Threat of the Vegetarian Dogma: National Cattlemen’s Association, Vegetarianism, and World Hunger, 1959-1989

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Silverman, Leah, Double Hoo Research Grant, University of Virginia
Saha, Abeer, Arts & Sciences Graduate, University of Virginia

Big Meat, which has infiltrated American culture and secured an unrelenting seat at the American dinner table, has been met by opposition from a growing vegetarianism movement.  This research examines the rhetoric and relationship between beef producers and the vegetarianism movement through 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 Asia and Africa 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.

BA (Bachelor of Arts)
cattle industry, world hunger, anti-beef, vegetarianism, vegetarian, national cattlemen's association, undergraduate research
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