“Hands Off My Sausage!” Germans Are Just as Ridiculous About Meat as Americans.

Slate's Culture Blog
Aug. 7 2013 11:33 AM

“Hands Off My Sausage!” Germans Can Be Just as Ridiculous About Meat as Americans.

166655631
Dog "Chili" gets a grilled sausage during the first barbecue of this spring in Busbach, southern Germany

Photo by DAVID EBENER/AFP/Getty Images

Almost exactly a year ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture put its foot in its mouth on the topic of Meatless Mondays. First, the department circulated a newsletter among employees. “One simple way to reduce your environmental impact while dining at our cafeterias,” they advised, “is to participate in the ‘Meatless Monday’ initiative.” (“This international effort, as the name implies, encourages people not to eat meat on Mondays,” the newsletter helpfully added.) The next day, facing outrage from livestock producers, a representative for the department clarified: “U.S.D.A. does not endorse Meatless Monday.”

The kerfuffle highlighted the paradox contained in the department’s dual tasks of creating dietary recommendations and promoting American agriculture. It also gave us a quintessential example of the ridiculous political bluster that conservative politicians invariably deliver whenever the topic of reducing meat consumption comes up. “I will eat more meat on Monday to compensate for stupid USDA recommendation abt a meatless Monday,” tweeted Sen. Chuck Grassley at the time. (Good one, senator.)

One might think of this kind of idiotic posturing as a peculiarly American affliction, what with our fondness for steaks and libertarianism. But this week, observers of food politics are experiencing déjà vu—or, perhaps more accurately, bereitsgesehen. Germany’s Green Party proposed a (voluntary) national meatless day in work cafeterias, and the opposition went nuts. “Constantly telling people what they do is not my understanding of freedom and liberty,” said a former federal transportation minister from the conservative Free Democratic Party (FDP). FDP protestors besieged the Green Party headquarters carrying signs reading, “Hands off my sausage.” One politician even compared the pledge to Nazi propaganda on Facebook.

Advertisement

It’s refreshing to know that Americans don’t have a monopoly on comparing relatively innocuous policy proposals to those of Hitler. But it’s depressing to discover that we aren’t the only country in which elected representatives try to gain political points by pandering to people’s affection for meat. If you accept that it is within the government’s purview to look after public health and the environment, then it is is entirely sensible for governmental bodies to recommend that people reduce their meat consumption.

The link between meat production and environmental degradation is fairly airtight, as is the link between meat consumption and heart disease. Recommending that people cut some meat out of their diet should be as uncontroversial as recommending that people drive less and walk more, or that people use energy-saving light bulbs. (It’s good for you, and good for the environment!) The fact that it isn’t says a lot about the emotional power of food, and about politicians’ willingness to exploit it. Unfortunately, politicians all too often prove incapable of talking about food without sounding like petulant children.

L.V. Anderson is a Slate assistant editor. She edits Slate's food and drink sections and writes Brow Beat's recipe column, You're Doing It Wrong. 

TODAY IN SLATE

Politics

The Democrats’ War at Home

How can the president’s party defend itself from the president’s foreign policy blunders?

Congress’ Public Shaming of the Secret Service Was Political Grandstanding at Its Best

Michigan’s Tradition of Football “Toughness” Needs to Go—Starting With Coach Hoke

A Plentiful, Renewable Resource That America Keeps Overlooking

Animal manure.

Windows 8 Was So Bad That Microsoft Will Skip Straight to Windows 10

Politics

Cringing. Ducking. Mumbling.

How GOP candidates react whenever someone brings up reproductive rights or gay marriage.

Building a Better Workplace

You Deserve a Pre-cation

The smartest job perk you’ve never heard of.

Hasbro Is Cracking Down on Scrabble Players Who Turn Its Official Word List Into Popular Apps

Florida State’s New President Is Underqualified and Mistrusted. He Just Might Save the University.

  News & Politics
Politics
Sept. 30 2014 9:33 PM Political Theater With a Purpose Darrell Issa’s public shaming of the head of the Secret Service was congressional grandstanding at its best.
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 30 2014 7:02 PM At Long Last, eBay Sets PayPal Free
  Life
Gaming
Sept. 30 2014 7:35 PM Who Owns Scrabble’s Word List? Hasbro says the list of playable words belongs to the company. Players beg to differ.
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 30 2014 12:34 PM Parents, Get Your Teenage Daughters the IUD
  Slate Plus
Behind the Scenes
Sept. 30 2014 3:21 PM Meet Jordan Weissmann Five questions with Slate’s senior business and economics correspondent.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 30 2014 8:54 PM Bette Davis Talks Gender Roles in a Delightful, Animated Interview From 1963
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 30 2014 7:00 PM There’s Going to Be a Live-Action Tetris Movie for Some Reason
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 30 2014 11:51 PM Should You Freeze Your Eggs? An egg freezing party is not a great place to find answers to this or other questions.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 30 2014 5:54 PM Goodbye, Tough Guy It’s time for Michigan to fire its toughness-obsessed coach, Brady Hoke.