With the new movie “Won’t you be my neighbor” in theaters, people are reminded just how caring a person Fred Rogers was. While it doesn’t feature in the movie, Mr Rogers caring attitude was exemplified by his refusal to eat meat. “I don’t want to eat anything that has a mother,” he often said.
Rogers stopped eating meat in the early 1970s, not long after Frances Moore Lappé published Diet for a Small Planet, a major critique of meat production and a compelling argument for a plant-based diet that can help alleviate world hunger.
Rogers, a Christian minister, who believes that treating animals nonviolently and embracing a vegetarian lifestyle are deeply spiritual practices that bear witness to God’s love for animals. “I want to be a vehicle for God, to spread his message of love and peace,” Rogers stated when explaining his vegetarianism in 1983.
It’s no surprise that his vegetarianism had to do with his love for children too. In the 1983 interview, he stated that when children “discover the connection between meal and animals, many children get very concerned about it.”
With this concern in mind, Rogers steadfastly refused to show images of people eating animals on Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. Although a 1982 episode includes footage from a full-service restaurant, there’s not one image of meat, fowl, or fish. And an entire 1984 series on food avoids any mention of eating animals.
In the Neighborhood, animals are for enjoying, nurturing, and loving—not for chewing, swallowing, and digesting. We wish that more TV personalities would adopt this attitude today.