday website claims it is a non-profit initiative “in association” with John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Sounds reputable, right? I thought so too, until I came across the American Meat Institute statement regarding the movement.

In a letter to the Baltimore School District’s CEO, J. Patrick Boyle, president and CEO of the American Meat Institute, urges the school district to drop the program. He is not only concerned with the impact this could have on American meat producers, but also hidden agendas of animal rights organizations in our school systems. Boyle writes, “This initiative is sponsored by the Grace Spira Project at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The name Spira refers to Henry Spira, who is widely regarded as of the most extreme animal rights activists in the 20th century.”

Not surprisingly, I then discovered that many of the studies and references on PETA’s site are from John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. PETA is notorious for shamelessly targeting school-aged children via their website, magazines, plush toys, stickers, books, cartoons, lunchboxes and assorted kid-friendly propaganda.

The meatless campaign’s website attempts to prove the historical standing of “Meatless Mondays” by pointing out that during WWI, President Herbert Hoover successfully campaigned American families to reduce consumption in order to aid in the war effort — and a similar campaign returned during WWII when Roosevelt and Truman used rationing to help feed a war-ravaged Europe.

Here’s the problem with those comparisons. First of all, Hoover’s campaign was billed as “voluntary conservation.” He did not prohibit stores and restaurants from selling specific items. By banning meat from cafeteria menus, schools are eliminating the “voluntary” aspect of the deal. Secondly, comparing the decision-making abilities of eight-year-olds, to adults during wartime seems like a stretch.

And thirdly, the irony of the entire comparison for me is that after WWII, Truman viewed Communism as the greatest threat to western democracy. Despite the premise of Communism, historically most communist regimes have amounted to coercive governments overly concerned with their own power and maintaining control over their people. Schools controlling what children eat might not launch the next Cold War, but the concept reeks of a bad idea to me.

While it might be true that I have a personal vendetta against animal rights organizations and vegetables, I also respect everyone’s right to choose their own diets. I am all for schools offering meatless menu options — but the key word here is “options.” Sorry to disrupt the campaign, but I’m packing my PETA lunchbox with chicken nuggets.

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