COLORADO SPRINGS, Colorado — Every March for the past 36 years, activists from the Farm Animal Rights Movement have encouraged Americans to not eat meat for a day. Instead, they challenge the public to consume plants and plant-based products for their meals. This year's MeatOut comes with an official endorsement from Colorado Governor Jared Polis.
The proclamation naming March 20, 2021, as MeatOut Day lists health risks associated with meat-based diets and celebrates the environmental benefits of vegan and vegetarian lifestyles.
While the occasion is welcomed by the vegan community, cattle ranchers see it as a slight against their industry.
"It is disappointing to us when a proclamation gets signed to say, hey, don't participate in eating your product," said Terry Fankhauser, executive vice president of the Colorado Cattlemen's Association.
He explained that cattle ranching is almost a $5 billion a year industry in Colorado, making up roughly 60 percent of the state's agriculture sector.
To respond to the MeatOut event, the CCA is holding a Meat-In on March 20. Fankhauser said they're asking the public to join them in eating a meat-based meal at local restaurants that are still trying to recover from the mandated closures and capacity restrictions of the past 12 months.
"Meet your family, meet your friends in a restaurant and go out and partake in a meat dish," Fankhauser said. "Hopefully, it's beef, by the way, being the cattleman's association; but any meat would be great, and patronize those restaurants and show that we support them."
The ranchers are also holding a fundraiser to support their Beefsticks for Backpacks charitable outreach program. It provides beef jerky and other meat products to local food banks to give to families experiencing hunger in Colorado.
A spokesperson for the governor's office downplayed the importance of proclamation pointing out the governor grants hundreds of requests for the non-binding, ceremonial proclamations each year.
"The Governor has issued proclamations for Agriculture day, Colorado Farm Bureau Day, and Truck Driver Appreciation Day," wrote Press Secretary Conor Cahill. "Typical proclamations throughout the year highlight industries, medical conditions, organizations, retirements, and birthdays etc."
In fact, Governor Polis is not the first Colorado governor to sign a proclamation in support of MeatOut Day. An image of a similar proclamation signed by former Governor John Hickenlooper in 2011 is featured prominently on the MeatOut website.