A recurring theme of The Oprah Winfrey Show is “live your best life,” and indeed, throughout the show’s 25 years on the air, Oprah and her band of experts have shown us countless ways we can live better. Often, these tools have applied to a single area of life — health, spirituality, fitness, philanthropy, etc., but this week, during her farewell season, Oprah presented her viewers with a single step they can take to improve nearly ALL areas of life. Together with 378 of her staff members, Oprah went vegan for a week and the program that aired this week about the experience was an eye-opener to millions of viewers unfamiliar with the many benefits of consuming a plant-based diet. To address the reality of animals being killed for meat, the show also included a reporter’s visit to a cattle slaughterhouse. Although cameras were not allowed to show animals actually being killed, millions of viewers saw frightened animals walking to slaughter and carcasses being dismembered in the slaughterhouse assemblyline.
Oprah’s guests included two best-selling authors who have written extensively about food and wellness, Michael Pollan and Kathy Freston. Pollan, who eats meat twice a week, argued that meat eating is normal and part of human history. Freston, who is a vegan, spoke passionately and convincingly about the benefits of vegan living. Her new book, Veganist, was catapulted to #1 on Amazon.com after the show aired.
Several of Oprah’s staff members described their positive experiences with vegan eating – one lost more than 10 pounds and said he never felt better, and another explained simply that vegan living agreed with him. Some of Oprah’s other staffers were less enthusiastic, including one who was suffering withdrawal symptoms from her addiction to fast food. Oprah is to be commended for airing this topic, even though she seemed deferential to the livestock industry, which sued her in the 1990s after she raised concerns about beef production.
The Oprah Winfrey Show and Farm Sanctuary both began in 1986, during an era marked by unbridled excess and great social and economic change. At the time, little attention was being paid to topics such as spirituality and the intrinsic worth of all life. While early episodes of Oprah’s show followed a Phil Donahue-style exploration of sensationalistic social issues, she eventually transformed her series into a more positive, spiritually uplifting experience. At the core of The Oprah Winfrey Show and Farm Sanctuary is a desire to make life better for all living beings. That an episode during Oprah’s final season (and our 25th anniversary year) should directly intersect with our mission is a very encouraging sign.
The livestock industry is feeling threatened, and as more people recognize the benefits of being vegan, factory farmers have reason for concern. You can see more about Oprah’s show here.