Sen. Tom Harkin has responded to a short-lived brouhaha over “Meatless Mondays” at the USDA with a tongue-in-cheek call for “Fishless Fridays.”
“Fishless Fridays,” he joked to reporters Thursday, would offset the consumption of fish by Catholics who still observe the church’s practice of abstaining from meat on Fridays.
“The Catholic Church for all the time I was growing up never ate meat on Fridays,” Harkin said Thursday when asked about “Meatless Mondays” at the USDA.
“We need ‘Fishless Fridays’ now because they are depleting the fishes in the ocean, you know, and that’s getting to be a problem,” a laughing Harkin said. “We could go on and on (with) this.”
The “Meatless Monday” discussion was prompted by a posting earlier this week as part of an internal USDA newsletter discussing how staff could reduce their environmental impact while dining at the agency’s cafeteria.
The USDA said the posting was made without proper clearance, adding that the department does not endorse the “Meatless Monday” initiative, which is part of a global public health campaign.
However, the “Meatless Monday” notice caused a swift reaction from the livestock producers who questioned USDA support of their industry, as well as meat-loving members of Congress.
“Shame USDA. One has to wonder whether the Dept of Ag supports Iowa farmers since it is promoting “meatless Monday” for USDA employees,” Sen. Chuck Grassley tweeted July 25. Later, he added: “I will eat more meat on Monday to compensate for stupid USDA recommendation abt a meatless Monday.”
Harkin, who hosts an annual steak fry fundraiser, said although he doesn’t eat as much meat as he once did, “I still consume my fair share.”
“I grew up eating meat three times a day,” he said. “We just don’t eat that way anymore.”
The whole brouhaha was overblown, Harkin said.
“The most important thing is getting people back to work, getting our budget under control, not worrying about whether one employee wants to have ‘Meatless Monday’ or not,” he said.