Thursday, April 08, 2010

Alice Walker NUANCING Alice Walker's Animal Rights Quote - http://bit.ly/aRUeP7 - that made her famous. Oh, well.

That Alice Walker Animal Rights Quote

Wednesday April 7, 2010
Alice Walker
It's one of the most famous quotes in the animal rights movement, and it's attributed to Alice Walker, author of "The Color Purple" (Buy Direct):
"The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men."
The problem is the quote is taken out of context, and Walker wasn't expressing her own views. The source of the quote is Walker's preface to Marjorie Spiegel's 1988 book, "The Dreaded Comparison" (Buy Direct). In fact, the very next sentence is "This is the gist of Ms. Spiegel's cogent, humane and astute argument, and it is sound."
Dreaded Comparison
When Walker wrote those words, she was summarizing someone else's views, not her own.
It's easy to see how something like this spreads. It's a great sentiment, coming from a Pulitzer Prize-winning author. And technically, Alice Walker did write it.
When I see the quote, it's rarely cited as coming from Spiegel's book, so it would be difficult to verify. But considering the context, I don't think the quote should be said to describe Walker's views on animal rights.
I was unable to find a way to contact Walker, either on her blog or on her official website.
And while we're discussing Alice Walker, various animal rights and vegetarian/vegan websites describe Walker as a vegan or vegetarian, but as of November of 2009, that is not accurate. Walker wrote in her blog post titled, "So I Thought We Would Just Go On Like This Forever,"
And it isn't as if I'm vegan, as Wikipedia claims. I'm just an ordinary run of the mill mostly vegetarian person who still eats chicken soup when I'm sick and roast chicken when I can't resist. But I could not have eaten Babe.
Babe was a chicken Walker had helped take care of.
My purpose is not to criticize Walker. She tries to be vegetarian and says that Spiegel's book that compares human slavery to animal slavery is based on a sound argument. But I believe that calling her vegan, taking this quote out of context and attributing it to Walker is inaccurate.
And while we're discussing famous animal rights quotes, another one that is questionable at best is the one that is attributed to Abraham Lincoln:
I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.
It appears that a rather thorough search for the origins of the Lincoln quote has turned up nothing.
Photo of Alice Walker by Peter Kramer / Getty Images