Friday, May 08, 2009

PETA's 'Mister Manners' Tells Vegans to Eat With (and Even Kiss!) Meat-Eaters

A press release was issued by PETA today to promote a new book called The Animal Activist's Handbook. Co-written by welfarists Vegan Outreach's Matt Ball and PETA Vice-President Bruce Friedrich, as well as endorsed by both welfarists Peter Singer and Matthew Scully? Buyer beware!

My favourite bit from the press release: "[Friedrich] argues against questioning waiters in restaurants about the ingredients in menu items". Uh, so what? Don't eat? Pretend you're not vegan? So now PETA is saying that if I adhere to an ethical framework that permeates every aspect of my life, including what I eat, that it's "impolite" and somehow harmful to the animal rights cause to find out if what's offered on a menu is suitable for me to eat? I'll guess that they'd probably OK my doing so if I had a life-threatening food allergy, so why should merely asking be portrayed as socially unacceptable if you're doing it for ethical reasons? Why seek to shame people for merely informing themselves?

The full text:

New Book Tutors Activists on the Finer Points of Being the Biggest Nags in Town (and at the Table)

For Immediate Release:
May 8, 2009

Jake Smith 757-622-7382

Dear Editor,

That irritating animal rights activist who never stops bugging you about your leather shoes and complaining about meat at the office potluck is about to get a makeover--courtesy of a new book by PETA Vice President Bruce Friedrich, a man with a mighty bullhorn and a life mission. Along with colleague Matt Ball, Friedrich has authored The Animal Activist's Handbook, a first-of-its-kind guide that explains to activists that if they want to be effective, they'd better brush up on their social skills and appearance, or people may just ignore the message and shoot the messenger.

In the book, Friedrich--a vegan for more than 20 years--knocks down quite a few of the "sacred cows" of the animal rights movement. Taking on the role of PETA's "Mister Manners," Friedrich explains the importance of socializing and breaking bread with meat-eaters--and even dating them. After all, he explains, boycotting holiday meals or applying a vegan litmus test to our love lives will only alienate friends and family and cut down on our dating pool and sphere of influence.

Friedrich gives specific examples of what to say in "mixed" company when the topic of eating meat comes up. He suggests that meat-eaters should be fed faux meat rather than ethnic or other less familiar foods as their introduction to vegetarianism, and he argues against questioning waiters in restaurants about the ingredients in menu items.

The book has gotten raves from a diverse group of reviewers that includes Rory Freedman, number one New York Times bestselling coauthor of Skinny Bitch; Peter Singer, professor of bioethics at Princeton University; and Matthew Scully, former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and Republican presidential candidate John McCain. Scully wrote that Friedrich's book "is full of good sense, thoughtful advice, and practical action on helping all of us to reduce the needless suffering of our fellow creatures. I recommend it."

With an inspiring foreword by PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk, The Animal Activist's Handbook also addresses several tangential issues, including why striving to make the world a better place is the most rewarding endeavor anyone can undertake as well as why Friedrich and his coauthor believe that animal liberation is not only possible but also inevitable.

I hope you that will consider running a profile on Friedrich and The Animal Activist's Handbook.

Best regards,

Jake Smith
Media Coordinator


Steve said...

First, I would never date anyone who isn't at least a vegetarian. I always like to make the parapell, though it may be a stretch, to racism. If you hate-- with a passion--- racism, you would never date someone who was in anyway racist. Things just wouldn't go well. It's the same with veg*ism in my mind.

There is one point in this post I disagree with however.....One of my best vegan friends and I always disagree about this too:

I think when you go out to eat, ordering food that you don't know if it's 100% vegan is OK. If you know something isn't vegan, obviously don't get it, but this is why I think ignorance is ok in this situation: Veganism are already thought of as crazy and a unrealistic positions for most people. When they see you asking about every little ingredient when you go out, they automatically discount ever going vegan. When you order something like a normal person, at a normal restaurant, veganism becomes a little more mainstream-- plus it makes going vegan appear to be much easier.

In a non-vegan world, being 99.98% vegan and being 99.99% vegan be a huge difference in terms of work. And is that .01% worth discouraging people to go vegan? If that .01% includes going to restaurants and asking about every single ingredient or not eating at family dinners, you are discounting a lot of people. I think just being around people, having them notice that you are a vegan helps a lot. It almost forces themselves to think about going vegan. I think that when you become obsessive about it, it turns people off like crazy. People are too lazy to even go vegan normally, don't give them any more reasons to not do it!

I'm sure plenty of people disagree with what was said above, however I think that's awesome!

Rock on Vegans!!

M said...

I've been thinking over your comment today and wanted to respond to the point with which you disagree from a couple of angles.

I see a very firm line between accidentally consuming something that is animal-derived (i.e. when you had every reason to believe that it wasn't) and choosing to put yourself in a situation where you may very likely end up consuming something that's animal-derived (e.g. not asking about ingredients). I mean, when anyone starts talking about percentages and veganism, it makes it sound as if veganism is about "purity", which it isn't. On the other hand, it is very much about intention and the conscious choices we make following through on those intentions. And those intentions and that follow-through should always be focused on avoiding the consumption of animals, whether or not that avoidance is 100% possible.

Because of this, not asking what's in a dish while knowing that there's a possibility that it will contain animal products--it's just not vegan. You're consciously choosing to "maybe" eat animal products. And why? Because of fears that people might think vegans are "crazy"?

If anything, I think that not asking what's in a dish sends out a worse message that vegans aren't really serious about eschewing the consumption of animals. Even worse, it sends out a very clear message that vegans aren't ethically consistent and that they're willing to compromise their ethics and values for the sake of appearances. It sends a clear message that other people's opinions of them matter more than the lives of those animals those other people call 'food'.

Publicly turning a blind eye to possibly eating animal products may make one seem like what you call a "normal" person (which in case would mean an "omnivore"). You say that it would make veganism "a little more mainstream" and that it "makes going vegan appear to be much easier". It sure would make going vegan appear to be much easier; unfortunately, it would also--by definition--make it no longer be going vegan.

We're already seeing the watering down of the term 'vegetarian' as it's co-opted by the mainstream. We now have part-time "vegetarians" who only eat animals on some days and we have purported fish-eating "vegetarians". If mainstream acceptance of veganism means a watering down of the term to include consciously choosing to not avoid eating animals (e.g.turning a blind eye by not asking about ingredients), then what's the point?

Unknown said...

Strangely when I've spent any time with Bruce F he has been the one to ask about ingredients in a cafe - for example whether chips are cooked in with other things or if the burgers had quorn in - because at the time I was too shy to ask. (it was around the time I was going back to being vegan from vegetarian so just finding my voice) It was some of the omnis in my friendship group and family who were convinced that asking would cause massive problems. Having said that it is necessary to ask politely - getting stroppy (which I have to say several vegans of my acquaintance have done) isn't helpful.
I do agree with the authors on one point - having omni friends is a good thing. Yes it's horrible to watch them eat sometimes, but if it stops them thinking that vegans are weird alien types doing something completely impossible for them then it's worth it.
Bruce's partner is vegan, mine just vegetarian - draw your own conclusions ;)

Anonymous said...

This is Friedrich's way of telling people they shouldn't have the right to know if the foods they eat contain GMO ingredients. Friedrich is just another Monsanto ass kisser.