By Sarah Jost
Yesterday I came across an article on Businessweek’s website about high-powered executives, company owners, non-profit founders, etc. who maintain vegan lifestyles. The author, one Mr. Joel ‘I’m a bitter weenie’ Stein, hypothesizes that such people are only now vegan because they have exhausted all other avenues of proclaiming their elitist superiority, such as ‘renovat[ing] the chalet in St. Moritz, buy[ing] the latest Gulfstream jet, lay[ing] off 5,000 employees, or marry[ing] a much younger Asian woman.’
Firstly, veganism is a rather large and life-changing commitment to make just for the heck of it. Secondly, whoa random racist remark! In my book, Joel was already off to a bad start. Yet, I was curious where he was going with all this and dubiously read on. Two paragraphs in, Joel claims that the pairing of CEOs and veganism is a natural fit because ‘veganism isn’t cheap.’ Oh, really, Joel? O RLY?! If that is the case, why is my weekly food budget $30? And I guarantee it could be lower, but I have a fairly serious chocolate addiction. I have yet to make it past step 1 of 12. Please feel free to send chocolate, I mean, encouraging words. But sincerely, claiming that a vegan diet need be costly is preposterous.
Joel goes on to say a shocking number of offensive things throughout the article, which only serves to discredit any legitimate argument he might be trying to make. For example, when listing so-called ‘power vegans’ such as Steve Wynn, Mort Zuckerman, Russell Simmons, Bill Clinton, Ford Executive Chairman of the Board Bill Ford, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, venture capitalist Joi Ito, Whole Foods Market Chief Executive Officer John Mackey, and Mike Tyson, Joel makes a completely unnecessary and cruel jab at Alec Baldwin, saying he ‘has found a way to be both vegan and fat at the same time.’
Later in the article, Stein asserts that most men become vegan for a woman. His phrasing indicates that veganism is emasculating and a submission to a woman. He goes on to say that veganism’s image needs to be updated from its current association with ‘people with pixie haircuts, such as Ellen DeGeneres.’ Just say lesbian, Joel. And while you’re at it, please grow up and stop using stereotypes and personal attacks (he also makes a dig at Madonna, calling her a ‘pop star and amateur bodybuilder’) to validate your weak argument.
I don’t know why Joel Stein feels the need to say such mean things about others, especially others who are trying to do something good for either themselves or their fellow living beings, or both. There are many people who chose to be vegan because they do not want to support the corrupt and abusive dairy, egg, and factory farming industries. Others choose veganism because of the latter’s affect on the environment. Others still are attempting to improve or maintain their health by eliminating the bad cholesterol and fats found in animal products.
Regardless of which personal reason someone has for being vegan, they made the choice to affect some kind of positive change. Joel Stein may have written a much more interesting article if he had focused on why people with higher levels of education or global exposure might be more likely to adopt a vegan lifestyle. I would have loved to read about the effects of socio-economic status on one’s health and ethical positioning.
Instead, Stein decided to make out of place personal attacks on several high-powered individuals who have made a personal decision for a reason that is important to them. Perhaps Stein is jealous of their wealth and power? Perhaps he is jealous of their ability to make definitive decisions based on ethics or personal empowerment? Perhaps. But his negative tone and snide comments only detract and discredit his discussion about the rise of veganism among people in positions of power, which is a shame, because that is something I would love to learn about from a non-judgmental and biased source. But that source is obviously not Joel Stein or Businessweek.