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When Convictions Fail: Natalie Portman Abandons Veganism

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There are a number of reasons that I'm not vegan. One is that I like meat. Another is that I like cheese. Still another is that I'm not sure I grasp how one person laying off dairy saves a world full of doomed cows.

But among those explanations also has to be the number of vegans that I have heard, after a little while of self-righteous soap-boxing, make some variation of the following proclamation, when they finally abandon the endeavor:

"I was listening to my body to have eggs and dairy and that sort of stuff."

Such is the statement, according to US Weekly, that Natalie Portman made in announcing her decision to go back to eating animal products now that she's pregnant. The article notes that Portman became vegan after reading Jonathan Safran Foer's book, "Eating Animals."

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I haven't read Foer's book, but conveniently, the excerpt available online happens to be about eggs, and it reads as follows, as it explains the phenomenon of layers, or chickens bred for laying eggs:

What happens to all of the male offspring of layers? If man hasn't designed them for meat, and nature clearly hasn't designed them to lay eggs, what function do they serve? They serve no function. Which is why all male layers — half of all the layer chickens born in the United States, more than 250 million chicks a year — are destroyed.

Destroyed? That seems like a word worth knowing more about.

Most male layers are destroyed by being sucked through a series of pipes onto an electrified plate. Other layer chicks are destroyed in other ways, and it's impossible to call those animals more or less fortunate. Some are tossed into large plastic containers. The weak are trampled to the bottom, where they suffocate slowly. The strong suffocate slowly at the top. Others are sent fully conscious through macerators (picture a wood chipper filled with chicks).

Now. I, as no doubt many of you, can see why that passage alone might make a person want to renounce eggs. But the problem with renouncing eggs is that so many people's bodies -- like Natalie's -- inevitably have an informal chat with them, in which they somehow get across the fact that their consciences aren't lining up with their physical cravings.

If you have the foresight to suspect that your body will eventually tell you as much, you don't become vegan, and instead you try to find a way to live with the unending guilt of knowing that you participate willingly in a system that viciously kills baby chicks. Or, you try to find a way to help the baby chicks, and then realize that you're ultimately powerless (possibly after bathing naked on Hollywood Blvd.), and are sent back to square one.

What I'm saying is that the problem of animal cruelty in this country is vast, ingrained, profound, and and embedded in ways that we likely will never fully comprehend, from systematic to biological to Darwinistic to religious, etc. etc. But to think that we can somehow get out of the guilt of being a part of that system by swearing off eggs for a year or two, only to ultimately have to "listen to our bodies" and go back to them...well, Natalie Portman, didn't you go to Harvard? You should know better than that.