The Racial Injustice We Eat

George Floyd.

You know his name. And you should.

But do you recognize these names?

Jose Andrade-Garcia. Jeronimo Anguiano. Tin Aye. Eduardo Conchas de la Cruz. Husen Jagir. Juan Manuel Juarez Alonzo. Sha Myan Kaw Bu. Axel Kabeya. Way Ler. Guadalupe Olivera. Tibursio Rivera López. Gonzalo Peralta. Augustine Rodriguez. Saul Sanchez.

These people, like George Floyd, suffered the lethal costs of systemic racism. And while police officers were responsible for the death of George Floyd, we, the general members of the public, are responsible for the deaths of these others. After all, they died so that we can enjoy hamburgers. More specifically: these people lost their lives by working in meatpacking facilities, which are notorious for their dangerous and dirty working conditions. Tragically, they disproportionately exploit racial and ethnic minorities.

The pandemic has only exacerbated the risks for meatpacking workers. At least 370 meatpacking facilities have had confirmed cases of Covid-19, which makes them one of three major coronavirus hotspots (in addition to prisons and nursing homes). At least 35,597 meatpacking workers have tested positive for Covid-19, and at least 148 of them have died. But not all races are affected equally: while most of the managers are white, 70% of the production line workers are Black, Latino, and Asian; as a result, 87% of those infected with the coronavirus are ethnic and racial minorities. This, too, is a civil rights issue.

Meatpacking facilities are commonly referred to as “coronavirus incubators” because production floors are organized in such a way that makes social distancing impossible. Line workers stand shoulder-to-shoulder skinning, pulling, cutting, deboning, packing, and cleaning animal carcasses for hours at a time. Production lines are overcrowded due to their pace: the faster the lines, the greater number of employees needed. And the speed of the work makes it impossible for employees to worry about whether their masks are properly positioned. Despite knowing this, meat plants have neither slowed processing speeds, nor spaced workers six or more feet apart, as was recommended by the CDC. Moreover, the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service granted at least 15 poultry processors waivers to increase poultry processing lines.

Understandably, then, line workers are terrified to report to work, but they continue to risk their lives; the alternative is unemployment. Moreover, a number of meatpacking employers offer workers $500 “responsibility bonuses” for working through the pandemic, incentivizing employees to work while ill. Low-income meatpacking employees, the majority of whom are racial and ethnic minorities, have been standing in coronavirus incubators for hours each day, all so that we can enjoy hamburgers.

While you might think that the answer is just to offer meatpacking employees paid sick leave and better protection from the coronavirus, it isn’t so simple. Meatpacking employees have long been subjected to dangerous working environments, frequently suffering physical injuries, including repetitive-motion injuries, such as rotator cuff injuries, tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome, and back and shoulder problems. Workers often die from knife accidents, chemical exposure, machine injuries, and deadly encounters with large animals who thrash about on production lines when stunned incorrectly.

Working in production lines is inherently dangerous. Moreover, because slaughterhouse work is inherently violent, and workers kill hundreds of animals each hour and thousands per week, the workers suffer severe psychological trauma. And because the physical and psychological risks disproportionately impact ethnic and racial minorities, this is a racial injustice. That’s why a recently filed civil rights complaint against Tyson Foods and JBS states that meatpacking facilities are responsible for a pattern of racial discrimination. So, banning higher line speeds, adhering to the CDC’s social distancing recommendations, and giving workers paid sick leave won’t eliminate the injustices meatpacking employees face.As the late philosopher Tom Regan puts it, “you don’t change unjust institutions by tidying them up.”

There’s a very different story to be told when it comes to the production of plant-based meats, which are produced in high-tech facilities that allow for social distancing. For instance, at the Impossible Foods factory, shifts are staggered to limit the number of employees in the plant at one time, workers are provided with masks and personal protective equipment, and surfaces are constantly sanitized.

Given the wide assortment of ethically produced plant-based alternatives, we can go without meat. And if we oppose racial injustice, we should. You can do something about our unjust systems of food production. You can stop supporting an industry that profits from systematically exploiting the vulnerable, that readily devalues the lives of black and brown people. You can stop eating food that’s tainted with racial injustice. Will you?


Cheryl Abbate is an assistant professor of philosophy at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas and the co-president of the Society for the Study of Animal Ethics. She specializes in ethics (especially animal ethics), social and political philosophy, and epistemology (especially the intersection of epistemology and ethics). Recent publications include: “A Defense of Free-roaming Cats from a Hedonist Account of Feline Well-being” (Acta Analytica), “Veganism, (Almost) Harm-free Animal Flesh, and Nonmaleficence: Navigating Dietary Ethics in an Unjust World” (Routledge Handbook of Animal Ethics), and “Valuing Animals as They Are: Whether they Feel It or Not” (European Journal of Philosophy).

Gender and Victorian Animal Advocacy

Although the nonhuman animal rights movement in the West is frequently framed by activists and remembered by historians as gender-neutral, Donald’s (2020) Women against Cruelty (which examines meeting notes and campaigning documents reaching back to the movement’s founding in the early 19th century) demonstrates just the opposite. Women’s affinity for anti-speciesist activism within the context of a prevailing sexism which pitted all female pursuits as lesser-than would prove a difficult hurdle to surmount with regard to social movement resonance. This is not to reify or reduce women’s contributions. Women against Cruelty catalogs a diversity of feminine and feminist approaches to advancing the interests of nonhuman animals: some religious, some scientific, and some intersectional. Many women favored educational outreach, while others relied on rational debate, shocking images, direct intervention, and legal resistance.

Donald showed that women’s efforts in some ways discredited the movement through feminine associations, but, in other ways, women also buoyed it with their consistent and energetic support. Women, it is clear, existed as the movement’s foundation, providing critical insight, labor, donations, and tactical innovations. As Donald uncovers, women consistently made up the majority of various organizations’ memberships as well. However, the strict gender norms of Victorian Britain ensured that their desire to participate in the public affairs of anti-speciesism would be difficult to reconcile with their expected domestic role as caretakers (and their supposed natural affinity to other animals, a connection that many women saw as a strength but many men saw as a reason to discredit them). The Royal Society for the Protection of Animals (RSPCA), for instance, routinely confined women’s participation and restricted their leadership in campaigning.

To an extent, the tension between feminine and masculine social spheres actually reflected a tension between religiosity and the changing mores of the Industrial Revolution. Activism of the 18th and early 19th centuries was imbued with Biblical doctrine, but adherence to this approach would diverge under the growing influence of capitalism. Women, responsible as they were for upholding society’s morals, became agents of a romanticized Christian vision of equality and compassion, while men, privileged with the duty to advance society through industry and politics, became immediate opponents given the importance of speciesism (and other forms of domination) to this agenda. Thus, on one level, women and girls policed speciesist cruelty, but, on another, they also came to police the unchecked power of men who increasingly pushed the boundaries of social order through conquest, colonialism, and science. The treatment of nonhuman animals, in other words, came to symbolize the uncomfortable and monumental transition into modernity.

Read the full review here.


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is Lecturer of Sociology. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology with Colorado State University in 2016. She received her M.S. in Sociology in 2008 and her B.A. in Political Science in 2005, both from Virginia Tech. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar, 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She served as council member with the American Sociological Association’s Animals & Society section (2013-2016) and was elected Chair in 2018. She serves as Book Review Editor to Society & Animals and is a member of the Research Advisory Council of The Vegan Society. She has contributed to the Human-Animal Studies Images and Cinema blogs for the Animals and Society Institute and has been published in several peer-reviewed academic journals including the Journal of Gender Studies, Environmental Values, Feminist Media Studies, Disability & Society, Food, Culture & Society, and Society & Animals. In July 2013, she founded the Vegan Feminist Network, an academic-activist project engaging intersectional social justice praxis. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (Palgrave MacMillan 2016).

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The Vegan Experience for Older Women

In a publication authored with my colleague Alexus Lizardi, Older, Greener, and Wiser: Charting the Experiences of Older Women in the American Vegan Movement, we offer the first exploratory research on an underserved demographic: older vegan women. Minimal data is available on this group–most of it is relegated to subscriber feedback reported by The Vegan Society. 

Interestingly, our sample had not put much thought into what it means to be older and vegan. Some noted that they were aware of how older vegans are objectified in the movement if they were seen to “age well.” In other words, age is leveraged to promote veganism as a means to beat aging. For the average person who ages normally, they may find themselves invisibilized. Indeed, the vegan and vegetarian movement has actively dismissed key leaders thought to sully the movement with their prolonged illness and premature death (like founder of the American Vegan Society Sylvester Graham and founder of the British Vegetarian Society William Cowherd). 

Otherwise, our respondents noted that being older granted them a degree of confidence in their political choices. This is an important finding given the movement’s focus on young people and its concern with recidivism (many young people will revert to nonveganism should they lack social supports). Older people are more resolved in their decisions and are less swayed by social pressures. 

This could sometimes backfire. A few of our respondents felt they were rather isolated given their hesitancy to associate with non-vegans who they felt were hostile to their lifestyle. Older folks in general risk isolation as they age, leading us to consider whether older vegans were doubly burdened in this respect.

Some respondents also expressed concern with accessing medical professionals who took veganism seriously. As many of our participants were middle-class and living in the New York area, they were relatively privileged in this respect, but it was clear that more marginalized older vegans could find difficulty in this regard.

Lastly, many of our respondents noted that their gender definitely informed their veganism. They reported being compelled by the horrors of dairy production, something they could empathize with given their own reproductive journeys as female-bodied persons. We consider whether this awareness is due to the popularity of Carol Adams’ vegan feminist work in the movement. It is likely that greater acknowledgement of aging issues in the vegan community might increase activist consciousness to the unique challenges facing older folks in a relatively ageist society.


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is Lecturer of Sociology. She received her Ph.D. in Sociology with Colorado State University in 2016. She received her M.S. in Sociology in 2008 and her B.A. in Political Science in 2005, both from Virginia Tech. She was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar, 2016 by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She served as council member with the American Sociological Association’s Animals & Society section (2013-2016) and was elected Chair in 2018. She serves as Book Review Editor to Society & Animals and is a member of the Research Advisory Council of The Vegan Society. She has contributed to the Human-Animal Studies Images and Cinema blogs for the Animals and Society Institute and has been published in several peer-reviewed academic journals including the Journal of Gender Studies, Environmental Values, Feminist Media Studies, Disability & Society, Food, Culture & Society, and Society & Animals. In July 2013, she founded the Vegan Feminist Network, an academic-activist project engaging intersectional social justice praxis. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (Palgrave MacMillan 2016).

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Queer Appalachia and Vegan Activism


Photo Credit: Raymond Troumbly

By Z. Zane McNeill

People always assume that growing up queer in West Virginia was difficult, but I always tell them that I was bullied more for being vegan than being LGBTQIA+. I went vegetarian around the same time I realized that I had a crush on my best friend who was a girl. She was vegetarian too, and I was head over heels for her.  At 14, I went vegan after learning more about factory farming and the suffering that is connected to dairy and egg production. In high school and early college, influenced by Carol Adams, Josephine Donovan, and Alice Walker, I was an adamant believer that in order to be a feminist I needed to be vegan. This later extended to queer liberation as intrinsically intertwined with animal liberation.

In my early 20s, I found queer community in Appalachia thanks to the zine, artist, and activist project Queer Appalachia. Through their social media accounts, I found other queer southern projects that I  discovered, and subsequently collaborated and contributed to, like Bible Belt Queers, a community book project led by and for Southern queers, and Queering the Mountain, an art exhibition highlighting the work of Appalachian queers.  Inspired by these, I eventually started my own zine project called Marx in the Mountains, have been working on a community book project on queer(ing) Appalachia, and have recently released a collection highlighting queer vegan voices around the world under Sanctuary Publishers, a resource activism focused vegan book publisher.

People who weren’t raised in this part of the world tend to not fully understand the way in which Appalachia is not simply a place. ‘Appalachia’ is in and of itself a contested definition. Appalachia is a space containing around 25 million people, or around 8% of the US population. It stretches through thirteen states following the Appalachian mountain range from New York to Alabama. Beyond a stretch of land, it is an area historically comprised of marginalized people—Indigenous folk, immigrants working for the coal companies, and other impoverished people tied into a form of serfdom in late-stage capitalism. In What You’re Getting Wrong About Appalachia, Elizabeth Catte explains that Appalachia is “a political construction, a vast geographic region, and a spot that occupies an unparalleled place in our cultural imagination.”[1] She herself is hesitant to label the concept of Appalachian identity and usually works with those who self-identify as Appalachian instead, as historically who self-identify as Appalachian instead, considering that, historically, who counted as Appalachian was decided by those in power or with massive amounts of capital. It is more than a geographic region—it is an environmental space with a history of toxicity from natural resource extraction, a cultural construction fashioned by conservatives to support revisionist arguments of what ‘America’ is and what bodies represent ‘America’, and a politically contested space that pushes disadvantaged voices to the margins.

When I was growing up in Appalachia, I was mostly bored but managed to pick up activism from my family. My stepfather was a well-traveled kayaker, and my mother was an HIV+ advocate in West Virginia.  They were both schoolteachers, and I was lucky to grow up in the fun environment of music and books. However, to the dismay of the stepfather, I was more interested in reading Twilight than Marx. During the invasion of Iraq, my parents brought me with them to protests. The military practiced their maneuvers over our town, so my stepfather mowed a peace sign into our backyard. He delighted in knowing military pilots would gaze upon his anti-war protest while they performed their exercises. Both of my parents had a lot of gay friends and I was raised in the queer punk and art scenes in Morgantown—an environment a lot of people would be surprised existed in the mountains. Truthfully, growing up queer in West Virginia shaped my identity and understanding of self. I don’t feel the same way about my gender or sexuality as someone from the city might.

Coming to terms with being queer and coming out was awkward, but that was really it. In high school, when I came out as bi, I didn’t face discrimination—but people loved throwing their cafeteria food at me, showing me frogs they dissected, and stepping on bugs in front of me once they realized I was also vegan. At the same time, however, my friends and I had a Vegetarian Awareness Club and got a two-page spread in the yearbook. So, I would say that growing up vegan and queer in Appalachia was a weirdly empowering and isolating experience that informed my work in various animal welfare NGOs and queer grassroots organizing. My day-to-day life was continuously impacted by poverty, lack of transportation, and devastation by corporate greed. An area gutted by addiction, natural resource extraction, and neoliberalism left shadows on my friends’ faces and cuts on their arms. A lack of employment opportunities pushed the privileged out of the state to the cities, further pushing the marginalized into their homes with needles and pills. Being queer only makes sense to me with this as a backdrop. Constant violence has seemingly queered us all who are “from around here”.

I have seen progress as the years have passed, which is exciting in itself. In 2017,  Queer Appalachia released the zine Electric Dirt, and since its release, a community of LGBTQIA+ folks from Appalachia, the South, and the Rust Belt has sprung up around it fighting to show that the discourse surrounding Appalachia leaves queer, Indigenous, Black, POC, femme, and leftist voices out. Queer challenges normative generalizations about the culture of Appalachia and explores how queer folks define themselves and the region “within the intersections of coal mines and class, race and religion, food justice and colonialism.” Queer Appalachia, as an overarching work, has benefitted the marginalized folk of Appalachia, giving a wide-ranging audience to those too often denied a platform. Yet, despite this progress, I still felt alienated by some of the content produced by the LGBTIQA+ Southern and Appalachian community. I was disappointed that collectives focused on the intersections between queer life, the opioid epidemic, the carceral system, Indigenous and Black liberation, and leftist organizing but did not also embrace animal welfare and veganism. This continued to shadow my experiences growing up queer and vegan.

In Appalachia, corporations see people as expendable, just as nonhumans are seen as objects to be used. I felt strongly about the work of scholar-activists like Dr. Breeze Harper, Adams, Julia Feliz Brueck, and Aph and Syl Ko who have illustrated that nonhuman oppression is inherently intertwined with our own. Specifically, Feliz Brueck coined the term ‘consistent anti-oppression’ to describe how marginalizations are inherently connected and should be equally fought against, which makes sense to me.

Fueled by this framework, I approached Feliz Brueck, who also runs Sanctuary Publishers, about an anthology that would invite folks who identified at LGBTQIA+ and vegan to meditate on how their identities intersect, how being LGBTQIA+ affects their vegan activism, and what they would like to say to non-vegan LGBTQIA+ folk. The end result, which was recently released, was a book project that includes over 25 contributors—activists, scholars, artists, and writers who identify as LBTQIA+ and vegan—who explored the interconnections between social justice groups, building bridges between movements, and dismantling hierarchies between oppressed groups through consistent anti-oppression in this volume. In the book, known activists like Jasmin Singer speak about their initial work with AIDS Awareness, while scholar Margaret Robinson discusses how veganism ties into her decolonization as a two-spirit person, and Shiri Eisner speaks to her journey of coming out as a bisexual, genderqueer Mizrahi vegan. However, the focus is not on known activists, and that’s what makes this book and the work of Sanctuary Publishers different. Voices often denied a platform are able to have one if they choose to in written form.

Growing up queer and vegan in Appalachia was an experience that challenged metronormative stereotypes—happily queer in the holler, organizing Earthlings showings in West Virginia, and going on queer dates to a vegan-friendly co-op. Yet, I find a special kind of comfort knowing that those in other parts of the world from different cultures and life journeys understood me in a way that I had not felt before. Since embarking on the road to publish the queer vegan anthology, I found myself validated in both these identities—being vegan and queer—and in recognizing that they were always inherently connected to me, and that being vegan has informed my queer activism and vice versa. Queer vegans across the globe share this sentiment, perhaps because we have historically faced an otherization that has led to our own violence and marginalization.

I hope that vegans recognize the importance of embracing a veganism that is consistently against all oppression in an effort to ensure we recognize that the movement has work to do regarding how we avoid marginalization of others at the expense of nonhumans. I also hope that non-vegan LGBTQIA+ folks, especially my friends in the queer Appalachian community, recognize that our marginalization extends to others through our daily choices, and that in order to fight for our queer liberation, we must also fight for nonhuman animal rights.

[1] Catte, Elizabeth. What You Are Getting Wrong about Appalachia. Cleveland, OH: Belt Publishing, 2018, 10.


Zane McNeill is an independent scholar-activist from Appalachia. Their newly published book Queer and Trans Voices: Achieving Liberation Through Consistent Anti-Oppression edited by themselves and Julia Feliz Brueck explores the interconnections between social justice groups in order to consistently and effectively achieve liberation for all.

You can read more on intersections of queer activism and veganism in Queer and Trans Voices, available for purchase through Amazon website or Sanctuary Publishers Instagram.

The Hunt: Masculinity & Fox Oppression in Britain

By Madelaine Couch

On Boxing Day 2018, I joined a hunt gathering.

Never in my life would I expect to say those words. Never in my life would I support hunting. I was an observer to document and tell a story.

I had just spent Christmas in a small West Country town. As usual, it was a day filled with eating, opening presents, drinking alcohol – the expected festivities. The following morning on Boxing Day, as it turned out, the town centre held a hunt meet. Fox Hunting.

I was curious to see what it was all about, because throughout my whole life I have stood against hunting for sport. I have opposed blood sports and I always will. Causing unnecessary suffering for man’s pleasure seems sadistic to me. Cruelty is not an act I condone.

Rich Hardy is a storyteller, campaigner and investigative journalist. He has spent the past twenty years documenting the plight of animals around the world. He has spent time with fur trappers in America, Spanish bullfighters, exposed the rabbit fur industry, the broiler chicken industry, factory farms, followed live exports and told the story of primates kept in labs. Listening to interviews with Rich Hardy, he is a humble man who has dedicated his life to exposing cruelty and suffering, in an attempt to change laws and our behaviour towards animals.

Rich Hardy states that when spending time with many of these people who commit atrocious acts of cruelty towards animals, most of them are ordinary people in the world. They may go home to families, support their community and go to church. Some of them are respected figures in their towns and villages. Yet, beyond the human world, they can inflict profound
cruelty on another being. The sad fact is, this is quite common.

And this is the challenge. Because ultimately these people are not ‘other’. If we categorise people who do these things as ‘other’ and an ‘enemy’, we dehumanise them and remove their responsibility. We need to understand that there is a potential in this world for people to act in such ways. We need to educate and tell the stories in order for people to learn and understand the truth. Because most of the time, people don’t know the truth. The true stories are often kept behind walls – behind closed doors. They are intentionally covered up so intensive farming, blood sports and animal suffering for profitable gain can continue. The stories need to be told.

We walked into town on a crisp Boxing Day morning. I was surprised to see how busy the street was. In front of me stood a crowd of men and women in tweed jackets and hats, alcohol-induced rosy-cheeked men – their wives fashioning tall boots and neat hair do’s. I’d never seen anything like it.

As the huntsmen arrived with their immaculately groomed horses and rugged hounds, people drank mulled wine and chattered over Christmas cheer, the hunt leader in his Beauchamp blazer stood out in a street full of hunters. In his red fox-hunting jacket, he spieled about supporting hunting and fighting for the rights of hunters. I felt like I’d been flung back a few hundred years. Echoes of racism, sexism and white male patriarchal ideology hummed through the streets. This world seemed alien in the 21st century.

The crowd gathered and the man in the red jacket gave a speech.

‘First and foremost, can I just say a huge thank you to your town council for putting up with us yet again. This is one of our great traditions at Christmas time and it’s a lovely spectacle to see the hunt in the town square. So, for those of you that live here, thank you all very very much.’

A lovely spectacle isn’t the phrase that came to my mind. I genuinely felt fear for the foxes in the day that lay ahead. A large pack of rough looking hounds ran through the crowd whilst the sound of horns rang through the street. These dogs were large. They looked edgy, aggressive. People had brought their pet dogs out for the morning meet, and every single domestic dog confronted by a hound behaved with fear and aggression. Each pet dog
growled, hissed and barked at these hounds – because they were terrified of them.

‘It’s extraordinary that it was fifteen years ago now that I suspect many of you here faced a long trek to London to march in support of hunting. And of course, our voices were ignored and our politicians stabbed us in the back when they took the decision to ban hunting. But the good news is that we are still going and we have found a way to hunt within the law. And so, hunting, as we know it today, is still alive and well.’

Fox hunting was banned in 2004 in England and Wales. Since the ban of hunting, hunts invented an activity called ‘trail hunting’. Hunters claim to simply follow a pre-laid trail instead of chasing a fox. However, years of evidence shows that these ‘trail hunts’ are used as a cover for illegal hunting – and they continue to hunt foxes.

On the League Against Cruel Sports website, it states that more than eight out of ten people are opposed to hunting, including those in rural areas. Most people understand the cruelty of fox hunting and don’t condone it. The way we treat other sentient beings reflects the society we live.

There is the argument that fox hunting is about ‘pest control’, but hunts have been caught capturing and rearing foxes so they can be hunted. During one case, The League Against Cruel Sports investigators rescued and released foxes that were found locked up, near to a hunt meet. A few months later, monitoring the same hunt, their investigators were attacked, one resulted in a broken neck. For people to do this to human beings for rescuing a fox shows the level of violence and aggression that is tolerated in these blood sport cultures.

‘But it is alarming that just on the radio today, I heard, that it’s not enough now for them to take away our sport and then fine us if we break the law. They now want to put us in jail as well. And therefore, please, your support for this sport has never been more important. We do need to stand shoulder to shoulder. And so, what is also really lovely for us in the West Country for us to see, is the way that National Hunt Racing supports hunting.’

At that moment, I felt appalled to live in the West Country. My heart pounded, adrenaline pumped through my body. His speech was so loaded with talk of ‘rights’ and ‘being stabbed in the back’. His tone was aggressive.

What about the suffering inflicted on British wildlife – foxes and their cubs? Not to mention the other animals that are often injured and harmed if they come into contact with the hunt.

Other animals and wildlife have been known to be killed during a fox hunt.
I saw footage recently of a huntsman throwing a dead fox into a river and kicking one of the hounds. It was disgraceful and disgusting. The lack of compassion for another being was so evident. The aggression was rife. Perhaps for many supporters of hunting, there’s a pleasure in power and control. Man’s dominion over animal.

Hunt supporters say the sport is not cruel – claiming the hounds kill the foxes outright. And the fox does not anticipate death. And alternative ways to kill a fox would cause more suffering. They argue that hunting is a tradition and keeps the British culture alive.

Ban supporters argue that the sport is cruel. If there is a problem with foxes in an area shooting is more humane than hunting. Yet, foxes are not pests. These sports are old. We should have moved on from those times.

As the hunters and hounds left for the hunt, I asked a man in the crowd why he supported hunting. What is the point of it? Why does he condone it? He told me it was a tradition that he didn’t want to see lost and that it’s a part of British culture. As I continued the debate with him, co-incidentally he waved to a neighbour and cut the conversation short. I wasn’t being aggressive. I was trying to have a civilised, calm conversation. But he wouldn’t go there. He wouldn’t converse with me about it. Perhaps, deep down, he knew hunting was wrong.

So, the argument of tradition – what about bear baiting and bull baiting? These were also traditions. How can we be proud of many British traditions when they are so loaded with violence? I looked around me and saw white faces, tweed jackets, old husbands and wives, a history which I was not proud of. And fox hunting was another badge on that jacket of patriarchal dominion. Power. Elitism. Aggression. Control. A connection between blood sports and the ideologies of racism and sexism rang loud and clear.

I’ll never understand the psychology behind supporting violent sports. Fox hunting. Bullfighting. Deer hunting. Many supporters of these sports also say they respect and wish to protect British wildlife in general. Have they ever heard of hypocrisy? How bold they stand in an ocean of duplicity. We must keep telling the truth because that is all this world has.

This article has been inspired by the work of journalist Jo-Anne McArthur who is the founder of We Animals, the photographer Sam Hobson, the primatologist Jane Goodall and wildlife presenter, Chris Packham.


Maddy Couch is a writer and artist whose work examines themes relating to compassion for animals, wildlife protection, and the relationship between humans and animals. Her images feature in The Curlew Magazine and homes around the world. She has exhibited in Bristol, London and New York. Maddy has written for travel companies and VizArt Film. She is currently writing her first book and working on her 1000 Rescue project, creating 1000 artworks to raise awareness of animal and wildlife rescue worldwide. Maddy grew up in London. She received her BA from Brighton University, where she studied philosophy and history. She spent much of her twenties volunteering internationally for animal rescue, wildlife and community projects. She currently lives in Devon, with her
fiancé and two rescue cats. Maddy has also lived in Cornwall, Bristol and Taiwan.

You can find Maddy’s work on her website, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.

Veganism Is A Feminist Issue: Some British Considerations

Gordon Ramsay leaning over a cutting board full of vegetables

By Antonia Georgiou

In a society that has thrived upon the degradation, humiliation, and eroticised subordination of women, it is no surprise that other beings considered as ‘lesser’ in the capitalist hegemony are exploited and abused for mass consumption. Capitalism habitually reduces women to the sum of their parts, be it through normalised misogyny in the media or advertisements designed to titillate. This is intrinsically tied to the objectification of animals. The culture of misogyny naturalises depictions of violence and female discomfort as being erotic, glorifying the threatening as arousing. Subsequently, the culture of meat has normalised violence against non-human animals – the worst kinds of torture imaginable – and glamorised the gruesome outcome through attractive packaging and enticing marketing ploys.

Therefore, veganism is a feminist issue. In her book The Pornography of Meat, Carol J. Adams explains the concept of the ‘absent referent’: ‘We do not want to experience uncomfortable feelings about violence, butchering, suffering, and fear. This is the function of the absent referent—to keep our ‘meat’ separated from any idea that she or he was once an animal who was butchered, to keep something (like hamburger) from being seen as having been someone (a cow, a lamb, a once-alive being, a subject.)’. Accordingly, Adams argues that ‘nonhuman animals become absent referents through the institution of meat eating. Through socialization to sexual objectification, women become absent referents as well.’

The meat industry is adept in its subterfuge, selling murdered flesh by convincing consumers to separate the cruelty of the slaughterhouse from the finished goods. Once the dead animal is packaged up it is no longer a once sentient being, but a product. A chicken stops being a creature with feelings, who suffers from the same pain a human would, but a breast, a leg, a thigh. Advertisers depict meat with pornified glee: the KFC website boasts of ‘Our simple, succulent 100% chicken breast fillet burger’ beneath a gaudy image of oily, fried chicken.

These images belong in the canon of what is known as ‘beauty sadomasochism’. Coined by Naomi Wolf in her 1990 book, The Beauty Myth, the concept of beauty sadomasochism is highly salient to the meat industry. Beauty sadomasochism ‘claims that women like to be forced and raped, and that sexual violence and rape are stylish, elegant, and beautiful’. Likewise, the grinning, winking cartoon chicken adorning numerous chicken shops invites us to tear at its flesh; the carcass is beautified, eroticised. The morbid sexualisation of meat parallels the depiction of the female body in advertising: the female body as an acquiescent, inert, available product for the male gaze is comparable to images of the passive, lifeless limbs of animals for human gratification. Women, like pieces of meat, are viewed as objects to be consumed and spat out.

Veganism and feminism are harmonious causes. This is no truer than in the case of the dairy industry which is built upon the exploitation and enslavement of cows and hens for their reproductive organs. Just as women’s bodies are commodified in the capitalist industry so are the bodies of non-human animals. Take the defenceless cow who spends her days attached to the automatic milking machinery that steals her calves’ milk. Her organs are services to be utilised and consumed until she herself is no longer of value and cast aside, butchered, murdered. Surely there is nothing more degrading, more heart-breaking, that the image of the helpless bovine mother, strapped and captive in the confines of the cold metal pumps and vacuums, with no possibility of escape? One would have to be made of the same steel as the sterile milking machinery to remain unmoved by such abuse. But the sad fact is that this level of animal abuse has been so normalised in our culture that people can indeed look at the suffering of these animals with apathy. Capitalistic exploitation hardens the human spirit and erodes compassion, whereby humans seek gratification by any means, at any cost: capitalism thrives on self-centredness.

Recently there has been a slew of criticism levied at vegans. Contrary to the belief of the critics, veganism is not arrogance. At the core of veganism is compassion. Such fervent derision of compassion is intrinsically tied to objections against the supposed feminisation of society. When M&S announced that their Percy Pig range of sweets would now be gelatine free, there was outrage from the vegan-bashing contingent. The power of capitalism misleads people into believing that the pig gelatine in their sweets is somehow separate from the cuddly cartoon pig on the sweet packet.

It is telling that one of the most prominent purveyors of anti-vegan vitriol is Piers Morgan. Morgan bestowed upon the Veggie Percies the same level of ire that he reserved for actor Daniel Craig when the James Bond star was spotted carrying his baby in a sling, a gentle act of parenthood deemed emasculating by Morgan. Similarly, Morgan was incensed when he discovered that chef Gordon Ramsay had, like Daniel Craig before him, not only carried his baby in a papoose but had begun expressing vegan sympathies, too. Ridiculing Ramsay on Twitter, Morgan grumbled, ‘Gordon Ramsay, the caveman of the kitchen, has now become a vegan-slavering, papoose-carrying numpty… You know why he can’t carry his own child? Because he’s eating vegan food. He’s not strong enough any more (sic).’

The fallacy that Morgan so vehemently espouses – of veganism being indicative of the feminisation of society – is characteristic of what philosopher Jacques Derrida termed carnophallogocentrism. Carnophallogocentrism is the notion that carnivorousness is inherently linked to masculinity and thus male sexual prowess. The concept of the emasculated male living on plants is directly interconnected to misogynistic discourse, as animals are viewed as yet another means of phallocentric conquest.

Ultimately, ‘toxic veganism’ is a myth, as is the propagation of the irate, misandristic ‘feminazi’: both are spawned from the same hegemonic system, which is mindful that there is money to be made out of the miseries of those regarded as subaltern. Perceptions of the self-righteous, middle class, white vegan are mere distractions from animal welfare, as people refuse to confront their harmful dietary choices. A carnivorous diet is not a simple personal choice when said choice involves a victim. A person’s right to eat meat does not trump an animal’s right to live. No animal should be oppressed and made to suffer because of humans’ selfish need for creophagous satiation.


Antonia is a London-based writer with degrees from Queen Mary University and UCL. She is culture editor at New Socialist where she writes primarily on film from a feminist perspective. A lifelong feminist and animal welfare advocate, her other areas of interest include mental health, disability rights, and an end to austerity