"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)


Sarah Silverman Discusses Vegetarianism, Judaism in New Memoir

Sarah Silverman's memoir, The Bedwetter, was published last week. Frankly, Silverman's comedy makes me feel uncomfortable. I try to see through to the bigger picture of shining light on bigotry, as she explains in The Bedwetter with regard to her controversy with the Media Action Network for Asian Americans. Still, I think Silverman crosses the line. At least when it comes to edgy Jewish jokes, her seemingly honest admission (in a chapter titled "Jew") hits the nail on the head:
To be perfectly honest, I would like to go about my life exploiting the subject of Jewishness for comedy, and not be saddled with the responsibility to actually represent, defend, or advance the cause of the Jewish people.
I blogged about Silverman's public statements about vegetarianism in October and March, but a passage in The Bedwetter seems to be her most comprehensive discussion of the topic so far. She starts off by telling the story of why she went vegetarian:
We lived on a farm, but it wasn't operational like our neighbors' farms, which produced stuff; we bought our meat and vegetables from them. When I was six years old, my dad took me there to see the turkeys. The farmer, Vic, told me to look at all the birds carefully and choose one that I liked. I saw a cute one with a silly walk and said, "Him!!" Before my pointing finger dropped back down to my side, Vic had grabbed the bird by the neck and slit his throat. Blood sprayed as the turkey's wings flapped back and forth in a futile attempt to unkill itself. Without realizing it, I had sentenced that turkey to death, and while maybe this sort of thing gave fat British monarchs a rush, to me it was horrifying. And though I'm probably projecting, I don't think it was in the turkey's top-five favorite moments, either.

I should mention that this was late November, so what I had witnessed was not random cruelty, but a long-standing American tradition. This wasn't just a random turkey killing, it was a thankful turkey killing. Until that day I didn't even know where meat came from, so if that trip to the farm was Dad's deliberate attempt to teach me about the food chain, I wish he'd used a tad more finesse. ...

In hindsight, I'm sure my dad feels bad about our little excursion, but I see it as a gift. My father might not have realized or intended it, but that day he gave me the knowledge to make an informed decision for myself at a very early age: I would never eat turkey again. And once I figured out the connection between Happy Meals and cows, I would never eat beef again, either. Or any other meat.
Silverman then recounts a story from her high school years, when a bully named Adam "discovered that I was a vegetarian." She explains Adam's rationale for one bullying incident by saying that "he just found out the Jew doesn't eat Big Macs." She explains:
While Adam stood by, clutching a heaping stack of cold cuts from the cafeteria, Gade and J.R. held me down on the cafeteria table ... and J.R. clamped my nose shut with his free hand. Then they waited patiently, giggling, for my body's breathing instinct to force my mouth open. At which point, Adam, not missing a beat, stuffed the cold cuts inside. I gagged at the taste and smell, simultaneously gasping for air through the blockade of highly processed dead-animal flesh. By now it had been seven full years since I'd last tasted meat. To call this event unpleasant would be something of an understatement. . . .

What had he hoped to accomplish? If he wanted to teach a dumb vegetarian a lesson, it failed. I did not, after that encounter, say to myself, Well, message received: Meat is appetizing, and it's time to put this childish vegetarian thing behind me. If anything, my negative attitude toward eating meat deepened.


  • At 4/28/2010 7:42 AM, Anonymous Richard Schwartz said…

    Since she is a well-known personality, I hope her writings will get people thinking about vegetarianism. Also, I hope she will speak out often on the issues, including the health, environmental, resources and hunger connections.

    For information about Jewish teachings on vegetarianism, please visit JewishVeg.com/schwartz, where I have many articles and podcasts, and ASacredDuty.com, to see our acclaimed documentary "A Sacred Duty: Applying Jewish Values to Help Heal the World."


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