On celebrity hate

I’m not really into celebrities, and sometimes I find myself quite disgusted at the worshipping of them. Especially when it’s about royalty or figures like Kim Kardashian or Paris Hilton. Not that I want to necessarily call these people amoral, and I’m not one to judge people I know only from the media and not personally (see my article on Slow Opinion), but the worship seems so senseless. It seems to be a case, maybe, of “zeros as heroes“.


When, however, celebrities are being criticized when they are doing good things, as is the case in our movement when Ricky Gervais goes after hunters or when Beyonce advertises vegan eating or a vegan food business. The core of the allegations seems to be that these two people (and many others) are inconsistent in their behavior  (hypocrital) because they are not vegan. Beyonce, on top of that, still wears fur and has been called many unkind names for it.

I think accusing these people of hypocrisy for not being vegan is regrettable and unstrategic, and I think celebrities might do a lot of good also without being vegan, but I’ve written about that elsewhere (on Gervais and on Beyonce and also Being vegan doesn’t trump everything). Here I would just like to stop a brief moment to wonder if there’s anything more going on. That’s because I think inconsistency or even hypocrisy in and of itself doesn’t seem to warrant this much hate (if you think the word hate is an overstatement, just go visit some vegan/animal rights Facebook groups).

Apart from hate, what I seem to come across again and again is talk like “we don’t need celebrities” (“f*ck them”). DXE activist Wayne Hsiung, for instance, wrote an article on how celebrities are not as important as we think they are: Celebrity Vegans: what does the science say?

I’m not a doctor in psychology or something, but there does seem to be more going on here than a mere aversion to inconsistency or celebrities being useless to our cause (which I find extremely doubtful).

Clearly, many people don’t like celebrities in general, and Google turns up quite a lot of stuff when you enter the words celebrity and hate together. Again, sometimes the apparently disgusting behavior of celebrities makes it very easy to hate them: they can be overly concerned about their appearance, they may be greedy and extremely needy of attention, etcetera.

But this is nothing that “normal” humans don’t do. Probably many people, in case they would suddenly be propelled to celebrity status, might exhibit the same kinds of behavior. Still, we love to hate celebrities for their all too human flaws. Maybe we’re jealous? Maybe saying celebrities are evil or ridiculous is a way to deal with our frustration of not having what they have? Or maybe we, as activists, get jealous because while we have been working so hard to get attention for the cause, famous people only have to sneeze to create massive media coverage. It’s a bit irrational, as we should be happy with every attention our cause gets, but I guess it’s all too human too.

Or maybe what’s behind celebrity hatred (or irritation) is not jealousy but a desire for fairness. Maybe we just don’t like it that there are people out there earning so much more money than the average citizen, getting so much more attention, having, maybe, so much more power… Maybe we dislike celebrities because we want to live in a world where all people are equal, and celebrities are very much an illustration of how that is not the case.

I don’t know if there’s any truth in my guesses, but I think that when we judge or critize celebritities, it’s good to be aware of our motivations.  Knowing which role celebrities actually play in social change is definitely important, but we need to be careful not to get carried away by anti-celebrity bias when trying to establish that role.

While I can understand celebrity hate, I believe it’s good to remember that they are people too, with their frailties, sensibilities, desires and emotions. More importantly, I think that the moment when these famous people are actually something good (be it inconsistently) is, in my humble opinion, not the best time to express celebrity hate.

Thinking is vegan

Reading Facebook comments about Beyonce’s announcement about her food choices made me think that a big part of our movement has lost it. I read hundreds of vegans complaining about Beyonce and criticizing her. This great videoblog by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, in which she refutes the criticsm, makes you see the craziness with which some of us approach all things (non) vegan all the more clearly. I urge you to watch it. It’s a breath of fresh air.Thinking is vegan

I think some of us have stopped thinking. Having an ideology, even if it’s a nice one, can be damaging for one’s ability to think. Veganism seems pretty clear cut in many ways. It seems straightforward, there’s few real counterarguments one might bring in against it, it seems consistent, etcetera. So we’re tempted to think the thinking is done. That it has been done for us, already decades ago.

Maybe that’s the case. Maybe we have some sort of complete and clear definition of what is and what is not vegan, what is and what is not vegan, etcetera (even though I doubt it). But surely, we are not done thinking about the best way to bring veganism to the masses. The way we define veganism and the way we try to mainstream it are intertwined. We need to think about both. We need, above all, to be strategic and not dogmatic about being vegan and about communicating about veganism.

Let Beyonce be. About the biggest oversight in our movement

While many vegans applaud the fact that Beyonce is so outspoken about vegan eating, many others are critical of it. Among others, some folks from Direct Action Everywhere movement (which I’m still investigating but so far have been underwhelmed by) claims that “Beyonce going vegan is bad for the animals.” Let’s ignore for the moment the fact that Beyonce never said she was going vegan. We’ve heard it all before: Beyonce is not emphasising animal rights as the reason for her vegan efforts, but rather health. Many vegans demand that animals are always at the center of everything vegan. Health should have nothing to do with it. This is about morality, about ethics, about justice. Veganism can not be some fad or lifestyle thing. Right? Not really, I think. There is one thing that in my view is an enormous oversight in our movement, and its importance cannot be overstated. Here it comes: Behaviour change may precede attitude change. quote attitude behaviourRead it again, and try to let it sink in. We usually work like this: we give people all kinds of information, in the hope that attitude change (different beliefs about eating animals) will lead to behavior change (no longer eating animals). It surely can work like this, but we forget that it also works the other way round, and indeed, much research points to the fact that the other way round might be more effective. What does the other way round mean? It means that people may very well become open to animal rights arguments after changing their eating habbits. They might become “reducetarians” (or even vegans) for health reasons, for instance, or because it is a trendy thing to do. But the important thing is that once they are vegan, or partly vegan, it is much easier for them to listen to animal rights arguments. Why? Because they don’t need to be so defensive anymore. They already know they can eat tasty food, they know they don’t have so much to lose anymore, so their hearts and minds can be open. Attitude change follows behavior change, in this case. This means that in the end, we would all get in the same place, whether people start with animal rights, or not at all, like Beyonce does. It doesn’t matter all that much. A big part of the animal rights movement has  such an obsession with being vegan, and being vegan for the right reasons, that it blinds us to the fact that there are other ways to get where we want. Less direct ways perhaps, but therefore not less efficient ways. On the contrary, encouraging people to start out with whatever reasons they think are suitable, and encouraging them to moderate their consumption of animal products to whatever degree they think is doable, may be the fastest road forward. People might argue that those who become vegan for other than ethical reasons won’t stick to the diet. However, the reason why people don’t stick to the diet is mostly that it’s still not convenient enough (in several ways) to stick to it. As many more people eat more vegan meals (for whatever reason) sticking to it will become easier by the day. So bottom line: let Beyonce be. Let people have their own reasons for reducing or giving up animal products. They’ll be going along with animal rights arguments before you know it.

See also the follow post How what you eat determines what you think.

You might also be interested to check out Different approach, same results, with a sensible article, and also Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s videoblog on Beyonce.