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Americans Are Told To Eat Their Vegetables - For A Day

March 20, 1990

Undated (AP) _ Not everyone noticed, but Tuesday was the Great American Meatout, a day when soup kitchens went vegetarian in Pittsburgh and the mayor of Des Moines, Iowa, discovered a new kind of pork barrel politics.

″You’re not my mayor,″ was among the kinder remarks greeting Des Moines Mayor John ″Pat″ Dorrian at the Iowa statehouse after he signed a proclamation recognizing the vegetarian holiday.

″This blows my mind,″ added Dorrian’s non-constituent, state Sen. John Soorholtz.

Dorrian half-heartedly defended his decision to support a one-day meat boycott in the nation’s top pork-producing state, but even he conceded, ″It’s probably something that should never have been signed.″

The Meatout was the idea of the Farm Animal Reform Movement, a national advocacy group opposed to ″factory farming″ and in favor of vegeterian diets. It was intended as a response to National Meat Week - another of the nation’s lesser-known commemorations.

The Meatout was supported by such entertainment figures as Doris Day, Ally Sheedy and River Phoenix, and ″American Top 40″ radio announcer Casey Kasem.

It also was observed, perhaps inadvertently, by about 500 people who ate vegetarian meals at three soup kitchens in the Pittsburgh area. The food was donated and served by volunteers from Animal Advocates and the Pittsburgh Vegetarian Society.

About 165 people ate vegetarian chili, corn, fruit cocktail and bread at the Rainbow Kitchen in Homestead, a depressed former steel town just outside of Pittsburgh.

″They liked it. We do serve vegetarian meals from time to time,″ said Kevin Amos, the kitchen’s food program manager.

It was somewhat less of a success in Philadelphia - birthplace of freedom and the cheesesteak - where Meatout supporters targeted Jim’s Steaks on South Street as their staging ground.

A group of high school vegetarians stood outside the art deco landmark passing out anti-meat fliers, carrots and orange slices as the aroma of seared beef and fried onions wafted overhead.

But they were evidently unable to cow any of the early lunch crowd into avoiding meat for a day. The usual stampede began shortly after 11 a.m.

″If they don’t want to eat it, they don’t have to,″ said Leon Schwartz, a 30-year-old Philadelphian ″weaned″ on the famed cheesesteak, a mound of sliced beef slathered with melted cheese served on a roll. ″I want to, and I eat it. That’s what America is all about.″

″What is this, save a cow?″ said Bernie Bartholome, a New York businessman as he chewed on a cheesesteak laden with peppers, onions and tomatoes. ″See - I eat vegetables, too.″

Many passersby accepted the handout from the students and chomped on the carrots.

″As long as they read it and understand, that’s a start,″ said Rachel Randolph, 15. ″People are being real receptive.″

″This is a Philadelphia institution, so we decided to stand here,″ said Laura Kuperman, 16. ″We’re trying to be friendly, not confrontational.″

What’s their beef?

The demonstrators said raising livestock is environmentally dangerous, wastes vital farmland and is cruel to animals.

It’s also bad for you, they said, reciting statistics about heart disease, saturated fat, cancer, hormones and other uncomfortable topics.

″Even if they don’t convert, their eyes will be open,″ said Jane Edelstein, 15.

″We’re trying to make people more aware,″ added Alix Hetherington, 16.

Anything more, presumably, would be gravy.

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