Vegan finds silver lining in shutdown. But people are animals too.

Government shutdown
Rosie, a 2-year-old Maltese, wears a sign asking for the Republicans to end the government shutdown while attending a rally at Congressman Louis Barletta’s office on West Broad Street in Hazleton, Pa.
(Ellen F. O’Connell / Associated Press)

The government shutdown has furloughed federal employees, who’ve been left to figure out how to survive on no paycheck. (Thankfully, there are some good Samaritans out there.)

It’s hurt the economy around D.C., where restaurants and barbershops and other small economic engines of the community have all but come to a halt. How’s a waitress supposed to survive on a minute fraction of the tips she would ordinarily earn?

The shutdown has paused clinical trials, leaving cancer patients, including children, stranded. For example, Michelle Langbehn. “When the government closed more than week ago, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was set to review my medical files to possibly be entered into a clinical trial for a new medication that could save my life,” she writes in a plea to stop the shutdown. “I’m furious that Congress has chosen to shut down the government and leave so many of us behind. The government shutdown is affecting so many of us across the country in a very personal way. For me, it’s affecting my fight for my life.”

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The shutdown is threatening our standing in the world, which could cause significant pain to people across the country, people who don’t deserve to be victimized because our elected officials couldn’t get their jobs done.

But for Ruby Roth, an advocate for the vegan diet and lifestyle, the government shutdown presents a silver lining: an opportunity to tout veganism.

The author of such children’s books as “That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals” recently took to her blog to write “Vegans ♥ Government Shutdown.” In her post, she writes: “Our leaders’ failure to pass a budget means that farm bills go unsettled, giving animal farmers the shakes and driving current warnings that the price of meat and dairy could double or even triple should the shutdown continue. GOOD!”

Anything that hurts the animal agriculture system is a victory, I guess.


While I appreciate Roth’s mission, especially that she advocates for a plant-based diet during an era when obesity has become a life-threatening epidemic in our country, this particular post struck me as insensitive. Roth doesn’t just encourage healthful eating. She also stands up for animal rights. When reading her post in that context, one gets the impression that she’s ignoring the whole picture: People are animals too. And there are a whole lot of people suffering right now.

Fortunately, as I was writing this post, Roth updated hers with this disclaimer:

I am NOT celebrating the havoc this shutdown is wreaking on many Americans who are caught as pawns while our “leaders” bicker far up on the hill, away from their constituents’ suffering. My point is only that the shutdown shines light on the flaws in our animal agriculture system — and any time that system is exposed I am glad for it. The suffering of animals in this industry is never-ending, unlike this shutdown, which will eventually be over. My personal fight, ultimately, is not only for animals but for the health and well-being of all, and fair access to healthy food (know that it was my interest in social justice that led me to veganism after all).


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Follow Alexandra Le Tellier on Twitter @alexletellier and Google+


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