Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Vegetarian is not vegan

PETA: Be Like Oprah, try a Vegetarian Diet Today!
Oprah Winfrey is trying a vegetarian diet, and we challenge you to do the same for at least seven days! After signing our Pledge to Be Veg for Seven Days, we'll send you all the resources that you'll need to get started.
What's wrong with this? PETA claims to be an animal rights organization. Why are they claiming Oprah, who is very publicly going vegan for 21 days, is trying a "vegetarian diet?" Why doesn't that headline read "try a vegan diet today?"

Because PETA's leadership are a bunch of hypocritical cowards, is why.

It's obvious, of course. PETA is afraid that if they ask people to go vegan, people will think that's too radical and shy away. It's why nearly all of their handouts, sites, and other promotional materials ask people to "Go Vegetarian" or, even more slyly, "Go Veg." Now with Oprah, they won't even say the word vegan on the front page of their site. They offer a free "Vegetarian Starter Kit" full of vegan information.

The people at PETA aren't (always) stupid. When you dig down into the guts of their site or listen to some of them speak, they'll plainly and correctly state that veganism is the only ethical way to eat and live. But as with most of their campaigns, they intentionally blur the line between what is ethical and what is merely less unethical. What they don't seem to realize is that veganism, which they quietly claim to promote, will continue to be seen as "too radical" and will continue to be seen as difficult as long as they avoid using the word and act like cutting out meat is enough. If "the" animal rights organization can't bring itself to ask people not to hurt animals by going vegan, that's a problem.

Now, the obvious retort is that as long as they secretly promote veganism, who cares if they call it vegetarianism for convenience or efficacy? And the obvious response is that everybody knows vegetarians eat dairy and eggs. Hell, a lot of people think vegetarians eat fish! When PETA tells people to go vegetarian, they may stop eating most meat, but they will feel free to continue to eat other animal products, resulting in immeasurable suffering and death for the animals involved. It's akin to convinvcing a serial killer to start beating people up instead of killing them because, one day, he just might stop altogether. And then giving him an award.

Take PETA's various Sexiest Vegetarian contests, among other things: when PETA conflates vegetarians and vegans, the result is rewarding, celebrating, and congratulating animal exploiters. Vegetarians are animal exploiters. I'm not saying they are "bad people." I'm not saying they aren't more ethical on this issue than meat eaters. But it is a simple fact that eating dairy and eggs harms animals. And that doesn't even touch on the awards PETA routinely gives to corporations that harm and kill animals such as Whole Foods. Wolfgang Puck is given the 2008 Most Progressive Chef award because he gets his veal (!) from free-roaming calves! Burger King is awarded for promising that a portion of their dead animals are gassed!

If PETA is an animal rights organization, what business do they have giving awards to people that harm and kill animals?

PETA, the public already thinks you're radical and extreme and a little bit nuts. Get some courage and say what you mean. Then do as you say.

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