The Power Of The Vegan Who Remembers Their Roots

"Remembering Our Speciesist Roots" Girl smiling as she eats a barbecue rib, her face is covered in sauce

By Michele Kaplan

CONTENT WARNING: This article contains a couple of sentences (quotes from others) that reference misogyny, homophobia, and ableism.

NOT SAFE FOR WORK: Some violent language in said quotes.

Author’s Note: The following is in no way an attack on Direct Action Everywhere, but rather a discussion inspired by one of their graphics. I chose to use a DxE graphic because it’s the graphic that sparked this conversation on Facebook and thus inspired this article. I am not suggesting that the comments that were made, represent DxE as an organization, as you can’t control who comments on a public post. I wanted to write this article because variations of the comments that were made in reaction to this graphic, are comments that I’ve heard for years within the Animal Rights Movement and I wanted to speak on that.

“Walter [the hunter who is also a dentist] says he killed Cecil [the lion] because he didn’t know his name… Let’s hope Walter knows his patients’ names.”

Question: When you read that, what thoughts pop into your head?

For some animal rights activists (at least going by the comments on the internet), the response is one of anger. But not just anger. A kind of vindictive anger.

“A heartless piece of work…”
“He’s a f**king idiot!”
“Calling him a human is going too far.”
“Could we crowdfund to have the doctor dropped off somewhere in Africa, stripped naked and then hunted like an animal?”
“He’s a f**king, coward, tool who sucked someone’s dick to stay out of jail? The question is who’s whore is he?”

I could go on, but you get the gist. Now, putting aside for a moment that some of these comments are incredibly ignorant and some just disturbing, I would like to look at the overall vindictive and angry nature of the comments.

Question: How many of us within the Animal Rights movement were born vegan?

Smiling Baby

Not many. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that the majority of us participated in the killing and consumption of animals, at some point in our lives. While we may not have gone hunting (though I am sure some of us did), does it really matter if we directly or indirectly killed an animal?

The end result is the same. An animal who did not want to die is dead. So, if we too once participated in the death of animals, then it begs the question:

Question: As vegans, do we forget our speciesist roots?

I know when I heard about someone harming an animal, I would get really upset. But not just upset. Angry. “What a jerk!” I would say. And when I would make this comment on social media, it would get plenty of likes and support.

But one day, I stopped and pondered if I was being hypocritical to get mad and vindictive simply because a person hasn’t unlearned speciesism at the same rate/pace that I have?

This is not to say that it is wrong to feel angry. Anger (when used constructively) can inspire us to further fight for what is right. What can get in our way, is when it becomes vindictive. It can lead us to think things like “What kind of person does this sort of thing?!” instead of realizing “Oh, right. That was me.”

And once I realized this, and thus let go of the hypocritical and vindictive anger, it made room for empathy. As a result, I was having a much easier time communicating, connecting and reaching people who weren’t vegan.

Sleeping pig on couch

“Walter says he killed Cecil because he didn’t know his name… Let’s hope Walter knows his patients’ names.” read the graphic posted on Facebook. “His reasoning makes no sense.” I thought at first “What about the dog he passes by on the street but doesn’t know the name of?”

But instead of just chalking it up to Walter being senseless and unintelligent, I stopped and remembered my roots. And that’s when it occurred to me (and I left the following comment) : “I think what he (possibly) meant was that he never thought that an animal such as a lion would have a name / life / purpose etc. Which is no different than the people who eat pigs [and other animals] because they just viewed the animal as a means to their pleasure and never stopped to think / was not raised to think that animals have lives and hearts and emotions [and] aren’t just there for our consumption.”

Empathy is power. It’s great that we fight for the liberation of animals, my fellow vegans but always remember your roots.

 

This essay originally appeared on Rebelwheels’ Soapbox on May 17, 2015.


me in wheelchairMichele Kaplan is a queer (read: bisexual), geek-proud, intersectional activist on wheels (read: motorized wheelchair), who tries to strike a balance between activism, creativity and self care, while trying to change the world.

La Política Sexual del Veganismo Moralmente Superior

Translation by María. María is active with Ochodoscuatro Ediciones, a non-profit anti-speciesist book house that is noted for translating Carol Adams’ The Sexual Politics of Meat into Spanish. You can view the original English version of the essay below by clicking here.

Stella McCartney and dog walking on trail

Por Corey Lee Wrenn

La línea de moda vegana de Stella McCartney apareció en un reciente artículo de la revista feminista Bustle en la sección “Moda y belleza”. Al principio, me sentí encantada de que presentasen el veganismo en un espacio feminista, cosa que no suele suceder tan a menudo como debería.

Parece que la autora, también, es consciente de la falta de conexión política entre feminismo y veganismo, pues se encarga de amortiguar a los lectores con una advertencia. Siguiendo una declaración de McCartney que dice que su marca es “la empresa más ética y amorosa de la industria de la moda”, Bustle aclara:

La declaración apunta que ella dijo eso en broma, indicando que no se siente moralmente superior acerca de su postura libre de crueldad, cosa que no siempre es el caso de los activistas por los derechos animales.

Encuentro esa advertencia bastante curiosa, estando en el contexto de la política feminista. Las feministas generalmente ponen resistencia cuando alguien intenta controlarles el tono en que dicen algo y a menudo castigan a las celebridades que se niegan a identificarse a sí mismas como feministas. Pero todo vale cuando hablamos de los derechos de los animales no humanos. En otras palabras, las feministas fomentan con determinación un feminismo fuerte y orgulloso, en un esfuerzo por desestigmatizar el activismo de justicia social, pero pueden darle rápidamente la vuelta y vilipendiar a aquellas que hacen lo mismo en nombre de los otros animales.

Dado que el 80% del movimiento por los derechos de los animales no humanos está formado por mujeres y siendo que el veganismo está extremadamente “feminizado”, es importante reconocer los matices sexistas en la estereotipación de las veganas. Es posible que esa “superioridad moral” asignada a activistas y veganas sea de hecho una forma de vigilancia de género. En otras palabras, estos estereotipos trabajan para avergonzar y silenciar a las mujeres “engreídas” que se atreven a politizarse.

Las feministas deberían mantenerse al margen la ridiculización de la justicia social. Preocuparse por la opresión de las demás no debería ser algo que ocultar o que minimizar. El compromiso para acabar con la injusticia debería ser algo de lo que estar orgullosa. Deberíamos estar celebrando el activismo. Es un trabajo duro, se ganan pocos amigos, es mentalmente agotador y pocas personas están dispuestas a participar. Las feministas no deberían poner añadidos a esa dificultad, cuando podrían ser una fuente importante de apoyo. Esto especialmente cuando la mayor parte de activistas por el veganismo son mujeres y cuando el especismo está íntimamente ligado al patriarcado.

 


Corey Lee WrennMs. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network and also operates The Academic Abolitionist Vegan. She is a Lecturer of Sociology with Monmouth University, a part-time Instructor of Sociology and Ph.D. candidate with Colorado State University, council member with the Animals & Society Section of the American Sociological Association, and an advisory board member with the International Network for Social Studies on Vegetarianism and Veganism with the University of Vienna. She was awarded the 2016 Exemplary Diversity Scholar by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity. She is the author of A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (2015, Palgrave Macmillan).

Lack of Intersectionality: A Moral Inconsistency of the Animal Rights Movement?

Woman brandishing a large rainbow flag with a vegan symbol in the middle; appears to be at a gay pride festival

By Raffi Ciavatta and Lilia Trenkova

Animal rights activists are often accused of not caring about humans. We can argue that usually these accusations come from people who have just had their speciesism challenged and who feel attacked, so they’re reactionary statements. We can obviously also argue that we do indeed care about other humans. Yet this happens so often that even people who’ve never faced their speciesism have come to believe that animal rights activists simply do not see humans as important as non-humans.

Facebook post responding to Yulin Dog Meat Festival (image shows a man tending to caged dogs awaiting slaughter): "I WOULD LOVE TO BE THERE I WOULD PUT BOMBS TO KILL ALL THESE SICK PEOPLE"

How can we change this view? There are among us those who truly believe we cannot fight one system of oppression (speciesism) by supporting another system of oppression (sexism, for example). It is morally inconsistent to claim we care about the bodily autonomy of hens but to oppose the bodily autonomy of women, just as it is morally inconsistent to say we care about equality but exclude certain species who are worthy of that consideration.

According to Javed Deck, for animals rights “[…] to be a movement that actually transforms relationships between humans and animals it needs to take seriously issues of race, class, and gender, and the ways these impact animal systems. Just like the transformations feminist and queer struggles have undergone as they crossed cultural boundaries, so must animal struggle change across these boundaries.”

>In the 70’s, black feminists who worked both for women’s rights and civil rights, started to look at gender and race as connected issues. The feminist movement back then wasn’t talking about race, and the civil rights movement wasn’t addressing gender. They developed a theory and practice called intersectionality, a term coined by Kimberlé Crenshaw in her insightful 1989 essay, “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory and Antiracist Politics”.

Applying Crenshaw’s frame of intersection to other systemic oppressions, we can no longer see discrimination based on gender, race, class, ability, sexual orientation, religion, caste, species, et al, as separate and independent from one another. Axes of identity interact on multiple levels, contributing to systemic injustice and social inequality.

Oppressive systems also share the same roots. They not only have the same strategy, the same tactics, but they also share patterns of behavior and thought. In her essay, Crenshaw uses an analogy to a traffic intersection, or crossroad, to concretize the concept:

“Consider an analogy to traffic in an intersection, coming and going in all four directions. Discrimination, like traffic through an intersection, may flow in one direction, and it may flow in another. If an accident happens in an intersection, it can be caused by cars traveling from any number of directions and, sometimes, from all of them.”

So why should we care about others’ struggles?

  1. Because it is the right thing to do. There is nothing wrong with choosing to be morally consistent.
  2. If we want animal liberation, then we had better build bridges. According to professor Will Kymlicka, 99% of the intersectional analysis that is done by the left today completely ignores the intersection of species. He adds, “I think there’s no way for the animal rights movement to possibly succeed without the support from other social justice movements.”
  3. Being able to create a safe space for activists and potential supporters is key to grow our movement. If we choose to ignore the intersections of oppressions, we run a great risk of turning people away from our cause.

The word intersectionality currently seems to be getting a lot of attention as well as confusion. Quite often there isn’t a mention of the originators of the concept, leaving it to be a white-centric circle, as explained here. Love it or hate it, the concept is challenging all of us, and we shouldn’t turn away from it.

We would like to share our view about it and how we are learning to apply it to Collectively Free. When we first started CF, our dream was to create an anti-speciesist group that embraced the intersections of oppression, both internally in our community and externally in our actions.

Within our community, we strive to create a safe space for activists to express themselves and for potential supporters to join us. We have made plenty of mistakes along the way, but we have also tried our hardest to remain humble enough to recognize our mistakes and implement prompt changes to repair them. A great example of that was when the amazing activist, Heather P. Graham, felt triggered during one of our protests after hearing an activist use the word “rape” trivially.

We reached out to her, heard her concerns and asked her to do a panel discussion about the “Importance of Language In Our Movement” followed by a Q&A. We learned a lot from Heather that day. It pushed us forward to officially retire a poster we hadn’t used in a long time, part of our early days, which had the r-word in it. The decision wasn’t because of personal purity, because we care more about what other people may think, or because we don’t believe that mother cows are truly sexually assaulted – it is because we learned that we can achieve the same result in making people understand our message without running the risk of triggering them. Lesson learned: always listen when people who have been hurt share their stories, and always listen when someone brings up issues to your attention.

In terms of delivering an effective message for our activism and building bridges, our first big effort was at NYC PRIDE 2015 (here’s a YouTube link if you don’t have Facebook). We wrote a speakout and chants that reflected the common goal of anti-speciesist, anti-heterosexist and anti-cissexist struggles – liberation from oppression and equality of consideration. Feedback on our video from that day was overwhelmingly positive, from both animal rights and LGBTQ rights activists. Another lesson learned: participate in different movements’ protests and support their causes.

It wasn’t until we launched the campaign against Starbucks that we had the opportunity to really bring that concept out in our actions. We spent several months trying to convey a strong message for the animals while highlighting Starbucks’ exploitation of coffee workers. We have never felt so listened to in any action we ever participated in as on our first day of action, and we are certain it was because we carefully brought together human rights and animal rights.

Our community is not perfect, and we’ll surely continue to make mistakes and learn from them. But if we all stay open to ideas that challenge us we’ll also make strides. Don’t worry, our community will still be hard-core, progressive, envelope-pushers – but now with a bonus! Our activism will no longer appear as a one-way street but as a lane on a highway, a highway shared with other fighters for liberation, equality and freedom.

 


Raffaella

Co-founder of Collectively Free, Raffi Ciavatta is vegan animal liberation activist, art director, poet, photographer wanna-be, DJ in some past live and most importantly… a big dreamer who makes things happen.

 

Lili

Lilia Trenkova is an activist vegan, set designer, fabricator, organizer and musician.

Practicing Healing and Self-Care

We Are Not Advocacy Robots

By Corey Lee Wrenn, M.S., A.B.D. Ph.D.

Woman in golden field and white dress holding heart shaped pink balloons

At the 2015 Sistah Vegan conference, Dr. Breeze Harper featured an amazing talk on self-care by Jessica Rowshandel, LMSW (the conference recordings are available for purchase on Dr. Harper’s website). What I enjoyed about the talk was that it offered a few clear suggestions (most notably, the importance of friendship and community), but it was also realistic about the barriers many social justice activists face in practicing self-care.  Self-care really can be a luxury for some, and sometimes, we just can’t afford to engage it (financially, time-wise, ability-wise, etc.).

Sometimes it’s more than physical or material barriers that prevent us from prioritizing the self. Sometimes, it can be a matter of female identity or our current position in the activist journey. Women are socialized to be givers, to be selfless, to expect abusive behavior, and to be objects for the resources of others. This feminine identity, then, can really get us into some tough spots in our activism, especially when the activist space is patriarchal, as the Nonhuman Animal rights movement is.

But also, the typical activist, I think, experiences an identifiable growth cycle. We learn about injustice, we get angry, and we stay in a rage. We get involved in the movement, we build connections with others, and we learn that social movements are highly contentious spaces with lots and lots of in-fighting and abusive behavior (particularly by men). We rage some more. And then, as the years pass, either we drop out or we start to adopt a sort of activist wisdom. We learn that the schisms and abuse are normal parts of collective behavior, just as they are normal parts of the outside world we wish to change. That doesn’t make it okay, it simply means that we need to prepare for this inevitability. Women and especially empathetic people are going to very sensitive to this constant negativity (and these are the very types of people attracted to the movement). At some point, we have to make changes in how we choose to expend our energy in order for our activism to be sustainable and in order to remain healthy.

For those of you who have pre-existing issues with depression, anxiety, and abuse (if you are female-identified, statistically, this probably includes you, my dear reader), the added stress and vulnerability created by our activism can really become a huge burden. There are a lot of things in this world that we cannot control, but activism is one thing that we can. And while many of us do not want to cut out activism from our life (especially because it can be extremely rewarding to give back through pro-social behavior and because our activist networks can be a positive addition to our lives), we need to recognize that there must be boundaries.

Woman at her desk raising a hammer to her laptop

Photo from The Frisky

Finding boundaries and having the mental strength to reinforce those boundaries is something that I’ve really been working with. I have to stay out of vegan groups, because I know that internet spaces invite vitriol and aggressive behavior. I have to disable comments on my blogs, because, again, the anonymity of the internet and my female identity makes my online activity a beacon for vitriol and aggressive behavior. I have to reevaluate how I will spend my time blogging: will I use the space to vent my frustration on yet another abusive person or corrupt organization? Sometimes that is necessary. But it’s also important to start engaging positive contributions.

As the summer begins to settle in this year, I’m finding myself emerging from a very gloomy winter and spring, wondering what I can do to heal from these past few months. I’m trying to find my grounding after the death of my best friend, the death of my dog, the brutal academic job market, the poverty of graduate school, revising my book, finishing my dissertation, being apart from my partner for many months, a very toxic family situation, and waves of harassment from anti-feminists, neo-nazis, and sexist or racist vegans. I mean, woah. That’s enough to bring anyone down. It’s time to come up for air. With so little out of my hands, it is prudent to ask myself: what exactly can I control?

It’s really important for us to recognize that we are humans. We are not advocacy robots: we have feelings and weaknesses. We get run down, we get tired, we get our feelings hurt, and we find it hard to trust.  Doing what we do is hard work. Let’s be honest about the reality of activism. It’s totally okay to acknowledge that sometimes it becomes too much to take.

My plan for Vegan Feminist Network this upcoming summer is a little bit in the air. I’m spending the next three months in Ireland with my partner, and I hope to stay off the internet as much as possible. I want to reconnect with him, cook healthy vegan food, squeeze in some hiking and a 5k, explore the pubs, and just allow myself to live (though I couldn’t help but pack some vegan leaflets!). Again, self-care can often be expensive. I have the privilege of taking the summer off because I am an online instructor, and we were fortunate enough to “afford” (i.e. go broke on purchasing) an expensive plane ticket (which is several months salary for many graduate students like myself). Some people might have financial security, but no loved ones to spend time with. Some people have families depending on them, and time is just not available. I know everyone has barriers, but we need to do what we can with what little we have to nourish our mental health.

African American woman of size Jessamyn Stanley demonstrates a complex yoga stretch.

Jessamyn Stanley; Photo from Jessamynstanley.com

I have discovered that yoga is one of those concrete ways that we can actually do something to repair ourselves from the damages of patriarchy and toxic activism. And it’s inclusive. There are variations of yoga for all body types and ranges of ability. In activist spaces, so often we focus on the mental emancipation through critical theory, learning, reading, and studying. Yoga is the other half of that–it helps us regain awareness and control over our bodies. Much like veganism, yoga is feminist praxis. For someone like me that has suffered with anxiety for my entire life, I have found that it is an amazing reward to my battered self to just take some time on the mat to stretch and breathe.

And you don’t need any expensive equipment–just comfy clothes and bare feet. I finally splurged on a mat, but it’s not necessary for yoga, just a nicety. For those who cannot afford yoga classes (like me!) or who are geographically isolated (like me!), yoga is freely available online (and allows you to practice from the peace and privacy of your own home). I have found Yoga with Adriene to be an amazing gift. Particularly helpful is her 23 minute “Yoga for a Broken Heart,” which is a gentle, beginner’s level session that will relax and soothe. See also the Instagram and Tumbler of Jessamyn Stanley, who combats the white- and thin-centricism of yoga practice in the West with body-positive curvy yoga. Or, Chelsea Jackson, who integrates critical thinking in her yoga practice for Black-identified persons facing trauma. “I see yoga as a tool to dismantle structural oppression,” she says. “It can help us interrogate systems that are constantly putting us in boxes or marginalizing us.”

Chelsea Jackson; Photo from Yoga Journal

Chelsea Jackson; Photo from Yoga Journal

Finally, if you are fortunate enough to have a companion animal in your family, give them a snuggle. Research shows that interacting with them can lower blood pressure and ease anxiety.

A golden lab puppy and a chocolate lab puppy facing the camera and leaning on one another

If all else fails…flip to a random page and prepare as directed (with appropriate modifications for my gluten-intolerant and diabetic friends!). I have heard many say that cooking and baking is a calming experience. And cupcakes are happiness, no doubt about it.

Cover for "Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World" cookbook

I agree with Jessica Rowshandel in the acknowledgement that self-care will differ for every individual, and sometimes it’s hard for us to really take it seriously and work it into our schedule. Most of us lack the space, money, freedom, or motivation necessary to take time for ourselves. I don’t have all the answers, but I do want to start a dialogue. Some of you reading this might be new on your activist journey and just want to saturate yourself in negativity and fight through it all, but I have a feeling you will reach a point where you must acknowledge that boundaries are necessary. When you reach that point, I hope your remember this post and revisit it. I may revisit this post as well, as I may have new ideas or experiences to share. In the meantime, you may want to take a peek at this step-by-step self-care guide presented by one of my favorite Black feminist blogs, For Harriet.

Take care and be well my friends.

 

 

Corey Lee WrennMs. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network and also operates The Academic Abolitionist Vegan. She is an instructor of Sociology and graduate student at Colorado State University, council member with the Animals & Society Section of the American Sociological Association, and an advisory board member with the International Network for Social Studies on Vegetarianism and Veganism with the University of Vienna. In 2015, she was awarded Exemplary Diversity Scholar by the University of Michigan’s National Center for Institutional Diversity.

The Sexual Politics of Holier-Than-Thou Veganism

Stella McCartney and dog walking on trail

Stella McCartney

 

Stella McCartney’s vegan fashion line was featured in a recent piece by feminist magazine Bustle in “Fashion & Beauty.” At first, I was thrilled to see veganism presented in a feminist space, which doesn’t happen nearly as often as it should.

It seems the author, too, is aware of the political disconnect between feminism and veganism, as she takes care to buffer readers with a disclaimer. Following a statement by McCartney that her brand is “the most ethical and loving company in the fashion industry,” Bustle clarifies:

The outlet notes that she said that with her tongue tucked in her cheek, indicating that she’s not holier-than-thou about her cruelty-free stance, which isn’t always the case with animal activists.

I find this disclaimer to be quite curious when placed in the context of feminist politics. Feminists generally balk when tone-policed themselves and often chastise celebrities who refuse to identify as feminist. But all’s fair when we’re talking about Nonhuman Animal rights. In other words, feminists determinedly encourage loud and proud feminism in an effort to destigmatize social justice activism, but they can be quick to turn around and vilify those who do the same on behalf of other animals.

Given that 80% of the Nonhuman Animal rights movement is female and given that veganism is extremely “feminized,” the sexist undertones to vegan stereotyping are important to recognize. It is possible that the “holier-than-thou” pejorative assigned to activists and vegans is actually a form of gender policing. In other words, these stereotypes work to shame and silence “uppity” women who dare to get political.

Feminists should steer clear of social justice shaming. Caring about the oppression of others should not be something to be hidden or downplayed. The commitment to ending injustice should be a marker of pride. We should be celebrating activism. It is hard work, it wins few friends, it is mentally fatiguing, and so few people are willing to get involved. Feminists should not be adding to that difficulty when they could be an important source of support. This is especially so since most vegan activists are women and speciesism is so intimately tied to patriarchy.

Speaking of Logical Fallacies…A Response

My buddy and colleague Cheryl Abbate recently commented on an activist demo which involved several folks stalking out (or “staking out” depending on your perspective) the private residence of a female vivisector.  Activists staged a silent vigil outside this woman’s home, and a bunch of counter-protesters were waiting to greet them. The animal advocates maintained their nonviolence, but were screamed at and spit upon.  Cheryl and others have been understandably shocked by the event, and because it was caught on camera, it offers an excellent opportunity for a little sociological analysis…

My first reaction to this event is to recognize that framing the animal advocates as “nonviolent” is not wholly accurate. These are people who have staked out a woman’s private home. That is in itself a violent action. Many vegan feminists, myself included, do not view this as a nonviolent tactic. Carol Adams has even recounted her own experience on the other side of a protest, as her home had been picketed once. It not only terrified her, but it terrified her children. You can read Marti Kheel’s analysis of “direct action” by clicking here.

Violent tactics only continue to give us a bad name and support our negative stereotype. Tom Regan has identified this negative stereotype as one of the  primary reasons why our movement has been stunted and fails to flourish (see Empty Cages). For that matter, this tactic represents your classic single-issue campaign. As I have argued before, single-issues are a waste of time and a waste of resources. They ignore the root of the problem, and they single out particular (popular) species at the expense of others. They also detract from vegan education. You can read more about this in an article I’ve recently published in Food, Culture & Society.

On the other hand, I recommend Cheryl’s essay on this bizarre interaction between activists and counter-activists. Sociologically speaking, it is interesting to see how the social problem is defined and how the power of patriarchy and science is used to dismiss anti-speciesist claimsmaking. Pay attention to how both sides frame the issue, and how both seek to capitalize on the perceived vulnerabilities of each. Jasper & Poulsen (1993) have published an article on this very topic: “Fighting Back:  Vulnerabilities, Blunders, and Countermobilization by the Targets in Three Animal Rights Campaigns.” They make the argument that blunders can be capitalized on to achieve success. The disgusting behavior of the vivisectionists and their supporters captured on film might easily be perceived as a blunder.

However, two caveats: 1. How are we defining success? I don’t think single-issue campaigns are strongly correlated with dismantling oppression (instead, they have more to do with fundraising and activist morale/ego); 2. We need to recognize the context of these interactions. We live in speciesist world. We also live in a world that has branded animal activists as terrorists. A bunch of strangers stalking out someone’s home is only going to be perceived as a threat, even if they are “silent.” If a bunch of “silent” people showed up at my home, I’d be dialing 911, I don’t care what their moral position is. It’s threatening.  Especially as a woman.  And the vivisector they were stalking was indeed a woman. Even male vivisectors who are targeted have families that activists should consider.

Neither can we ignore the white privilege inherent to these kinds of tactics. There is a reason most of these protesters are white. People of color are heavily harassed by the police: they are more likely to be reported, stopped, and arrested. Once arrested, they receive heavier penalties. In a society with a grossly racist criminal justice system, these tactics are inherently white-centric. So, when people parise these types of tactics, I read that as praise for white male approaches to social change. Using white maleness to fight white maleness, not surprisingly, isn’t getting us anywhere.

So, in sum, I think the activists have no reason whatsoever to be surprised at what happened to them. I also think tactics like this aggravate our bad reputation and squander resources. We have limited time, money, and personpower…we should be investing what little we have into vegan education…not stunts like these that are bound to backfire. These stunts are about two things 1. Fundraising and 2. Giving activists the feeling that they’re “doing something” for the animals…because, frankly, vegan education isn’t glamorous work, it’s feminized, and it won’t get you a bunch of Youtube hits.  But it’s the necessary foundational work that we must embrace if we want to enact change.

– Corey Lee Wrenn

This post originally appeared on the Academic Abolitionist Vegan. You can follow Ms. Wrenn on Facebook and Twitter.