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AS A SCIENCE FREELANCER who covered the University of Maryland-College Park’s 1995 Great American Meatout event for the Prince George’s Sentinel and Montgomery Sentinel, and who attended the congressional Meatout event on Capitol Hill to gather background for a different vegetarian feature, I looked forward to seeing Matt Labash’s “Meat Cleavers” (The District Line, 3/24). To your credit, at least you did cover the event.
However, years into a dramatic “sea change” that has improved the quantity and tone of mainstream newspaper coverage of vegetarianism, I was quite astonished to read in an “alternative weekly” the most virulently hostile anti-vegetarianism piece I have come across in recent memory.
Aside from nastiness—and I do not lightly criticize another free-lancing scribe—Labash’s piece includes errors not attributable to editors. Not counting the organizers or journalists, about 225 people attended the congressional Meatout. That number far exceeds the 11-member press contingent from WJLA-TV, Voice of America, ABC Radio, the cable Food Channel, and a Vegetarian Times video documentary crew, in addition to the “color-seeking” Labash and myself.
Vegan ex-cattle rancher Howard Lyman, the keynoter, came across as an inspiring and sincere speaker to folks I talked with. Both times he spoke, he received polite applause when introduced and enthusiastic applause after he finished. The summary of the March 4 Editor and Publisher article about Meatout’s coordinating organization, the Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM) and its founder Alex Hershaft, substantially distorts the details. (But unlike E&P, Labash did name the right FARM-affiliated Gilbert sister/actor, vegan Sara of Roseanne, rather than chicken-eating Melissa of Little House on the Prairie.) Taking swipes at pro-animal entertainer Casey Kasem’s wife seems at best irrelevant and impolite.
Labash’s article did not note that likable James Garner and Cybill Shepherd quickly became ex-beef-pitchpersons after Garner’s heart surgery and Shepherd’s statement to the press that she did not eat “red meat.”
Here’s hoping your next vegetarian piece will be better.