Governor Jared Polis declared last Saturday as MeatOut Day in the State of Colorado. In the proclamation announcing the day, he mentioned health benefits, animal cruelty and environmental concerns as reasons that Coloradans should forego eating meat on March 20.
The reaction to the designation was swift and angry as ranchers and supporters of agriculture expressed their dissatisfaction to what they considered as personal attacks from a Governor who they weren’t too happy with even before the proclamation.
State Senator Jerry Sonnenberg, a rancher from Sterling whose district includes a huge part of eastern Colorado that is largely dependent on agriculture, led the charge. Shortly after Polis made the designation, Sonnenberg gave a speech on the Senate floor where he became more and more angry as he explained how offended he and his constituents were about the Governor’s action. He even suggested the slight against agriculture could lead to the National Western Stock Show losing out on groups that may move their activities from the stock show to Oklahoma.
And that was just the beginning, more than 15 counties have passed resolutions designating March 20 as “MeatIn” Days or other titles to support agriculture and encourage people to eat meet. Greg Brophy, who preceded Sonnenberg in the Senate said in a Facebook post, “Polis wants March 20 to be a meat-free day. It’s your duty to eat bacon, burgers and steak for each meal that day.”
Polis responded by saying that he issues hundreds of proclamations every year and that he has otherwise been active in his support of agriculture. But suggesting that Coloradans eat no meet on March 20 seems to have been tone deaf at best and an attack on one of Colorado’s most important industries at worst.
Polis clearly has both the right and authority to issue proclamations on anything he wishes, but through his time as Governor and as a member of congress, you would expect him to be more sensitive about how this action would be perceived in rural parts of our state. As we have seen widening belief by rural Coloradans of an urban-rural divide based on a plethora of issues including COVID restrictions, gun control, broadband availability and the role of government, any real or perceived slight is taken very seriously in rural Colorado. A proclamation encouraging people in our state not to eat meet while suggesting that people who do are risking their health and contributing to animal cruelty was probably not such a good idea.
Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie.