It wasn’t a typical U.S. presidential debate question.
But U.S. Senator Cory Booker from New Jersey, who is seeking the Democratic presidential nomination, also happens to be vegan, which also happens to influence his public policy views.
So during his party’s primary debate last week, he was asked about it.
A debate moderator, Jorge Ramos of ABC News, directed a question at Booker about whether “eating less meat is one way to help the environment.”
It’s something experts have quantified, but has been a source of concern for folks like U.S. President Donald Trump, who worry regulations around climate change could hurt economic growth.
“So should more Americans — including those here in Texas and in Iowa — follow your diet?” Ramos finally asked Booker.
“First of all, I want to say ‘no’ — actually, I want to translate that into Spanish — ‘no,’” Booker replied.
The quip got some laughs.
But Booker is serious about climate change. He turned to a vegan diet in 2014.
And he has said industrialized animal agriculture isn’t good for anyone and that it’s incompatible with protecting the planet’s climate.
I’ve heard story after story about how farmers are struggling to survive because of corporate concentration in the ag sector. We need policies that support family farmers & ranchers—that’s what I’ve fought for in the Senate & will fight for as president. https://t.co/vjNp53iRUz
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) September 14, 2019
Booker does have a comprehensive animal welfare plan.
It covers everything from trophy hunting, animal cruelty laws and habitat protection to bans on puppy mills, shark fin sales, private ownership of primates and big cat, animal testing and the expert of U.S. horses for human consumption.
But back to the debate when he was asked about a vegan diet, and whether Americans should follow suit.
Booker turned it into a discussion about factory farming.
“One of the reasons that I have a bill to put a moratorium on this kind of corporate consolidation is because this factory farming is destroying and hurting our environment, and you see independent family farmers being pushed out of business because of the kind of incentives we are giving that don’t line up with our values,” Booker said. “That’s what I’m calling for.”
The reaction to Booker’s response was varied.
Some applauded it. Some said it didn’t go far enough.
After years of hatred & division, it’s refreshing to hear @CoryBooker speak about healing America & pulling people together to dream big again. I’m inspired by Cory—he’s a unifier & he’s #vegan! He walks the talk when it comes to #ClimateChange. Bite by bite! #Cory2020 #DemDebate
— Jackie Day / Author (@MyVeganJournal) September 13, 2019
Thank you, @CoryBooker for everything you do. But we’d love to see you speak truth to power regarding meat production and climate change. You didn’t have to say everyone HAS to go vegan – but you could’ve spoken about meat reduction at the very least. Just be real. #DemDebate
— Ari Solomon (@VeganAri) September 13, 2019
— Lenny (@lennyleia99) September 13, 2019
Cory Booker’s vegan cred just tanked for me. He had a perfect opportunity to say that science backs a vegan diet for the climate. I guess he was afraid of backlash from the same trolls who stalk us here. Disappointed. A lot.
— threebaddogs Ⓥ (@threebaddogs) September 13, 2019
Wait wait wait, there was a vegan question in the debate for the first time in history — and Cory Booker bunted it??? Politicians, smh. pic.twitter.com/azOvNDy037
— Suzy Welch (@SuzyWelch) September 13, 2019
– Meat consumption reducing dramatically
– Kroger and other giants investing in #plantbased food
– #dairy price falls closing 1000s of farms#vegan #SaturdayMotivation #SaturdayMorning https://t.co/usnZojPFh8
— 🌱 Culinary Conscience ⓥ (@Ethica11y_Vegan) September 14, 2019