The Baltimore Public School System has responded to the Meatless Monday initiative, eliminating poultry and red meat from school luncheon menus on the first day of each week. This in large measure due to the distorted influence of the Grace Spira Project, administered by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, which has close ties to animal activist groups and has consistently opposed intensive animal production.
The action by the Baltimore School Board effectively deprives parents and students of choice and represents an imposition of the views of a limited number of zealots on public policy. Are we to accept without concern that this action will not extend to other jurisdictions?
The animal rights extremists who promote a vegan lifestyle are clearly focusing on the next generation of consumers. Distorted literature denigrating the production of meat and eggs is circulated to teachers and is incorporated into student texts and workbooks. Groups promoting veganism are active in universities and have pressured caterers to exclude eggs and further-processed items from menus if derived from caged housing which is considered by them to be “inhumane.”
Whenever an initiative such as the Meatless Mondays surfaces, the UEP, NCC, NTF and the AMI are quick to respond and to protest. This generally has the effect of adding to the publicity associated with the initial action. Our industry associations should become more proactive. By now it is clear that opponents of intensive livestock production are operating at the consumer, institutional, state and federal levels in a fairly concerted attempt to change the dietary habits of the nation.
We are ceding the high ground if we allow our adversaries to erode consumer confidence in eggs and meat produced using scientifically acceptable production methods. We are vulnerable as an industry if we allow confined housing systems to be eliminated by rigged voter initiatives and lobbying of legislators. It is time for our poultry industries to become proactive. This will involve education of both legislators and consumers of the intent of activist groups and the consequences of “creeping veganism.” We have nothing to be ashamed of and should be able to present our farming systems in an acceptable light to reasonable consumers. We must convince the constituencies we serve that our products are nutritious and wholesome and that flocks are housed and processed applying scientifically acceptable procedures.
Above all me must counter distorted information presented on websites and in the media. We need to acquaint U.S. consumers and legislators with the reality that organization such as PETA and HSUS are less involved in promoting humane production practices than amassing funds for political action. The ultimate intentions of our opponents must be revealed. They are committed to complete elimination of livestock production without regard to the economic or public health consequences.