Despite a drought that threatens the business and livelihood of U.S. ranchers, someone at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) thought it’d be a great idea to encourage agency employees to go vegetarian once a week because, apparently, eating meat causes global warming, er, global climate change.
Unsurprisingly, when people heard about “Meatless Mondays,” things didn’t go over so well and the
agency has since backed off the initiative.
"This move by USDA should be condemned by anyone who believes agriculture is fundamental to sustaining life on this planet," said J.D. Alexander, president of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association.
The agency proposed the meatless initiative in an online newsletter to employees about "greening" efforts.
"One simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias is to participate in the 'Meatless Monday' initiative," the USDA newsletter stated. "This international effort, as the name implies, encourages people not to eat meat on Mondays.
"How will going meatless one day of the week help the environment? The production of meat, especially beef (and dairy as well), has a large environmental impact," it continued.
"According to the U.N., animal agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gases and climate change. It also wastes resources."
The newsletter also informed employees about the "many health concerns" associated with "excessive consumption" of meat.
After the release of the online newsletter, Sen. Jerry Moran (R-Kansas) asked Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to clarify the departments’ position.
"Never in my life would I have expected USDA to be opposed to farmers and ranchers," Moran said in a statement. "American farmers and ranchers deserve a USDA that will pursue supportive policies rather than seek their further harm.”
“With extreme drought conditions plaguing much of the United States, the USDA should be more concerned about helping drought-stricken producers rather than demonizing an industry reeling from the lack of rain," he added.
Moran asked whether it is USDA "official policy" to discourage consumption of "American grown meat," according to Fox News.
"It is my hope that the USDA has not abandoned farmers and ranchers in pursuit of policies best left to the Environmental Protection Agency," he said.
For its part, the Agriculture Department says “Meatless Mondays” was made “without proper clearance,” the Associated Press reported.
USDA spokeswoman Cortney Rowe says the department does not endorse the initiative, which is part of a "global public health campaign." The agency removed the posting hours after the National Cattlemen's Beef Association denounced it in a news release.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.