Yesterday my three-year-old picked up a glossy brochure (surely not printed on recycled paper) titled Vegan Starter Kit. The brochure was displayed on a free magazine stand at a local childrens’ consignment store in a slot in front of American Baby. I was getting bad vibes from that piece of vegan evangelism, so I previewed it. And voila — pictures of animal carcasses. Now, I personally don’t have a problem with my children catching a glimpse of dead animals — I saw them when I was growing up. But, I suspect, your average Bay Area parent will have some reservations.
Marc Chagall: Not a Vegan
Putting their best argument forward, vegan activists opened up with a list famous vegans. I have no idea who some of those names are, but I guess I’m not with it. Luminaries like Paul McCartney, Pamela Anderson and Joaquin Phoenix were on the list. And so was Crissy Hyde, who, apparently, has more sympathy for chicken eggs then she does for Cuban people. The majority of vegans are our contemporaries, of course. Because diet devoid of animal products almost always requires supplements, vegan societies are a modern luxury. Don’t believe me? Name one purely vegan traditional society!
Individual historical figures who refused all animal products for a part of their lives are a different matter, because the survival and well-being of an entire society is not at stake. And so I found Leonardo Da Vinchi and Leo Tolstoy were both vegans, according to this source. I don’t know much about Da Vinchi, other then everyone claims him. Tolstoy turned vegetarian in his late years. If the deans of veganism insist, I’ll give it to them. Aside from becoming a vegetarian, in his later years Tolstoy embraced anarcho-pacifism and renounced the rights to his most important books. The novelist died of pneumonia when, at the age of 82, he fled his home to live as an ascetic vagrant. Had he lived today, his head would be thoroughly examined by a shrink, and he’d be diagnosed with something. But at the time he wrote his two most important novels, Anna Karenina and War and Peace, middle-aged Tolstoy was a meat-eater and a hunter.
Vronsky breaks horse’s back and walks away unscathed.
Vegetarians are the target audience for vegan propaganda. They already don’t eat flesh, so presumably they would be deeply disturbed by the images of slaughtered animals or animals being lead to slaughter. But when I see a picture of dead chickens hanging in a row, I see normal. When I was growing up, my grandmother would buy a whole chicken, plucked, and then take it apart, throwing away most of the internal organs. We did eat the liver, though — pate is a delicacy. Sometimes my grandparents would take me to the market, and we’d walk around trying to find the best chicken. When we moved to the US, my late grandmother was delighted to buy pre-packaged chicken breasts — it saved so much time!
The images of animals crowded in tiny cages are certainly shocking. But when I drive on California freeways, I see happy cows munching on dry grass. Can I eat them? And what about hunting?
Jan Fyt, 17th Century Flemish Baroque artist. Diana With her Hunting Dogs Beside Kill. Hunting is a time-honored painting subject.
If the authors of the brochure want to suggest that we need to treat domesticated animals humanely, as responsible owners should — I agree, although it’s not my biggest concern in life. What I find immoral and illogical is anthropomorphizing of the animals. As in the following sentence: “If you grew as fast as a chicken, you would weigh 349 pounds at age 2.” But we don’t grow as fast as chicken, and in any event, a human being is not a chicken, and should not be compared to one. This kind of logic is likely to alienate people. Than again, “Vegan Starter Kit” is made and distributed in the Bay Area, so never mind.
Although they didn’t make any Holocaust on Your Plate arguments, Vegan Starter Kit could not avoid avoiding the subject entirely. They just have to quote “Anne Frank, Nazi Holocaust victim.” What did she say? “How wonderful it is that nobody needs wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” I kind of doubt that she had the suffering of fish on her mind.