As I’ve mentioned before, a large part of my (current) work is keeping up with the many (and messy) facets of “food politics” — the ongoing debate over what kind of food system the US (and world) should have, what we should eat and why, etc. (Oooh boy, is that a GROSS simplification of the “food debate.”)
Doing so means I follow the writing/politicking/activities of lots of activists and organizations, many of which (whom?) drive me batty, if only because they seem not to see the irony of their form of crusading.
Case in point:
Yesterday, someone at the Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that the department supported a Meatless Monday initiative. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association promptly objected with this statement, describing the Meatless Monday campaign as:
an animal rights extremist campaign to ultimately end meat consumption.
(As near as I can tell, the MM initiative is sponsored by an outfit that calls itself the Monday Campaigns and is associated with various schools of public health. The MM initiative is specifically affiliated with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. I don’t see any mention of animal rights groups.) (Animal rights groups, I should add, drive livestock producers and meat manufacturers crazy.)
Almost immediately after the cattlemen complained, the USDA retracted its statement (via Twitter, no less) with an apology, explaining that what appeared to be an endorsement was actually part of an internal newsletter and that, really, the USDA didn’t support Meatless Monday.
And the NCBA responded with its own statement, saying among other things:
“We appreciate USDA’s swift action in pulling this disparaging statement off its website.
(You can see why the “food debate” can be a thing of joy…)
Okay. Fine. So NATURALLY that brought this retort from perhaps my least favorite of the food politickers (I’m not intentionally picking on her; it’s just that she soooo often sets herself up for it. I cannot help myself!):
If USDA is really supporting Meatless Monday, that’s big news. Historically, the USDA has worked hand in glove with the meat industry and has firmly resisted suggestions that it would be healthier for people and the planet to eat less meat.
Uh. Hmmm. What else is the USDA SUPPOSED to do?
Good question. Historically, the department’s role is to support and promote American agriculture, from production to consumption. That means that, yes, on one day, the department urges people to eat meat, and on the next day encourages them to chow down on broccoli on the other .
Contradictory? Not really. Meat and broccoli are both agricultural products.
But according to My Favorite Food Activist, oozing snark, this is simply
Food politics in action!
Translation: the USDA doesn’t support HER view of how the food system should work, and the department does not adhere to what she believes the USDA should do (i.e., abandon support for a significant chunk of the American agricultural economy). And therefore once again the USDA has fucked up and caved to the meat interests. Had the Department stood behind the newsletter, of course, that would have been a “win” for HER side, and a loss for a major chunk of the ag economy.
Yeah, baby. Food politics in action! (Can you see why I enjoy my work??)