Vegetarian Journal

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Vegetarian Journal Cover

Vegetarian Journal


May/June 1997

Volume XVI, Number 3

Note From The Editor: Don't Have A Cow, Man

By Michael Vogel, Senior Editor of The Vegetarian Journal

Michael Vogel Recently, the publishers of Cricket and Smithsonian magazines launched a children's magazine called Muse. Published bimonthly, Muse is graphically attractive with content ranging from science to poetry to book reviews. Sounds harmless enough, but the publishers of Muse found themselves embroiled in controversy when the magazine's second issue (March, 1997) promoted "controversial views," according to Republican Congressman Sam Johnson of Texas. What "controversial views?" Abortion? Capital punishment? Atheism? None of the above. Vegetarianism.

The unassuming publishers of Muse published a pro/con article about vegetarianism, which included the views of both vegetarian and non-vegetarian kids. A sidebar on nutrition was written by Dr. Paul Saltman (who sits on the magazine's board of advisors), and the article included a postscript which stated that Dr. Saltman "thinks eating meat is just fine." So what's all the hubbub about?

Johnson and 14 other lawmakers from farm states (Texas and Nebraska) took exception to the article's content and voiced their displeasure in a letter to Smithsonian Secretary I. Michael Heyman. "As you know, the March issue is almost entirely dedicated to 'revealing' the evil and detrimental results from eating meat. Having the Smithsonian Institution, a federally funded entity, involved with a publication promoting these controversial views, especially for children, is completely unacceptable," read the letter, in part.

Apparently, the distinguished lawmakers from the great states of Texas and Nebraska have a problem with the "evil and detrimental results of eating meat" being revealed. It's better business for the meat industry in their respective states if these "evil and detrimental results" remain under wraps, and not the clear, cellophane shrink wrap that transparently covers meat in the supermarkets. If the article were about the "evil and detrimental results" of smoking cigarettes, perhaps lawmakers from the tobacco states would have been outraged.

And how did the magazine react to this maelstrom of controversy? Meekly, as a helpless lamb might react while being lead to slaughter. Heyman apologized directly to Congresswoman Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) and followed up with a letter which said "clearly, no magazine that bears the Smithsonian name should attempt to proselytize for a specific cause or viewpoint." This despite the following passage from page one of the "proselytical" issue of Muse: "Is meat eating right or wrong? We can't give you the answer; you have to decide for yourselves. So what should you do? You can think about it. Find out about nutrition. Find out about animal rights. Ask your parents and your friends. But in the end, none of that can tell you what to do. You have to decide for yourself which reasons make sense to you."

In the aftermath, the editor of Muse was "reassigned" and the Smithsonian developed new procedures for content review. Ronald C. Walker, the publisher of Smithsonian magazine, issued a letter of apology to the National Cattleman's Beef Association.

The whole episode points out exactly what the meat industry and lawmakers fear the most: a level playing field. They would prefer that the media not expose those "evil and detrimental results," especially to a generation of future customers who are at an age where they are perfectly capable of making decisions about what they choose to eat or not to eat.

Michael Vogel, Senior Editor of The Vegetarian Journal

The Vegetarian Journal published here is not the complete issue, but these are excerpts from the published magazine. Anyone wanting to see everything should subscribe to the magazine.

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September 20, 1997

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