Honoring Anthony Bourdain
By Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns
How do we process heaping praise on a man who didn’t just eat animals but tortured and demeaned them for pleasure and publicity? Sentimental gush over the late Anthony Bourdain (1956-2018) in The Washington Post or The Wall Street Journal is expected, but gushing admiration by animal advocates? Yes, a claim has been made by some animal people that this voraciously sadistic celebrity was just a “flawed” human being on a journey toward “compassion” – a claim with no evidence – and that his suicide is a tragic loss.
Imagine a similar situation in other social justice movements where, for example, someone in the Civil Rights Movement or the #MeToo Movement pays tribute to “poor, flawed” Bull Connor or Harvey Weinstein. How would the victims of these men feel about that?
It’s one thing to feel sympathy for a fellow human being who is flawed as we all are; it’s another to publicly mourn over a man whose flaws, from the point of view of the animals he tortured without even the “justification” of “necessity,” were on the level of Ted Bundy.
Critiquing our strategies for helping animals is good, but harping on how it is our fault that most people still eat bacon cheeseburgers and reject animal rights is not good. The self-disparagement of “vegans” is a strain in our movement that has undermined it ever since I can recall. Fortunately, these voices (I hope) are a minority – the pushback against the pro-Anthony faction has been eloquent and strong.
Still, we must ask: How does it help our movement or animals when members with a microphone express long-winded sympathy and sorrow over the death of a man who flaunted himself making animals suffer and die? Who wasn’t just a media “slut” but a media sadist? Who despised what he called “veggens” and compared ethical vegans to terrorists? Was the suffering he intentionally inflicted and encouraged others to enjoy doing worth it if it “brought the people of the world closer together”? Was it okay as long as it wasn’t “factory farming”? How is he different from a trophy hunter?
Since, toward animals, Anthony Bourdain was a serial sadist, how could he be excused and even lauded as a kind of hero if the excusers’ own speciesism were not involved? It wasn’t women in a college dormitory or a family sitting in front of the TV or a girl on a hiking trail he savagely attacked with relish in a clear behavior pattern. It was “just animals.”
I can’t understand animal people praising him and wishing he were still here. From the point of view of his victims – and from my point of view as an animal rights activist– he was a monster who could never be missed. – Karen Davis