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MATT LABASH’S MEAN-spirited attack on vegetarianism avoided any in-depth look into the grim realities behind the production of meat (“Meat Cleavers,” The District Line, 3/24). Billions of animals spen d bleak lives crammed into windowless buildings, their bodies pumped full of hormones and chemicals. Our nation’s addiction to animal flesh has devastated our health care system. Meat eating is strongly indicated as a leading factor in heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

The beef industry is the leading producer of ozone-depleting methane gas. Intensive factory farms are increasingly being rejected by communities across the nation due to the pollution and waste of water resources.

Regarding the battle of celebrity spokespeople, Labash recommends that we attach credibility to those individuals who are paid millions of dollars to peddle animal flesh. He suggests that they be held in esteem as fitness role models, conveniently neglecting to mention beef huckster James Garner’s bypass surgery.

The childish argument that Lauren Bacall eats meat and is “still kicking at 70” reminds one of the manipulative logic of the tobacco lobby. After all, George Burns is still alive after years of cigar smoking, so throw out common sense and research, we can all light up!

Finally, while there is no excuse for lazy research, one has to wonder why Labash provided no list of vegetarians to counter his list of award-winning hired guns of the beef lobby. Had he bothered, he could have included such uncompensated diners-of-conscience as Paul McCartney, k.d. lang, Michael Stipe, Madonna, or Alice Walker. If he wants Emmy winners, he could list Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, Cloris Leachman, or Candice Bergen. We also have Shaw, DaVinci, Gandhi, and a list of highly respected names far too long for Labash’s cynical little column.

Capitol Hill