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Dimming a Light on Betty White

Dog lovers don’t eat dogs. Animal lovers don’t eat animals.

Contrary to what you have likely heard about the passing of actress Betty White, she was not an animal lover. Just as you can’t call yourself an environmentalist, and eat meat, you also can’t call yourself an animal lover, and eat animals.

From all accounts, Betty White was a lovely woman, but again, she was no animal lover. Clearly, she loved some animals. She just didn’t love the animals who interfered with her dietary preferences. She also had a kind of skewed view of animals in captivity as well. Animal rights activist Michael Mountain had this to say about Betty White in 2011: “So I’d love to say that her passion and dedication are making a difference for the animals. But I can’t. I don’t doubt her good intentions, but Betty White is a classic example of the kind of love that’s sometimes more about one’s own feelings than about the true needs of the animals.”

Like everyone, I was sad to learn of Betty White’s passing, as nearly all of the reports of her death spoke of her warm, generous nature, and her love for animals. And after all, how could you not love her in the Mary Tyler Moore Show (one of the great TV shows of all time)? Which made it all the more surprising to learn that she famously attributed her longevity to “vodka and hot dogs.” I can only imagine how millions of her fans adored that quote (as people love to hear good things about their bad habits), and I am sure that it made for popular, yet harmful headlines as well. And if that wasn’t bad enough, a Los Angeles landmark restaurant named Pink’s Hot Dogs named a hot dog after the comedy legend too. According to the owner, Richard Pink, “Betty White helped launch one of our locations at City Walk ten years ago, by eating a hot dog in front of Pink’s and said, ‘I like it naked! I like it with nothing on it – just the beef and a bun.'” Yikes.

Again, when eating animals is a choice, as it is for the vast majority of the people in the United States, you can’t call yourself an animal lover, and eat animals.

Apparently, Betty White never looked into how hot dogs were really made. My guess is that like most people, she kind of knew, but didn’t want to know. The clinical term for her behavior is called cognitive dissonance, which can be defined as “the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time.” Dr. Melanie Joy has taken this concept to the next level with her pioneering book “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows”. Dr. Joy coined the term “Carnism” and explained it as the invisible belief system, or ideology, that conditions people to eat certain animals. In other words, she says, carnism conditions us not to think and feel.

According to Dr. Joy, “Because carnism is invisible, people rarely realize that eating animals is a choice, rather than a given. In meat-eating cultures around the world, people typically don’t think about why they eat certain animals but not others, or why they eat any animals at all. But when eating animals is not a necessity, which is the case for many people in the world today, then it’s a choice, and choices always stem from beliefs…Carnism runs counter to core human values, such as compassion and justice. Most people wouldn’t willingly violate these values and support unnecessary violence toward other sentient beings. Therefore, carnism—like other oppressive systems, such as patriarchy and racism—uses a set of psychological defense mechanisms that distort our thoughts and block our natural empathy, so that we act against our values without fully realizing what we’re doing…Carnism is a dominant belief system. This means that it’s so widespread that its principles and practices are considered common sense, “the way things are,” rather than a set of widely held opinions. Carnistic bias therefore remains unseen. For example, most people aren’t aware that when they study nutrition, they actually study carnistic nutrition. Carnism is also a violent system, as it’s organized around intensive and extensive (and unnecessary) violence toward animals. Even the production of so-called humane meat, eggs, and dairy—a tiny percentage of the carnistic products produced in the world today—exploits animals and involves brutality. Most people are opposed to such violence, and so to keep itself intact, carnism uses a set of psychological defense mechanisms designed to prevent people from becoming aware of the violence of the system or of the fact that the system even exists. “

The fact that most people don’t want to know where their steak, wings, bacon and cheese come from, is an indictment in itself. For the record, they come from the inhumane treatment and slaughter of intelligent innocent beings called cows, chickens, and pigs (most often when they are just babies).

If you are interested in learning more about where the food on your plate comes from, check out the powerful articles, films and videos below:

Click here if you want to see how animal factory animals are tortured and live lives of complete misery so that people can eat their “beef” hot dogs, and other animal products.
Click here for an excellent article (with videos) on how hot dogs are really made.
Click here if you want to learn how hot dogs and other processed meats cause cancer, and other illnesses.
Click here to learn more about the truth of the dairy industry.

I am not picking on Betty White. Whether you call it Carnism, cognitive dissonance, or ignorance, it is everywhere, and it is not random or coincidental. For example, late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel recently showed us once again how disconnected he can be when he played a video to his nearly 2 million member audience on how hot dogs are made, yet conveniently left out the suffering and the slaughtering of the animals. Big laughs, right? I gave up on making excuses for people like Jimmy Kimmel years ago. It often feels as though we live in a country that is constantly pretending. We pretend that animals can’t feel pain, and that our food system is not based on suffering, violence, and injustice. We pretend that our president is not a war criminal, and that past administrations are not replete with war criminals too. We pretend that millions of innocent people were not killed in Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, America and Vietnam because of the lies and actions of the US government and its military (and the corporate media). We pretend that it is acceptable that the US doesn’t have universal healthcare even though it is what most people want, and would save 70,000 lives, and nearly a half a trillion dollars per year. We pretend that the climate crisis is being addressed properly. We pretend that we have a democracy even though everything in the US is run by corporations. We pretend that we are always the good guys, when we know it’s just not true. We pretend, and pretend, and pretend, to the extent that we live in a capitalistic fantasy dream world, that does little but cause immeasurable suffering and harm.  

I know what you are probably saying. Okay, that is all fine and good, but if eating hot dogs and animal products are so damaging to our health, how did Betty White manage to be so happy and healthy, and live to be nearly 100 years old? 

I think that there are multiple factors in play. The first is luck, as there are no guarantees for any of us. It is amazing how some people can do all the right things, including eating a healthy plant-based diet, exercising, watching their weight, not smoking, meditating, having lots of love in their life and yet still get sick, and die prematurely. And then there are others who do all the wrong things, and live long, long lives. It seems to be about 5-10% of the time on both ends of the spectrum.

According to Dr. Kristi Funk (on the subject of breast cancer), “I would suggest that we look at the causation of breast cancer as a bell curve. So, you’ve got this 5 to 10% at the one end that I said was attributable to genetic mutations, and then we go up and over our big bell, and on the other end, we’ve got another 10% or less that do everything in life right. They’ve been vegan since birth; they exercise like crazy; they are stress-free and zen-ed out, and yet it still happens to them, and there’s no mutation. And then on the flipside, like you said, we’ve got someone doing everything that we consider “wrong,” and they live to 102…So, these edges of the bell curve… If I gave you a gun that has spaces for 10 bullets, and I load it with eight bullets, would you pull it? Because those eight bullets I can control through nutrition and exercise and paying attention to a healthful lifestyle. The other two, the empty chambers, if you want to take a chance (laughs) that you can explain yourself with those bullets, go ahead. But I’m focusing on the vast majority of women on planet Earth. Literally, if we eliminated 80% of all breast cancer on planet Earth, that would translate into tens of millions of women over the next few decades.”

The good news is that nearly 80% of the time (as Dr. Kristi Funk explained), nutrition and other lifestyle habits determine whether or not we will develop a chronic disease.
Click here for the evidence, and to learn more from the “Healthy Living is the Best Revenge” study.

I am reminded of a few quotes that are important to remember as well:

“It may be healthier to eat beer and franks with cheer and thanks, than to eat sprouts and bread with doubts and dread.”
– John Robbins

“The closer you are to a plant-based diet, the healthier you will be.” – Dr. T. Colin Campbell

“People are fed by the food industry, which pays no attention to health, and are treated by the health industry, which pays no attention to food.” – Wendell Berry

“The primary reason diseases tend to run in families may be that diets tend to run in families. The Global Burden of Disease study determined that our biggest killer is our diet. Most deaths in the United States are preventable, and they are related to what we eat. Our diet is the number-one cause of premature death and the number-one cause of disability.” – Dr. Michael Greger

The bottom line? Betty White seemed otherwise delightful, and reminded me of my Mom. And like many people, she loved some animals. Just not all of them.

Click here to learn more about Betty White and her work with animals.
Click here for another interesting piece on Betty White from an animal rights activist.
Click here to learn why Betty White was so lovable.
Click here for the celebrity tributes to Betty White.
Click here for an example of the cluelessness of the media as they celebrate hot dogs being named after Betty White.
Click here to learn more about Betty White’s famous quote “vodka and hot dogs is the secret to a long life.”
Click here to watch “Earthlings” to learn more about animal abuse and suffering.
Click here to watch the equally powerful documentary called “Dominion”.
Click here to watch the excellent video from Erin Janus called Dairy is Scary.
Click here to learn more from Dr. Melanie Joy on Carnism.
Click here for Dr. Melanie Joy’s excellent book “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism
Click here for an excellent article from Vegan Australia.
Click here for late night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel’s clip where he ignores where hot dogs really come from.
Click here for the local CBS piece on Betty White and hot dogs.
Click here for the Food Revolution Summit (Dr. Kristi Funk quote was pulled from the 2019 FRS with John Robbins)

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