Two vastly different types of "vegan" news were all over the internet yesterday. One, Psychology Today wrote about a study claiming to find proof that vegetarians and vegans are more compassionate than omnivores; more areas of their brains (compared to omnivores' brains) appear to react (MRI tests) to images of both animal and human suffering. You can find the article at the link above. Predictably, vegans and vegetarians and organizations like PETA "tweeted" and "shared" this information widely, as proof that "we" are better than all you "stupid" omnivores and, of course, didn't we know that all along?
And the wording of their tweets and shares was about that compassionate, by the way, as were the comments that followed said tweets and Facebook posts.
Alongside that information was the tidbit of news that Brooke Shields was quoted as saying, "Wearing fur may be associated with something grandmotherish. Something you wear when you visit the opera, or if you are a rock star and wears it inside out. But I will advocate that both my generation and the younger generation can wear fur". This was EVERYWHERE yesterday, but if you want evidence, go to PETA, the original article, twitter (just search for her), or ecorazzi.com.
Now, I *totally* disagree with Brooke Shields' choice to wear fur. TOTALLY. (Read my review on the fur trade documentary Skin Trade if you don't believe me.) But if we vegans and vegetarians are so compassionate -- so evolved in our empathetic responses to people and animals -- should "we" be expressing our disgust at Brooke's choices with the following words? (There were, of course, plenty of people who did NOT use these types of words, but the following posts are but a brief selection of the harsh and cruel words aimed at Brooke yesterday on the internet; I have left all spelling and grammar and punctuation errors as they were originally written.)
GO DIE IN A PITCH SOMEWHERE, BROOKE SHIELDS!!! FUCKING FUR-LOVING CUNT!!!!!!!!!! (twitter)
Brooke shields, this is why you're some dumb ass jobless fucked up bitch! (Twitter)
What an asshole. (Twitter)
I didn't dream about anally electrocuting animals on fur farms, but apparently Brooke Shields did. (PETA writer)
Brooke Shields is SCUM. Seriously, this fading siren is resorting to animal abuse to stay in the limelight. Pathetic! (comment on the PETA blog)
I hope you never have a peaceful nights sleep again you washed up old fur hag. (another comment on the PETA blog)
I would like to see her skinned alive and be worn all the time. (yet another comment on the PETA blog)
She need an electrical prod shoved up her ass!! (comment left on PETA's Facebook page)
She could make a fur coat with her eye brows although she doesn't need one with all the fat in her ass she can keep warm. (another comment from PETA's Facebook page)
When Brooke Shields dies and meets her maker, all those little animals will be standing there watching, as she falls down to HELL! (ditto)
I could go on and on, but you get the picture: those supporting animal rights and theoretically *so* much more compassionate than omnivores (who are assumed *not* to support animal rights) are hellishly rude and anything but compassionate in their treatment of Brooke Shields, who last I thought about it, is just another human being like the rest of us. Flawed. Capable of making some BIG mistakes. Unfortunately, when she makes them, everybody knows about it.
I'm SO glad I'm not famous.
My own tweet "to" Brooke (I actually hope for her sake she's NOT reading the crap posted on Twitter) was the following: "You have disappointed me. Fur? Really? I *know* you can live without it and still look SMASHING. Watch Skin Trade."
I believe it is possible to raise awareness of atrocities such as those repeatedly seen in the fur industry without resorting to foul language or criticism of a person's career, physical attributes, intelligence, or age. Granted, maybe all the above comments come from meat-eaters; I don't actually *know* for sure, but judging on the organizations they purport to support, it is a safe guess that quite a few of them put themselves out there both as animal advocates and as vegetarians, maybe even vegans.
If "we" want people to believe that one of the benefits of a vegan or vegetarian diet is increased compassion and less violence, we need to make sure that our words toward fellow human beings reflect those values.
Even if our brains (rather predictably, given our philosophical commitments) fire up "more" than omnivores' brains when shown images of cruelty, we undermine the claim that we're so "nice" if we talk about people with so little regard for their personhood.
I hope Brooke changes her mind. And I hope if she does, people quietly applaud her and let her do so with grace, rather than with shaming criticism.
- My interests include veganism and vegetarianism, health, ethics, politics and culture, media, and the environment. I have three kids; I teach college part-time, study piano and attempt to garden. I knit. I blog on just about anything, but many posts are related to my somewhat pathetic quest to eat better, be more mindful of the environment, and be a more responsible news consumer. Sometimes I write about parenting, but, like so many Mommy bloggers, my kids have recently told me not to. :) Thanks for reading.