Trigger Warning: Dismissal of racism that may be painful for some readers.
There is an unfortunate tendency in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement to disregard human suffering as long as it is supposedly in the service of veganism. This approach is extremely illogical for a movement that seeks to end oppression. For one, hoping to end nonhuman oppression by aggravating human oppression is simply hypocritical. We cannot work for peace by engaging violence. Secondly, as evidenced in the research of Dr. Breeze Harper and Dr. David Nibert, human oppression and nonhuman oppression are heavily entangled. That is, you cannot separate the two and work against one and not the other. It doesn’t work because human and nonhuman oppression support and influence each other. Sadly, I have seen oppressive logic (“Nonhumans first” or “as long as it’s vegan”) engaged by a variety of grassroots groups and non-profits, abolitionist and welfarist alike.
There is a vegan cupcake shop in London that is well known to have ties to neo-Nazism and is under active boycott. This has been covered by several media sources, including Vice, Libcom.org, and London Antifacists. The store is located in an area that is known to host white-power subcultures. From what I can gather, the woman running the store may not herself be a neo-Nazi, but she has many Facebook friends who are, and she is (or was) dating a man who does socialize with Italian facist gangs. The woman herself denies the allegations of her affiliations and claims that she is being targeted by a jilted ex or someone with a personal vedetta. Given the reality of patriarchy and violence against women, I am inclined to believe her. She has been receiving threats and hate mail since the allegations surfaced, and feminists are all too aware that men (and many women) will jump at the chance to demonize, harass, and attack women. However, the purpose of this essay is not to determine guilt, but rather to highlight some problematic responses from vegans who promote the store, while simultaneously denouncing any critical discussion of the store’s alleged Nazi ties. As long as it’s vegan.
Facebook page, What FAT Vegans Eat, promoted the cake shop, making at least one reader uncomfortable. Shona passed on a screencap of the dialogue before it was deleted by the page:
Cakes ‘n’ Treats Vegan Coffeeshop is known to have neo-Nazi ties, is under active boycott, and What Fat Vegans Eat moderators respond to criticisms with appeals to depoliticized veganism. In so many words, Nazi cake is okay as long as it’s vegan. Judith Barnes responds:
Your comments about the company are the same as someone’s comments about food that comes from any other company who’s practices you don’t agree with. The rule is if it’s vegan it’s okay. The cake is vegan. That’s all we care about.
Nicki Teager writes:
This page isn’t for ethics, debate or anything else, whether it is merely informing or not. If it’s vegan it’s fine to post here.
Catherine McLaughlin Burt:
Using the group to promote a boycott is hijacking the purpose of the group. And saying that we support nazism if we don’t go along with what is being said is nothing more than bullying.
It is difficult for me to understand how, one, neo-Nazi baking can ever be considered vegan, and, two, why a vegan group would want to divorce itself from ethics. Veganism is a matter of ethics. Discussing racism (or any other form of human oppression) is not “hijacking.” When anti-oppression activists speak up against violence, they are often silenced with claims that this is neither the time nor the place. I have seen similar silencing tactics used on women who have experienced sexism in the movement. Rather than engaging the criticism, the women were simply accused of “trolling” and using the page as a “soapbox.”
These uncritical and passively violent stances reflect the white-normativity of the Nonhuman Animal rights movement. I can’t imagine that these criticisms would be characterized as derailments if the movement was led by persons of color, for instance. The damage that neo-Nazi alliances would cause to vulnerable communities would be self-evident. White privilege distances white-identified activists from the lived reality of racism, ethnocentrism, and white power facism that really hurts real people. Many activists are puzzled as to why so few people of color are interested in participating in the movement, but the answer lies in active dismissal of racial oppression that veganism abets.