Action-Hero Veganism: Schwarzenegger’s Pedestal
Some people have the inane habit of sensationalising celebrity figures in an attempt to add a certain gravitas to their own positions. Stories and “facts” are fabricated out of thin air to suit the particular situation, with the overriding vibe being that such and such a celebrity does this, so therefore you should take it seriously. This form of argument can be appealing to those who are unable to think their way out of a paper bag or form rational arguments, and so it’s therefore no surprise that the mainstream “animal movement” is full of people who partake in this particular tipple.
The dangers of this are very real, when – as is always the case – the celebrity in question isn’t what they’ve been made out to be. I’m talking about the “animal movement’s” obsession with celebrity vegans. You know, when a certain celebrity is put on a pedestal by an “advocate” or group to be some beacon of hope, or an example for all others to follow. Society worships celebrities, and so the thinking is that, if the celebrity is doing something, others will follow suit. Forget educating yourself on the abolitionist approach to be an effective advocate, forget rational argument informed by a respect for fundamental rights, we’ll just bring you the top 10 sexiest vegans who… oh yeah – aren’t actually vegan.
When we pedestalize a celebrity in this way, we are giving weight to their unjust moral positions. We legitimise the oppression they engage in while simultaneously diluting veganism to the point that, the word vegan becomes nothing more than a label. A label that each celebrity, or each person, is told – implicitly or explicitly – to interpret in their own way to suit their own preferences. It no longer represents a moral position based on fundamental principles of justice; it’s a click-bait slogan. The latest example of this is with Arnold Schwarzenegger, where news of his supposed embrace of veganism has been all the rage recently. Once again, “advocates” are on their knees in worship, pouring libations to Schwarzenegger’s greatness. You can almost hear the kerfuffle of their shoes as they scramble to line up behind him, wanting to be the first to scoop up his golden faeces and present it to the world as gospel.
In reality, as this Organic Authority article demonstrates, Arnold isn’t vegan at all. He’s “slowly getting off meat” and he feels “fantastic.” Well that’s just fabulous isn’t it, i’m sure the animals feel great about that as they’re ushered down the slaughter-line. Despite “advocates” sharing far and wide their excitement over his supposed embrace of ethical veganism, he isn’t concerned about fundamental justice at all, he just wants to reduce meat consumption. The message that is promulgated to the public? You can call yourself vegan while still exploiting animals. There’s no right or wrong, veganism can be whatever you want it to be. This has to stop.
We have to stop elevating celebrities to these false positions of power, as if their faux-ethics can tell the public anything about what it means to fulfil our moral obligations to animals. Veganism is not something that has a spectrum, just like respect for fundamental human rights cannot be interpreted as a spectrum. You either recognise the right that sentient beings have not to be used as resources, or you violate that right. In our celebrity-worship, not only are “advocates” giving people a free pass to continue engaging in exploitation, they’re telling people they can do that while simultaneously calling themselves vegan. They are legitimising the idea that morality is something that has shades of grey, or higher or lower grades. It is imperative that we reject this and call it out when we see it. The mainstream “animal movement” is content to sell out animal-interests for click-bait and donations; the animals need us to educate others about the abolitionist approach and promote veganism as the recognition of fundamental rights that it is.
Even if Arnold was vegan, this mindless celebrity worship still wouldn’t make any sense. What does a celebrities veganism tell anyone about what they as individuals owe animals? Absolutely nothing. How does it tell the public about why veganism is the only rational response to our conventional wisdom that animals matter morally? It doesn’t. All it does is perpetuate the idea that veganism is for those of us who are privileged in some way and not the baseline moral principle that it should be for everyone.
Unfortunately for us, Arnold will undoubtedly be back – but we have to let him go.