Earlier this year, I wrote an open letter to Ellen DeGeneres asking her to rethink her views about how eating meat hurts people, the animals and the planet.
The letter went viral, and although Ellen never called me, it was so exciting to be able to talk about cattle and climate change with so many media outlets, as well as consumers on Facebook and Instagram.
In case you missed that saga, you can review those blog posts here:
- Ellen DeGeneres: Could this rancher please come on your show?
- Rancher’s open letter to Ellen DeGeneres goes viral
- Ellen DeGeneres: I hope you can see the heart of rural America
In recent news, it appears another open letter is in order. This time, it would be addressed to Cory Booker, a New Jersey Senator and hopeful politician vying for the 2020 presidential spot on the Democratic ticket.
Booker is also a vegan and has been vocal about his perceptions on animal agriculture. While I can’t confirm this, I think it’s highly likely this is our nation’s first ever vegan presidential contender. His views most certainly reflect many of what our urban consumers think about farming and ranching.
While it’s deeply frustrating, I know a kind, respectful and transparent letter is needed here to bridge the gap and perhaps begin a dialogue with Senator Booker.
Any volunteers ready to take on the task?
Please note, this blog post is not an open letter. Today, I want to highlight the types of things Booker has been saying on the campaign trail and to the media in order to best inform our BEEF readers what we are up against.
For starters, in an interview with Veg News, Booker said, “I think that what we see happening in America is an awareness growing about the negative impacts that our current food system have on animals, and it’s great to see that consciousness and how people are demanding a change. You see very powerful corporate interests trying to fight against that change, when we, as Americans, don’t want to be engaging in activities that don’t support our fundamental ideas of justice and freedom.
“So, legislatively, I want to continue to be a part of a movement of folk who are fighting against corporate interests that are undermining the public good and the public welfare. So, I’m going to continue supporting bills that are about public health, whether it is pumping in all these antibiotics into animals that are literally threatening the safety of Americans. I believe that Americans do care about the cruelty to animals, and that’s why you see public movement to stop pig crating, which is harmful and violates our collective values as a country.”
Booker has also stated that we need to curtail meat eating to save the planet.
In an interview, Booker said, “You see the planet earth moving towards what is the Standard American Diet. We’ve seen this massive increase in consumption of meat produced by the industrial animal agriculture industry. The tragic reality is this planet simply can’t sustain billions of people consuming industrially produced animal agriculture because of environmental impact. It’s just not possible, as China, as Africa move toward consuming meat the same way America does because we just don’t have enough land.
“The number-one reason for rainforest destruction now is animal grazing land. We see greenhouse producing gases produced; the devastating impact is just not practical. The numbers just don’t add up. We will destroy our planet unless we start figuring out a better way forward when it comes to our climate change and our environment.”
Trying to appeal to the “little guy” and prey on the emotions of the farmers and ranchers struggling to stay afloat in 2019, Booker promises to wipe out the “corporate” farmers.
He said, “It’s small farmers who are treating animals with better care and compassion, who are treating the environment in a more sustainable way that really speak to the farming traditions of our country being destroyed economically because of this corporate consolidation that is unsustainable.
“So I think that we have a lot of work to do to start fighting again this Big Ag, industrial agriculture that has deep pockets and powerfully influential in places like Washington, but I don’t believe the status quo is going to continue indefinitely because I just think that we know that we’re starting to see the ill that this is having to farm labor, small farmers, to our environment, to the health and safety of folks.”
And most recently, Booker vowed to abolish feedlots.
On Dec. 16, Booker introduced the Farm System Reform Act of 2019, which would place an immediate moratorium on CAFOs and restore COOL.
I imagine the second part on labeling was added on to attract producers while distracting them for the larger picture that he wants to END feedlots altogether!
The vegan politician said, “Large factory farms are harmful to rural communities, public health, and the environment and we must immediately begin to transition to a more sustainable and humane system.”
The bill defines large concentrated animal feeding operations as having at least 1,000 cattle, 2,500 hogs or 82,000 laying hens.
Read all about the bill from the Senator’s website by clicking here.
It’s worth mentioning that Senator Booker has gone on record to say that he doesn’t want to tell Americans what to eat, but if he has his way, through increased regulations, Booker will ensure the only people who can afford to eat meat are the affluent in this country. What a shame indeed.
As I take a deep breath and try to process exactly how to best reach the Senator and make a meaningful connection that would be productive for future dealings; I ask you to do the same.
Before we lash out on this person, who has Tweeted that he gets his protein the same way large animals like bison do (does he have four stomachs like ruminant animals?), we must stop, and collect our thoughts. Then use kindness and facts to disseminate the best information we can.
This can be accomplished if we approach it in the best way possible.
Remember when advocate and Kansas beef producer, Brandi Buzzard-Frobose, reached out to New York Congresswoman Alexandria Osasio-Cortez (AOC) about her Green New Deal that would eliminate “farting cows?”
In a kind, respectful letter, Buzzard-Frobose effectively connected with the Congresswoman, and the result was AOC removing the addition of “farting cows” from her proposal. Plus, she had the opportunity to address some misconceptions about cattle and greenhouse gas emissions on mainstream media outlets! It was a victory, but to achieve this outcome meant connecting to AOC on shared values (environmental concerns) not tearing her apart for how she views the world.
READ: Green New Deal proposes eliminating “farting cows”
Moral of the story — in this case, it would certainly be easy to beat up on Booker, but instead, our time might be better spent trying to connect with him.
Yes, he’s a vegan. Yes, he’s been honored by HSUS as a “vegan god” and the 2017 Humanitarian of the Year. Yes, he wants to end feedlots. And yes, he wants to shift consumer eating habits to plant-based diets.
Read between the lines here, and we can see Booker and so many politicians like him are wanting to talk climate change and are looking squarely at farmers and ranchers to fix the problem. They might accomplish this through increased regulations, more taxes, greater restrictions or perhaps incentives. Yet, these politicians ignore what U.S. animal agriculture have already accomplished in terms of sustainability, animal welfare and feeding a hungry planet!
And yes, we can most certainly be worried. We can be scared. We can be angry. But the reality is if Booker wins the top ticket, we’ll need to find a way to connect or else be bulldozed over by regulations, rhetoric and a new political climate that could eliminate U.S. livestock producers quite swiftly.
Are you ready to write that open letter now?
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Farm Progress.