Friday, August 22, 2008

Paltrow & PETA: How do vegetarians draw the line?

(This is a cross-post from my other gig, BlogHer.)

In the ‘She-didn't-see-this-coming?' category, Gwyneth Paltrow was recently slammed by PETA for modeling fur in ads for Tod's, an Italian maker of fashion accessories. Paltrow, a proclaimed vegetarian, is known for her green, holistic lifestyle and close friendship with staunch animal-rights designer, Stella McCartney, yet she is fronting the autumn collection of fur-lined boots and bags for Tod's. Tricky, no? As an aspiring vegetarian, I'm befuddled. Can V-Folks have it both ways?

"People are more violently opposed to fur than leather because it's safer to harass rich women than motorcyle gangs."

--Alexei Sayle, British comedian, actor, author

PETA, in their usual snarky tone, issued the following statement:

"Gwyneth Paltrow won't be the apple of her daughter's eye if she flaunts the skins of once-beautiful animals. Promoting an industry that electrocutes animals, snaps their necks, and skins them alive is a shocking example to set for a young child ... Apparently, Paltrow's beauty really is only skin deep."

PETA has helpfully sent the offending actress gobs of photos, videos and gruesome details about what is done to animals to make fur fashion products but have not received a response.

Putting all the Blonde Rage (Jessica Simpson v. Pamela Anderson, Paltrow v. McCartney, Hayden Panetierre v. dolphin hunters, Jenna Jameson v. horny pets) aside for a minute , my question is this: Are vegetarians and vegans universally expected to abstain from all uses of animals, whether for food, medical or scientific research, clothing or companionship? And is this even possible? My guess is this issue is not so black and white but more ... er, calico.

Frequent animal rights activist and bad-husband-chooser Pam Anderson accidentally discovered some grey areas when she went to Australia to film an episode of 'Big Brother'. She stopped by the local KFC to stage a protest totally unaware that KFC is a major sponsor of the very show that hired her. Buk-buk-buk-BUKAH!

"There's never been a better time to be a half-assed vegetarian."

--Daniel Engber, Slate

It was a couple of decades ago but I remember getting harangued by a vegetarian who took me to task for wearing a rabbit fur coat, a 16th birthday gift from my mother. I felt horribly guilty until I pointed out his leather jacket and shoes. V-Folks today are much sharper about aligning their shopping choices with their principles but my own guilt remains. The coat has remained in the closet where it will not be taken out again unless I move to Aspen or Vail, where fur coats are like Birkenstocks in Berkeley.
"Everyone's a pacifist between wars. It's like being a vegetarian between meals."

--Colman McCarthy, American journalist, teacher and peace activist

When pondering our beneficial relationship with animals, looks like we humanoids draw personal lines in different places. I know some who don't eat meat but have leather interior in the car, vegans who put honey on their oatmeal, while others eat pepperoni pizza but faithfully buy cage-free eggs. (Okay, that last one is me, actually.)
"I'm not a vegetarian because I love animals; I'm a vegetarian because I hate plants."

--A. Whitney Brown, American comedian, writer

Perhaps that is why so many V-Folks come off as militant; the way our society and marketplace is structured, it requires a certain amount of vigilance to keep the issue front-of-mind. Though I am getting better about making more conscious choices, it requires some pretty severe mind tricks on my part.

I actually have to put one of my personal animal friends (Simone the cat, Millie the bird or Bob the horse) in place of the nameless, faceless animal listed on the menu and ask myself some hard questions: Would I order a bowl of Simone Soup? Or a Bob Burger? A side of Millie Wings?

I often end up holding up the line while my stomach and heart duke it out. Usually I end up with a soft serve cone so no one gets hurt .... but I'm usually still hungry. It all begs that famous question, 'If vegetarians eat vegetables, what do humanitarians eat?'

I don't have the answers but I welcome advise, insight and flaming condemnation on this issue. In the process of my ongoing quest, I have found some interesting blogs and posts that offer perspective:

The Vegetarian Protein Site features thought-provoking posts such as, "What kind of car should a vegetarian own?" and "Why would you be a vegan and not ever participate in a protest?"

Enjoy a youthful perspective from TeenSaladShooter - Plain Talk on the Veggie Lifestyle in her post, "Emergency leads to debate":
"It's really weird. The very word 'vegetarian' makes adults, mostly moms, act like Cujo."

--Teen Salad Shooter

Meanwhile, the It's Not Easy Being Green blog offers some hilarious hosting-a-vegetarian tips under the post, "Who invited the Vegetarian!?":
"After all, there are over 19 million of us (vegetarians) in the United States. But, a vegetarian at your BBQ doesn't have to ruin the fun. In fact, it won't. Vegetarians are people too, you may be surprised to know. And like all people, we come in all types - fat, skinny, rude, friendly, democrat, republican (or so I've heard, I've never actually met one), bossy, shy, etc. We aren't all hippies.... The main rule of thumb is just don't worry about it - vegetarians have been going to parties for generations, we're used to it."

--It's Not Easy Being Green



Howard said...

First, I have to knock PETA for that awful apple pun. Ugh. That was worthy of a hack improv player.

As for advice: Sweetie, draw the lines that you are comfortable with. Only you have to live with you. All the others can just go diddle a turnip.

hotdrwife said...

See, I had something witty to say, and then Howard throws out the "diddle a turnip".

I was raised on a cattle ranch and it's impossible for me not to eat meat. But - I also had a tendency to 'save' cattle from going to the slaughter truck, and 'Lucy The Boy Cow' lived in our pasture for a good long while (read: shortest hiatus from death ever. My dad was not amused).

ClizBiz said...

Howard: Totally agree on the apple pun. I don't know who writes PETA's 'official statements' but they always end up sounding like a snotty kid that nobody likes.

HDW: Agree that Howard's 'diddle a turnip' verbage cannot be improved upon. I'm totally stealing it.

I LOVE that you saved a cow from impending doom! So cute!

Anonymous said...

I don't have anything to add about the vegetarian or vegan thing other than I'm neither (meat make man strong, and no poop). It is interesting to see what people think is green and what is not. As a certified green building cabinetmaker, I am working on the "greenest" project I have ever worked on. The home owners leveled their previous single story home and replaced it with a two story. They are filling the space with casework and such with wood species like vertical grain Douglas Fir in the bedrooms and doorways. Lyptus in the kitchen. Walnut and mahogany in the library and cherry in the foyer. Yes, it's all certified wood alright. A veritable buffet of coniferous and deciduous carnage.
But it's green.


ClizBiz said...

DD: I can't tell you how excited I am to have a cabinetmaker among my readership. You guys are artists. I could listen to you talk about wood all day long.