Ya Gotta Love How Special Our Special Interest Groups Are…

February 11, 2014

I have been away, working in Italy for about a month, so I have spent a few days catching up on email and other office stuff that has built up while I was gone. I tell you this because I might be a little behind the times on this rant, but I don’t think it makes it less valid.

I opened email this morning to find an e-newsletter from my friend Kris Carr of ‘Crazy Sexy’ fame. A lovely, warm and funny woman, Kris is rarely political, so it really got my attention when I saw her write in her newsletter that she was “motivated to get political.”

A further reading showed me why…and man, does it tick me off.

Our Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, completely caved under pressure put on him by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, throwing the health of Americans under the bus once again.

It all began about when a USDA employee suggested everyone participate in Meatless Mondays, an increasingly popular campaign that encourages people to try going without meat in their diet for one day a week. In this instance, the employee thought this could be part of the ‘greening’ effort by the USDA as a way to reduce the environmental impact of dining in the cafeteria. It was…and is…a great idea.

A short 48 hours after this newsletter was circulated, the USDA was overwhelmed with negative responses to the idea. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association led the charge with ruinous accusations and a plethora of GOP senators followed in their footsteps…among them, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Chuck Grassley of Iowa and John Thune of South Dakota.

They all ganged up on Sec. Vilsack questioning his dedication to farmers and ranchers (forget the American population…). The newsletter was removed. Sec. Vilsack apologized. The employee who had the idea has been flogged (only kidding on the last one…I hope…).

The hypocrisy here is mind-boggling. In the last two years, the USDA has issued a very clear set of recommendations for healthy eating that include lots of fruits and veggies and reduced meat consumption. Meatless Mondays embraces that ideal in all its glory.

But there is at least one voice of reason in this discourse, and that is Michael J. Klag, MD, MPH, dean of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. On Friday, Dean Klag wrote to Secretary Vilsack and offered solid explanations for how an endorsement of Meatless Monday is in fact pro-agriculture, and how it would benefit the health — and budgets — of Americans.

It’s time for us to stand up and be counted. This is not the first time the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has reared its ugly head. I wrote a piece on Huffington Post a while back about Meatless Mondays in the Baltimore School District and how big business treats our kids like disposable tissues. A member of this organization came after me over and over. I finally offered to meet him and the time and place of his choosing to debate the pros and cons of eating meat for human health and he went silent. They do not like to be challenged by the truth.

They and the senators who supported them in this debacle are nothing more than schoolyard bullies who are more concerned about the health of their bottom line than the health of Americans.

I am weary of special interests calling the shots and our government, the government sworn to protect the interests of its people bowing to them.

It’s time to stand up and say enough and until we do; until we vote with our dollars in markets and with our consciences in the voting booths, we will never see change.