i posted this on mastodon but i’m reposting it here because i’m more likely to get discussion here i think
i was just looking at that riseup children’s book list—at the “vegetarian” section, and kind of surprised to see charlotte’s web on there. i kind of get why someone would think this book has vegan themes because everyone who reads it wants wilbur the pig to live and nobody wants the farmer to kill him. you might think this is cognitive dissonance, a non-vegan cheering for one pig to live while simultaneously being fine with killing and eating pigs themselves, but that’s what the book is about. charlotte’s web is a book about “justifying” that cognitive dissonance. it is a pure meat eater’s book.
it was written by e b white. a pig farmer. who killed pigs for a living before writing charlotte’s web and continued to kill pigs for a living after writing charlotte’s web.
the idea that wilbur should live is constantly presented as naïveté, only indulged in the realm of children. the only human character who has any investment in the plight of wilbur is the kid—fern—and everyone keeps telling her that it’s a nice ideal wanting wilbur to live, but she’ll grow out of it when she learns about the real world. and she does. as a kid she can speak to the animals and care about them, but as she grows up—by the end of the book—she stops caring about them and loses the ability to speak to them. the book is constantly saying it’s childish to care about the plight of farm animals and follows through on that.
characters in the book—even ones who seem to be on wilbur’s side—are constantly parroting the same bullshit justifications that meat eaters use to make themselves feel fine about their actions. when wilbur tells charlotte she is cruel for eating bugs, she uses the “population control” argument to justify it.
this is a real quote:
“do you realize that if I didn’t catch bugs and eat them, bugs would increase and multiply and get so numerous that they’d destroy the earth.”
the whole book is just this: a meat eater jumping through hoops to try and make himself feel better about what he does—trying to convince himself that it’s natural or just the way it is to enslave and kill these sentient autonomous beings—that he can recognise as sentient, but continues to enslave and kill anyway because that’s life and he’s a grown up and not some naive kid.
white presents the reader with the same quandary he feels for himself. isn’t it fucking cruel that these are living feeling creatures and i kill them? wouldn’t it be nice if they could live? then spends the whole book trying to talk everyone around to his side.
it’s a book for meat eaters by a meat eater.
kinda weird to include it in a list of books with “vegetarian” themes