First of all, let me say that I’m a big fan of TMZ. They’re a hell of a lot of fun to read, and (most importantly), they cover stories about PETA whenever we do something awesome—which is a lot. But a blog they posted today, entitled “PETA – hypocrisy, table for one,” is kind of begging for a response—especially since it raises an issue that causes some confusion even within the animal rights movement. Their theory, if I understand it correctly, is that ethical vegetarians are hypocrites if they even step inside a restaurant that sells meat. I get where the idea is coming from, but it’s so fundamentally opposite to the way we actually need to do things if we want to make progress with animal rights that I feel like I should spell it out here.
As much as we’d like it to, Progress ain’t gonna come if we just sit here and wish with all our hearts that all the steakhouses go out of business. When progress does come, it comes in the form of steakhouses adding a veggie option or two to their menus. And then a couple more. And then, when they see that they’re big sellers, keeping them there, and in the process showing some of their regular customers that there are actually a whole lot of really tasty alternatives to meat. But that’s not going to happen if all the vegetarians in the world turn up their noses and refuse to eat at any restaurants that also sell animal products. Same deal with grocery stores—no one’s doing anyone any favors by refusing to shop at supermarkets that aren’t 100 percent vegan. The smart thing to do is to vote with your dollars, because if businesses don’t even know that there’s a big market for vegetarian options, they’re not going to have a whole lot of incentive for providing them.
One last thing on this—I’ve talked about the positive-reinforcement technique, but for every carrot, there’s also a stick, and that’s why PETA and other animal groups apply pressure to specific companies that are the absolute worst of the worst in the way they treat the animals they use, by calling for an all-out boycott until certain improvements are made. It’s a tried-and-true technique, and we’re going to keep using it. But it doesn’t mean that you should avoid going to a fast-food restaurant with your family and ordering the veggie burger. Because that would just be dumb.
Update: This whole thing started when TMZ reported that Morrissey was seen inside a steakhouse. Turns out they actually misreported it after all. My point still stands though.