Vegan actor Natalie Portman has given a pro-vegan speech to 16,000 students at youth activism event WE Day California.
According to Canadian WE Charity, which operates domestically and internationally, it aims to ‘educate and empower young people to nurture compassion in students and give them the tools to create transformative social change’. Its event attracted a slew of celebrities including Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selena Dobrev.
During her talk, Portman spoke about the link between feminism and veganism, and how female animals are exploited so people can consume eggs and dairy.
Women’s issues and veganism
“Only after I became active in women’s issues did I realize that my veganism was related to those very issues,” Portman told attendees. “Dairy and eggs don’t just come from cows and chickens, they come from female cows and female chickens. We’re exploiting female bodies and abusing the magic of female animals to create eggs and milk.
“Mothers are separated from children to create milk. Animals are sick and in crowded, prison-like conditions to make dairy and eggs. It doesn’t take a lot to draw the line from how we treat animals to how we treat humans.
“So now lots of people make fun of vegans, right? Lots of people make fun of anybody who cares about anything deeply, right? But I’m here to say, it is always a great thing to care…whether it’s environmental issues, animal rights, women’s rights, equality, never be afraid to show how much you care.”
Portman speaks about veganism and women’s issues at the event
Animal rights advocate
Portman is a passionate advocate, often speaking out about veganism and the plight of animals. Last Summer, she produced and narrated a documentary called Eating Animals, based on Jonathan Safran Coer’s book of the same name.
The film, which takes a welfarist slant, has been described as telling ‘the story of the beginning of the end of factory farming’ by the production team, asking the question ‘where do our eggs, dairy and meat come from?’
Eating Animals was released last year
Portman addressed this perspective, and a review which described Eating Animals as ‘pro-meat’ as it appears to promote the consumption of animals reared on smaller, ‘humane’ farms, during a post screening Q and A.
She said the production team did not ‘want to scare people away with too gruesome imagery’. She added: “Even people who really devote their lives to this, it’s horrendous to watch cruelty to animals. What you see in the movie is the PG version of what exists out there.”
She also said encouraging people to start reducing their intake of animal products is key: “Binaries are not important anymore,” Portman claimed. “It’s important to see things on a continuum. Trying does a lot. If everyone tried a little bit, it would make a huge impact. It’s understandable that it’s very hard to change part of our story, how we eat – part of the story of our families, our nation, our religion, and our identity. I don’t expect anyone to be vegan tomorrow, but making small changes makes a big difference.”