Ellen…Have You Forsaken Us?

Ellen…Have You Forsaken Us?

Posted on 1 Dec 2012
By: Marilyn Ramos
What the hell happened? Ellen! Ellen! Did we really hear you say on your show recently that you are now eating eggs because those eggs come from “happy” chickens that your neighbors keep?

From Wikipedia: Veganism is the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products, particularly in diet, as well as an associated philosophy that rejects the commodity status of sentient animals. A follower of veganism is known as a vegan.

Vegans are confused. Just a couple of days before, Ellen’s appearance on the Katie show (Katie Couric for those out of the loop) had gone viral among the vegan community to much applause and kudos. However, after I saw the clip of Ellen saying she eats “happy” eggs, I immediately went to her ellentv.com website to see if she or her people had taken down her vegan resources, recipes, etc. etc.  Nope, still there. In fact, that section of the website is still titled, “Going Vegan with Ellen”. So you can go vegan with Ellen even though Ellen isn’t vegan?! Say what?

Now I know Ellen is a huge celebrity and may be insulated in what is being said about her in the close knit vegan community. But, as Joe Biden would say, “This is a big fucking deal!” and I hope some of it trickles back to her because she needs a reality check. The comments amongst vegan websites/blogs go from dumbfounded (really? seriously? She didn’t mean it!) to demanding (we must kick her out of our vegan family until she sees the light!) to denial (there is no way she is eating eggs!).  Here are some comments:

I swear my heart broke when she said that two days ago. I’m so disappointed.

She went from eating meat, to not eating any animals products, to now eating eggs. It’s a disappointment because she was such a role model and ambassador for veganism – and now she is not even a vegan herself, so we’ve lost this hugely influential voice.

There is a linear progression that exists here; a journey that many vegans take: omnivore to lacto-ovo and, eventually, vegan. If Ellen were lacto-ovo and decided to start eating only “happy” eggs, you could applaud her, hoping that she’ll progress past that stage. However, she went backwards. Her decision trivializes the ethical basis for going vegan.

I’m glad she is still not eating meat, but the fact is, she’s no longer vegan. She is an ovo-vegetarian. … And when someone that has that big of a soapbox starts eating eggs and still referring to herself as a vegan, it sends a powerful (and wrong) message – that if you find “happy” animals to exploit, that exploitation is ok. It’s not ok.

Vegan = Vegan. There are no exceptions, nor should they be. I know people who’ve claimed to “go vegan” once or twice a week. You can eat at a vegan restaurant or make a vegan meal, but that doesn’t make you a vegan. Is Ellen a bad person? Absolutely not. No one is bringing her decency as a human being into question. And I’m sure she’ll continue to represent the cause of animal rights vigorously and passionately. However, she’s not a vegan if she eats animal products or by-products. It devalues what we as vegan represent, especially when someone has so much notoriety.

It is always sad to me when anyone, celebrity or not, stops being vegan. To me, it is like saying to the world “being vegan really is too hard, I’m missing something without animal products in my life”. Which we as vegans know to be false.

We’ve had few celebrities that we could rely on to tout the vegan message and do so consistently. Now granted, some of us had an issue with Ellen’s Cover Girl contract since Cover Girl is owned by Proctor & Gamble and we know they still test on animals but we assumed it was a contract that would expire and she would not renew it now that she was vegan. We thought for sure she would put her vegan ethics and morals ahead of financial gain. Heck, I even thought she might eventually go down the road of starting her own vegan makeup line. Why not? There was a rumor that she would either start her own vegetarian dog food line or buy an existing one (since her Halo dog food line contains meat). The whole “But, dogs are carnivores” argument is another blog but I will tell you that I had two poodles – one made it to 17 ½ yrs. old and the other to 16 yrs. old – and they were both vegan for the last 10 yrs. of their lives which coincided with my own veganism. They were just fine. Anyway, back to Ellen.

Other celebrities have dabbled in it for a few months or even a couple of years and we latched onto them with a lifeline. Ginnifer Goodwin was on Big Love, a huge HBO hit (I watched it religiously, pun intended), and she actively promoted veganism. She was great. Then what happened? She did a complete 180 degrees and stopped being vegan. She even got annoyed with family members (who had gone vegan thanks to her) when they didn’t want to cook or eat meat during holidays. In fact, she seemed downright hostile towards vegans (maybe it was because her body had now become a graveyard for dead animals again?) during an interview on the Jimmy Kimmel show. She came across as disrespectful to those of us who still cared about animals.

Ginnifer Goodwin was my first, “Ooooh, maybe we shouldn’t put so much weight on celebrities who go vegan unless they’ve done it for many years and don’t seem to be doing it because it’s a popular ‘fad’”.  (see Russell Simmons, Casey Affleck, Joaquin Phoenix, Chrissy Hynde, Woody Harrelson). Rosie O’Donnell suffered a heart attack a few months ago. She immediately went on a vegan diet and tweeted that she had lost 9 lbs. in 10 or 12 days thanks to her new diet. Of course, magazines, vegan bloggers, vegan websites, etc. glommed onto this and ran with it. The problem though is that she went back to eating fish almost immediately but not before People magazine declared that Rosie had gone vegan. Even dear beloved Natalie Portman had strayed during her pregnancy (I was dismayed when I read in an article that she was drinking milk and her hubby was fixing her chicken dinners) but it appears she may have come back into the vegan fold after having her baby.

But Ellen seemed different. She felt different. She came across as different. She seemed unwavering. She came across as sincere and genuine in her veganism. You could see it was a true life change for her (and her wife, Portia) and that she “got it”.  She was a real sister in our plight to help animals. She featured on her show vegan chefs, vegan food, vegan recipes, vegan celebrities, vegan items, animal causes, animal sanctuaries, people who helped animals, etc.

But now she eats eggs.

Here’s my main issue with Ellen and her eating eggs from “happy chickens: Will fragile vegans (vegans who are just starting out or don’t know fully the horrors of factory farming) or “iffy” vegans think, “Well, heck, if Ellen eats eggs then I can too and still feel good about myself”?  Ellen is a wealthy person with access to many things you and I will never have access to including a neighbor who raises “happy” chickens and gives you the luxury of consuming eggs from chickens who are spoiled, enjoyed dust baths, ate the best feed, received veterinary care and, perhaps, were taken care of until they died,  etc.

Unfortunately, that is NOT the reality of 99.5% of chickens and that is NOT the reality of 99.5% of us humans. Therefore, unless Ellen clearly, consistently and regularly spells out the huge huge difference between her “happy” eggs and the standard factory farmed eggs found in our food chain, we will be stuck with people who think they can be “vegan”, eat eggs and feel good about themselves. In fact, Ellen may have done us a huge disservice and taken us a step backwards since animal activists will now have to explain why you can’t eat eggs and still be vegan. ”But, but, but, Ellen does?” Remember that for a while many people called themselves vegetarian only because they didn’t eat red meat or because they only ate fish but we all know that that didn’t make them vegetarian. That just made them people who rarely ate animals.

I will grant you that Ellen has done A LOT for the animal community and the vegan community. She may have very well raised more awareness overnight than what many animal activists have in a year. Nevertheless, can your website still say, Going Vegan with Ellen” when Ellen herself isn’t vegan? Does Ellen get to redefine veganism because she has access to “happy” chickens? (NO!).

I applaud Ellen for all the good she has done but I, as a true vegan, take huge exception to her calling herself vegan when she is not “abstaining from animal products”.

Just as I’ve taken issue in the past with people who call themselves “animal lovers” because they love their cat or dog (but still eat animals, go to the rodeo or circus, etc.), I take issue with someone who calls themselves “vegan” while they eat eggs. Ellen will have to be satisfied with “ovo-vegetarian” because until she eschews eggs, she doesn’t get to call herself vegan again.

I await Ellen’s explanation of her disconnect or her clear explanation that what she is privy to (“happy” chickens) she knows full well 99.5% of the rest of us don’t have that option and 99%.5 of chickens aren’t “happy”, and thus, her eating eggs again will only perpetuate the horrors of factory farming while potentially making people feel good about themselves because they are just like Ellen.
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