Won’t somebody think of the children?
Or, Where’s the Beef?
The Atlantic reports on the Baltimore school district’s decision to not serve students meat on Mondays. Doing so, the school district claims, teaches students lessons about the value of vegetables, grains, etc while also saving the school district a modest amount in food costs.
Predictably, the national meat lobby is outraged. They’ve gone on a national media blitz to make the false claim that students who aren’t served meat (apparently at every single meal) are getting insufficient protein. One industry spokesperson made the astonishing claim that 75% of children in the US are not getting sufficient protein. Of course, these claims are false — Americans eat far too much meat, and it’s slowly killing us. The situation resembles the tobacco industry’s increasingly farcical claims that tobacco does not cause caner, with the key difference being that some meat is certainly neutral/good for children.
The moral issue is this: at what point does it become morally reprehensible for an industry (meaning, individuals working in that industry) to make claims that are becoming increasingly disproven?
One theory might be to say that when there is no meaningful scientific doubt that a product is a health risk that does not come from industry-produced or funded research, it might be time to reconsider a career in corporate PR. But the case of Meatless Mondays is a bit more subtle — of course meat is not all bad, but, equally, it’s clearly good for students to learn about non-meat alternatives. In this case, the industry might well have acted morally by simply pointing out the benefits of meat generally rather than appearing comically out of touch by argueing that one single instance of vegetarian lasanga would be the end of meat in America.
In short, why not just tell the truth?