Nation’s Restaurant News is a great place to keep abreast of trends in commercial food service and chain restaurants. It’s also where the crazy side of the food and hospitality industry comes out to play. On that front, there’s an exciting new rant by DC-based lobbyist Richard Berman, whose McCarthy-ish anti-vegetarian polemics I’ve previously singled out for ridicule. Berman’s new essay begins by condemning Mario Batali’s embrace of the “radical” “fringe” concept of Meatless Monday, and ends with this one-two punch:
“Tracking new activist-driven campaigns is akin to watching an arsonist with a tank full of gas and a book of wet matches. … Educate yourself. All it takes is one dry match to start the fire.”
The fire of what? The fire of eating slightly less meat? The fire of moderate thriftiness? Oooh, Mr. Arsonist, please don’t touch the blowtorch of sensible eating to the dynamite of consuming slightly fewer animals. The resulting explosion could ignite the timber of somewhat altered eating habits, and nobody wants that kind of Armageddon on their hands.
The thesis of the article is as follows: The hyperpowerful, secretive, anti-meat, anti–modern farming lobby is conspiring to destroy modern agriculture. It’s the worst kind of conspiracy, too: one based on influencing public opinion through dialogues and websites, the sort of dirty trick that turns a lobbyist’s stomach.
Step one: Meatless Mondays. Step two: who knows, but surely secret, and certainly terrifying. Step three: All agribusiness is destroyed, and American children are wasting away on broccoli and Tofurky. At that point, the terrorists truly have won.
Let me be absolutely clear about where my own sympathies lie: I love meat. It’s delicious. I can and will eat meat stuffed in meat, wrapped in meat. But the leap from Meatless Monday to “radical fringe loony activist propaganda arson”—all words contained in this relatively short but zestily written essay—is a big one, and the author fails to clear the logical chasm.
You’re encouraged to read the original story and see how it holds up to even moderate scrutiny. Passages like “It should be obvious that with money and a little media savvy, a Trojan-horse campaign with its basis in the fringe can transform a loony idea into one that infiltrates mainstream thought” will likely stand out, as will assertions that there’s nothing at all wrong—nothing at all! really! nothing!—with meat from a health or environmental perspective.
Anyhow, that’s the landscape out there when it comes to discussion of food choices. Navigate it at your own risk.