PETA upped the ante Thursday, jumping headfirst into a feud involving the Department of Agriculture, the meat lobby and Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley.
In response to a controversial tweet -- now retracted -- by the USDA in support of the "Meatless Mondays" program, Grassley Tweeted he was planning on eating an extra helping of meat in order to "compensate for stupid USDA recommendation abt a meatless Monday."
But on Thursday, PETA posted a scathing missive on its website, bemoaning the fact that the senior senator is apparently "anxious to show his campaign contributors that he will fight to the death (literally, perhaps) over Americans' right to be sick and fat."
The post, written by Alisa Mullins, continues on to say: "We're taking bets (place yours in the comments section below) on how long it will take Sen. Grassley to succumb to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, or some other meat-related disease."
In a statement to POLITICO, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk noted that the 78-year-old politician must surely "already have high blood pressure... Were he a physician instead of a politician, his attempt to keep factory-farm funding by promoting meat consumption would constitute malpractice.”
The senator's office was not amused by the colorful rhetoric, and spokesperson Jill Kozeny slammed PETA for criticizing the senator.
"The comments from PETA are shameful and way outside the mainstream,” Kozeny said in a statement to POLITICO. “Sen. Grassley is representing his constituents. He’d like USDA to remember who it’s supposed to work for, too.”
The controversy began on Monday when the Agriculture Department, which promotes American food products including meat, tweeted in support of the "Meatless Mondays" campaign, only to be met with swift criticisms from the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
Founded in conjunction with the school of Public Health at Johns Hopkins University, Meatless Mondays aims to provide information and recipes for healthy, environmentally friendly meat-free options, according to its website.
"Our goal is to help you reduce your meat consumption by 15% in order to improve your personal health and the health of the planet," the site explains.
At least one of Grassley's peers thinks the conflict has been blown out of proportion.
Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin recently issued less-than-serious call for "Fishless Fridays," the Gazette reports. The practice would offset any drop in consumption of fish by devout Catholics observing the church's no meat on Fridays rule.
“We need ‘Fishless Fridays’ now because they are depleting the fishes in the ocean, you know, and that’s getting to be a problem,” Harkin told reporters in jest. Harkin said that he eats his "fair share" of meat, but that the nation should be concentrating on more pressing issues, such as balancing the budget and getting people back to work.