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  • Writer's pictureMilton Mills

Defund Big Meat launches at Soul Veg Fest

Over the past weekend, we launched the DEFUND BIG MEAT petition at Midwest Soul Veg Fest in Kansas City…

Soul Veg Fest was truly awesome… Gigi Jones is the organizer of the fest, and she and her team did a great job.

Gigi has an amazing, inspiring story. She healed herself from colon cancer by studying up on nutrition and health and changing her diet and lifestyle. For me, Gigi’s story captures the spirit of what #FoodJustice is all about, especially for communities of color: facing serious life challenges, having the faith to overcome those challenges, and then doing the hard work that faith calls you to do– to heal, survive, and thrive, and THEN have the humility and generosity to help others along the way… That’s our bold, brilliant sister Gigi– she showcases the best of who we are as a movement and a community…

And as a community – we are indeed facing some serious challenges. Of course, top of mind is the COVID pandemic. As a practicing physician I can confirm for you that COVID is most definitely, disproportionately impacting communities of color: Black and Native Americans are dying from COVID at three to four times the rates as White Americans. And deaths attributed to COVID among Latino Americans are nearly two times higher than in white populations.

What we’re dealing with is a crisis within a crisis. As a physician of 25 years, I know what’s driving these huge disparities- and it’s got nothing to do with genetics…

It’s socio-economics. It’s history. People of color in this country have never had consistent, equitable access to healthcare, education and housing as the rest of America, much less quality food and nutrition.

The data don’t lie. Preventable chronic disease is the #1 killer of all Americans, and Black Americans and People of Color are disproportionately impacted at up to eight times (as in 800%) more than White Americans. The Top 7 Killers of Black Americans are heart disease, cancer, stroke, diabetes, asthma, kidney disease and Alzheimer’s. And the #1 driver of all those diseases is the consumption of animal-based foods.

At Soul VegFest last weekend, we got to hear from Dr. Columbus Batiste. He’s a board certified Interventional Cardiologist. He and another physician of color, Dr. Eric Walsh, have created an online docu-series, boldly and appropriately called the Slave Food series. It’s about how meat and dairy have been weaponized by the fast food industry.

In his presentation, Dr. Batiste explained how the fast food industry in America has disproportionately targeted communities of color for generations. And worse- how the fast food industry has disproportionately targeted mass advertising campaigns at children of color — and how the USDA uses our tax dollars to help fast food corporations pay for their ad campaigns that are aimed at our young people.

Of course that’s not the only way the USDA is poisoning the bodies and minds of our children. The USDA also oversees the national school lunch program in our nation’s schools. Black and Brown kids are twice as likely to face food insecurity at home, so the food our kids get at school can often be their primary source of nutrition.

About TWO-THIRDS of the food budget that the USDA forces on schools is spent on meat, dairy and egg products. Typical school-meal foods are basically meat and dairy-based “junk foods” like frozen pizza, corn dogs, chicken nuggets, cake and sugary milks. The scant bit of whole foods they get – if any at all – are typically fruits or vegetables from a can.

So yes, that means that at least TWO-THIRDS of the food that our kids get at school is setting them up for long-term chronic disease. And along the way, how do you think those toxic foods are impacting their success at school every day? You ever see what a dose of saturated fat does to the bloodstream- the kind of saturated fat that’s in a piece of cheese pizza, fried tater tots or fried chicken nuggets?

It’s well established in medical and neuroscience research that saturated fats in foods can impair childhood learning. So why is the USDA deliberately pushing these toxic animal-based foods on our young people?

It’s the same with the cows’ milk that the USDA forces on our kids at school. The USDA is well aware that BIPOC kids are allergic to lactose in cow’s milk: 70-75% of African Americans, 53-58% of Hispanic Americans, 74-78% of Native Americans, and 95-98% of Asian Americans are allergic to lactose. It’s only around 33%-35% for causcasion Americans.

So it’s scientifically proven that cow’s milk affects the vast majority of BIPOC kids with a wide range of symptoms including bloating, belly pains, nausea and diarrhea. And yet, the USDA pushes cow’s milk on these kids every day at school?!

Milk does NOT “ a body good.” And the USDA telling our kids to drink cow’s milk for nutrition is like telling them to smoke cigarettes for oxygen.

Why isn’t the USDA setting these kids up with optimal nutrition that gives them the BEST chance for a healthy foundation to live a long, fulfilled life? Is the USDA just a racist institution? In fact no other agency has paid more restitution for civil rights abuses than the USDA.

Or is the USDA just a proxy for Corporate America’s disease-for-profit food system on behalf of BigMEAT and BigPHARMA? In fact, 18 of the Top 20 BigPHARMA products are medicines that treat diseases associated with animal-based foods…

We’ve gotta learn how to have this discussion together and explore how we can work together in our communities to protect our children from these predatory agencies and industries…

Indeed, our young people desperately need us right now. Now more than ever, they need us to step up and lead. Did you hear about the new study that just came out last month about how young people are dealing emotionally and mentally with the looming threat of climate change? It’s heartbreaking…

Researchers interviewed over 10,000 young people (aged 16-25 years) across ten countries including the US. They were asked how they feel about their future and climate change. The results reveal a very troubling epidemic of widespread fear, despair and distrust among our young people.

The majority surveyed are “extremely worried” they “have no future,” They feel “sad, angry, mad, powerless, and helpless” that “humanity is doomed.” And get this: about “two-thirds believe that their governments are lying, failing, and betraying them and future generations.”

Think about what they’ve seen in their young lives: they’re seeing five-fold more major climate-related disasters than my generation saw growing up. Young people are feeling it too: last year (2020) capped a seven-year streak where the seven hottest years on record have all happened in the past seven years (2014-2020). And it’s looking like 2021 will extend that streak.

Not just climate change– a distinguished group of wildlife scientists released an unprecedented statement earlier this year: there’s a mass extinction of species well underway, including animal, insect, plant and tree species, and the extinction rates are now accelerating. The scientists warn that such rapid depletion of biodiversity could be – and this is a direct quote – “a tipping point for ecosystem collapse and ultimately the collapse of civilization…”

Again that statement came from a very distinguished, respected group of scientists. It’s a terrifying possibility. It’s no wonder young people are so afraid for their future and distrustful of our elected leaders. How could we let this happen? How can we reverse it..?

The leading cause of this mass extinction of species is global deforestation, and the #1 driver of global deforestation is global “agriculture”. Meat and dairy production occupies 83% of all agricultural lands used by humans, which means BigMEAT is the #1 driver of this mass extinction of species.

BigMEAT is actually the #1 driver of myriad environmental destruction including global deforestation as well as groundwater pollution, soils degradation, freshwater depletion, and ocean dead zones from agricultural runoff.

BigMEAT is also a leading contributor to GHG emissions and the loss of global carbon sequestration. Altogether, it means that BigMEAT is also a leading driver of Climate Change as well. In fact, “BigMEAT corporations are on track to surpass BigOIL companies as the world’s biggest climate polluters…”

And yet, the USDA funnels $38 BILLION DOLLARS in taxpayer “subsidies” every year to BigMEAT corporations. That’s more corporate welfare than any other industry! So why are we taxpayers being made to prop up such a corrupt and toxic industry that’s causing us all this disease and ecological destruction?

It makes no moral, economic or ecological sense. It can only be about blind greed. That’s the only logical conclusion. And it’s why we’ve launched the DEFUND BIG MEAT campaign. It’s a petition to the USDA to DEFUND BIG MEAT corporations and reallocate funds for community-based food production. Investment in local food economies would empower communities to reduce their own carbon footprint while increasing their food resilience and strengthening their local economy.

And it would also empower communities to improve the health of their citizens. Research shows that subsidizing fruits and vegetables would increase healthy outcomes for millions of people and save $BILLIONS in health care costs.

Further- such empowered communities could directly engage their young people in the work of building local food sovereignty and climate resilience, including sustainable, small scale farming, school and community garden projects that restore local ecology, biodiversity, and carbon sequestration, and provide equitable food production and distribution.

That’s exactly the kind of work that Gigi has begun in Kansas City. And that Brenda Sanders has been working on in Baltimore. Brenda was also a featured speaker at Soul Veg Fest last weekend talking about the brilliant, creative work she does in Baltimore.

Brenda also produces the official podcast for the DEFUND BIG MEAT campaign called the Food and Justice podcast. Each week, she interviews visionary leaders from across the country who are working on #FoodJustice projects in their communities. It’s an inspiring series that’ll restore your faith in humanity. Check it out!

We should all seek ways to support the work of #FoodJustice in our own communities, always pushing at the local level for a more just and sustainable future. Such community-based work is an excellent way to engage our young people, too– to help rebuild their hope and trust while they help build more just, sustainable, resilient communities.

So please join us. Go to to Sign the Petition. Tell the USDA to stop using our taxpayer dollars to subsidize toxic meat and dairy foods that make people sick and destroy our environment; and instead, reallocate funds to expand local sustainable farming and farm-to-table programs that both restore local ecology and ensure fresh fruits and vegetables are accessible and affordable for all citizens, regardless of our race or income.

Thank you.


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