15 November 2010

Alicia Silverstone's admission to cheating on vegan diet harmful to the cause

Last week vegans worldwide let out a collective gasp as Us Magazine reported that The Kind Diet preacher Alicia Silverstone occasionally gives in to dairy cravings after knocking back a few cold ones. Of course those who have read her book may already know that eyebrow-raising tidbit but for those who didn’t—Surprise!

In an effort to either make other ‘cheaters’ feel better or preempt negative publicity before those cheese noshing pictures hit the web, Silverstone decided to make it clear to the world that she sometimes can’t resist hunking down on a piece of cheese.

"If I was at a party and there was a tray of cheese sitting there and I had had drinks, then I might have a bite," Silverstone confessed.

Anyone who is not able to stick to their standards when drinking may want to consider the amount of alcohol that is being consumed. That aside, as vegans it is extremely important that we make our lifestyle look not only compassionate but also effortless. Unfortunately Silverstone’s statements give fodder to those who view the vegan movement as riddled with hypocrisy and deprivation. By chomping on the cheese and talking about it in a national publication, Silverstone screams to the world, Do as I say not as I do and Good Lord I have to have some animal protein!

What a shame. While there may be occasions when vegans must consume an item that contains trace amounts of animal product, purposefully choosing to ingest an item that we know causes extreme harm to animals is unacceptable to many of us who have chosen this path.

To those who defend Silverstone, I will use her recent post on The Kind Life titled Why organic dairy is still nasty... to illustrate why we find this behavior unacceptable. The actress is quoting Farm Sanctuary.
Cow's milk can never be obtained without immense cruelty. Dairy cows are forcibly impregnated on what the industry calls the "rape rack" every year. Immediately after giving birth, the mother cow has her calf dragged away from her so that he or she does not drink her milk. The mother cow shows clear signs of mourning her loss including bellowing, hiding in dark places, not eating or drinking, pacing, and more. If the calf is male, he is immediately chained by the neck in a 2-ft wide crate, so small that he can't turn around, stretch his limbs, or lie down comfortably. There he spends his entire short life being fed an anemic diet, just to be slaughtered at only a few months of age for veal. If the calf is female, she is raised to be a dairy cow like her mother.
When speaking of her lapse Silverstone told the magazine that she’s “human,” she wants to make people comfortable by being “flexible,” and she doesn’t want to come across as an “icey, rigid thing.”

Might I remind the actress that to date being “human” consists of grilling up the flesh of sentient creatures and drinking milk that belongs to baby calves. Vegans are trying to redefine what it means to be human. We can live a fulfilled, healthy life without consuming animal products.

Being “flexible” is fantastic and an absolute must for vegans. But it should go something like this:

Oh you don’t have almond milk? Okay I’ll skip the creamer in my coffee!
BBQ party on Saturday? Cool, I’ll bring the seitan!

Flexibility within veganism—by definition—doesn’t include consuming hunks of meat or cheese.

Silverstone’s icey and rigid comment may have been the most harmful statement in her remarks. Because that view on veganism is shared by many outside the lifestyle, it is imperative that we don’t have one of our own using that terminology to describe people who are actually able to stick to their guns.

Veganism is a journey and yes we are all on our own path. But those who choose to use the vegan label—especially those whose names have become synonymous with the lifestyle—must strive to be on top of their game at all times.

Read another point of view on Alicia's admission: Alicia Silverstone cheats on vegan diet with dairy as her downfall

Daelyn Fortney | @daelyn | email
Daelyn is the co-founder and managing director of the animal rights and eco-friendly news source, This Dish Is Veg. In addition to her work at TDIV, Daelyn homeschools her three daughters.

Photo credit: cc: flickr.com/photos/paigefilloon