Thursday, May 13, 2010

Flirting With Hypocrisy -- A 'Kinda' Diet

On Twitter, May 12, Alicia Silverstone spilled the beans that she'd eaten a BK Veggie Burger from Burger King while on the set of whatever project she's working on (probably the movie "Butter", a comedy to be released in 2012 that's about a competitive butter carver). So why did the self-described vegan and promoter of a "Kind Diet" eat a non-vegan burger? According to Silverstone, "cuz it was the only thing around that [she] could eat". I'll admit that I haven't spent a lot of time on movie sets. It's my understanding, though, that these things are generally catered and that at the very least, a vegan celebrity expecting to be on a movie set would be able to arrange to have vegan food made available to her -- even if it had to be ordered out. And of course, depending on location, one always has the option of packing a lunch to bring to work (I know, I know -- that doesn't sound very glamorous).

BK Veggie Burgers have been discussed to death in vegan circles because they're absolutely not animal-free. Even Burger King is quick to point out on its site that the burgers contain dairy and eggs, stating alongside the ingredients they list for it: "This is not a vegan product". So Alicia ate first (tweeting that
"it was DELICIOUS") and asked later, finding out the following day that what she'd eaten wasn't vegan. Nobody's perfect, right? We all make mistakes. It's easy to point out that Silverstone could have at least asked first. However, what I found most troubling were the following tweets:

"if you are in a crunch and need a super quick yummy flirt meal, the burger king veggie burger is so yummie..."

"so i wont eat it again cause i know whats in it, but if you are a flirt, or you are desperate and need to eat something, get it!!"

"much better than getting a regular burger!"
So vegan Silverstone won't eat it again, since she knows "what's in it", but decided to use Twitter to suggest to vegan-wannabes or vegans who are "desperate" (apparently, like vegan Hollywood starlets on movie sets who can't find anything to eat) to purchase and eat the product. Furthermore, she added that it's somehow "much better" than getting a regular burger. Why? Because it's meatless? One almost wonders why Silverstone bothers cutting dairy and eggs out of her own "kind" diet if she thinks that eating the flesh of animals is what's most ethically problematic.

It's frustrating enough to read an account of someone who should know better and who is in a position of great privilege who failed to take her veganism seriously enough to ask a few basic questions before consuming animal products. What's worse, though, is that she would assert that those animal products are now off limits for her, but recommend them for others "flirting" with veganism or for "desperate" vegans. And state that somehow, a burger containing dairy and eggs is "better" than a regular hamburger, conveying the false message that eating animal flesh is more of a moral problem than consuming animal secretions.

MFIoF Podcast #1 - "What Is Veganism?"

In this podcast, I asked "What Is Veganism?" to come up with a starting point for future discussions.

Apologies in advance for the technical glitches -- it'll all get better! If you listen closely, you can hear Sammy-cat scolding me at one point during the recording for not paying attention to him.

Friday, May 07, 2010

Got Milk?

Every year around Mother's Day, I notice more vegans and animal rights advocates posting reminders in online message forums, via social networking and on blogs about the forgotten mothers in the dairy industry. I stumbled upon a piece by someone called Jocelyn Hoppa when nosing around online this morning that I initially figured would sound a lot like the other articles in circulation ("On This Mother's Day, Take a Moment and Think of the Plight of Mother Cows"). She writes:

Generally, once the mother cow gives birth, her baby is taken away from her. Can you imagine? Apparently mother cows bellow for days looking for their babies. Then, the mothers are hooked up and milked, which is cold and painful—a very different experience from that if she were nurturing her young. Then, after enduring this for years, they get turned into cheap hamburger.
And then she even offers up health-related concerns about consuming dairy products:
If a story like this does inspire you to give up dairy, you should know that humans do not necessarily need to consume dairy for health. Calcium is found in plenty of plant foods, like leafy greens, sesame seeds (again, who knew?), fortified juices and cereals. A lot of people make the case that dairy products actually make us less healthy, because the saturated fat clogs our arteries and also its protein has an acidic nature that aggravates osteoporosis. Which certainly contradicts the notion of drinking milk for calcium for stronger bones.
She spends most of the article communicating that she thinks that cows are mistreated and that dairy is unhealthy, yet also throws in the following:
I'm not vegan or anything, but this is a horrifying depiction of a process that, up until reading this note, I knew very little about. Why I ever thought cows just produced such large quantities of milk without having a ton of babies is beyond me.
So, never minding the part where she's managed to overcome her previous understanding of how mammals spontaneously produce milk out of thin air, after all of this: "I'm not vegan or anything"? At the very least, you'd half-expect her to express an intention to go vegan, but it doesn't happen. Obviously, presenting someone with welfarist arguments (involving what she, herself, calls "horrifying" facts about the treatment of nonhumans) and information concerning the unhealthiness of consuming their flesh or secretions don't quite do the trick. Adding further weight to my hunch is the first comment left in response to her article, in which someone recommends Jonathan Safran Foer's beautifully written piece of garbage, Eating Animals, to supposedly learn more about how the treatment of non-humans in "factory farming" is actually "much worse". It's no real surprise that the commentator adds to this that dairy (the discussion of which is pretty much omitted in non-vegan Foer's book) is the "least of [her] worries".

So how best, then, to educate others about veganism? Talk to them about the right all sentient animals have to not be used as things; focus on how their sentience leaves them with an interest in living out their own lives as individuals -- not as our property. It's important to know all of the ancillary reasons that consuming the flesh or secretions of other animals is wrong, but it's crucial to know and understand the most important reason. Start at the root by educating yourself about animal rights by reading Gary L. Francione's Introduction to Animal Rights: Your Child or Your Dog.

For more information on abolitionist animal rights, please visit the
Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach website.

Thursday, May 06, 2010

Bits and Blurbs in the Media about Veganism

The news has been out for a few days -- Mike Tyson proclaimed that he's gone vegan. What exactly he means by "vegan" is questionable, however, since a few months ago, Animal Planet announced that Tyson would be starring in its new reality show about pigeon racing, trained by experts while competing against pigeon-racing pros. From "green gossip" website Ecorazzi:

“I’m honored to be a part of this monumental show on Animal Planet,” says Tyson, who’s first ever fight as a child was in defense of his birds. “I feel a great pride acting as an official representative for all the pigeon fancier’s out there. I want people to see why we love these birds."
Tyson echoed what dozens of "happy meat" farmers have been claiming to the public for several months now through mouthpieces like Jonathan Safran Foer -- i.e. that the exploitation of sentient non-humans is admirable, and that it even involves something akin to love, as long as their treatment appears "right". The thing is, though, that there's nothing "right" about enslaving living creatures and using them as toys for human pleasure. There's certainly nothing "vegan" about it, anyway. I can only surmise that Tyson's interpretation of veganism embraces that unfortunate misrepresentation that attempts to limit it to its dietary component. I suspect we'll read more about it in the future -- maybe even groan about it a little more, since Tyson appears to be working hard to make his comeback as a kinder gentler sort.


Speaking of celebrities (mis)flinging the word "vegan" around: Glee star Lea Michele was being discussed by vegans on Twitter a few months back for having self-identified herself as such. According to teen gossip site JSYK, however, Michele recently clarified just what kind of "vegan" she is:
[I]n her recent interview with Asos magazine, the Glee star says that she's actually a macrobiotic vegan, who is reintroducing fish into her diet.
According to JSYK:
Even though a vegan diet is known to not include any animal foods, the macrobiotic vegan regimen does make allowances for fish 2-3 times per week. This is why the reintroduction of fish into Lea's diet still follows her original principles.
Principles, huh? I guess it's all good, since Michele (along with a number of other non-vegan celebrities) is also a huge supporter of PETA's anti-fur campaigns. I guess that too "still follows" Michele's "original principles", which obviously reflect that the use of some animals is somehow more morally significant than the use of others.