Eight Phoenix-area jails are turning vegetarian. That is great news for both inmates’ health and for the animals they would have eaten, but Fox news is working very hard to convince viewers that removing meat from the menu is cruel and unusual punishment.
The man who ordered the change, Maricopa County’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio, is notorious for his efforts to deprive and demean prisoners. His bizarre innovations include housing them in tents and forcing them to wear only pink underwear. He justifies his initiatives as money-savers.
His decision to stop serving meat is a great move: it will improve prisoners’ health and spare countless animals the relentlessly agonizing lives and horrific deaths food producers sentence them to. But Arpaio doesn’t seem interested in any of that and probably doesn’t even believe it. His interest is counting the $100,000 he expects to save by feeding inmates soy instead of beef.
Local Fox reporter Troy Hayden seems to have chosen his angle on the story before he even stepped foot in one of the jails: soy is gross, and food without meat is so repulsive it’s funny.
He focuses exclusively on a dish prisoners call “slop,” a stew that replaces beef with soy chips. He never reports the prisoners’ feelings about the new meatless fare. Instead he offers his own opinions, none of which is good.
Assuming his disgust is unfeigned, here are six reasons Hayden may have turned his nose up at the stew:
1) It is produced in large quantities in an industrial self-mixing vat. If Hayden has spent much time in cafeterias or dining halls, he might remember that most machine-made food doesn’t look so good. Mass-produced entrees aren’t big on presentation.
2) Hayden hears stew and expects to taste meat. When he doesn’t, he is disappointed.
3) Soy chips aren’t the best ingredient to replace beef in this dish. The texture of TVP (textured vegetable protein) is closer to beef chips and the flavor is great. My non-veg relatives keep it stocked in their freezer for their delicious taco salads.
4) The stew is prison food, so visitors presume it is bad, perhaps as part of the generally punitive living conditions.
5) Choosing recipes designed around plant-based foods could be more successful than trying to make them into something they’re not. Hayden had no objection to the appearance of the green beans, though they contained no animal flesh, but quickly returned his attention to the stew, which tried to make a plant product look, taste and feel the same as meat. Or he may have had the camera point only at the “slop” because the other vegetarian food didn’t look bad.
6) The stew lacked spices and tasted bland. Newsflash for the news reporter: the meat stew you prefer needs spices too. The blandness isn’t the fault of the soy but of the cook.
Hayden and Fox aren’t the only ones spinning this story into a paean to meat. The Inquisitr headline is, “Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s Latest Psychological Torture? Making Prisoners Go Vegetarian.” The article relies on Hayden’s Fox slop video. Inquisitr posits that Arpaio’s hidden goal is to “to emasculate inmates” by serving them soy, and questions whether they will “survive vegetarianism.”
Lazy, hackneyed journalism is nothing new, so these outlets’ regurgitation of groundless, stale stereotypes that vegetarians are deprived and effeminate isn’t surprising — but it’s still stupid.
Photo credit: Thinkstock/iStock
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