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Threat of the “Vegetarian Dogma”: National Cattlemen’s Association and World Hunger, 1960-1989

Presenters Name: 
Leah Silverman
Co Presenters Name: 
Primary Research Mentor: 
Abeer Saha
Secondary Research Mentor: 
9:30 - 10:15
Time of Presentation: 
2019 - 9:30am to 10:15am
Newcomb Hall Ballroom
Presentation Type: 
Presentations Academic Category: 
Grant Program Recipient: 
Double Hoo Research Grant

Big Meat is the single greatest industry implicated in climate change, ocean dead zones, deforestation, the obesity and heart disease epidemics, food inequality, and a host of other global challenges. Since the industry’s creation, Big Meat has infiltrated American culture and secured an unrelenting seat at the American dinner table, but has been met by opposition from a growing vegetarianism movement. This research examines the rhetoric and relationship between beef producers and the vegetarianism movement though an analysis of archival sources from the National Cattlemen’s Association and scholarly articles about American consumerism and the world hunger crisis. The world hunger crisis, characterized by a series of devastating famines in the developing world during the 1960s and 70s, brought tensions between the meat industry and ethical vegetarian movements to a head. It prompted the formation of a vocal anti-beef campaign that critiqued the meat industry’s inefficient practice of feeding grains to livestock at a time when millions were starving due to a lack of grains, which in turn captured consumer attention and roused the fury of beef producers. This research establishes the importance of the often-overlooked role of ethics in food politics, a field that historians of consumerism and consumer politics have traditionally defined as being driven by prices and concerns about health and safety, and exposes the tactics of Big Meat in the face of an ethical crisis. It also provides insight into how to approach looming issues of global hunger and food insecurity today.