I’ve been a bit busy with life these past few weeks: aside from a final summer research trip, my wife and I are in the process of buying a house (escrow closes next week–yea!!), we’re starting to coordinate all the logistics of moving and repairs, and life with two little ones is always a little bit out of control. And, on top of that, give me five minutes these days and I usually spend it trying to cure my Olympic Fever. All that is to say, I haven’t had much time to blog, let alone keep up with my reading, both online and bound.
But I felt the need to poke my head out from the cave to share this little gem. Going through my back log of online articles and posts, I came across this stunningly odd post from the official blog of PETA–People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
PETA Warns Mexican-U.S. Border Crossers
No matter what your stance is on the highly controversial U.S.-Mexican border fence project, everyone can agree that those who decide to come to the U.S. should be warned about the downside of our nation’s meat and milk consumption habits. PETA is warning immigrants that there’s much more to worry about than proper documentation.
We’ve written a letter to the commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection asking to buy space at each of the nine southwest border sectors for our new ad. Those considering entry will then read this message: “If the border patrol doesn’t get you, the chicken and burgers will. Go vegan” (or, in Spanish, “Si no te agarra la migra, te atraparan el pollo y las hamburguesas. Sé vegano”).
Spanish version Mexican Border Ad
English version Mexican Border Ad
By leaving behind a far healthier staple diet of vegetables and grains—like rice, beans, corn, peppers, and tortillas—Mexicans and other immigrants will likely find themselves fattening up on the fiberless, fatty, cholesterol-laden U.S. diet, which is linked to heart disease, various types of cancer, and strokes (our nation’s three biggest killers) as well as impotence (internationally recognized killer of the mood).
PETA’s placement of these colorful ads would certainly offset some of the tax dollars that fund the fence. It’s a winning solution for the folks at U.S. Customs and Border Protection, immigrants, and farmed animals alike!
At first I thought this was a joke. Alas, it appears to be real and genuine.
Then I got, well, a little mad. Here, I have to confess holding something of a mixed bag of views when it comes to political veganism, in particular when it is grounded on a kind of radical vision of animal rights. The anti-establishment and anti-corporate parts of me kind of like it, but the humanist is always a little bit concerned. When it comes down to animals before people (as it often but not always does), I find the stance not only problematic, but downright immoral. I feel the same way about this nation’s multi-billion dollar pet industry, at least with the people who daily show more compassion for their cat than for their fellow human beings.
So, PETA’s border education efforts struck me as symptomatic of U.S. cultural privilege. On the one hand, they are kindly showing concern for the health of others, but on the other, they are completely oblivious to the broader context framing that health: the struggle to meet basic needs in their own nation; a border which in its current militarized form makes their presence at it a perilous; an economic system which values them for their body at the expense of their needs as human beings; and the dietary struggles of life in poverty in the U.S.
Then I shared it with my wife, who always helps me think in less academic and more important ways. As she said, “Have they ever been to Mexico?” In 2003, we were traveling in Oaxaca. While walking in a fairly remote little village, we were amused to hear Eminem on the radio. I stopped in a small shop, which not only sold local crafts but an assortment of commercial snack cakes, many of which had U.S. roots. Point is, U.S. culture travels as easily as U.S. corporate-sponsored obesity. In fact, the Big Mac has a much easier time crossing the border than most people do.
Then I started to read the comments on this post! Oh boy.
What people in this country think is Mexican food is as loaded and selective as what they think of Mexicans themselves. I know there’s a context to this uninformed ignorance, but I ain’t got the time today. Let me say, just to throw a little something into the mix, Latino health in the U.S. is both an issue of crisis and an issue of hope. See the recent work of the Pew Hispanic Center and the significant work of David Hayes-Bautista if you need more.
I got to get back to the Olympics.