There’s been a bit of outcry these past few days over the mildly condescending message Lady Gaga posted in response to PETA’s letter criticizing her for wearing what looked to be a fur coat after previously stating that she didn’t wear fur. (And carrying a puppy, for additional irony, I guess.) The letter reads as follows:
To the fans. i want you to know that I care deeply about your feelings and views, and I will always support your philosophies about life. We’ve been having over-arching conversations about society, equality, and politics for the past five years, and we should continue. I do not however support violent, abusive, and childish campaigns for ANY CAUSE. Particularly one that I respect. “Animal Rights.” I am choosing not to comment on whether or not the furs I purchase are faux fur-pile or real because I would think it hypercritical not to acknowledge the python, ostrich, cow hide, leather, lamb, alligator, “kermit” and not to mention meat, that I have already worn. This should already put me in a category as one who appreciates and adores the beauty of animals in fashion, but am not a strict vegan. I have truly always stayed away from skinned fur, especially i have never been able to afford a nice one, but this does not mean my morals are rigid and that I won’t bend at the sight of an absolute art piece of a coat. I have no chains about this. You see a carcass, I see a museum pièce de résistance. But I am truly sorry to fans who are upset by this, its a fair and applaudable feeling about the health and safety of animals. I respect your views, please respect mine.
And to campaigners, Save your flour to make bread for the children who are hungry. And Kim Kardashian is fabulous.
Translation: “It’s cute that you guys care so much about animals, but you have to respect the fact that I don’t. Paws up!”
As a vegan animal rights advocate, I disagree with Gaga that it’s possible to believe in, or even respect, the concept of animal rights while simultaneously believing that it’s okay to kill animals for the sake of fashion or flavor. (Or even “art.”) But she is right about one thing: if you’re not a vegan (or, okay, a vegetarian), you have no right to criticize Gaga for wearing fur. Because fur and meat are not nearly as different as everyone seems to think they are. Gaga is not a vegetarian, so she’s not a hypocrite if she wears fur or leather, because she believes her own personal desires take precedence over animals’ right to live out their natural lives free of human-inflicted pain. I wish more people would own up to that.
Here’s the thing: for people living in the developed world, neither wearing fur nor eating meat is necessary to one’s survival. People do the two things for the exact same reason: because they feel like it. It just so happens that in this day and age, “I feel like eating a steak tonight” is an urge that’s given much more value than “I feel like wearing a pretty fur coat.” Could it be because fashion is feminine, and steak is masculine, and we live in a sexist society?
“But human beings need to eat meat,” you say. False! Barring an across-the-board allergy to all forms of vegetable protein (which I realize some people have, but not many), it’s entirely possible to get all the nutrients you need out of a vegan diet. (With some clever fortification here and there. Thanks, science.) And depending who you believe, it might even be better for you. Vegans get heart disease and many types of cancer at much lower rates than those consuming the Standard American Diet (SAD), for example.
“But what about happy meat! Surely, a free range cow leads a better life than an anally electrocuted mink?” Perhaps. But the fact remains that there’s no such thing as a painless death, and that cow very much wanted to keep on living. Free-range is better than factory farms, but at the end of the day, both are still privileging the whims of human tastebuds over the life of a sentient being.
I will never, ever understand why some people think it’s all right to eat meat, eggs, and dairy, but decry the use of minks and chinchillas to fulfill an equally frivolous urge. At least be consistent in your support of animal torture! Then again, I guess cows aren’t as cute and cuddly. They should really work on that.