For the November elections, Ellen and Portia DeRossi hosted a gala to endorse prop 2, (for which they will soon be honored by the Humane Society). In an Access Hollywood video clip covering the event, Ellen gives a speech on the horrors of factory farming, telling her celebrity-laden audience, "I am just appalled that we are kept ignorant...If we were actually aware of the process, we would be heartbroken and we would stand up and do something about it and this is what we are doing now in out tiny, tiny way...." She goes on to confess, "It took me a long time to open my eyes and see what was really happening...you hear it all the time 'I don't want to know about it.' It's like well 'You have to know about it because it is not fair, because you are contributing to it. If you want to look at it and educate yourself and then decide to still do it, then ok. I don't think anybody wants to hurt animals. I don't think anybody goes out of their way to torture animals."
This statement is ironic in light of her recent campaign as the new face of Cover Girl, the cosmetics line owned by Procter and Gamble, one of the largest companies to continue animal testing.
Ellen's hypocrisy is baffling. I can only speculate on the reasons for her contradictory behavior that A. she is in it for the money, B. she is ignorant of the damage she is doing by promoting this ecologically and ethically ambiguous brand, or C. she believes the gains the LBGT community will gain through her exposure outweighs the exploitative business practices and lax ethics of the company she has chosen to promote.
While I have a sneaking suspicion the answer is all of the above, lets, for now, give Ellen the benefit of the doubt in regards to her intelligence and her monetary values. Let's contribute her endorsement to progressive political goals. It is true, that when I saw Ellen reciting the "easy breezy Covergirl" mantra on TV the other day, I was moved by the empowering aspects of this campaign, and in the possible alteration of mainstream's definition of beauty, currently dominated by heterosexual, mostly white, thin, young women. These social gains, however, are irreparably mitigated by the oppressive practices of Cover Girl.
The false dichotomy between animal rights and civil rights reminds me of this past November when I marched to protest prop 8. Among rainbow flags, wedding dresses, and signs declaring "8 is Hate", I noticed a few people carrying signs depicting chickens with slashes through them, declaring "rights for people, not animals." The logic was that animals gained rights instead of more deserving gay men and women. This sentiment that there were not enough rights to go around was echoed in some protestor's resentment that the same people who voted for Barack Obama voted yes on prop 8. People seem to feel like a win by one oppressed group means a loss for another.
There are differences between human rights and animal rights, but they are related- it is the same mechanism at work. We are all fighting the same beast, and progressive goals aren't a zero-sum game.
In any case, even if some activist's compassion only extends as far as other human beings, and the suffering of animals is of no interest, Ellen says it is of interest to her, and neither she, nor anyone else who claims to can use or endorse Cover girl with a clear conscience.
At the gala, Ellen confessed that it took her "a long time to open [her] eyes and see what was happening." I hope that Ellen will open her eyes a little wider and see that the company she promotes does intentionally hurt and torture animals because of greed, and that this senseless destruction and abuse is a step back for us all.
For a list of cosmetic companies that do not test on animals go to: http://search.caringconsumer.com
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