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

54 comments:

  1. I appreciate your linking to the other article which presented another view. I don't agree that Alicia Silverstone or any of us needs to make veganism seem effortless. We need to make it seem like however it is for us. For some it is effortless. I do not miss meat. I do not miss eggs. I don't usually miss dairy. Sometimes I would like dessert in a restaurant. If I walk around acting like I don't, I'm lying. Why is that necessary? The facts are that it does take effort but the effort is worth it. If she or others sometimes falter, it means we are human. Most of us were raised eating these things with no awareness of what we were consuming, and the fact that we sometimes still want those things doesn't make us evil. We can be honest. And we can always try to do better. Maybe it will make others see that they too can try to be vegan, because vegans are people who did and do enjoy the same foods as they do. Maybe it won't. But I don't agree that anything is achieved by pretending we feel a different way about it than we do.

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  2. Great article! I'm glad someone finally took this view.

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  3. The above commenter obviously doesn't understand what veganism is. It's a shame a bunch of posers have decided to support celebrities like Silverstone.

    Please stop using terms like flexibility as a shield for your own weaknesses and insecurities. IT is our job to make it look effortless who in the hell else is going to do so, omnivores?

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  4. I fully agree with this post and I'm so disheartened by Alicia Silverstone's casual dismissal of cheating on her vegan diet. Shame on her, for being such a hypocrite. I mean, if she wasn't fully going to be vegan, why put out a vegan cookbook for Heaven's sake? Why pretend you're a champion of the cause when you're obviously in it for what you can get out of it, never mind the animals. I'm so glad I didn't buy her book, and I'm glad she's not enough of a celebrity to make a dent in the progress of veganism. Let's talk more Steve Wynn, less Alicia Silverstone.

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  5. Great article and frankly I couldn't agree with you more than I alraedy do. I also agree with the "The 1's" view about the first poster, they seem a bit clueless, pardon the pun.

    If you eat cheese you are not a vegan, plain and simple. It's not about "trying" to become vegan, you either are or are not. Not a real difficult concept to understand.

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  6. I want to see this same sort of outrage leveled at Bill Clinton, who is an avowed fish eater! NOT a "power vegan"

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  7. VeganAvenger11/15/10, 11:53 AM

    Jose,

    Bill Clinton has dabbled with a plant-based diet, he has never said he was a vegan. Additionally he has NOT published a vegan cookbook, gone on tours to promote the aforementioned book, appeared on Oprah and Ellen to promote veganism and acted as if he were an animal rights supporter on his blog. Yes Alicia Silverstone has done all of those things. You are comparing apples to oranges.

    I also have to say, attempting to follow a vegan diet is very different from being a vegan. If that sentence confuses you then you are not a vegan.

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  8. I agree with the first commenter, though I believe her comments are being misconstrued. While it's no defense of what Silverstone said, I disagree with the idea that we need to make veganism seem effortless. It's NOT effortless, and how can it be when the food industry and food culture around us makes it a virtual minefield? If I'm making it seem effortless, how will people understand how committed I am and how much it means to me, how much it should mean to them? The struggle to do what's right is important.

    I only wish Silverstone had focused on the ways she wins that struggle, instead of feeling a need to make light of her losses.

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  9. Considering that Alicia Silverstone's acting career is on the back burner (or dead?) being vegan is her selling point now. So she is selling a vegan cookbook called "The Kind Diet" and making millions off of poor schleps that buy into her concept. Yeah she is a hypocrite.

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  10. VeganAvenger11/15/10, 12:01 PM

    Really Kasey that's a shame that you believe it's not effortless because it is. WOW is all I can say. God help the animal rights movement.

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  11. Could you imagine being an omni and seeing vegans claim that eating a plant based diet and living a compassionate life isn't effortless. I may be more shocked at a couple of the commenters on this story than I am with Silverhypocrite's interview.

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  12. Do you all realize what Alicia has done for the veganism? She has probably swayed thousands of people away from animal products, including other celebrities that also continue to raise awareness of the vegan cause. Aren't we all on the same team here? Trying to promote animal rights and end animal suffering and harm to the environment? Who cares if people that aren't 100% vegan want to call themselves that. If you're comfortable in your veganism, you wouldn't care. Let's keep our eyes on the prize here people and focus on the positive, not the negative. Let's keep our 'outrage' pointed at the right people - the factory farming companies, puppy millers, companies that test on animals, animal abusers, fur traders...not Alicia Silverstone!

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  13. VeganAvenger11/15/10, 12:33 PM

    "Do you all realize what Alicia has done for the veganism? She has probably swayed thousands of people away from animal products, including other celebrities that also continue to raise awareness of the vegan cause."

    That's why its a travesty when someone in her position feels the need to express themselves in the way she did. Let me ask how did you feel about Jimmy Swaggart's indiscretions back in the day? He probably did plenty of good for some people but he was ultimately a hypocrite. As is Alicia Silverstone.

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  14. live by the celebrity, die by the celebrity...

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  15. TheTruthlives11/15/10, 1:04 PM

    This is a case of people worrying about how they are perceived by the mainstream. Unfortunately vegans tend to have extremely low self-esteems so this whole idea of appearing 'human' is their way of gaining acceptance. No movement has ever worked with an overriding message of compromise, pick up any history text and read. If you aren't sure of yourself and if you flex at all away from your core beliefs your movement is dead.

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  16. Take away the fact that she is a celebrity and she is just a very real person. She didn't have to tell anyone that she "cheated". And who was she cheating? All of the vegans that are hardcore on their diet and never slip up or was she cheating the animals that suffered when she slipped that piece of cheese in her mouth? Being vegan seems to mean something different to many people. Some do it purely for the animals, some recognize the impact that it has on the environment and some do it for their own health. There are few people that chose the diet for all of these reasons, but it remains true that it is a personal journey for each one of us. What made you choose to become vegan? Was it is easy or very difficult for you? Food is a sensitive topic and many deal with food addictions. Let us recognize how amazing she is for remaining honest and for educating millions on a topic that may have gone without notice if say the book was written by...me! When eliminating animal products from your diet, try to do it without being angry or feeling as if you are somehow better than your neighbor that does eat meat or dairy. Be the example...if she brings to light that slipping doesn't have to be the end of your journey to health on a vegan diet, then I say she is doing a very smart thing! A lot of people fall off and it becomes all or nothing...

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  17. As a meat eater I love this! I knew you holier than thou vegans eat steak, cheese and drink milk behind closed doors. WHAT A BUNCH OF LYING HYPOCRITES!!!

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  18. No being vegan means one thing, unfortunately too many people like yourself "anonymous" have infested the ranks with ridiculous viewpoints.

    You cannot support animal rights and continue to eat meat and consume dairy, period.

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  19. Too bad she wrote a book & does lectures, etc, cause this public slip up make people don't want to hear what you have to say cause you're not practicing what you preach. You have to lead by example and clearly by her own admission she's not living the life she promotes. I don't have her book and unfortunately due to her admission I don't even want it.

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  20. Some of these folks obviously have never been in or around factory farms. Their carefree attitudes toward veganism gives that away. It's sad.

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  21. OrlandoLivin'11/15/10, 2:57 PM

    Hypocrite: a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.

    --Merriam-Webster

    Why are some of the people commenting on story not comprehending this?

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  22. I really do think she meant this to help encourage people who maybe slip up occasionally, like, "look, I do it too!" and as a way to point out that when she DOES cheat, she realizes she wasn't missing out on anything. That being said, I still think this was a poor idea to put out there. Regardless of her intended sentiment, it comes across hypocritically and negatively. I can't wait for Christmas with my family when I DON'T cheat and they try to point out, "But even Alicia Silverstone does!" or accuse me of being an "icy, rigid thing." Wheee.

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  23. Since this story hit the airways I've seen vegan after vegan say that we should just admit that it's hard to be a vegan. Guess what folks? IT'S NOT! I live in the middle of BFE and it's not hard. Not hard folks.

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  24. Id like to thank "This Dish is Veg" for sharing 2 views on this topic. I can understand where both authors are coming from and really like that you are open to varying thoughts.

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  25. The extremely judgmental comments above are why many people look at vegans like they are crazy. This is not highschool and the criticism is awful. Each person is allowed to live by their rules, there is no Supreme Vegan Master we answer to. I think it should be commended that people are trying to do as much as they can to live cruelty free even if it doesn't fit in with 'your' standards. I have been vegan for 15 years and have dropped most of vegan friends because of their constant judgement of other people.

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  26. Quite simply Miss Silverstone is not vegan. She needs to stop calling herself as such and just admit that she enjoys eating dairy products. Alicia my dear, you are a vegetarian by definition.

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  27. VeganAvenger11/15/10, 4:03 PM

    I love when people complain about others being judgmental, I hate to inform you but you are being judgmental yourself by calling others judgmental.

    Look in the mirror, anonymous poster who has dropped her other vegan friends, most likely you are the issue.

    BTW how can you go through life without judging, YOU CAN'T!

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  28. Anonymous @3:49 : Alicia Silverstone is a celebrity who claims to be a vegan and uses her star power to sell her book (about being a vegan) and get people to go to her web site (about being a vegan). Are you saying that we shouldn't hold people who represent themselves (and take money from people) in this manner to high standards? It's not about being judgmental. This post said nothing about judging people who aren't vegan. It's about someone who is looked up to by many saying they are vegan and then doing something that is very un-vegan.

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  29. Yes this judgemental thing is just asinine. If you are anti-factory-farming then you are judging the practice as being bad. By definition when you make a choice you are judging something. I think the definition of hypocrite needs to be reposted.

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  30. As a fellow vegan, I'd like to say that most of you are the reason people are turned off by veganism.
    Why is it important to be vegan? To help prevent the suffering of animals.
    The picture I am getting from most of the commenters here is that being vegan is about being a member of some elite group that is better than everyone else.
    If you give a damn about preventing the suffering of animals, you should applaud Silverstone for being (mostly) vegan and promoting a vegan lifestyle. If her book has caused 10 people to become vegan (or even vegetarian!), then chances are her actions have prevented the suffering of more animals than you, as an individual, have.

    And one last thing: This whole fight about whether or not it is "easy" to be vegan is ridiculous. Some people don't crave meat, dairy, or eggs after they've learned about factory farms. For them, that is great. But some of us do. You can't fully control what you desire. To say that some people are ethically worse than you because they desire different things is absurd. Its about how they act or don't act on those desires.
    I'm sorry that I like the taste of cheese, which makes it more difficult to be vegan. But I'm pretty sure my not eating cheese has the same effect that your not eating cheese does, namely, it prevents suffering.

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  31. doobsterfrancisco11/15/10, 4:12 PM

    Hilarious, I agree with a couple of posters above me, how can you go through life without judging. Do you vote? Please tell me how you vote without judging. What are your thoughts on Obama, George W. Bush? Please give me an opinion without judging. I challenge you.

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  32. Anonymous @4:10 : People are turned off by veganism because they like eating meat and cheese.

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  33. For those who disagree with this post would your thoughts be the same if she ate steak at a party?

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  34. I agree that Alicia should just call herself a 'vegetarian'. There's no shame in that. She can still write cookbooks and influence people in a good way! It's just when she says things about "cheating" on her "vegan" diet, it makes her look flaky, or like she doesn't know what "vegan" means.

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  35. For those who think we shouldn't be "judgmental" maybe we should stop judging the factory farms....... Because if we can't judge one side I guess we shouldn't judge the other.

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  36. This article is exactly the kind of icey rigidness she spoke of. Yikes, this is way too much. She has done more for the cause than most, and you're acting like she just slaughtered a calf on live television and drank it's blood. Take it down a couple hundred notches. What a disappointment this reaction is.

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  37. Ignore the faux vegans that stick up for Silverstone. This article was posted on The Kind Life (not so kind by the reaction of some of these banshees)so the Kind Lifers are tripping over themselves to hop on over to this site and support their heroine.

    The Beaupedia poster, with the fake blogger account above mine, sounds certifiable, please MS. seek help immediately if not sooner.

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  38. Let me reiterate something

    We welcome comments!
    1. Comments should be civil and to the point.

    Note 'civil.'

    Beaupedia and Tabitha we let your comments through but this will be the last derogatory post permitted on either side of the argument. Try to use your better judgment and possibly back up your points with fact rather than conjecture and name calling.

    Thank you for reading and remember we are on the same side--for the most part.

    Eric

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  39. thank you eric. this article didn't disappoint me as much as the comments. lets remember the cause of animal liberation, and forget about our own labels and personal purity for a moment. for our part, nothing has done more to hurt veganism than judgementalism, narrow-mindedness, and a general unwillingness to treat the other with respect, the exact cause we are trying to further. this is why we are seen as hypocrites.

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  40. A million thanks to you Daelyn for sharing your insight on this issue. I am so disheartened that someone who I used to look up to as a champion for veganism, would make these comments in, like you stated, a national publication. Doing so, hundreds of thousands of people are now getting the wrong idea about what it means to be vegan, and perhaps thinking that we are all hypocrites who consume animals in the privacy of our own homes. I feel like she is basically giving people an excuse to cheat whenever they want, and still be deluded enough to call themselves vegan. Being a vegan is an easy choice, once you realize that there are much more important causes in the world that what you are craving at any given moment. To anyone who calls themselves a vegan, and yet thinks it's ok to partake in a little bit of dairy here or there, they are horribly remiss about what it means to be vegan...and hello?! It's so easy to find just as tasty alternatives! Like you stated, bring your own food, and share with meat eaters to show them veganism can be very tasty. We are not an icy bunch, as Ms. Silverstone said she feared being viewed as- we vegans would accept anyone who was interested in the lifestyle with open arms. People who say they are ok with her statements are pretend vegans who really only stand by this lifestlye when it is convenient for them, and use this way of thinking to justify their own actions.

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  41. Thank you for such a well-written and thought provoking article! In my own opinion: anyone with such strong activism against cruelty and unhealthy disgusting animal products should at the very least keep quiet about her contradicting short-comings.

    I believe it hurts our goal entirely. Thank you for spelling out "flexibility" is ok within veganism because that is important so as not to brand us all as "picky" "ridiculous" or "too hard-core." I am vegan from head to toe including clothing, shoes, purses, food, and cosmetics. But someone like Alicia Silverstone should have just played the Pam Anderson part and said she's Vegetarian.

    My blog: http://www.verdelicious.com is focused on all things green/vegan/eco-conscious. also please visit my fan page at http://www.facebook.com/verdelicious

    Thank you again for your amazing website full of useful information! I can forgive Alicia for now and try not to bring too much attention to her "vegan who eats cheese" persona.

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  42. If I ever cheat, I feel absolutely horrible about it... I wouldn't really call what I do cheating, though. I was given a house salad with cheese on top as a restaurant was in the closing process and I felt kind of stuck eating it. Is that any better or worse than someone choosing to eat a few cheese cubes on a cheese tray at a party every once in awhile? I don't know. I doubt Silverstone is out buying the cheese. You can't put the cheese back in the cow.

    Then again, I'm not about to eat my parents' ice cream just because my father offers me some. I have completely mixed feelings about this.

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  43. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  44. I don't know why the LIKE button isn't showing up on my computer, but I LOVED this post. I agree with every single word. It is exhausting enough feeling like you constantly have to correct these misconceptions about being vegan perpetuated by people who don't understand the lifestyle. But to have to undo damage made by someone who should know better is even more frustrating. I realize that for some becoming vegan is a transition, and I appreciate every bit of effort one makes to save animals from suffering. I would probably not be as upset if the average person admitted to eating a piece of cheese, as I would be grateful that they avoid it 90% of the time. The problem is that Alicia Silverstone's name is synonymous with the vegan movement. She was one of the first celebrities to champion this cause, and is a poster child for it. As such, I hold her to higher standard, as she is setting an example, and she is aware of her influence. Likewise, I have problems with non-vegan Al Gore being the poster child for the environmental movement.

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  45. Wow, this has really stirred up a lot of strong feelings! Excellent article Daelyn. I agree with you 100%. You're definition of 'flexibility' as a vegan is spot on. And you summed it up perfectly:

    "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."

    Yes, we are all human, and yes no one is perfect. But being vegan and choosing to eat a KIND diet is not about rigidity or self sacrifice at all. The funny thing is, I thought that was the message Silverstone tried to convey in her book...!

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  46. @ JBhumitra Well said!! I completely agree about Gore as well!!

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  47. Wonderful article! It makes you think who is worse, omnivores that are ignorant of the suffering dairy cows must endure on factory farms or someone like Ms. Silverstone who actually knows, fights against and posts on the horrors that occur at these facilities. I would say Alicia Silverstone is much worse because she cannot plead ignorance. She is eating that cheese with complete knowledge of the processes behind its making. It's unreal that people support her.

    Just say you are vegetarian Alicia and get it over with!!!!!!

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  48. It seems to me that nothing is acomplished by attacking someone who admits a personal weakness. I am often in situations where the only foods available have some animal or cheese in them and my choice is to eat or go hungry, I eat. From what I have read this is true of Buddhist monks who are fed by their communities. The question is is it better to accept the generosity or decline and allow the food to go to waste and perhaps insult the giver as well. I think the answer is to stick to your diet as much as possible and accept the food offered graciously.
    As for this Veganism is effortless nonsense. Veganism is not effortless, true it is easier than it was 30 years ago, but as with any diet it is challenging.
    Some of the arguments made to encourage people to adopt a vegan diet I think are counter productive. Attacking people for their food choices is one of them. This puts them on the defensive and most people will defend what is familiar. It also allows the defenders of meat and dairy to label vegans as selfrightous ass's pushing their radical agenda on others. I think a better approach is to point out the health benefits, and or the health consequences involved in peoples food choices. For instance, I have a coworker who is overweight in talking with him I was told that his whole family has diabeties. I explained to him why that was happening to his family and although he still says he can not stop eating meat he has cut down to a couple of times a week and has lost 30 lbs. This is in my mind a success which would not have happened if I had attacked him as an animal eater.

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  49. There really is no side to this argument. Silverstone is wrong. Define "Vegan" then read her interview. Good God it can't get any simpler.

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  50. Vegans without discipline, what a shock! I guarantee the defenders of Alicia Silverstone eat cheese and probably meat on a regular basis. Hate to tell ya, you ain't vegan!

    Next time you scarf down some steak or swiss afterwards take some time to watch some of the undercover footage at dairy and beef farms. You may get sick. Well at least you were accepted by your "friends".

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  51. I think it's terribly sad that Alicia's admission to being human and slipping up has caused so much resentment towards her.

    Making fun of her career is a low blow, and seeing as she has not released a statement defending what she told Us, it's obvious she stands by what she says.

    Alicia Silverstone has brought so much vital exposure to this unique and beautiful lifestyle. Most of us have been there when we've drank a few too many and flirted with someone we shouldn't, or blurted out something rude, or yes, had a bite of cheese when following a vegan diet.

    Alicia's crusade for animals go way beyond what she eats. She powers her house with green energy, only supports used or eco-friendly clothing, drives a golf cart around movie sets to reduce gas emissions. My friends mom who did her make-up for her on a movie set said Alicia saved the face tissues used to wipe away her make-up until they were shredded to pieces and couldn't be re-used anymore.

    How many of you live this way? How many of you don't eat refined white sugar, even though it's been filtered through animal bones? You're not actually eating the animal though, right? So it's okay. Or not.

    Give the woman a break. She has done wonders for the environment and will continue to do so.

    This kind of coverage has only solidified the stereotype of vegans being "icey and rigid." Thanks for all your fantastic work.

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  52. I am astonished by all the vegans who are attacking Ms. Fortney. Her point is spot on. If you are going to talk the talk you better walk the walk.

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  53. No person lives a life that is 100% vegan, and we are not a purity cult. We do this because we don't want to support industries that exploit animals. I think Ms. Silverstone has done a wonderful job educating people about veganism. If someone eats vegan 90% of the time and 10% omnivore. I will take that if the alternative is to never go vegan because they felt it was an impossible lifestyle. I think the vegans that are condemning her are either extremely new to this philosophy or they are far to focused on their own egos. Remember it is about the animals, we need numbers.

    "The idea of veganism was to preserve a word to describe those of us who abstain from the use of any animal for any reason to our highest practical abilities." Donald Watson Focus on the word "Practical" folks

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  54. I've been dismayed at the Kind Life website for some time now. It took me by surprise when I saw a Kind Life sponsor was a non-vegan company with some non-vegan products for sale. Then I started seeing other sponsors pop up that were non-vegan. I didn't get it. I kept looking at the posts and sometimes they were clear, and other times very confusing, but I certainly never felt like it was a truly vegan website nor vegan message that was being promoted. The focus seemed mostly on health reasons for veganism and "health" stories abounded. Now it seems there is a shop with non-vegan items for sale as well. Why? Is this about money, why else would that be? I'm just hoping that people starting out there with veganism will be prompted to go out and find other more consistent and clear communities and information.

    I don't think that trying to save the lives of billions of animals is being icy, it's just being true to the victims. Let's remember them please and act in their best interests, not for our own egos and emotions (I know it is hard sometimes).

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