Texas Ag Commissioner Todd Staples says USDA’s "unauthorized" endorsement of meatless Mondays was "treasonous."
A little over the top, maybe. It’s not like meatless Mondays are cooked up by Iran or North Korea or something. But the same guy responsible for hiring the person who wrote the suggestion—complete with half-baked claims about meat animals being a serious cause of global warming—is the same guy responsible for appointing members of the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and for overseeing USDA’s contributions to all forms of animal science research, beef marketing and exports promotion, and on down the line. That would be Secretary Vilsack, I suppose.
He’s a nice guy, Vilsack. But how does he wind up with these people in his employ? This isn’t the first time his department has had to retract "unauthorized" statements. Just a few days ago, they had to rescind an editorial diatribe some anonymous market reporter snuck into a plain old weekly market report.
In both cases, the "unauthorized" passages reflected a bias not much in keeping with the views of most of mainstream agriculture. I suppose, or at least hope, the authors were low-level, non-political, hires. But without knowing who they were, how do we know they aren’t some sort of infiltrators from the animal rights movement?
I heard an interview this weekend with Ryan Holiday, author of "Trust Me, I’m lying. Confessions of a Media Manipulator." Among the tricks he admits to using is vandalizing his own billboards, just to generate publicity. That sort of thing is a big favorite with the animal rights guys.
If you’re in that frame of mind, who cares if the Secretary comes out and says "we don’t endorse" your movement once you’ve got your publicity.
At this writing, Google offers 271 news story on "meatless Monday" and USDA. That is more publicity than the movement has ever had and it’s thanks to USDA and some employee not yet identified or, apparently chastised. So PETA and HSUS are plenty pleased with the way it turned out.
If anything like this has happened in USDA before, I’ve missed it. I mean, earlier versions of USDA at least had editors look at stuff before it went out. Maybe it’s nothing more than careless oversight in the public relations department. Or maybe it’s the result of some sort of bias in the hiring process.
But it also might be more intentional than USDA officials let on. It may not be treasonous in the Benedict Arnold sense of that word, but if USDA has allowed itself to be infiltrated by anti-meat activists, we should know.