In honor of Women’s History Month, PETA (an organization founded by a woman and led by women) has chosen Harlem’s own Cicely Tyson as one of five female trailblazers to celebrate.
Millions who look to these women as role models may be surprised to learn that their work for social justice includes animal protection.
A Hollywood legend who was the first Black actor to star in a television drama series; the first Black woman to win an Emmy Award as a lead actress in a television movie; and the first Black actress to receive an honorary Oscar, Tyson was also an early adopter of meat-free eating.
In her final interview, conducted on the eve of her death at age 96, she credited that choice with keeping her strong and healthy throughout her life—and revealed that it was the assassination of nonviolence champion Martin Luther King Jr. that inspired her to keep violence off her own plate.
“Cicely Tyson understood that everyone—whatever skin they’re in and whether they have fur, fins, or feathers—deserves to live free from exploitation, suffering, and discrimination,” says PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “PETA encourages everyone to honor her legacy by showing solidarity across species lines and condemning the subjugation of any living being.”
PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to eat”—notes that sexual exploitation is rampant in the meat, egg, and dairy industries because of speciesism, the human-supremacist mentality that all other animal species are inferior to our own.
Female cows are artificially inseminated (raped by inserting an arm into the rectum and a metal rod into the vagina), hens are shipped to slaughter once their bodies wear out, and mother pigs spend their entire adult lives confined to cramped metal crates.
PETA’s other honorees are educator and prison reform advocate Angela Davis, labor activist Dolores Huerta, feminist icon Gloria Steinem, and racial justice leader Coretta Scott King, whom Tyson portrayed in the television miniseries King—all vegetarians or vegans.
For more information, please visit PETA.org
Photo credit: Cicely Tyson source.