By Published On: 19 April 2013613 words3.1 min read

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Smiley & West: In the Face of the Vegan Truth

By Amanda Crow, Guest Contributor

Veganism’s infiltration into the rest of the world is exhilarating (Yay! No longer ignored!) and terrifying (Please don’t be mean and dismissive!).  More and more it is appearing at times when we least expect.

As a vegan obsessed with current events and alternative independent media, I am a regular listener to the PRI radio program The Smiley & West Show with Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West.

Among many other things, West is a philosopher and professor of theology, and Smiley is an author and long time talk show host.  They are tireless activists with a primary focus on nonviolence and poverty.  Several posts could be written on these incredible men of color.  Their honesty and proliferation of Martin Luther King, Jr. is so rare and beautiful – it’s hard to believe they even exist in this terrible world.  I am in awe of their strong voices that do not stray from the truth, especially in the face of public opposition.

What I admire most about them is their ability to critically think and not be afraid to critique and take criticism while always being respectful.  This is so important to them that they have a segment called “Taking ‘Em to Task” where listeners can write or call in with grievances, and one per show will be invited on to discuss it.  At the top of the most recent show, Tavis announced that this week’s listener was taking them to task because, “If they are against the death penalty for people, then why aren’t they against the death penalty for animals?” (Listen to the segment here.)

Sadly, like so many people, Smiley and West are still ignorant to the cost and detriment animal agriculture has on the environment (minorities being disproportionately affected), climate change, hunger, labor issues and health problems, especially for those less privileged.  The underlying theme of MLK’s legacy is nonviolence, and eating animals is violence – at its core and in everything surrounding it.  There are so many believers in the principles of nonviolence; why aren’t they all vegan?

Smiley and West’s reaction to the listener’s question was unprecedented.  Never in all the episodes I’ve heard has either man been speechless, especially from a listener’s challenge.  West immediately told the listener, a vegan gardener from California, that he knew many wonderful va-gans (ok – I found it kinda cute when they both said it like that repeatedly, but only because of what else they said) like socially-conscious artists Erykah Badu and Common. Smiley could only say that there is a difference between the truth and the journey to the truth and that they were on their journey.

Wha wha wha??  That is NOT what I expected.  It really shows me the depth of their convictions because in the face of the truth, they could not say anything.  Any justification would be a lie.  They even had time to prepare for this segment, so it says a ton that they were still without words.

I was so relieved and excited by the outcome of this discussion.  I would have been crushed if Smiley and West were dismissive or gave the same awful excuses that we’ve heard from others. If these true purveyors of peace and nonviolence are on their way to veganism, then we are on our way to a vegan world.

Photo credits: KCTS 9  and jystewart

By Published On: 19 April 2013613 words3.1 min read

Share This Story!

Smiley & West: In the Face of the Vegan Truth

By Amanda Crow, Guest Contributor

Veganism’s infiltration into the rest of the world is exhilarating (Yay! No longer ignored!) and terrifying (Please don’t be mean and dismissive!).  More and more it is appearing at times when we least expect.

As a vegan obsessed with current events and alternative independent media, I am a regular listener to the PRI radio program The Smiley & West Show with Tavis Smiley and Dr. Cornel West.

Among many other things, West is a philosopher and professor of theology, and Smiley is an author and long time talk show host.  They are tireless activists with a primary focus on nonviolence and poverty.  Several posts could be written on these incredible men of color.  Their honesty and proliferation of Martin Luther King, Jr. is so rare and beautiful – it’s hard to believe they even exist in this terrible world.  I am in awe of their strong voices that do not stray from the truth, especially in the face of public opposition.

What I admire most about them is their ability to critically think and not be afraid to critique and take criticism while always being respectful.  This is so important to them that they have a segment called “Taking ‘Em to Task” where listeners can write or call in with grievances, and one per show will be invited on to discuss it.  At the top of the most recent show, Tavis announced that this week’s listener was taking them to task because, “If they are against the death penalty for people, then why aren’t they against the death penalty for animals?” (Listen to the segment here.)

Sadly, like so many people, Smiley and West are still ignorant to the cost and detriment animal agriculture has on the environment (minorities being disproportionately affected), climate change, hunger, labor issues and health problems, especially for those less privileged.  The underlying theme of MLK’s legacy is nonviolence, and eating animals is violence – at its core and in everything surrounding it.  There are so many believers in the principles of nonviolence; why aren’t they all vegan?

Smiley and West’s reaction to the listener’s question was unprecedented.  Never in all the episodes I’ve heard has either man been speechless, especially from a listener’s challenge.  West immediately told the listener, a vegan gardener from California, that he knew many wonderful va-gans (ok – I found it kinda cute when they both said it like that repeatedly, but only because of what else they said) like socially-conscious artists Erykah Badu and Common. Smiley could only say that there is a difference between the truth and the journey to the truth and that they were on their journey.

Wha wha wha??  That is NOT what I expected.  It really shows me the depth of their convictions because in the face of the truth, they could not say anything.  Any justification would be a lie.  They even had time to prepare for this segment, so it says a ton that they were still without words.

I was so relieved and excited by the outcome of this discussion.  I would have been crushed if Smiley and West were dismissive or gave the same awful excuses that we’ve heard from others. If these true purveyors of peace and nonviolence are on their way to veganism, then we are on our way to a vegan world.

Photo credits: KCTS 9  and jystewart

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  1. Christina Kelso July 23, 2013 at 9:41 am - Reply

    Hello. A little late getting to this party, but I was the caller that day. “Vaygun”… well, that’s how Dr. Brian Clement pronounces it and I thought it sounded good. :) Lucas, I am wondering what my “questionable claims” were! ? I can back everything up; I have done my research. I loved speaking with these brilliant men and Amanda, what a beautiful testament to their work… you are right on. Thank you. I realize I did not do the best job in my interview; I tried my best, but how do you condense all the great reasons to trend vegan… I could have spoken to them for hours. I was absolutely terrified myself to try and present my points in mere minutes. Though I knew I would be on the show, there is no prep – they just get you on the phone and start the interview. My voice was shaking in the beginning. I did follow up and sent them some notes and information… I have not heard back. But I have a feeling they have heard from other vegan voices and we are on their radar. Dr. West was on Democracy Now! yesterday and he is looking good – younger, brighter. I wonder…

  2. Amanda Crow April 24, 2013 at 11:55 am - Reply

    Lucas – Thanks so much for your comment and thoughts!! I wasn’t able to go into it too much, but yea, when I heard the tagline, I was really scared! Not that I don’t love (most all) vegans, but I was afraid of how she would present it and defend it. It wasn’t the best, but she did make the connection with Coretta King and what not. I totally agree that this is huge!! I have long wanted to find a way to openly present to them all the reasons they should totally be in support of vegansim. I mean Cornel is against oligarchs, and what bigger oligarch is there than the animal ag industry?! I LOVE their show, which I listen to on podcast! They are some of the most honest, outspoken people out there. They have had amazing interviews with truly selfless fighters against injustice. I hope some day soon they will be on our side.

    Aurora – Thank you so much for your comment. It is hard to understand why so many people are so blind to it, but the tide is changing…vegans are taking over the wolrd lol! Because peace and nonviolence are the only ways we as a society will continue.

  3. Lucas April 23, 2013 at 8:34 pm - Reply

    I’ve long admired Smiley and West for their integrity, their commitment to justice and equality, and their dedication to openly challenging the status quo. I too am excited 1) that the vegan (vayygun) question was even asked (although the caller did make some questionable claims), and 2) by their response to it. They are open to it, they recognize the logical conclusions to taking a principled stand against non-violence in relation to other animals, and I think that is HUGE!

    I have seen Smiley and West on DemocracyNow! but wasn’t aware of their own show together til now. I will be checking it out. Thanks for sharing!

    Lucas

  4. Aurora Cooney April 20, 2013 at 6:36 pm - Reply

    Because in the face of the truth, you cannot justify the holocaust we are committing on the animals. How can you logically defend this practice of murder and violence against sentient beings? You can’t. That’s why people don’t want to talk about, that’s why people don’t want to see. I hope that both these peace-loving men come to the right conclusion…..if you want a peaceful world, it has to start with your daily choices. I hope you are right, Amanda. If they make the connection, we will certainly know about it soon.