21 June 2018

Regarding Anthony Bourdain:
Thank You for Reading and Writing

By Karen Davis, PhD, President of United Poultry Concerns

Drawing of man at dinner table with plates of empty bones

I want to thank everyone very much who took the time to read my June 17 Honoring Anthony Bourdain and to email me personally and post their reactions on UPC’s Facebook page.

I’ve received an outpouring of emails from animal advocates expressing gratitude for my post. A recurrent theme is: “Thank you for letting me know it’s not just me who finds fawning over this man and eulogizing him baffling, weird, unfortunate, and depressing. I thought I was living in a parallel universe.”

A few complained that by criticizing Anthony Bourdain and his vegan defenders, I dishonored a “depressed” fellow human and his family. I suppose probably everyone who systematically, consciously and deliberately inflicts pain, suffering and death on others could be diagnosed with clinical depression or some other mental problem. Should mass murderers and serial abusers (of human beings), instead of being “judged” (heaven forbid we be “judgmental”!), be lavished with praise and larded with “tolerance”?

(Some vegans are judging me for being “judgmental.”)

Some Bourdain sympathizers have said such things as: since virtually everyone “eats meat,” they are just as guilty as, or even more guilty than, Anthony Bourdain; he at least “looked his victims in the eye.”

I have never believed that people who “kill their own meat” are on a higher plane of morality than those who thoughtlessly buy meat in a supermarket or a restaurant. I distinguish between people who’ve grown up on farms, where killing animals up close and personal is so routine that they don’t question or feel it anymore, and those who, not having grown up that way, suddenly decide that, instead of just buying meat at the store, they’re going to kill the animals themselves. (Typically, such people, including the Anthony Bourdains, Mark Zuckerbergs and Michael Pollans, do both, and encourage their groupies to copy them, it’s so cool!)

The defense for killing your own animals is: you’re acting more “honorably” and “authentically” and “un-hypocritically” when you experience your victim’s living body, which you are personally going to destroy, than when your victim has already been conveniently “disappeared” into a food product by others somewhere in a “packing plant.”

One more point – which I’ve been making for decades* – is why, in the words of a person who wrote to me earlier this week, do some vegans “take the viewpoint of someone who vocalized complete hatred of ethical vegans?” What underlies the self-deprecation, the judging of oneself from the point of view of The Destroyer? Of course, animal people who share the same goals for animals have different temperaments that shape their style of advocacy. I would never argue that every advocate who chooses a “softer” approach to advocacy is a sellout or a betrayer of animals. But there’s a difference between softness as a thought-through strategy, and softness as a cover for lack of confidence in one’s cause and one’s skills, compounded by a penchant for passivity and a fear of confrontation, however mild, with mainstream opinion.

Once in the 1990s, I was sitting around with a group of activists including one who was prominent in our movement at the time. He complained about how hard it was for him to be an animal rights activist. He did not like being or feeling like an “outsider.” He resented being associated with people the mainstream considered “wacko.” He almost went so far as to resent the animals themselves for putting him in this predicament. He eventually left the movement. Just as well. With friends like that, animals don’t need enemies.

As for calling Anthony Bourdain a monster, I stand by my closing statement in “Honoring Anthony Bourdain”: “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.”

If you think he was not a monster from the point of view of his victims, what do you think he was – from their point of view? Which, without sounding presumptuous, I share. By the way, Adolf Hitler committed suicide. Should he get a break and even be honored because he was, as well as a mass murderer, a pathologically “flawed” human being who needed help? Was he evolving? Could he have been saved?

* The Rhetoric of Apology in Animal Rights

Painting: Buried in dead meat by Sue Cole
Meatopian Mourning by Sue Coe


Related articles:

Honoring Anthony Bourdain

Last Words on Anthony Bourdain & His “Vegan” Fan Club