Mike Pence has adopted a bizarre new tactic to try to discredit Kamala Harris: claiming she wants to take away America's meat.
Speaking at a campaign rally, vice president Pence said:
Joe Biden and Kamala Harris would bury the economy under an avalanche of red tape: more regulation and more bureaucracy. In fact, the California senator that he named as his running mate this week said during her short campaign for president that Americans needed to be, and I quote, educated about the effect of our eating habits on our environment.
Senator Harris said that she would change the dietary guidelines of this country to reduce the amount of red meat Americans can eat. Well I've got some red meat for you. We're not going to let Joe Biden and Kamala Harris cut America's meat.
Do the Democrats really plan to "reduce the amount of red meat Americans can eat"?
It is true, as Pence began to explain, that Harris has raised concerns about the impact meat production has on climate change. Speaking at a CNN townhall on the issue last year, she said:
I love cheeseburgers from time to time, I just do. But there has to be [a consideration of] what we do in terms of creating incentives that we will eat in a healthy way, that we will encourage moderation, and that we will be educated about the effect of our eating habits on our environment.
We have to do a much better job with that and the government has to do a much better job with that.
Harris' concerns are echoed by the United Nations, who found in 2019 that the main contributors to the extinction crisis are farming and overfishing, followed by meat and dairy production. During their annual report on climate change, the UN also encouraged people to swap to a plant-based diet to help mitigate the effects of climate change.
Harris also confirmed to CNN that she would consider changing the US's dietary guidelines to encourage people to eat less red meat. She explained:
I strongly believe that the American consumer is still left without the information that you need and deserve to have about what it is that you're putting in your body or surrounding yourself with and the the health implications of those things. Across the board, we have to do a better job, and we're going to be taking on powerful interests.
But I've always believed we should expand what's on those cans that you buy in the grocery store. We should expand the list, and included in that should be a measure of the impact on the environment.
Government dietary recommendations for Americans currently includes protein, which includes "seafood; meats, poultry and eggs" as part of a healthy, balanced diet. Protein is also found in beans, peas, nuts, seeds and soy products, but is represented by a steak, fish and egg in a visualisation of a "healthy eating pattern".
Some people are concerned that lobbyists with "powerful interests", as Harris put it, have an undue influence on the food groups recommended to Americans as part of a healthy diet.
In 2015, as the current guidelines were being compiled, some 255 corporations lobbied the food industry with reports about their products, including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle, Monsanto and McDonalds. In total, the meat processing and production industry spent $4.58M on lobbying, while the dairy industry spent $7.12M, reports suggest.
The government also controls what information must be included on food packaging labels: again, lobby groups try to ensure that these reflect their interests.
But will Harris really take the lobbyists to task?
Pence referred to remarks Harris made while she was running for president, not standing for vice president.Biden has outlined a plan for a "clean energy future" but it does not specifically mention meat. It does, however, state that he will be:
Requiring public companies to disclose climate risks and the greenhouse gas emissions in their operations and supply chains.
So it's possible that, at best, meat production and processing companies will have to disclose the impact their industries have on climate change. But they will still have millions of dollars at their disposal to try to stop that from happening if they wish.
After all, many have tried and failed to take on the food industry in the United States. For instance, in 2010 Michelle Obama launched a campaign against childhood obesity which "veered away from pushing actual legislation, instead focussing on personal responsibility in nutrition and fitness" according to some reports, because of the intervention of food lobbyists.
What seems entirely unlikely is that Biden and Harris will try to "cut America's meat" (whatever that actually means), or "reduce the amount of red meat Americans can eat". Banning meat consumption is not the same as changing government guidelines or food labels, and even this is not something Biden's campaign has committed to.
With the most coronavirus deaths in the world and economic ruin – the failures of the Trump administration Harris focussed on in her first speech as Biden's running mate – it would appear that the Trump camp is getting slightly desperate.
People ridiculed Mike Pence for his scaremongering that the Democrats want to take away America's meat.
So don't worry Republicans, the Democrats aren't going to take away Trump's beloved hamburgers.