Friday, June 12, 2009

Veganism’s new martyr

Chicago Tribune

Dave Warwak’s campaign to teach his 8th-grade art students about the evils of an omnivorous lifestyle is officially over the top.

Warwak, who says he was removed from his McHenry County classroom last week by the “ardent meat eaters” who run Fox River Grove District 3, had predicted he would be fired at a Monday meeting with his bosses. That didn’t happen, but Warwak now says he won’t return to work unless the school cafeteria goes vegan, eliminating meat, milk and other “poisons” from the menu. He also wants the state’s attorney to charge the district with child endangerment.

That’s several notches above last week’s complaint, which was that the Fox River Thought Police were running amok. Although you had to wonder why the 8th-grade art curriculum was so heavy on nutrition and ethics, it did seem like overkill for a middle school principal to chide a teacher for sharing ideas or literature meant “to influence the students against our school lunch program.”

Some parents and teachers have been dismayed by the art teacher’s fixation on veganism. In the spring, Warwak created a fetching 3-D model featuring marshmallow Peeps confined to cages, run over by trucks and otherwise abused by humans. Last week, he passed out copies of “The Food Revolution,” John Robbins’ treatise on factory farming, after school officials refused to remove the “Got Milk?” posters from the cafeteria.

Animal activists rallied to his defense after the principal sent him home. Chicago-based Mercy for Animals volunteered to serve a vegan meal to the entire student body. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals offered to provide vegetarian starter kits and copies of PETA’s DVD, “Meet Your Meat.” In a letter to Principal Tim Mahaffy, PETA said that instead of being disciplined, Warwak should have been praised for exposing “the meat industry’s dirty secrets.”

“Students in every school should have teachers like Mr. Warwak to tell them that the ‘chicken nuggets’ they consume in the cafeteria were once living, breathing animals who were crammed into filthy sheds and pumped full of drugs before having their throats slit while they’re still conscious,” the letter said.

OK, we’ve lost our appetite. But what the heck does that have to do with art class? Warwak says art is a subject akin to philosophy; you can’t teach kids to appreciate art till you get them to think about life. It’s not a bad point, though it would seem he had addressed the anti-omnivore argument adequately with the Peeps display and could move on to something else. Instead he continued to preach the vegan gospel with the zeal of the recent convert that he is.

Still, he didn’t really start getting on our nerves till he announced his one-man cafeteria strike. It’s one thing for a teacher to speak his mind and another thing entirely for him to demand that the school substitute his prescribed diet for the one that parents clearly find perfectly suitable.

Those of us who haven’t turned vegetarian aren’t wholly ignorant of where our meat comes from, even if we haven’t watched PETA’s DVD. We know those chicken nuggets don’t grow on trees. But parents of middle-schoolers also know how hard it is to work all the necessary nutrients into the diet of a picky tweener who’s outgrowing jeans faster than they can be laundered. Take away the milk and the chicken nuggets and all the other things vegans object to, and a lot of those kids will try to survive on a diet of marshmallow Peeps while wagging their fingers at those godless carnivores, their parents.

This is America, and Warwak is entitled to express his opinion. But the rest of us are entitled to eat what we want.

It is not a "personal choice" when you are eating my friends and you are ruining my world. When you made your "personal choice" did you ask the animal if you could confine, torture, and murder him or her? When you made your "personal choice" did you ask me if I mind all your pollution and devastation? My tax money subsidizes your "personal choice." Just because we personally make selfish choices does not make them "personal choices."

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  1. I wish I had known you when all of that was happening.

    The insight you had then, the insight you shed on these issues now... I could listen to you for hours...

  2. ''Warwak says art is a subject akin to philosophy; you can’t teach kids to appreciate art till you get them to think about life.''

    That's beautiful. And true. GO DAVE!

  3. The sad thing is adults do (sort of) know where their nuggets and burgers come from... Still, they hardly give any thought beyond a superficial acknowledgement only when reluctantly forced to. And it's doubly sad that so discomforting is this truth (of animal eating), that most adults/parents don't even "guide" children to the truth about it... They all just let the kids "figure it out". I really think it's the first betrayal parents do to their kids... indoctrinate them into this lie of numbness, about eating our friends.