Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My thoughts on Oprah

As if there aren't enough opinions about the Oprah show and how Harpo production staff went vegan for a week, here's one more.

I believe the world should be vegan.  It would be better for the individuals, the environment and the animals.  I also know unequivocally that it is a process and not going to happen like a light switch being turned off.  Or on, depending on where you're standing.  Veganism entails more than just what you eat but here and now I'm just talking about food.  It's the center of the issue to me and all other vegan issues stem from this core value.  If we eliminate animals as food then we really don't have to concern ourselves with wearing leather as there will be no more leather.

I know more people who became vegan in stages than those who woke up and said they were eliminating all animals and animal products from their lives.  I applaud the statement "The world is vegan if you want it," but not everyone wants it nor do those who do want it necessarily want it all at once.

I talk about veganism, to some it seems, incessantly.  I talk about diet and health, agriculture, animal farming, ecology, sustainability, environmental issues and of course animal rights and abolitionism.  If I convince someone to go vegan ... well, that's the golden ring.  I get the big prize.  I also recognize that there are many shades of victory.  The biggest victory is if I can cause someone to just think about what they're eating.  If they start to think about that, I am pretty certain, eventually they'll come to the crossroads somewhere near where I did.  There are better choices than animals to eat.  They may wonder if a clam has feelings and can it suffer but someday they'll come to the conclusion that even if they don't, they're full of mercury and probably not good to ingest.  I don't think the clam cares why it's not being eaten.

Once you start to do research you learn.  I did.  I gave up animals with lungs as a food source.  I kept eating fish, eggs, cheese and milk for years.  I still believe that I did more good "leaning into veganism," or "being veganish."  At some point I gave up dairy and eggs.  I still ate fish and seafood.  I grew up working on boats in Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn.  I started when I was 8.  Eating something that ate it's own young was probably the thought which kept me eating fish for as long as I did.  Not to turn this into a discussion of what we call ourselves and titles right now but at that point I identified as a Pesco-vegetarian.  I at fish maybe ... once a month if that.  My diet was vegan.  I remember a vegetarian took me to task for eating fish with the statement, "They don't grow in the garden."  I later pondered which garden he picked his swiss cheese and eggs from but that's a different discussion for a different time.  My point is that we saw each other on opposite sides of the fence but we really weren't.  We are  part of the change that is coming.

Oprah needs to sell advertising on her show.  She is a stunt woman and this was a stunt.  I want her to embrace a vegan lifestyle.  I want her to go in front of the nation and proclaim the "right" reasons for eating a vegan diet and yes, that does include vegan poops.  Her show today disappointed me because it was an opportunity to really push, no shove, the United States of Oprah watchers in a really meaningful direction and instead it just gave them a gentle hip check.

However, I think the show was incredibly beneficial for the reason that it will get a lot of people thinking about food, where it comes from, what kind of suffering it causes, their personal toll on the earth and their own health and body shape and most importantly how they can effect change by starting to look at veganism as something less than an oddity.  And how can that be a bad thing?

No comments: