Oprah Tries Veganism as a “Cleanse”
Kathy Freston has a new book, Quantum Wellness, wherein she writes of the importance of "Conscious Eating," which sounds very much like part of Right Action from The Eightfold Path mixed with The Four Noble Truths. The book made Oprah consider vegetarianism and she’s doing a 21-day "cleanse," which will include no animal products (or at least that’s the goal) and no alcohol, caffeine, sugar or gluten.
As you might imagine, the audience was shocked as Oprah introduced welcomed Ms. Freston and her "radical approach to eating."
Not a good start.
Oprah asks Ms. Freston, "Are you nuts now? Have you gone to the nuts’ side?"
Again, not good.
Did she do it all at once? "If I tried to get to where I am right now I’d be out of my mind! It’s just too radical."
"You don’t even wear leather."
Here are my concerns:
- Oprah asks (and this one might not be an exact quote but it’s very close), "What if we’re really nice to them and treat them humanely and we tell them they’re beautiful and we pet them [and she motions the petting and everyone laughs, including Ms. Freston] and then we give them a shot and they pass on to the other side, then can we eat them? Ms. Freston does nothing but giggle, and then they cut to a commercial. The difficult questions are never asked, never addressed. There is no talk about justice or violence, although there is an allusion to karma when Ms. Freston speaks of eating the energy of another’s suffering.
- What caught Oprah’s attention was the idea of being conscious about where your food comes from and "how the animals were treated." My prediction is that if she makes it the 21 days, she will indeed be transformed and will be a proud consumer of animal products that are allegedly produced more humanely and might even be labeled "Certified Humane." I don’t think that’s cynical of me; I think it’s realistic.
- When you call something a "cleanse," that spells deprivation. In fact, Oprah warns that when attempting any kind of cleanse or fast, you should consult your doctor first. When you do a cleanse or a fast, implied is that you will stop doing it at some point, and hopefully not go back to how you used to eat. You’ll transition from the fast (extreme deprivation) to a new way of eating. But it won’t be like what you did during the cleanse or the fast. The message is that veganism is a strategy to be used for a short period to achieve a certain result. I’ve fasted for several weeks at a time (anyone know Dr. Doug Graham?), with no intake other than distilled water. Transitioning out was fruit for a week, and then to raw food only. My experience of cleanses and fasts is that they’re not fun. You can’t work 12 hour days. You shouldn’t exercise heavily. You feel terrible as your body purges itself of toxins. You’re exhausted. And that’s if you go into it as a vegan! Imagine going into a cleanse as an omnivore! I wouldn’t call what Oprah’s doing a cleanse; she’ll just be eating better. The question now becomes: What’s next? Once 21-days of veganism is over–and it has an ethical component around the concept of welfare–does the veganism disappear to be replaced with "humanely" slaughtered sentient beings?
When the student is ready, the teacher appears. If Kathy Freston is Oprah’s teacher and will help her transition to a more healthy, ethical way of approaching her life, that’s fabulous. And if one viewer looks into veganism (a word mentioned once) and stops using animals as a result of the show, that’s great.
I look forward to reading about Oprah’s journey. I suggest writing her and perhaps proposing a show featuring vegans from all walks of life to put a non-"nuts" face on what we do in the name of justice and nonviolence. And of course, send her all of your favorite books.
I hope that during this experiment of Oprah’s she is exposed to the idea of abolition, and the connection between nonviolence and eating, as well as social justice and eating. If this becomes all about suffering (which is how it started) it will lead straight to happy meat. Please write encouraging notes to Oprah, perhaps even on the discussion board (which you have to register for). And remember your audience. They already have the words "nuts" and "radical" in their minds. Don’t give them cause to ridicule us further (and don’t think I’m not going to jump in there when I get five minutes today for some kind, articulate deconstruction).
I wish that all of the people who broke down in tears during Oprah’s puppy mill show make the connection between dogs and cows and humans, and alter their lives accordingly.