The Kiss a Nonhuman Companion Challenge: A way to help without hurting (or wasting)

For those of you who have logged onto one of your social media accounts within the past week, chances are, you have seen a video of one of your friends participating in the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge”: the trendy new way of supposedly raising awareness and money for ALS research, while at the some time, convincing one’s self that she has, with courage and bravery, fulfilled her moral obligation to be charitable. While I recently wrote a detailed blog post enumerating the ways in which the “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge” is harmful for both humans and nonhuman animals, counterproductive, and a shameful display of western privilege, Corey Wrenn and I have put our heads together to come up with a new “challenge” that does not waste precious resources like water, that does not raise awareness for harmful biomedical research, and that actually helps the most innocent and vulnerable within our society: nonhuman animals. Specifically, we want to initiate a project which will raise money for Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary: a farm sanctuary that not only rescues farm animals who have been exploited and used in agribusiness, but also promotes a vegan lifestyle.

The Challenge, then, is the Kiss a Nonhuman Companion Challenge.

kiss a non human animal challenge

The rules: film yourself kissing a nonhuman companion, whether it be a cat, dog, lizard, chicken, bird, and so forth. Then, challenge another individual or individuals to also kiss a nonhuman animal (and, of course, they should film this and challenge someone else). If they don’t complete the challenge within 24 hours, they should donate whatever they can afford to Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary, even if it is as little as one dollar. They can go directly to the PPS website and make their donation on the front page (Of course, all individuals are encouraged to make a donation whether or not they meet the challenge). For those without the resources to donate, participating in the video challenge is a great way to raise awareness about animal rights. Feel free to leave your own message about why others should care about the plight of other animals and how they can help (by going vegan, for example!). Join the “Kiss A Nonhuman Companion Challenge” group on facebook and upload your video to inspire others!

**Note: you don’t need to be challenged to challenge. Start helping animals today and promoting awareness of animal exploitation by challenging others to Kiss a Nonhuman Companion today!

**Also note: there are no limits on challenges! Challenge as many people as you would like!

The goal of the “Kiss a Nonhuman Companion Challenge” is to raise awareness for not only the billions of nonhuman animals who are exploited and tortured every year in agriculture in the United States, but also, to encourage individuals to donate to Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary: a sanctuary that takes serious the rights of animals while promoting an unwavering philosophy of veganism. Finally, it is an attempt to remind others that love, and not the shameful wasting of precious resources like water, is what will help alleviate suffering in the world.

So here it is, the first Kiss a Nonhuman Companion Challenge: Cheryl Abbate of Vegan Feminist Network challenges her friend, colleague, and fellow Vegan Feminist: Corey Wrenn to the Kiss a Nonhuman Companion Challenge:

 

In addition, see Corey Wrenn of the Vegan Feminist Network challenge Stevie of Team Earthling: Vegan Radio to Kiss a Nonhuman Companion!

Let’s raise some money for Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary and remind others of the billions of nonhuman animals who suffer and die due to human selfishness.

Written by Cheryl E Abbate
Philosophy PhD Student at Marquette University
Follow her on
Twitter and through the Vegan Feminist Network on Facebook

Homophobia and Beyond Meat: When “Vegan” Companies Act Unethically

In recent twitter news, a Beyond Meat employee was caught using homophobic words to promote their “vegan” products (the orginal tweet was screen capped on Gay Fat Vegan’s blog and has been edited to preserve the identity of the tweeters).

Note: I sometimes use scare quotes around the word vegan because vegan does not just mean “products free of animal flesh and product”; rather, vegan refers to products produced by companies who promote vegan principles of compassion and justice.

Tweet

When Beyond Meat was publicly criticized for this act of homophobia, they immediately issued apologies on *twitter* while reminding their “fans” that their business is “founded on love and acceptance.”

Beyond Meat Apology

One blogger, Fat Gay Vegan, writes that the apology from Beyond Meat was “sincere and heartfelt” and that “If they [Beyond Meat] are guilty of anything, I believe it is outsourcing or not keeping a tight enough hold on their social media” (Fat Gay Vegan’s Blog).

Unlike this blogger, I find that this event demands further critical examination, especially since this event brings to light a re-occurring phenomena in the world of vegan consumption: when “vegan” companies emerge, or companies that offer “vegan” products, vegan consumers often assume that these companies can do no harm. After all, they are vegan so they must be ethical, right?

I beg to differ.

We cannot forget that most “vegan” companies have one primary goal: profit. The last I checked, Beyond Meat is a for-profit business that does *not* donate its profit to animal advocacy organizations. Furthermore, as far as I can see, they do not donate or plan to donate *any* of their proceeds to any animal liberation organization (and if they do, they do not find this important enough to mention on their website). They do, however, boast about promoting awareness of animal abuse in agriculture and environmental degradation, yet, sadly, the only “education” they offer on their website pertains to their own products and goals.

What should give vegan consumers even more reason to be suspicious of this company is that Beyond Meat is considerably incompetent when it comes to the animal liberation movement, as evident by their recent twitter interaction with Carol Adams (photo credit to Fat Gay Vegan), who they congratulated for “just going vegan.”

CarolAdamsBeyondMeat

Clearly, Beyond Meat is not a company that is genuinely engaged in and dedicated to the animal liberation movement.

So what is Beyond Meat? It is a for-profit company with high-profile investor-capitalists like Bill Gates and venture capitalist powerhouse Kleiner Perkins Caufield Byers who are eager to cash in on the vegan movement. Beyond meat has an executive team that consists of four men, none of whom have a degree or experience working in animal ethics (or ethics in general):

Ethan Brown: “previously worked eight years at Ballard Power Systems, the world’s leading PEM fuel cell company”

Brent Taylor: “served as a partner in a vegetable seed technology start-up and has several years of management experience in agriculture/food as a Senior Analyst – Corporate Development, at Dole Food Company, Inc”

Bob Prusha: “has 30+ year veteran in Manufacturing”

Tony Prudhomme: has a “career in finance, operations and general management executive for consumer products companies, including fresh food giant Dole Food Company”

These four men use technology and science to create and sell non-organic faux chicken at costs so high that the majority of Americans cannot afford to purchase their products (a small container usually sells for $5.79). While technology is not always bad, we should be reluctant to use it as a first-response solution to ethical problems, since technology often promotes masculine values and the manipulation of nature. Furthermore, since capitalism is, in- and- of- itself, a system of exploitation, we should remain suspicious of any attempt to “fix” the problem of the exploitation of animals and the environment within a system that is inherently individualist, competitive, and exploitative.

Beyond Meat, thus, operates under the capitalist system that prioritizes technology. It is a company that uses technology to manipulate nature (plant protein) into a “masculine” food which resembles animal flesh (which they refer to as “brotein”) and is available only to priviliged consumers. We see, once again, a male-dominated company which is determined to control and “fix” the world by using machines to manipulate nature itself. Capitalism and technology: score again!

Keeping in mind that Beyond Meat is a for-profit company that promotes masculine goals and there is little evidence that this company is ethically competent, we should not be surprised when we see its employees spouting off insensitive, homophobic twitter posts in an attempt to promote their products. After all, profit-driven companies are less likely to consider the ethical competence of their employees and will hire the cheapest labor possible without considering that it should hire someone who is both genuinely concerned with transforming the world into one of love and compassion and competent when it comes to ethical considerations.

What we can take away from this event is the following: companies which produce and sell “vegan” products are not off limits from moral criticism; a number of these companies are motivated by capitalist goals and exploit the moral principles of consumers in order to obtain these goals, while counting on the likelihood that they can get away with any “moral mess-up” by reminding consumers of their “compassionate” and “loving” foundation. Keeping this in mind, we must remember that we should not hesitate to be critical of self-proclaimed vegan companies and we should not be silent when they act unethically just because they are supposedly “helping animals.” For instance, many companies that sell vegan products, like So Delicious, contribute extensively to environmental degradation since they do not sell their yogurts in large containers, but rather, require consumers to purchase their products in individually packaged, plastic containers. While my mouth is the first to water at the prospect of vegan yogurt, I cannot forget that the way they package and sell their products is highly wasteful and hurtful to the natural world about us.

SoDelicious

While it is next to impossible to purchase and consume products that are produced in a completely ethical way, what we can do is hold companies accountable for their moral transgressions. What we can do, is demand for Beyond Meat to issue an official apology to the GLBT community. What we can do, is request that Beyond Meat employ individuals who are familiar with the animal liberation movement and what it really means to be a vegan.

 

***As a side note, I urged Beyond Meat to issue an official apology; in response, I was directed to a blogger who is not in any way associated with the company. This, of course, is their attempt to avoid publicly and officially addressing the issue themselves.

Beyond Meat

Written by Cheryl E Abbate
Philosophy PhD Student at Marquette University
Follow her on
Twitter and through the Vegan Feminist Network on Facebook

De Moura Opposed Animal Testing

Editor’s Note

Jon is a regular contributor to our sister site the Academic Abolitionist Vegan. He posts short investigative pieces that uncover the politics of historical and contemporary figures in the socialist movement who have recognized intersections with speciesism.  Many early female activists espoused vegetarianism.

Maria Lacerda de Moura Vivisection

Born in 1887, Maria Lacerda de Moura, a Brazilian left-wing radical, was an opponent of animal testing. While she is often identified as an individualist anarchist, this seems reductive, as numerous sources describe her as a supporter of class struggle who condemned capitalism.According to Francesca Miller, de Moura was “sympathetic to the goals of international socialism, but rejected all political affiliation.” Miller suggested she did this on feminist grounds, quoting from a 1932 book written by the leftist. “Up until now, which has been the party or program that presented a solution for the problem of female happiness?” de Moura said. “Who remembered to liberate women? …Fatherland, home, society, religion, morality, good manners, civil and political rights, communism, fascism, every other ism, revolutions, and barricades…continues to be the slave, an instrument skillfully manipulated by men for their sectarian, power-hungry, economic, religious, political, or social causes.”

She distanced herself from the mainstream of the feminist movement, June Edith said, “apparently feeling that the franchise would chiefly benefit middle-class women rather than aid the bulk of Brazil’s population or alter the country’s social structure.” But de Moura “found no constituency for a socialist feminist movement,” according to Susan K. Besse.

In a 2011 article titled ‘Representations of science and technology in Brazilian anarchism,’ Gilson Leandro Queluz provided rare English quotes from de Moura regarding animal testing. “I can only understand vivisection as a frenzy of unspeakable evil,” de Moura said. “I cannot even see the advantage of the scientific drunkenness that puts thousands of guinea pigs and dogs and any kind of animal at the mercy of ‘scientists.’”

Chimpanzee Vivisection History
De Moura was aghast at the experiments performed by the French surgeon Serge Voronoff, as many seem to have been. Voronoff, a frequent vivisectionist, was best known for involuntarily transplanting chimpanzees’ testicles onto human males in an effort to cure impotence. “By 1923 forty-three men had received testicles from nonhuman primates, and by the end of Voronoff’s career, that number reached thousands,” according to Nathan Wolfe. “Although Voronoff had inherited a fortune as an heir to a vodka manufacturer, he made more money operating on many of the most important men [sic] of his day.”

De Moura argued the surgeon’s procedures represented “quack science of modern industrialism, the science that served the golden calf, the science of human vampirism exhausted by early senility that sucks the glands of animals.” And Voronoff’s clients, she said, were “old, wealthy and powerful men, whose conscience was crushed by parasitism, whose safes were enriched at the expense of the exploitation of thousands and thousands of workers, at the expense of the martyrdom and servility of the human herd.”

There appears to be more material available elsewhere regarding her species politics, but it’s only in Portuguese. One hopes an enterprising socialist animalist familiar with the language might investigate this. Some sources state de Moura died in 1944, while others say she passed away a year later in 1945. She would have been in her late 50s.

Jon Hochschartner is a freelance writer from upstate New York. He is the author of Socialists and Animal Rights. Visit his website by clicking here

Lilian Wolfe likely Motivated by Animalist Concern

Editor’s Note

Jon is a regular contributor to our sister site the Academic Abolitionist Vegan. He posts short investigative pieces that uncover the politics of historical and contemporary figures in the socialist movement who have recognized intersections with speciesism.  Many early female activists espoused vegetarianism.

Wolfe Anarchism Animal Rights

 

Born in 1875, Lilian Wolfe, whose name is spelled in different ways in different sources, was a British feminist, anarchist and vegetarian. According to George Woodcock, she was a friend and collaborator to the influential anarcho-communist Peter Kropotkin. Given her residency at the Whiteway Colony, a community inspired by Leo Tolstoy, one might assume her diet was inspired by concern for animals.

The seriousness with which Wolfe seemed to regard her vegetarianism can be seen in her steadfastness to the diet during her incarceration for opposing World War I. “The anarchists round the newspaper Freedom had their own anti-war organization,” Sheila Rowbotham said. “Lilian Woolf, an ex-suffragette who became an anarchist, was imprisoned [in 1916] for giving out anti-war leaflets to troops. Pregnant and unmarried on principle, she remained a vegetarian in prison and was forced to drink cabbage water to provide herself with some nutrition.”

While I no longer put much emphasis on the importance of prefigurative vegetarianism or veganism, I must admire her tenacity in this instance, even if it was for what I see now as a mostly symbolic end. When I spent a mere 40 hours in jail for my 2011 involvement in the Occupy Wall Street movement, I’m sure I betrayed my prefigurative veganism numerous times, which I then took very seriously, at least publicly. I abjured the offerings that obviously contained animal products, such as the cartons of cows’ milk and cows’ cheese sandwiches.  The former prompted many jokes contrasting 1 percent milk fat and OWS’ signature phraseology regarding the economic division of society.  But I ate peanut butter sandwiches I suspect were made with honey. The bread for these also could have contained animal products. I just wanted to keep my head down.

How much time Wolfe served in custody is unclear. She “was sentenced to £25 or two months and went to prison, but there discovered she was pregnant (at the age of 40), so paid the fine and was released,” according to Donald Rooum. She administrated Freedom Press, which identified with libertarian communism, for much of her life. “For more than twenty-five years Lilian Wolfe was the centre of the administration of Freedom Press at its various premises in London,” Nicolas Walter said. “She was the person on whom every organization depends — the completely reliable worker who runs the office, opening and closing the shop, answering the telephone and the post, doing accounts and keeping people in touch. She maintained personal contact with the thousands of people who read the paper.”

George Orwell Animal Rights

When the socialist George Orwell was sick with tuberculosis in 1949, an illness that eventually claimed his life, Orwell’s young son, Richard Blair, was sent to live at the Whiteway Colony, near the sanitarium where his father was being treated. He was placed in Wolfe’s care. Orwell, it should be mentioned, was hostile to what Whiteway represented. “If only the sandals and pistachio-colored shirts could be put in a pile and burnt, and every vegetarian, teetotaler and creeping Jesus sent home to Welwyn Garden City to do his [sic] yoga exercises quietly,” Orwell said. “As with the Christian religion, the worst advertisement for Socialism is its adherents.”

For what it’s worth, Blair seemed to enjoy his time at Whiteway. “As far as I can recall I was perfectly happy there and even attended a local kindergarten for a few weeks, until mid-August,” Blair said. “I remember regularly waiting with someone to catch a bus to go and visit my father and, on arrival, would always ask him where it hurt.”
Orwell described Whiteway and Wolfe herself with no small amount of condescension. The community was “some sort of anarchist colony run, or financed, by the old lady whose name I forget who keeps the Freedom Bookshop,” Orwell said. For Walter, this was quite a strange twist. “How nice to know that at the very end of his life Orwell was helped by a high-minded woman who was not only an anarchist but a pacifist, and also a vegetarian and a teetotaler,” Walter said. “A perfect irony to close the case of Orwell and the anarchists!” Wolfe died in 1974, at the age of 98.
Jon Hochschartner is a freelance writer from upstate New York. He is the author of Socialists and Animal Rights. Visit his website by clicking here

White Male VegFest Colorado: Gatekeepers & Institutional Discrimination in the Animal Rights Movement

Misandry Animal Rights

As I am in Colorado for the summer with fellow vegan feminist Cheryl Abbate, we’ve been keeping an eye on the vegan community, looking for fun stuff to do.  I haven’t been to a “vegfest” of any kind since I was a teenager, and Cheryl thought it might be fun to check out VegFest Colorado 2014. But then we took a look at the speaker schedule: Andrew Freeman, Andy Mars, David Robinson Simon, Jeffrey Smith, Marc Bekoff, Paul Shapiro, Virginia Messina, and Will Tuttle.  Notice anything strange about this lineup? Seven out of 8 are males…white males at that. Ick.

Others took notice as well on the event’s Facebook page.  Sadly, faced with comments on this blatant reproduction of male privilege in the animal rights movement, the organizers simply accused concerned persons of being sexist, misandrist, trouble-making, ingrates that ruin things “for the animals.” The inevitable tone-policing (a favorite tool of oppressors for deflecting blame and dismissing injustice) reared its ugly head. Because if marginalized oppressed people dare make a peep about equality, they better ask nicely and quietly with a pretty please at the end.

The very notion that feminists raising concern about the almost completely male panel of speakers (in a movement that is notoriously sexist) could ever possibly be sexist themselves is amazingly laughable. Under a patriarchy, men cannot be victims of sexism–this is because the institutions of patriarchy are designed to privilege men. This “reverse sexism” trope is a common fallback for sexist groups in the movement, and I am starting to feel like a broken record.

Furthermore, as I explain in an essay I published last year, lamenting “the animals” is a distraction technique meant to falsely reverse victimization.  It takes the blame away from those responsible for the problem (almost always persons of privilege) and puts it on the individual drawing attention to the problem (usually marginalized persons). It’s a technique designed to avoid cognitive dissonance and protect structures of inequality.  In that essay I explain:

Emphasizing the urgency of Nonhuman Animal suffering (“RIGHT NOW!”) is meant to distract. No time to think, animals are suffering! This trope is invoked to silence criticism and maintain the status quo. Plain and simple.

People using this trope are exploiting the torture and death of Nonhuman Animals to maintain privilege and inequality. Why are you upset about the rape culture animal rights community perpetuates? Animals are suffering RIGHT NOW!

The point of frustration comes from the relentless inability for important gatekeepers in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement to accept responsibility for institutional discrimination.  Let me be clear: very few persons today are explicitly sexist or racist.  Most individuals today engage in implicit or unconscious prejudice and stereotyping; most of us outwardly hold egalitarian ideals. This is great news on one hand, but on the other, it makes challenging the barriers that remain all the more difficult.  Much of the problems facing marginalized groups today result from institutional barriers. This is the culmination of subtle prejudices and discriminations and the cumulative effects of many centuries of state-supported institutionalized discrimination. So, even if we personally don’t feel we are sexist or racist, that does not mean sexism or racism doesn’t exist.

And yet, we are so quick to individualize the problem:  “It’s your problem for finding a problem. I’m not sexist.  In fact, you must be sexist for suggesting such a thing!”  But sexism (and other forms of discrimination) do exist; and culpability must fall somewhere.

In many studies of institutionalized barriers, institutions, organizations, corporations, groups, etc. are often quick to pass the blame.  They would love to be more diverse…if only they had more diversity to choose from!  For instance, when faced with the gross gender inequality in academic departments, professional associations often merely blame women:  not enough women are interested in the field.  When publishing companies have been accused of publishing too few African American authors, it’s not their fault, people of color just don’t like to write as much as white people!  When companies using sexist advertising are called on their objectification, it isn’t their fault, that’s what the consumers want.  Why no women in VegFest Colorado? Not their fault; it’s just men are easier to get! No women signed up!

This is individualizing a systemic problem. Instead of institutions of considerable privilege recognizing their role as gatekeepers, the incredible power they wield in improving representation, and the important role they play in setting standards and values for their audiences, these groups merely blame the already marginalized communities.

In another essay I’ve posted for Vegan Feminist Network on how to be a good male ally–I think it is also essential for men to start taking responsibility for sexism in the movement and use their privilege for good instead of status quo.  Men need to speak up about this. Powerful men (like Marc Bekoff and Paul Shapiro) should withhold their services until the diversity is improved.  The animals aren’t missing out–the only persons who would miss out are the men who benefit from the celebrity involved in these events. Indeed, the atheist movement has had a similar problem with few female speakers at important events–but the atheist movement has significantly less women to begin with, and they have been able to push back with boycotts and all-female conferences.  If the horrifically sexist Free Thinking movement can start making progress on this front, surely the mostly female animal rights movement can do the same.

In a movement that is 80% female, there is no excuse for an all-male or nearly all-male panel of speakers/group of contributors.Of course the problems with diversity at major events is not only a matter of gender equity.  The overwhelming whiteness of activist pools and events is an indicator of something much more disturbing that has manifested in our movement. But the majority of our movement is already female, and we can’t even ensure equal representation for women?  This should be a serious wake up call.

At the end of the day, I am of the position that these events tend to be colossal wastes of precious few resources (as a matter of animal liberation at least). I recognize that creating community is essential to preserving vegans, but I wouldn’t say this is exactly “for the animals.”  The majority of event goers I suspect are not going to be uninitiated people waiting to be converted, they will be people who are already “converted” and looking for something to do like Cheryl and I. These events are nothing more than sites of fundraising, personal entertainment or gain, and celebrity worship. This isn’t “about the animals,” it’s about us.  Especially for events that are geared towards encouraging community, we need to take responsibility for the discrimination being reproduced there. A movement that belittles and trivializes the marginalization of human groups will be unwelcoming and ineffective for other animals. End of story.

 

Despard was Anti-Speciesist Socialist

Editor’s Note

Jon is a regular contributor to our sister site the Academic Abolitionist Vegan. He posts short investigative pieces that uncover the politics of historical and contemporary figures in the socialist movement who have recognized intersections with speciesism.  Many early female activists espoused vegetarianism.

 

Charlotte Despard Speciesism

The British activist Charlotte Despard, in addition to being a communist, feminist and Irish nationalist, was an anti-speciesist of some degree, practicing prefigurative vegetarianism and campaigning against vivisection. Despard was on friendly terms with Eleanor Marx, the youngest daughter of Karl Marx, and was a delegate to the Second International meeting in 1896, prior to the organization’s dissolution during the First World War. Following stints in other socialist groups, she would eventually join the British Communist Party, for which her house was attacked by a right-wing mob.

Despard was, according to Rod Preece, president of the London Vegetarian Society and the National Canine Defence League. She was present at the 1906 unveiling of a controversial anti-vivisectionist statue, according to Coral Lansbury, which sparked riots when trade unionists and feminists defended the monument from attack by medical students. The statue featured a bronze dog atop a fountain, which was inscribed with the following words.

Brown Dog Statue

“In Memory of the Brown Terrier Dog done to Death in the Laboratories of University College in February 1903, after having endured Vivisection extending over more than two months and having been handed from one Vivisector to another till Death came to his Release,” the inscription stated. “Also in Memory of the 232 dogs vivisected at the same place during the year 1902. Men and Women of England, how long shall these things be?”

In 1910, conservatives gained control of the local government and sought to have the statue removed. Despite protests by Despard and other anti-vivisectionists, the monument was dismantled in the middle of the night by government workers guarded by an astonishing 120 police officers, according to Lansbury.

Despard connected her feminism to her animal advocacy. “The Women’s Movement is related also with the other great movements of the world,” she said. “The awakened instinct which feels the call of the subhuman which says — ‘I am the voice of the voiceless. Through me the dumb shall speak,’ is a modern phenomenon that cannot be denied. It works itself out as food reform on the one hand, and on the other, in strong protest against the cruel methods of experimental research. Both these are in close unison with the demands being made by women.”

As I’ve mentioned in other articles, Stalinist Russia was hostile to vegetarianism. In 1930, Despard toured the Soviet Union in what one must assume was a trip carefully choreographed and managed by her hosts. According to Adam Hochschild, “She found everything to be splendid: the diet was good, children privileged, education enlightened, orphanages first-rate, and the courts wise and generous.” Despite her support for Stalinism and the British Communist Party, which was under the sway of the Soviet Union, one can’t necessarily assume Despard had given up her commitment to prefigurative vegetarianism in later life. According to James D. Hunt, she was Vice-President of the London Vegetarian Society in 1931.

Despard died in 1939 at the age of 95. According to the Communist Party of Ireland website, she had been declared bankrupt two years prior, “her finances exhausted from her philanthropic and political activities.”

Jon Hochschartner is a freelance writer from upstate New York. He is the author of Socialists and Animal Rights. Visit his website by clicking here