With the Thanksgiving this week, and in the wake of the phenomenal press around Jonathan Safran Foer's new book, "Eating Animals," there has been a lot of recent media around just that, eating animals, especially on Thanksgiving. I am moved to focus on two bits of media I found particularly compelling, dealing with the issue with distinctly different tones and therefore, I think, with different likely levels of effectiveness:
On Thursday, November 19, the icon of American homemaking, Martha Stewart, for the first time in her television's history, devoted the hour to vegetarian Thanksgivings. One of her guests was author Jonathan Safran Foer, with whom she made a vegan casserole. She noted that she would be having a vegetarian Thanksgiving meal at her daughter Alexis's home. It is hard to quantify the impact such an announcement would have had with regard to normalizing vegetarianism in the general public mind.
On Sunday, November 22, the New York Times published an op-ed, by Gary Steiner, which the Times headed, "Animal, Vegetable, Miserable." The title is perhaps a perfect double entendre because the piece points to the misery of animals who end up on our dinner tables, and the article has an overall tone of misery.
First to the New York Times piece: It makes important points. For example Steiner writes, "Many people soothe their consciences by purchasing only free-range fowl and eggs, blissfully ignorant that 'free range' has very little if any practical significance. Chickens may be labeled free-range even if theyve never been outside or seen a speck of daylight in their entire lives."
While I was glad to see that information in the New York Times, it seemed to me that simply removing the word "blissfully" would have delivered the same information while eliminating any possibility of an accusation likely to put readers on the defensive and therefore less open to change. Here's a line that worried me more:
"Let me be candid: By and large, meat-eaters are a self-righteous bunch."
I suspect many vegetarians and vegans have felt attacked with regard to our eating habits, particularly at family dinners when we supposedly are the ones who do the attacking. But whether or not Steiner's assessment is true to any extent, I don't imagine much good is likely to come for the animals from its expression in print. Those are fighting words, not winning words, and the animals need us to be less considered with the fight and more concerned with expressing our truths in a manner such that people are willing to hear. It really is possible to state the truth without compromising it and without insulting those who are not yet on side.
I hope Steiner's article was good for the animals in that it might make people at least think, but I worry that some of the good that could come of it was countered by its presentation of vegans as a group of people that nobody would want to be part of. I do know that it opens the door for letters from joyful vegans, and if the New York Times receives quite a few of those it will probably print a few. Please write! Be sure to express appreciation to the Times for giving such substantial coverage to a voice against meat eating , but please, for the animals' sake, present a more inviting view of the vegan lifestyle.
Check out the full article on line at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/11/22/opinion/22steiner.html
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Now to Martha Stewart:
While Steiner's piece took swing at people attempting to eat animals who have been humanely raised, Stewart's full episode on a vegetarian Thanksgiving included an interview with a humane certified farmer, Joel Salatin, and with the producer of Food Inc, a fantastic documentary that slams factory farming. (For more, including a trailer, on that terrific documentary, now shortlisted for the Oscars, go to my blog at http://thankingthemonkey.com/blog/?p=70 ) Many of us who find it fun and easy and healthful to live on plant based diets could have done without the humane meat plug. But the show featured only veggie recipes and included a segment with Jonathan Safran Foer where he and Martha talked about his book and made a vegan casserole. And, as I noted above, in that segment Martha let everybody know that she would be at her daughter's fully vegetarian Thanksgiving this year. It is hard to think of any previous TV segment likely to have done more to advance the veggie cause an
d move it into the mainstream.
You can watch the entire show on line at
Martha takes comments at http://www.marthastewart.com/askmartha
Please send her a huge thank you for her first ever "Vegetarian Thanksgiving" show. Loads of positive feedback will encourage loads of veggie coverage in the future.
Yours and the animals',
(DawnWatch is an animal advocacy media watch that looks at animal issues in the media and facilitates one-click responses to the relevant media outlets. You can learn more about it, and sign up for alerts at http://www.DawnWatch.com. You may forward or reprint DawnWatch alerts if you do so unedited -- leave DawnWatch in the title and include this parenthesized tag line. If somebody forwards DawnWatch alerts to you, which you enjoy, please help the list grow by signing up. It is free.)
Please go to www.ThankingtheMonkey.com for a fun celeb-studded promo video and information on Karen Dawn's book, "Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way we Treat Animals," which was chosen by the Washington Post as one of the "Best Books of 2008." And check out Karen's new blog at www.ThankingtheMonkey.com/blog !
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Date: Mon Nov 23 19:54:37 2009