Eulogizing Anthony Bourdain
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FROM

Dr. Anteneh Roba as posted on DissidentVoice.org
June 2018

They should also know that there are millions of compassionate human beings who say “no” to such gruesome acts. Anthony Bourdain was not one of them.

For the last few days I have had to read about Anthony Bourdain and how he was such a wonderful human being. The praise in these eulogies has been laid on thick, with Bourdain being hailed as an exceptional human being who stood up for marginalized societies and championed social justice issues. I have also read post after post on social media websites by so-called “thought leaders” or vegan activists respected in the “animal rights movement,” who complain about those of us who dared criticize the actions of Mr. Bourdain. They claim that those of us who point out his cruelty to animals are celebrating the death of a decent human being.

They argue that in exposing these flaws, we give the animal rights movement a bad name; that we are simply dancing on the grave of the deceased. We disliked him, they say, because he was not a vegetarian or vegan like us. Yet their claims could not be further from the truth. We are not rejoicing that Mr. Bourdain suffered and killed himself; and we did not criticize him because he was a meat eater. Our criticisms in regard to Mr. Bourdain are not about this. Rather, they are centered on exposing his cruel actions against helpless sentient beings – actions that have and will continue to cause problems for non-human animals long after he is buried. What we are trying to do is point out how his actions were contrary to what we vegans and animal right activists stand for: compassion for all life, both human and non-human. In this commitment we mirror the sentiments of Dr Albert Schweitzer, who coined the term “Reverence for Life.” This is something that Mr. Bourdain did not believe in.

In order to fairly and justly assess Anthony Bourdain as a public figure, we need to separate the mental turmoil that led to his demise from the way in which he chose to live his life without any apparent moral compass regarding how to treat non-human animals. These two issues are separate and must not be conflated into one issue.

As I have said in response to a lot of folks who appear to believe that Mr. Bourdain walked on water, it gives me no joy knowing he suffered and killed himself. Death and suffering are not to be rejoiced in. I strongly and sincerely feel sorry for his family and extend my condolences to them. I also strongly feel we should extend our compassion to Mr.Bourdain and have the heart to forgive him for what he has done to animals; on the other hand, we should never forget these actions. I would like to point out that he may have been progressive on some social justice issues, but that his progressivism did not extend to the treatment of non-human animals. Rather, he despised animals and those human beings that stood up for them. He was an anthropocentric, speciesist individual. To reiterate, my criticism of Mr. Bourdain isn’t about him as a human being but about his actions against non-human animals. Most of the people who criticize him merely point out that this so-called celebrity was no saint, that he was excessively cruel to animals. Depicting a flawed human being who was cruel to animals as some saint in human flesh is ridiculous, yet it appears to be the perspective many adherents of his have taken in the days since his passing. Pointing out that Mr. Bourdain was not the kind soul he is portrayed as – that he had real flaws, such as his mean-spiritedness and hatred for people who refuse to eat animals out of pure compassion for defenseless beings – is not itself a hateful or unjust act.

To give some examples of the extent of his cruelty:

Bourdain once chewed on the head of a live octopus while it thrashed and struggled to get away from him. Mr. Bourdain was trying to eat his/her brain, thus killing the defenseless animal in a cruel act of torture. While with a fellow chef, who stuck his hands up a duck’s inside and ripped out the bird’s intestine, he once said “this gives them their fresh taste.” On another occasion, Bourdain sliced open the throat of a live goat and then proceeded to drink the goat’s blood, He participated in cutting out the beating heart of a live snake. One time, he was filmed shooting a deer and stated that he could do this all day. In another video Bourdain is heard saying: “first you have to kill these things and collect their blood;” soon after, someone smeared his face with the blood of a newly killed deer, while laughing. Here, one can view footage of Bourdain stabbing a tied-up, screaming pig: VIDEO

Most of these cruel and unnecessary actions were filmed live. Some have argued he was just respecting the eating habits of cultures he visited. My response is that participating in grotesque acts of cruelty and taping these acts with apparent excitement and joy is not what I expect from someone of his stature and background. He also once said, while being asked by someone who accused him of eating dog meat, that “20 more seconds of this I’m going out and shooting a puppy in the fucking head.” Another time, he posed nude with a big animal bone with meat hanging, covering his groin. Mr. Bourdain exhibited his hatred for animals in many more ways. The ones I described above are just a sample of the many statements, sentiments and actions that were customary for him. He even hated people who refrained from eating animals, and once said of Vegans and Vegetarians: “Vegans are disgusting and loathsome. I’m often asked why vegans are the enemy of everything good and decent and must be hunted down and destroyed so their genes don’t pass onto future generations.” He once said people who don’t eat cheese should kill themselves.

Bourdain inarguably relished eating defenseless, exotic and in some cases endangered species like the Ortolan bird, a tiny bird that was prepared for his consumption by drowning the bird in a vat of Armagnac before cooking. He described his experience as being orgasmic and close to ecstasy: “With every bite, as the thin bones and layers of fat, meat, skin and organs compact in on themselves, there are sublime dribbles of varied and wondrous ancient flavors: figs, Armagnac, dark flesh slightly infused with the salty taste of my own blood as my mouth is pricked by the sharp bones.”

Repeatedly throughout his journalistic career, Mr. Bourdain had shown contempt and hatred for animals and total indifference to their suffering. He often gleefully participated in their suffering and torture. His gruesome killing of defenseless animals on worldwide television helped desensitize people to the suffering of other sentient beings and made it okay for foodies and chefs – as well as common folks – to seek out and hunt down endangered, exotic species for consumption. He gave support to all the psychos, or future mass murderers, who enjoy torturing animals to start or continue doing so. He has made the work of activists, in the countries where he toured and participated in the gruesome killing and devouring of innocent animals, extremely difficult. Activists who toil year after year trying to convince people in their respective countries to go vegan see their efforts evaporate within days after an American celebrity chef visits their country and when his actions are televised showing the killing and consumption of animals. This signifies to locals that it is right to mutilate and consume animals.

So why no outcry? Why would otherwise caring, levelheaded people sing the praises of this man? The answer is speciesism, which assigns different values, rights, or special consideration to particular individuals solely on the basis of their species membership.

Just like racism and sexism, the underlying commonality between these “isms” is the idea or concept that one group is better than another, that one group is superior due to its species, racial or sexual membership. In the case of speciesism humans are considered superior to other nonhuman animals, whereas in the case of racism members of the white race consider themselves superior to those of other races.

In all these cases what makes these attitudes and beliefs possible is the use of force. The forceful ability to exert one’s will allows the dominant group to kill, rape, and/or mutilate the dominated group.

These are the power dynamics that allowed Mr. Bourdain to mutilate and torture nonhuman animals. The same speciesism allows people like Mr. Bourdain not to think twice or have a scintilla of compassion for their victims. For Mr. Bourdain they were like inanimate objects that can be tortured with no moral consequences. The same may be said for the sexist who sees nothing wrong in treating women as property to be used or abused, or the racist who sees enslaving and abusing a person of color as acceptable.

For this same reason, millions of people all over the world – including so-called vegans and animal rights advocates – praise and celebrate his work but say nothing about his incomprehensible and unacceptable cruelty. Speciesism is pervasive in societies all over the world, just like racism and sexism. It is even deeply embedded in the psyche of the most ardent animal rights advocates; a result of the indoctrination of human beings, who think we are the center of the universe. It’s hard to let go of anthropocentric memes handed down through generations and decades of subtle or not-so-subtle, intentional or non-intentional, indoctrination by parents, educational systems, religious institutions, and the media.

Let me be clear: I am not against people mourning Anthony Bourdain’s death, or appreciating his support for marginalized societies and cultures. I am not against praising him for the other good things he may have done in his life. What I am asking – no, demanding – is for the truth to be told. Let all of the information circulating about him and his life work provide a balanced depiction of his deeds that include the good, the bad and the ugly. Let the true nature of this flawed and tortured human being be exposed. Not so we can insult him, belittle him or celebrate his death or his suffering, but to show him in his totality so that people know who he really was and to let them decide if he should be eulogized in such glowing terms. People should know that it is not okay to mistreat and abuse defenseless sentient beings for gustatory delight, for ratings or for the sheer pleasure of killing. They should also know that there are millions of compassionate human beings who say “no” to such gruesome acts. Anthony Bourdain was not one of them.

Justice, for the animals Mr. Bourdain tortured and killed, demands it.


Anteneh Roba, M.D., is a physician in private practice in Northern Virginia. He is President and co-founder of the International Fund for Africa (IFA) a registered International Non Governmental Organization in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, dedicated to helping both Human and Non-Human animals in Africa.


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