America’s vegetarian organizations are preparing to soil the first day of spring with another attempt to raise awareness of the “benefits of vegetarianism.” But this year you should expect to see additional shallow reporting from the national media as these radical groups play off the panic infecting Europe over mad cow and foot-and-mouth disease.

The Great American Meatout is sponsored by the Farm Animal Reform Movement (farmusa.org), but you can expect to hear a lot of criticism from other advocacy groups such as PeTA, People for Animal Rights (parkc.org) and Factoryfarming.com.

Last week the Kansas City Star allowed Frank Lingo to promote his vegetarian agenda on the Star’s Opinion page. Mr. Lingo suggested that Americans are fat and that one of the reason’s is because we eat too much meat. “We’re as fattened up in our homes and offices s hogs and cows are from being penned up in their feed lots. Neither man nor beast is moving much to stay in shape,” Mr. Lingo wrote.

You’ll hear a lot of other alarmist rhetoric from the vegetarians next week, including:
• Meat-eating kills 40,000 people a day.
• 58 percent of all U.S. deaths in 1998 were attributed to diseases linked to consumption of animal products.
• More than 80 percent of all pollution in the United States is caused by the production of meat.
• Hamburger chains are responsible for wiping out the rainforests, which is fueling a global warming that will eventually melt the polar ice caps and flood three-quarters of the world’s population.
• Such huge volumes of antibiotics are fed to farm animals that they’ve become a part of our water’s ecosystem and are turning average microbes into super-bugs and humans into vulnerable victims.

The health issue is certainly one that these radical groups can make a lot of hay with. Especially while the mad cow and hoof-and-mouth scare is in full-swing. But America’s beef producers, and other livestock producers, have made nutrition and health a top priority. Beef is about 20 percent leaner today than a decade ago, and the industry is working to provide healthy meal solutions for busy families.

That alone, however, won’t help America slim down. In fact, there is little any industry can do to help Americans who won’t be helped. My father grew up during the 1930s working on our family farm. He often told how they ate steak 3 times a day during the summer harvest time, and that the harvest crews were served eggnog in the fields twice a day. He remained a meat eater his entire life, and started every morning with bacon and eggs. When he died a few years ago at age 80, my father’s cholesterol was under 180. And his weight was only about 10 to 15 pounds above what is was when he graduated high school.

The difference between my father and those in modern society is that as a farmer he was active physically his entire life, burning up the food he ate. Most of today’s office workers, while they still eat like they work on a harvest crew, aren’t physically active enough to stay healthy.

Come Tuesday, you’ll hear a lot about the destruction meat causes our society. Fortunately, most people realize the value of lean, healthy meat in their diets, and the noise from the vegetarians will last only a day or so.