Left Justified: The Great American Meatout

Every spring, thousands of vegetarians try to get their friends and neighbors to eat less meat, at least for one day.

It’s a way of exploring a wholesome, nonviolent diet of fruits, vegetables and whole grains (for further information, visit www.meatout.org). This year, the Meatout falls on a Monday, so Rockford Peace & Justice will host a special vegetarian dinner for $10 starting at 6:30 p.m., March 20, at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Rockford, 4848 Turner St.

The outgoing and controversial pastor, The Rev. David Weissbard, will plan the vegan meal. To reserve a seat, you must call (815) 964-7111 and leave a message on the machine.

I’m a wanna-be vegetarian. As a bachelor, I look forward to dinner invites, and graciously accept whatever is before me. But when I pay for my own food, it’s nothing that once had a face; I try to be as vegan as possible (“vegan”—no animal products, i.e., dairy).

I’d turn total vegetarian faster if I had to slaughter my own meals, butcher a cow, or cut the head off a chicken.

I wasn’t always vegan. Hunting in the Wisconsin northwoods with Uncle Eddie, I’d always aim high. Army life was basic chow. But now, my waist is growing toward 40 inches, and it’s due to animal fats.

Meat is expensive and uses more resources than veggies. It takes more to feed a steer as compared to the oats, corn, and soybeans fed directly to us humans instead of the cattle. It takes up to 10 pounds of grain to produce 1 pound of meat. Eating green saves on the land and makes for a cleaner environment (anyone who’s been around one of those giant pig farms knows what I’m talking about).

There are a lot of side issues associated with meat. One includes the overuse of antibiotics that could help develop a strain of resistant bugs that could kill us all in the end. The amount of water used for cattle and the pollution dumped back into the groundwater from large animal farms should not be discounted, either.

I know I should eat greens and fruits. It’s healthier, more nutritious, and with good recipes, it’s delicious. A vegetarian diet will save money as well as life.

But I’m a lazy American. I’ll eat anything set in front of me, and often in excess. And when I get hungry and want fast food, please tell me where there’s a delicious vegan fast-food meal? Even the bean burrito at Taco World is full of animal fats and cheese.

Long ago, in a land far away, I once saw a falafel stuffed with delicious greens, veggies and baked tofu with a delicious Middle Eastern sauce, and it cost a buck. I was satiated. But I’ll be damned if I can find anything like it here.

So I look for opportunities to eat full-fledged vegetarian meals.

Every restaurant should have a heart-healthy alternative, and if not, then ask. Or walk. Away. And make sure the chef knows they just lost a paying customer. It’s hard to imagine businesses not wanting to cater to their customers’ needs, and healthy food is a real need.

Second, share a potluck with health-conscious friends. Try to get your church or community group to set aside a table for the vegans.

The biggest and the best potluck is the Vegetarians In Motion’s (VIM), 6:30 p.m., second Tuesday of every month at Gloria Dei Lutheran Church, 4700 Augustana Drive, just behind Edgebrook Shopping Center. Look for the steeple. Admission is $3 for non-members, plus bring a vegetarian dish to pass. Children are admitted free.

Let me know if there are any other veggie-type groups in town.

Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.

Editor’s note: Stanley Campbell’s March 8-14, 2006, column “From neighborhood nukes to Cuba,” concerning U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo’s stand on religious travel rights to Cuba (allowing religious groups to get a license to trvel there) should have read:

So our congressman, Don Manzullo, was finally signed on to a letter asking for exemptions for religious groups going to Cuba (too bad about you touristas). Thanks to the combined efforts of local peace and religious leaders, the signature of four House Republicans from Illinois along with all 10 Democrats will make it harder for the Treasury Department to ignore this appeal. We appreciate the Congressman’s support.

The Rock River Times regrets the error.

From the March 15-21, 2006, issue

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