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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Speak out Reach out for Meatout

The “Great American Meatout” (as it was called when I first got involved in the late ‘80s, when it always fell on March 20th) is one of my favorite events. Organized by FARM, a group in our movement, Meatout is an incredibly positive event that can be done in a big or small way.

This year, Food Empowerment Project is a proud co-sponsor of the event!

When I was introduced to the concept of Meatout, it was equated with the “Great American Smokeout.” I hope I am not showing my age by mentioning that… I remember being in elementary school wearing a sticker of a frog with big red lips and “The Great American Smokeout.” The point was to encourage kids to not smoke and we wore our stickers with pride.

Seems like it should not be our job to teach children to eat healthier (and obviously more compassionately), but it seems to be now. You don’t see the schools doing it – but wouldn’t it be great to hear them talk about Meatout over the loudspeakers and have a week of animal-free meals in the cafeterias? I would like to think this will eventually happen, sooner rather than later.

It seems to me that kids would understand this issue more easily than smoking. Most children have a strong love for animals; wouldn’t this be the perfect time to take advantage of children’s innate sense of compassion while at the same time helping them understand the importance of eating healthy?

Okay, back from my dream and back to why I love Meatout.

I have been participating in Meatout for more than 20 years. I remember organizing an “Adopt A Carnivore” week for Meatout with my university group. We set up a table for a week and had people pledge to give up eating “meat” for the week and people who were vegetarian pledged to go vegan. Everyone got a bag filled with cookies, a tiny statue of a farmed animal, literature, etc ., and then at the end of the week we all went to eat at a vegetarian restaurant (no vegan restaurants in Austin back then). Years later I heard from people who had actually stopped eating animals due to their one-week pledge.

Over the years, I have served veggie burgers at various State Capitols, restaurants and universities. Not long ago, I started a new job and moved to a new area so I knew I couldn’t do a big event. Instead, I bought everyone at my office a veggie burger. None of them were vegetarian, so it was a good test. One of my colleagues now only eats veggie burgers and has been taste testing some vegan cheeses!

So big or small, it doesn’t matter what you do. We should treat every day like Meatout and always use it as an opportunity to speak out for the animals around the world. But hey, this day is the time for special emphasis, when more people will notice it!

I just got back from handing out 200 vegan burgers at the great San Jose State University with my local group, Santa Clara County Activists for Animals. Students were eager to give the meatless burgers a try and learn more. Such a positive feel good event – for everyone involved. Our St. Patrick’s Day slogan: Happy St. Patrick’s Day – Be Green – Go Vegan!

So please, Speak out and Reach out this Meatout!

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