Last week, entertainment-related media in the U.S. reported that the American Broadcasting Corporation had rejected an advertisement the animal-rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wanted to air during the Academy Awards ceremony, which takes place early tomorrow morning Tokyo time. The spot features Oscar-nominated actor Joaquin Phoenix underwater. In voiceover he asks the viewer to imagine what it's like to drown and then says that is what happens to 1 trillion fish every year. Caught and removed from water they die painfully, gasping for oxygen. The closing title says "Go Vegan."

According to PETA, ABC claimed the ad was too "political." Detractors characterize PETA as being radical, but veganism, a dedicated form of vegetarianism central to its agenda, has grown more popular and mainstream in recent years, thanks in no small part to celebrities such as Phoenix who have fan bases that extend beyond the left-wing stereotype associated with the group. What seems to have bothered ABC — as well as many Americans, judging from Internet comments — is the militant tone of the commercial: You who eat fish must realize how cruel you are. This is the main cognitive difference between vegans and more traditional vegetarians, who are usually stereotyped as being mild-mannered and withdrawn. Vegans are now as aggressive as carnivores.

Regardless of the label, people who choose not to eat meat or fish often do so because they don't want to be complicit in the killing of animals. Health and related factors used to be prime considerations, and in Japan they are still the main ones, especially where the media is concerned. Some women become vegetarian to enhance "beauty," but few Japanese people admit to being vegetarian for reasons of conscience. I once read that the TV personality Becky followed a meat-free diet — her work is often related to animals — but like all TV personalities she appears on food shows, and it's almost impossible to get through one of those without eating something containing animal flesh or its derivatives. Like homosexual male actors in Hollywood, vegan TV personalities in Japan who want to keep their jobs have to stay in the closet.