Glenn Beck's Bizarre Outburst Against Meatless Mondays and Vegetarians

Jon Stewart ended an interview with climate-change contrarian and Super Freakonomics co-author Steven Levitt on Monday night by noting, "I've apparently frightened our audience by suggesting that conservation isn't the only way out of any of the problems of the world. I sincerely apologize."

He added, "And I do also believe that we should just eat vegetables."

I'd love to report that Stewart has embraced Michael Pollan's "eat food/not too much/mostly plants" edict. But, of course, Stewart was only joking. The line drew a big laugh from the audience.

The interview followed a report on the Whole Foods "buycott" from Daily Show correspondent Wyatt Cenac asking "whether conservative hatred of liberals is so strong it can make them buy organic food."

Fresh fruits and vegetables remain the Rodney Dangerfield of the Western diet, getting no respect from cable commentators -- the comics or the crackpots. Stewart's mock endorsement of mock duck came on the same day as an anti-tofurkey tirade from Glenn Beck, who echoed Lou Dobbs' recent condemnation of the Meatless Monday campaign adopted by Baltimore's school cafeterias as a form of "indoctrination":

"Americans love our steaks, we love our chops, we love our burgers, and you'll throw me in jail, my last meal will be a giant steak. Are we going to stand for that? Are we going to put up with this? Well, you'd think not, but in Baltimore, Md., public schools have now started, in the schools -- no indoctrination here -- Meatless Monday. No meat on the menu for 80,000 kids that they serve, no meat, that way the students that they serve can quote 'eat and learn about healthy, environmentally friendly choices.' "

Beck has struck ratings gold with his weepy, creepy brand of small-minded faux populism. He's not a big picture kind of guy. It takes a wider perspective than a tea bagger's tunnel vision to connect the dots between: a) the wars we're mired in; b) our fossil-fuel-dependent way of life; c) the perils of climate change; and d) our meat-dominated diet.

He prefaced his anti-Meatless Monday rant by mocking President Barack Obama for taking time out from agonizing over Afghanistan to deliver a speech at a solar-power plant in Florida, in which the president emphasized the need to invest in clean, renewable energy. Beck sneered:

"I'd hate to have the president rush a decision on Afghanistan, I'd hate to have him cut short his solar-panel trip today ... get a nap in, Mr. President, before you deal with the war ..."

Beck belongs to the "pump all you want, we'll drill more" camp, so, from his petrocentric perspective, fighting two wars in the oil-rich Middle East presumably makes more sense than exploring alternative ways to meet America's massive energy needs.

And, since he's also a skeptic on climate change, why worry about reducing our greenhouse-gas emissions?

In fact, it's the folks who are calling on us all to curb our carbon footprint who pose the greatest threat to "U.S. sovereignty," according to Beck. He cited a quote from U.K. climate chief Lord Stern in Monday's Times Online:

"Meat is a wasteful use of water and creates a lot of greenhouse gases. It puts enormous pressure on the world's resources. A vegetarian diet is better."

Beck added:

But what really scares me is that the Times writes our Lord Stern said: "A successful deal at the climate-change conference in Copenhagen in December would lead to soaring costs for meat and other foods that generate large quantities of greenhouse gases."

Cheap gas and cheap chuck remain American birthrights to loopy libertarians like Beck. It doesn't matter that the link between livestock production and greenhouse-gas emissions has been well documented, as have the environmental and health benefits of adopting a predominantly plant-based diet.

With meat consumption on the rise the world over, it's going to be physically impossible to produce enough meat to meet the growing demand. New York Times columnist Verlyn Klinkenborg noted on Monday that we simply can't continue to plunder the world's resources in order to indulge in our animal-flesh fetish:

I adhere to a conclusion reached long ago -- by James Madison in 1818, who said, simply, that it cannot be right for all of earth's resources to "be made subservient to the use of man." We need to act on that principle. That will mean more than simply roping off habitat. It will mean among other things, a new and far more modest idea of food prosperity, more limited and almost certainly less meat-driven than the present American model.

Beck perpetuates the perception that campaigns such as Meatless Monday represent an attack on consumer choice. But as anyone who actually prefers to eat fresh, healthy foods can attest, those of us who'd rather eat a diet based on legumes, whole grains and vegetables are the ones whose choices are painfully limited.

The meat industry is trying to portray the decision to emphasize vegetarian entreés in the Baltimore school cafeterias one day a week as a dangerous exercise in protein deprivation -- as if you can't get sufficient protein from non-meat sources. The Center For a Livable Future's Ralph Loglisci did a terrific job of setting the record straight with his post "Protein 101: Dispelling the Myth Surrounding Meatless Meals."

And ABC News reported last week that the Meatless Monday campaign in Baltimore's schools has, in fact, been a great success. Only a meathead -- or a meat-industry shill -- would brand this modest attempt to serve our kids healthier entreés and raise awareness about the environmental impact of our food choices as some kind of insidious conspiracy.

How will Beck handle the season premiere of Sesame Street, in which Michelle Obama shares the joys of homegrown vegetables with the Muppets? Will he demonize Elmo, who is, after all, a suspiciously socialist shade of red? Will he accuse Big Bird of being a secret agent for the food police, attempting to brainwash American tots into accepting their pro-plant agenda?

If only we could dismiss this self-described "rodeo clown" as a harmless buffoon. Sadly, he's too influential to be written off as a greenhouse-gas-denying gasbag.

All we can do is keep poking holes in him and hope he deflates. Fox News: They distort, we deride.


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