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.


Vanilla Rose said...

You would think she had an assistant who could have "kinda" got her a banana or a peanut butter sandwich, or something. But mistakes happen. The worrying thing is why she's not asking BK why they can't be bothered to make a vegan burger. For those times when there's nowhere else open or whatever, and not all of us are film stars with assistants!

Vanilla Rose said...

PS Sorry I didn't get time to write a bit more.

Pierce said...

Man, that movie must have had the smallest craft service table in history. I mean this shouldn't come as a surprise considering how often celebrity "vegans" aren't in fact vegan and aren't aware of vegan issues. Further more, she works with PETA, which calls her a vegetarian on their site. Not surprising at all that she thinks vegetarian is "better" than consuming meat.

jessy said...

i've been on her kind diet site and read her book and she even says in there "sometimes i eat a little cheese...". it's irritating. vegans don't go around intentionally eating animal products, and she SHOULD have known that the BK "veggie" burger wasn't vegan. she's got people working for her and it makes me angry that she just kinda played dumb. it saddens me that some people don't take veganism seriously, especially someone who has the power and ability to use their celebrity "status" to advocate a cruelty-free lifestyle! :( she's advocating eating animals and their products when there's "no other option" - i say, bullsh*t, there's always another option - and if there really isn't - then just skip that meal and skip out on making a cruel choice - you won't starve to death. argh!

LoncheraV said...

I agree with what Jessy says. And what exactly does she mean by "desperate" anyway? Was it the choice between the veggie burger and dying? Hardly.

There is always a choice when you take animal interests seriously, which is not really the case with her, unfortunately. What vegan goes out unprepared? I mean really? I always bring my own food, even if it is a pain to carry it around, and even if I have to eat it cold because there is no way to re heat it before I eat it. Decisions people, decisions.

Eric said...

Further, a 'vegan' playing a butter sculptor? WTF? FAIL. Etc.

Crystal said...

I think there's a big difference between eating a veggie burger with a tiny amount of dairy and eggs and eating an egg and cheese omelet. Eggs and dairy are no better than meat, but we should excuse people for errors in judgement. Some people can't skip meals because of health reasons (or they just feel like crap when they haven't eaten) and if there is genuinely nothing else to eat it won't be the end of the world if they eat a non-vegan veggie burger as a last resort. I took a road trip with my vegan friend before I was vegan and a lot of places we passed had zero vegan food in the entire city, and a veggie burger was the closest thing. We ended up getting cans of beans and veggies at the super market and eating them cold but someone might not have the option of stopping at the super market and finding a way to open cans without a can opener.

At one time or another we have all probably unintentionally eating eggs or diary, even if due to a waiter or friend's misunderstanding of a food item.

Bree said...

I'm sorry but I cannot judge her as harshly as you do. She ate it, she made a mistake, she corrected herself, she moved on. For you to judge her so harshly is disgusting. She does a lot of good and for her to eat a non-vegan veggie burger when she's hungry, yea that's okay. There's no reason why you should feel offended and judge her so critically for her actions. I'm sure you're no perfect vegan, I'm pretty sure you've slipped on the cheese factor, I have several thousand times. Have you ever been to burger king the staff are complete idiots, they know not what's in their food at all. And Alicia has managed to take veganism to the forefront and convert (or at least lesson the meat consumption) a lot of people and brought the issues to a public sphere. Jessey For her to say "I eat a little cheese" was her way of saying "Hey I'm not perfect sometimes I mess up and make mistakes" and I'm pretty sure she mentioned so in the book as well. You guys are way to crittical of people and it's vegans like you who make me not want to tell other people I'm vegan. Lighten up man!

Tim Gier said...

I think that it's easy to justify eating eggs & dairy now and then. It's even easy to eat meat now and then. All one has to do is forget about the animals that are being used as food factories to satisfy our appetites.

Veganism, without a commitment to the moral status of animals as beings possessed of, and in charge of, their own lives, is just another fad diet.

I expect very little from celebrities, and they seldom disappoint.

Anonymous said...

yes there is a difference between eating a tradional beef-cheese-bacon-with mayo burger and vegie burger with eggs and dairy, but eating it means you're not a vegan

there are no shades of grey with veganism, there is no hyphen ovo-vegan or lacto-vegan, either you are or your not, end of story

1990081113 said...


I understand that some people cannot skip a meal for health reasons (such as hypoglycemia), but typically those people are aware of this, and should be prepared when they know they will be on the go. Larabars and Luna Bars are great for travel when you need a quick bite to eat, but can't find any other sources of vegan food.

The point is, Alicia Silverstone should have asked; you don't assume everything is vegan, and then ask about the ingredients later for the sake of convenience. It's pretty much common knowledge that veggie burgers often contain eggs and dairy, not to mention the bun, and the toppings used. I've been to restaurants with my family, and most of the time when I ask about the ingredients in the black bean burger, they contain eggs, and/or dairy. However, it is one thing to accidentally eat something with animal ingredients, or to forget to ask about ingredients, and another to promote that very same product after you clearly know it is not vegan. There is no "flirting" with the prospect of justice for those who are oppressed. There is only a firm refusal to contribute to those injustices. It is evident that Alicia does not take animal rights seriously enough to see it as an uncompromising moral obligation. Not only is she exploiting society's non-commitment to animal rights with her nonchalant attitude regarding the consumption of eggs and dairy, but in effect, the very animals who suffer from speciesism. All for the sake of marketing her book. It's a real shame.

Vegan4Life said...

I don't know that much about Silverstone (I mean I haven't been following her so called veganism), but after reading this it's clear to me she isn't vegan. Anyone taking animal rights seriously would not eat a "veggie" burger without asking about the contents first and I don't really see how a vegan would eat food from a non vegan fast food restaurant anyway. Fast food places cook everything on the same grill and in the same oil, so anything coming from there isn't even vegetarian.

Sandra C. said...

This doesn't surprise me. I saw her on Oprah promoting her book a while back and she announced that sometimes she gives into her cravings for cheese. Usually it's when she's drinking; She might slip up and have a little cheese. And, now millions of viewers assume vegans eat a little cheese once in a while when they get cravings, because, you know, cheese is just SO hard to give up. Even vegans can't live without cheese. Veganism means abstaining from animal cruelty, except when one gets a craving for cheese. Then screw the animals.

How can we expect the public to start taking animal exploitation seriously, if we as professed vegans don't take it seriously? Thank you for writing this Mylene.

LoncheraV said...

Sabrina, if you have "slipped on the cheese factor several thousand times" then what's even the point? You either are vegan or you are not. Eating cheese occasionally does not make you vegan. It makes you a picky omnivore.

I haven't eaten cheese since I decided to go vegan, not even once. It has nothing to do with convenience, or whether it tastes good or not, the fact that it is a product of exploitation and death of innocent animals is enough to make it repulsive to me. And so it should be for anyone who takes animal interests seriously. You are irritated about us just expecting people to live up to the ethics they profess? So what? Should we applaud people for eating animal products every now and then because the alternative (you know, being actually vegan) is "too much"? Are you kidding?

Veganism is not "too much" it's the least we can do.

Jeff Melton said...

In response to Crystal: In any grocery store in the United States, there are dozens if not hundreds of vegan products someone can purchase that don't come in a can. Even at convenience stores, vegan things like pretzels and nuts can be found. You can walk into any Taco Bell, for example, in the country and order various things without cheese that are vegan. So, your claim that you were once in a place with "zero vegan food in the entire city" is ludicrous. I'm not sure why you're trying so hard to make excuses for Alicia Silverstone, because it's pretty obvious that she could have one way or another gotten something she knew was vegan to eat, and she didn't make an effort to.

In response to Sabrina: People get criticized for all kinds of behavior and nobody has a problem with these behaviors being criticized. Yet somehow if Alicia Silverstone claims to be vegan, obviously makes no effort to obtain vegan food in a situation where some effort is required, and goes on to proclaim the non-vegan burger she eats "delicious" and "yummy" and recommends that other people eat it, calling out her hypocrisy is "judgmental" in a way that, say, calling out a politician for promoting "family values" and cheating on his wife is not judgmental? I mean, come on, how hard is it to see that this is no mere "mistake," but a failure on her part to take her supposed ethical commitment seriously?

All of us were once non-vegan. We wouldn't have become vegan in the first place if nobody had ever pointed out to us what was wrong with consuming animal products. As for the notion that we should "lighten up" and not be critical of someone consuming or promoting the consumption of foods containing only a modest amount of animal products, should we also "lighten up" and tolerate a little bit of racism, for example, while we're at it?

Barbara DeGrande said...

I was on the set of Swordfish, the John Travolta film, as a bit player and believe me, they had steaks for lunch. And I had NO PROBLEM eating what was vegan on that table. There were PAs all over the place - not a problem for any star. I agree with Tim Gier, best not to expect too much from celebrities.

Patty H. said...

Don't celebrities often use Twitter as an advertising devise? AND Hasn't PeTA worked with BK on various projects (CAK, for example)? AND Isn't Alicia Silverstone working with PeTA?

Maybe I'm reading too much into this.

Vanilla Rose said...

@ Sabrina, yes, people make mistakes. But if Ms Silverstone admits to eating cheese on her own site, wtf is she doing claiming to be vegan.

Unknown said...

I did read that BK veggie burgers we vegan. I got the info from a site for the vegan traveler or road trip or something. Not like I would support BK but it was nice to think they made an effort to have something vegan. Dang.

Too bad when people slip up or make bad decisions. But like Abe Lincoln said, if you look for the bad in people, you will surely find it". I am glad that Ms. Silverstone is as upbeat and positive about veganism as she is though. She may not be a true vegan but I think she has managed to grab a lot of attention about the lifestyle and to get people to be curious about it is good. I didn't start out as a full vegan. I learned more and more as I went on. It was easy to implement the changes, I just didn't know all the ins and outs of products, practices, etc. I do the best I can to not use or support the use of animal products and more and more things are easily changed in my life as I learn.

Although I don't condone the slip-ups on a personal level, as in I don't do it at all nor do I feel the need to, but I do try to appreciate even the smallest positivity Ms. Silverstone has shown towards veganism.

Unknown said...

@Scara... I believe they use to be when they first came out. like ages ago, but the buns they came with were not vegan and you simply would need to get a vegan bun I forget which ones were vegan friendly.

Its been ages now though and they might have a new recipe. hell I believe the subway veggie max way back in the day may have been vegan too. *shrugs* I don't really eat fast food though, so I might not be the best resource.

I do think that most every vegan has made a blunder before, and has eaten something they "thought" was vegan and later found out it wasn't. I know I have, a handful of times. so I suspect having made a mistake, totally taints one and so one can not be vegan from the that day forth.

Least people know the word vegan, and its spreading awareness and making people research on it. whether she is vegan or not, saying "vegan" has to help if even a little bit.

M said...

Scara and phact0rri: I'm afraid that you're sort of missing the point. Yes, vegans slip up. Is it 100% possible to eat food that is 100% animal-free all of the time? Probably not. The point is, though, that as vegans, the onus is on us to actually consciously seek out animal-free options. Silverstone didn't ask before eating her non-vegan food item; she found out the next day. As a vegan celebrity on the set of a catered movie set, it should have been a no-brainer for her to have had some sort of animal-free food available. At the very, very least, she could have--out of personal conviction as a vegan--ensured that she would not have ended up in a situation where she may have been short of options re: what to eat. I do this everyday and I'm not a wealthy vegan celebrity. All that aside, though, my point was that regardless of her own screw up, Silverstone went on to promote the non-vegan BK Veggie Burger publicly as being better than other non-vegan options (i.e. meat-based hamburgers) for both 1) vegan wannabes who don't take the interests of animals seriously enough to actually go vegan, and 2) vegans who are "desperate".

Scara wrote:

She may not be a true vegan but I think she has managed to grab a lot of attention about the lifestyle and to get people to be curious about it is good.

There is no morally significant difference between consuming animal flesh or animal secretions. It is highly misleading for someone to assert otherwise. Also, for someone who is supposedly being pro-vegan, the only message she is sending out by publicly endorsing animal consumption is that it's OK to consume animals -- that it's OK for vegans to consume animals (and their products). How on earth could this be "good"? How are you getting people to think about seriously going vegan if you're going to shrug off the significance of your own consumption choices and then turn around and tell other non-vegans and vegans that it's OK for them to shrug off the significance of their own consumption choices, as well? We're not going to shift any paradigms about non-human animal use by continuing to promote animal use. Silverstone promotes animal use, and the fact that she uses her celebrity status to do it and to try to do it under the pretense of promoting veganism is wrongheaded and actually repugnant.

Matthew Finateri said...

"I think there's a big difference between eating a veggie burger with a tiny amount of dairy and eggs and eating an egg and cheese omelet."

Yes, I suppose this is true in one respect: You could say that because the veggie burger contained fewer animal products, that less suffering and death went directly into Silverstone's mouth... and therefore she engaged in a less harmful act, than if she were to eat a cheese omelette.

In the same sense we can also say that a rapist who rapes without inflicting physical pain on their victim, has engaged in a less harmful act than if they were to actually inflict physical pain.

But the reality is that we would never draw a moral line between different forms of rape- "gentle" or not- so why do many of us (who claim to be fighting speciesism) draw a moral line between foods that contain fewer amounts of animal ingredients and those that are made entirely of animal ingredients? Its speciesist to do so. We need to start thinking more clearly.

Unknown said...

Just to get your point: Are you saying, that it is wrong in principle to admit tastyness of animal products because by doing so one advertises them?

I actually found that by admitting prcisely that, vegan advocacy can actually become a little more clear to some, who think that we are doing this because meat or milk is just "not tasty" or "disgusting" or for other convenience-issues. And why would that be a wrong thing to concede after all if we actually want people to educate into the abolition of animal exploitation *regardless* of how tasty or useful or how ever convenient it would be to do so? Why is it then a bad thing to admit that animal products are in fact very convenient?

Abby Bean said...

Great article, Mylene; I am a new fan of your blog.

djadvance said...

You're missing the most important part - those burgers fucking suck.

Anonymous said...

dear people,

I am new to this discussion but I do agree with most of you that it is a great damage to the image of vegans to make such mistakes or even spread wrong messages!

But I like to put a question out their that I pose myself quite often:
How much failure do we allow ourselves as vegans?

I am totally with you, that you shouldn't trust anybody when it comes down to food ingredients! Specially not if the product comes from a meat selling place like BK. But I acknowledged many situations where I stood in front of the grocery shelf and read the ingredients and the product seems free of animal ingredients and later you find out it's not! Every time it hurts a lot to realize that I did wrong. I try to avoid that, by informing my self up front. But you are on the road and let's face it you might have this situation.

It is clear to me that this is a rhetorical or philosophical question and there is no clear answer cos everybody got a life before veganism, and you might still have animal products in your household. So, how perfect does a vegan have to be?
I'm happy to here your opinion.


Kris said...

My vegan fiance is Type 1 diabetic- if he doesn't eat sugar or carbs asap when his blood sugar falls he'll go into a coma and could die- and in the 3 years or so that he has been vegan he has only *once* during this time been in the situation where only animal products were available to him which he had no choice but to eat. Now that's desperate. Silverstone, unless she has a similar medical issue, is pathetic, and makes matters worse by encouraging others to purchase this product.