Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Oprah & Dinner Peace, Part VII

We’ve reached the end of our Oprah week, and I’d like to wrap things up by addressing the end of Oprah’s vegan episode. After celebrating the weight loss of several Oprah staffers, Michael Pollan interjected, “I hate to cast any kind of shadow over this dietary revival meeting,” to which Kathy Freston responded, “Then don’t.” Pollan continued anyway, saying “there is nothing evil about meat.” I have very mixed feelings about this statement. First of all, Freston, like many vegans and vegetarians, said that, “it doesn’t sit right in my soul...I’m trying to incorporate my values like compassion and empathy and kindness and mercy. When I see that [video of Cargill], I have to ask myself, ‘Can I look into the eyes of an animal, and say that your suffering, or your pain, or your fear is not as important as my appetite.’” Oprah, completely missing the point, replied “but, they don’t suffer.” All evidence to the contrary, Ms. Winfrey.

As I have already discussed in my last post, this system fails more often than it succeeds, and to unilaterally apply one day at one factory farm to the entire industry is naive and irresponsible. Our rate of consumption has outpaced our compassion. We would rather pretend that the animals we eat don’t suffer, even when we’ve been told over and over that they unequivocally do, than decrease our consumption of animal products. This is nothing short of ludicrous. Further, as Freston pointed out, over 9 of the 10 billion animals we kill for consumption in America are chickens and turkeys, who are exempt from the laws requiring humane animal treatment. There is no Temple Grandin-designed slaughterhouse for chickens and turkeys. So even if you’ve managed to convince yourself that the cows you eat haven’t suffered, there is no such feint for your poultry.

I am extremely glad that Oprah gave her staff the chance to try a vegan diet. There were obviously a lot of successes in weight loss, overall health, and general awareness. More than one person has decided to extend their vegan week to see how they feel after 21 days, or even a month. This is a huge triumph! However, I fear that other people came away with a convenient excuse to continue their unexamined lifestyle, whether from Michael Pollan telling us that we must eat meat in order to support the small, local farmers, or from Oprah and Nicole Johnson-Hoffman telling us that animals don’t suffer, and this is indeed the natural order of things. I hope my week of Oprah examination has added a little more information to this dialogue, and offered some compelling doubts to the unfortunate distortions presented by Oprah and her guests. I implore you all to take a serious look at your own diet, and consider your contribution to animal treatment, the environment, and your own health.

No comments:

Post a Comment