Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Hats off to Natalie Portman!

I was recently reading an article from about Jonathan Foer's new book called "Eating Animals." In this article Jonathan mentions how he learned that Natalie Portman switched from being a vegetarian to a vegan after reading his book. Natalie shares her decision to do so in an article featured in The Huffington Post. I've included a copy of her piece below, as well as a link at the very bottom of this post of her new vegan shoe line.
I encourage you all to read it (not only is she an amazing actress, but a very good writer too), as well as watch the video clip (found in the link about her shoes) to learn more about her beliefs to embody a true vegan lifestyle. I admire her consistant choices of practicing an animal-free diet and wardrobe very much, and love that she is using her influential voice in such a positive and productive way.
I too hope that more designers follow her lead by making more animal-friendly shoes, bags, and belts, and perhaps their popularity will lead to less expensive price tags!!!!

Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals Turned Me Vegan

Safran Foer's book Eating Animals changed me from a twenty-year vegetarian to a vegan activist. I've always been shy about being critical of others' choices because I hate when people do that to me. I'm often interrogated about being vegetarian (e.g., "What if you find out that carrots feel pain, too? Then what'll you eat?").

I've also been afraid to feel as if I know better than someone else -- a historically dangerous stance (I'm often reminded that "Hitler was a vegetarian, too, you know"). But this book reminded me that some things are just wrong. Perhaps others disagree with me that animals have personalities, but the highly documented torture of animals is unacceptable, and the human cost Foer describes in his book, of which I was previously unaware, is universally compelling.

The human cost of factory farming -- both the compromised welfare of slaughterhouse workers and, even more, the environmental effects of the mass production of animals -- is staggering. Foer details the copious amounts of pig shit sprayed into the air that result in great spikes in human respiratory ailments, the development of new bacterial strains due to overuse of antibiotics on farmed animals, and the origins of the swine flu epidemic, whose story has gripped the nation, in factory farms.

I read the chapter on animal shit aloud to two friends -- one is from Iowa and has asthma and the other is a North Carolinian who couldn't eat fish from her local river because animal waste had been dumped in it as described in the book. They had never truly thought about the connection between their environmental conditions and their food. The story of the mass farming of animals had more impact on them when they realized it had ruined their own backyards.

But what Foer most bravely details is how eating animal pollutes not only our backyards, but also our beliefs. He reminds us that our food is symbolic of what we believe in, and that eating is how we demonstrate to ourselves and to others our beliefs: Catholics take communion -- in which food and drink represent body and blood. Jews use salty water on Passover to remind them of the slaves' bitter tears. And on Thanksgiving, Americans use succotash and slaughter to tell our own creation myth -- how the Pilgrims learned from Native Americans to harvest this land and make it their own.

And as we use food to impart our beliefs to our children, the point from which Foer lifts off, what stories do we want to tell our children through their food?

I remember in college, a professor asked our class to consider what our grandchildren would look back on as being backward behavior or thinking in our generation, the way we are shocked by the kind of misogyny, racism, and sexism we know was commonplace in our grandparents' world. He urged us to use this principle to examine the behaviors in our lives and our societies that we should be a part of changing. Factory farming of animals will be one of the things we look back on as a relic of a less-evolved age.

I say that Foer's ethical charge against animal eating is brave because not only is it unpopular, it has also been characterized as unmanly, inconsiderate, and juvenile. But he reminds us that being a man, and a human, takes more thought than just "This is tasty, and that's why I do it." He posits that consideration, as promoted by Michael Pollan in The Omnivore's Dilemma, which has more to do with being polite to your tablemates than sticking to your own ideals, would be absurd if applied to any other belief (e.g., I don't believe in rape, but if it's what it takes to please my dinner hosts, then so be it).

But Foer makes his most impactful gesture as a peacemaker, when he unites the two sides of the animal eating debate in their reasoning. Both sides argue: We are not them. Those who refrain from eating animals argue: We don't have to go through what they go through -- we are not them. We are capable of making distinctions between what to eat and what not to eat (Americans eat cow but not dog, Hindus eat chicken but not cow, etc.). We are capable of considering others' minds and others' pain. We are not them. Whereas those who justify eating animals say the same thing: We are not them. They do not merit the same value of being as us. They are not us.

And so Foer shows us, through Eating Animals, that we are all thinking along the same lines: We are not them. But, he urges, how will we define who we are?

1 comment:

  1. I bought Foer's book Eating Animals a few weeks ago and I have to wait patiently for it to get here. Have you read it yet? We'll have to have a discussion once we both finish it :).