"I've noticed that quite a lot of people who are prominent in the animal liberation movement are Jews. Maybe we are simply not prepared to see the powerful hurting the weak." --Peter Singer (Author, Animal Liberation)


Two Thumbs Up for Alicia Silverstone's The Kind Diet

Alicia Silverstone's book The Kind Diet: A Simple Guide to Feeling Great, Losing Weight, and Saving the Planet came out today. The Jewish vegan and movie star makes the case for why people should go vegan for their health, animals, and the environment. This book has a fun and accessible writing style, and it'd make the perfect gift this holiday season for people (especially women) who are into celebrity diet books. The Kind Diet includes explanations about factory farming, a foreword by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine president Neal Barnard, and lots of recipes.

Although The Kind Diet largely focuses on health, it certainly does a terrific job of getting readers to think about animals in the meat, dairy, and egg industries. Silverstone explains how she decided to go vegan after rescuing dogs from an animal shelter:
I was committing my heart, soul, time, and pocketbook to these poor creatures, and that's when it hit me: How could I spend so much energy saving one group of animals, then turn around and eat other ones? There was a fundamental hypocrisy in my thinking. Weren't they all living beings? Why did we buy some of them cute little doggy beds while slaughtering others? I had to ask myself—in all seriousness—why don't I just eat my dog?

That realization helped me make up my mind once and for all. I realized that, until I stopped using my dollars to purchase meat or other products that are created through violence or cruelty, the suffering would never end. It wouldn't stop because I wanted it to. It wouldn't stop because I wished it would. If I really wanted to end cruelty to animals, I had to boycott it completely.
Judaism doesn't come up much explicitly in the book, and there were no Jewish or Israeli recipes. I noticed two quick mentions of Judaism: Silverstone remembers "crossing myself like a Catholic even though I'm Jewish, because this was a total act of faith" during her last meal before giving up meat, and she learned about one recipe from a castmate in "a play about Orthodox Judaism in which I portrayed a lesbian who had a cocaine overdose on stage."

There is, however, some striking religious rhetoric. It's unclear whether the word choice here represents Silverstone's thinking or that of her collaborator, Jessica Porter:
  • "Every single creature wants to live fully. That's what God designed us to do. That's our purpose. Who are we to take that away unless we have to? And these days, where's the 'have to'?"
  • "These animals [on factory farms] experience lives tantamount to humans being strapped into straitjackets, locked in cells, and abused by jailers, awaiting nothing but death. Their God-given instincts are repressed and their very beings denied."
  • "Kind Foods"—whole grains, "new" proteins, vegetables, and desserts—are introduced as "beautiful, delicious, God-given foods that will rock your world."
Animals have a compelling, beautiful advocate on their side. The book is already getting some nice media coverage. I saw Silverstone on the cover of a supermarket tabloid this evening at the supermarket and then came home to an e-mail with a New York Post article about "arguably the most non-annoying vegan on the planet." I particularly enjoyed an MTV News article titled "Alicia Silverstone Brings The Vegan Message To The MTV Newsroom," which concluded:

I was not convinced that I would ever stop eating meat or dairy until she mentioned ice cream, which is my all time favorite food. She went into a detailed description of how cows are milked and that most of the time it is done quite forcefully and cruel[l]y, which is not only painful for the animal but dangerous for the milk drinkers. In fact, when blood sneaks into the milk, they don't even take it out — they just dye it! Let's just say I don't think I will ever eat [dairy] ice cream again.

When the interview wrapped, I realized that Silverstone had accomplished everything she set out to in her 15 minutes in the chair: She got me (and a number of other people) interested in her diet and also probably saved a few animals along the way. I would call that a good day indeed.

I wish Alicia Silverstone much success with The Kind Diet. It has the potential to do a world of good.


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