National Interest

Vegetarian Jail Inmate Chose Starving Over Being Forced to Eat Animal Products

McDonald, looking thin.
McDonald, looking thin. Photo: Scott James/NYT

Seventy-year-old Dave McDonald of Mill Valley, California, a strict vegetarian for the last 42 years, recently spent three months in a Marin County jail on drug charges that were later dropped. While there, McDonald was refused vegetarian meals on the grounds that he had no religious reason for requiring them, and he refused to eat any of the food provided that contained animal products. Consequently he lost 50 pounds, and now the New York Times and the ACLU are all over the story, and PETA seems to be considering helping him sue the county on the grounds that “a moral position is as strong as a religious conviction.”

McDonald, a shopkeeper whose wares include “jewelry, adult videos, U.F.O. gimcrack and marijuana drug paraphernalia,” had his shop raided by federal agents in March on the basis of a tip that he was selling methamphetamine. The claim turned out to be false, but McDonald nonetheless served 99 days in the slammer, during which time his weight plummeted from 205 pounds to 155.

In nearby San Francisco and Contra Costa Counties, vegetarian meals are served by request — and in ever-progressive S.F., our prisons now provide vegan meals, too. But in Marin, a rep for the jail says such requests have “gotten out of hand,” and they only honor religious and medical needs for special meals. Hear that, Bay Area vegetarians/vegans? Think twice about committing your crimes up north, or you may just starve!

Jail Time Yields a Clash on Vegetarian Meals [NYT]
Related: If a Vegan Made a Bucket List of Foods, Wouldn’t Bacon Make It On There?

Vegetarian Jail Inmate Chose Starving Over Being Forced to Eat Animal Products