COLORADO, USA — Coloradans were encouraged to experience a plant-based diet Saturday in honor of MeatOut day, made official by a proclamation from Gov. Jared Polis.
The initiative has drawn Colorado's vegetarian and vegan community's support but rankled the state's ranchers.
In addition to the MeatOut events in honor of the day, there were also a number of "Meat-In" gatherings for supporters of Colorado's meat industry.
One such event was in Hugo, where city leaders officially declared March 20 as Meat-In Day. Hundreds turned out for an event on Main Street, where area ranchers and livestock producers served up free beef and pork burgers.
To Hugo Mayor and veterinarian Dr. Lora Bledsoe, it's about more than a dietary preference. Bledsoe said Meat-In is a celebration of the town's heritage.
"Hugo is a very historical town that is based on the history of cattle and cattle production in the state of Colorado," she said.
Bledsoe added the livestock industry is a major economic driver for Lincoln County, contributing more than $67 million to the local economy.
"I'd say we're pretty outraged at Polis' MeatOut proclamation," she said. "I think it shows a lack of understanding of the economic importance our industry plays at a state level, as well as our intention and our skillset with the animals that we raise."
Polis' proclamation cites animal cruelty prevention as a reason for a growing number of people reducing their meat consumption.
"We really take offense to that because we always put our animals' care ahead of our own care," she said.
But to Matt Coates, CEO of vegetarian restaurant chain Meta Burger, MeatOut Day is simply an effort to encourage Coloradans to try something different for a day and explore the benefits of a plant-based diet.
"As the population grows, just the shift to consuming more plants in your diet and adding them to your diet is really going to benefit human health, our planet, as well as animals, obviously."
As for the backlash against Polis' proclamation, Coates said he respects other people's views and understands how some people could feel their voices aren't being heard.
"But at the end of the day, this is just one day for people to [try plant-based food]. We have 364 days where people can go out and consume meat," he said.
According to MeatOut Colorado's website, more than 35 million Americans have explored a plant-based diet and reduced their consumption of meat, dairy and eggs since MeatOut Day was launched nationally in 1985.
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