70 Members of Congress & United Poultry Concerns ask VP candidates to address global warming & meat
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah––Will the October 7, 2020 debate between Republican vice president Mike Pence and Democratic vice presidential challenger Kamala Harris bring the first direct challenge in 92 years to the political promise of putting a chicken in every pot?
Herbert Hoover, U.S. president from 1929 to 1933, is widely credited with popularizing the phrase “a chicken in every pot” during his 1928 election campaign.
In truth, the phrase was coined and publicized by his New York City campaign committee, not by Hoover himself. But it came to be lastingly associated with Hoover when used to headline a Hoover campaign committee advertisement published in the October 30, 1928 edition of The New York Times.
“A chicken in every pot” ushered in the Great Depression
“A chicken in every pot” was then turned against Hoover, and appropriated as a perennial promise of Democratic candidates, symbolizing prosperity, after the Black Thursday crash of the New York City stock exchange on October 24, 1929 ushered in the Great Depression.
Televised public debate over national ambitions and strategies did not begin until the 1960 presidential election campaign. Vice presidential candidates first debated in 1976.
Food policy, in one form and another, has since then often been raised in debate by presidential and vice presidential candidates, in discussion of programs for fighting hunger, trade policy, and farm subsidies.
Never have candidates debated the consequences
Yet never, to date, has any candidate from either party raised either the ecological or the public health consequences of policies centered on putting a chicken in every pot.
This today means factory-farmed meat sold to Americans at substantially less than the heavily underwritten cost of production––albeit that most of the expense is hidden in environmental damage suffered by future generations, health care costs, premature deaths, and animal suffering, an effect barely politically recognized, since animals do not vote.
A hint that the 2020 presidential campaign might be different came on September 2, 2020, when a coalition of 70 Congressional Representatives issued an open appeal to the Commission on Presidential Debates to place climate change on the debating agenda.
“One of the great honors of being a Member of Congress,” the coalition began, “is we are closely connected to the neighborhoods and towns we serve. People can––and often do––come up to us in supermarkets, local businesses, or at community events to press for answers on the issues that matter most to them.”
With “supermarkets” mentioned first as a focal point for public concern, the coalition continued, “Our constituents need to hear from President [Donald] Trump, Vice President [Joe] Biden, Vice President Pence, and Senator Harris about how they will address one of the most pressing and all-consuming issues currently facing our country: the climate crisis,” specifically changes associated with global warming, to which meat production contributes as much, in the form of so-called “greenhouse gases,” as all forms of transportation combined.
“This cannot happen again”
“In 2016,” the coalition reminded, “there was not a single question on climate change in any of the four presidential and vice-presidential debates. This cannot happen again.
“Climate change is no longer an issue that is looming in the distance,” the coalition emphasized. “It is here, and it is being felt acutely right now. We see it in the wildfires ravaging the west, the heatwaves gripping much of the nation, the hurricanes and derechos devastating communities, and extreme flooding and drought threatening lives and livelihoods. Not to mention the grave environmental injustices impacting people of color, who often experience the effects of climate change first and most.
“Four central crises. One makes the others worse”
“We understand there are four central crises that the presidential and vice-presidential candidates must address: the ongoing pandemic, a struggling economy, racial injustice, and the climate crisis,” the coalition acknowledged.
“But of these four, there is one which will exacerbate each of the other three, if not addressed immediately. We need a dedicated discussion on the climate crisis that matches the importance of this moment,” the 70 Members of Congress concluded.
“An inconvenient truth”
Bold though the demand for debate over the climate crisis might have seemed, however, it unfortunately sidestepped the real focal issue: whether Americans are at last willing to move beyond the “chicken in every pot” metaphor to recognize the necessity of accepting dietary change, before climatic change forces it upon us.
Further to that will be what role elected leadership will take, when and if “a chicken in every pot” is exchanged as a goal for a healthy diet and environment for every person, now and in the future.
It is not difficult to imagine distinctive Republican and Democratic approaches to introducing the needed changes, if and when the need is accepted.
Currently, though, the incumbent Trump/Pence administration appears locked in climate change denial, which appears to be bringing us only wildfire hells and high water.
Meanwhile, as the sidestepping from the 70 Members of Congress indicates, Democratic leaders have so far been reluctant to challenge the public with what 2000 losing presidential candidate Al Gore called An Inconvenient Truth, albeit that Gore too sidestepped the meat issue.
Karen Davis ups the ante
United Poultry Concerns founder Karen Davis has now upped the ante in an open letter published below:
7 September 2020
Urge Kamala Harris to Stand Up To Mike Pence on “America’s Meat” Consumption
Vice Presidential candidate Kamala Harris has made vague but potentially more invigorating suggestions that she favors educating the public about the damaging effect of “red” meat on the environment, climate, and human health. She said she’d consider changing the U.S.’s dietary guidelines to encourage people to eat less meat. At a CNN town hall meeting in 2019, she expressed support for “creating incentives that we will eat in a healthy way” and “that we will be educated about the effect of our eating habits on our environment.”
At this prospect, Vice President Mike Pence scoffed in a recent campaign speech to Iowa farmers: “Well I’ve got some red meat for you. We’re not going to let Joe Biden and Kamala Harris cut America’s meat.”
The Huffington Post reported that “Social media lit up after Pence made his remarks, with commentators pointing out that they were looking forward to the vice president engaging in meat debates with Harris on the national stage.”
Favoring Harris’s remarks, an August 14 article on indy100, Mike Pence ridiculed for claiming Kamala Harris and Joe Biden want to stop Americans eating meat, reminded readers that:
“Harris’ concerns are echoed by the United Nations, who found in 2019 that the main contributors to the extinction crisis are farming and overfishing, followed by meat and dairy production. During their annual report on climate change, the UN also encouraged people to swap to a plant-based diet to help mitigate the effects of climate change.
What Can I Do?
One month from today, on Wednesday evening, October 7, Kamala Harris and Mike Pence will meet on the vice presidential debate stage. Urge Sen. Harris to use this platform and others to inform the American people how vital it is that we replace animal products – not just “red” meat – with nutritious, compassionate, environmentally-regenerative plant-based foods. Urge her to use her powerful position and commanding voice to argue – for the sake of our health, animals, and the planet – that choosing plant-based foods is a winning vote for the future.
Email Kamala Harris:
Address/Phone/Fax for each of Harris’s six offices: https://www.harrissenate.gov/contact/offices.
Click on each office image for postal service address, phone & fax numbers.
Thank YOU for Raising YOUR Voice!
United Poultry Concerns
Kamala Harris has been challenged to talk about meat before, notably on June 1, 2019, when Direct Action Everywhere protester Aiden Cook, 24, jumped onstage during a Big Ideas Forum hosted in San Francisco by MoveOn, a political organization aligned with the Democratic Party.
Cook took the microphone from Harris, and briefly spoke before security personnel took him away.
But Cook spoke so unintelligibly that neither Harris nor many other people had any idea what he was shouting about.
Direct Action Everywhere cofounder Wayne Hsiung issued a public apology to Harris a day later.
This time the challenge is respectful, issued well in advance, and made with clearly supportive intentions. ANIMALS 24-7 looks forward to seeing how both Harris and Pence respond.