Libra Max Protests Honoring of Puck at Genesis Awards
Libra Max, whom I consider a friend, shared a letter she wrote to her fellow members of the Genesis Awards Committee. The backstory, as you may know by now, is that Wolfgang Puck was honored at the event last Saturday evening in Los Angeles. She didn’t think that was a good idea, but she is just one person on the committee. I asked her if I could post her letter, and she gave me permission.
My dear friends and fellow activists,
I find myself in the painful position of composing a letter to my own community, my compatriots, the few fellow humans with whom I have felt a kinship in our unified commitment to the animals. I am writing with a self-consciousness that I am breaking with code by expressing something I know many of us who come to The Genesis Awards are feeling, but no one wants to openly say.
I am writing to express the sadness I felt upon opening my Genesis invitation and seeing “Special Recognition, Wolfgang Puck.” My heart hurt then and still does. My conscience simply will not allow me to attend an evening that both approves of the use of animals for food by promoting Puck, while claiming to work against cruelty. It is more than misleading and confusing; it is hypocrisy and an unconscionable betrayal of the animals for whom we had promised to stand.
I do welcome pluralism within our movement, but this has gone beyond diversity among activist groups; we are now in collusion with the meat industry. I do not believe that spotlighting Puck in a celebratory way falls into even the broadest definition of reform or welfare. Some might argue that a ‘thank you’ to Puck for removing foie gras and crated veal from his menu was appropriate. However, to recognize him at an animal event two years in a row, and to prominently feature him on the Genesis invitation in a manner that gives the distinct impression that he is the singular guest of note, is not only inappropriate, it sends a profoundly toxic message to the less informed people who come to Genesis with an authentic desire to help the animals.
Honoring Puck sets a potentially malignant precedent with the influential, moneyed, and media attendees like Anderson Cooper: Is Puck the face of our movement? Whether or not Puck will be in attendance is immaterial; the message is being sent.
Puck’s new restaurant is called ‘CUT.’ Does this celebration of pain sound like it comes from someone who cares about animals? Or just a savvy business person who has removed two of the most egregious forms of cruelty from his menu, only to replace this cruelty with a higher volume in sales of “humanely raised” animal parts. He has used his relationship with HSUS as a successful marketing ploy to increase diminishing veal sales. According to the New York Times, his “humane” veal schnitzel is the third most popular item on his menu and what used to be considered a taboo food item is newly chic and skyrocketing in sales since receiving the "humane" stamp of approval. What are we doing? Why are we doing PR for Puck? He was thanked last year. Any further recognition or dealings should remain in the boardroom, not at Genesis. No matter how he is cloaked in celebrity, he is a person who makes his living by causing suffering. There is no way around this truth.
We are far more forgiving of the food animal abuser than we would be of those who inflict torture upon dogs, cats, or mink, for example. Can we imagine featuring Blackglama Mink at Genesis if the mink were “cage free” before electrocution? Each one of the millions of cows, pigs, chickens, and baby calves that Puck serves up had once valued their lives the way we value our own. They were to themselves, and to their family members, beings of great importance who believed with absolute certainty that their lives were worth living.
I hope for us all to do better, mostly myself, which is the very reason I felt I had to write to all of you on the eve of Genesis. I have to live the kind of world I want to see and my activism and my life must be a daily reflection of that vision. I hope for us all to more critically examine the consequences of our actions and how our public alignments impact thinking in the world. We are powerful, more than we know, and so we must remain vigilant not to tacitly condone abuse and killing by promulgating the “humanely raised” myth. It only reinforces the thinking that animals are mere pieces of property and helps the meat and dairy industry to sell more pain. If we remain in collusion with those who believe the animals don’t matter, well, the animals will never matter.
My wish for our movement is to raise ourselves to a place of integrity and truth telling and to imagine what we would most desperately hope for if we were forced to rely on someone else to fight for our lives. We owe this to the animals. We are all they have.
I write to you with respect and in kinship.
Genesis Awards Committee
If you’re ever positioned as an insider and a decision is made or an action is taken that you disagree with, it doesn’t have to end there. All is not lost. You can send a letter of protest. You can boycott an event and let the people involved in the event know exactly why you’re not there. You can’t change the past, but you can have a hand in shaping a future that looks different from the past, by honoring your beliefs in the present. In each moment.
CORRECTION: Please note that the final paragraph–outside the box–was written by me, however it was erroneously inserted into the middle of the letter initially (making it look like Libra wrote it). I apologize to Libra and to all of you for that mistake and for any confusion it has caused.