separation of plate and state

Pamphlets and booklets proselytizing an animal-free diet for climate mitigation are being distributed to schools at an alarming rate. Keep reading to learn how important it is to speak with your children about agricultural production, livestock, and how there is a responsible and environmentally beneficial way to consume animal products.

A child attending an Oregon public school was recently given a booklet called Fight Climate Change With Diet Change. The content of the booklet was completely against consuming animal products, lacking any information about how livestock can be used to build topsoil and sequester carbon. It even went on to say that not only is going vegan better for the planet, it is also better for human health.

The booklets are funded and distributed by the Factory Farm Awareness Coalition and an activist group called Vegan Outreach. Established in 1993, Vegan Outreach is known for distributing their literature on college campuses. To a person with no background in nutrition or agriculture, it is easy to understand how the pamphlets could be very convincing, especially for children. They are attractive and colorful while offering seemingly simple solutions for reducing climate impact like claiming that reducing meat consumption reduces water consumption. As we've noted on Sacred Cow, beef is not the water hog that most pro-vegan groups claim.

The advice in the pamphlet is misguided and an unfortunate attempt to sway children toward a plant-based diet. As Marty Kendall recently wrote on the Sacred Cow Blog, adopting a diet without nutrient-dense animal foods will lead to a diet that has less protein and essential nutrients with a higher calorie intake. Not to mention the fact that many vegan foods include ultra-processed sugary items like Oreos.

The pamphlet also fails to address the capacity for regenerative agriculture practices incorporating livestock to not only provide optimal human nutrition but to revitalize degraded ecosystems. Regenerative agriculture can also sequester more carbon leading to climate change mitigation, combat erosion, and distribute manure more evenly without it being a pollutant.

Diet dogma doesn't belong in the classroom

This situation raises a critical question: should teachers be allowed to impose their personal diet opinions on children under the guise of educational material? When it comes to religion, most parents agree that teachers should be prohibited from imposing personal beliefs in the classroom so why should diet-based opinions be any different?

Educators hold powerful positions especially when it comes to shaping the opinions of young and eager minds. Every day children are entrusted in good faith to people who their parents do not know very well or at all. The information they present shapes the mind of children and, by proxy, the future itself. It is an educator's job to present facts and remain neutral. That way the classroom can be a place where children can feel free to learn, form their own opinions, and express themselves amongst their peers.

If the school wanted to address the impact of agricultural production on the food system it should have at least provided several different viewpoints to create a balanced discussion about the topic. As climate change becomes a more central discussion in academic curriculum, it is also important to note that climate impact stems from countless other human activities alongside agriculture. Will climate change curriculum also include information about the negative impact of clothing production, for example? Or the need to find alternatives to fossil fuel-powered transportation?

Humans need animal protein

The best diet for human health and the environment is one that includes well-managed ruminant animals. Last year, for example, Spain was rated the healthiest nation in the world and ranked second in meat consumption per capita in Europe. Australian men have the longest lifespan in the world, and Australians also eat the most meat. Eating meat does not occur in a vacuum and is not the thing that is negatively impacting Americans' health. There are many other lifestyle factors that weigh in on health including sugar intake, consumption of whole foods versus highly palatable ultra-processed foods, portion sizes, stress levels, and activity levels, to name just a few.

Vilifying animal products in regards to human health is dangerous. Meat, eggs, and dairy are nutrient-dense foods and completely removing them could very easily lead to malnourishment, particularly for developing children.

Support the case for better meat

As pro-vegan rhetoric becomes more common in pop culture it is important to speak with your children about agricultural production, livestock, and how there is a responsible and environmentally beneficial way to consume animal products. At www.SacredCow.Info, you can find a wide variety of blog articles and infographics touching on everything from nutrition to ethics in animal handling to assist you in educating your children. To help support the forthcoming book and film project launching Summer 2020, click here.

Roxanne Ahern is a writer, regenerative homesteader, certified permaculture designer, and holistic nutritionist. She's a contributor to the forthcoming documentary and book project "Sacred Cow: The environmental, nutritional, and ethical case for better meat" and raises katahdin sheep, Nigerian dwarf goats, fruit, and vegetables on a 44 acre homestead in the Southeast with her family. Find her at and follow her on Instagram @happyholistichomestead.