Why Trump Veganism Must Go

trump-veganism

Donald Trump’s horrific rise to power was based on fear-mongering and the blatant exploitation of divisions. Millions of “forgotten” working class whites rallied behind Trump, driven by his appeals to dangerous immigrants, nasty women, and dangerous “urban” people of color. Fear, anger, and otherization both mobilized and motivated.

Bigot-powered politics typify other change-making spaces beyond the American presidential race. Veganism, for instance, frequently banks on the same inflammatory approach. Women’s bodies are abused, assaulted, and raped to shame other women into compliance. People of color are framed as “brutes,” “savages,” or “monsters” to encourage whites to side with veganism.

Disaffected vegans, mostly white and male, embrace these tactics, eager to transmit “their” vegan movement, one that prioritizes white-centric, patriarchal values and banks on the ostracization of nonwhites and women. Incidentally, such an atmosphere puts pressure on marginalized people to join ranks with the majority as a measure of protection. As many white women voted for Trump, many white women also throw their support behind these hateful vegan campaigns, happy to cash in their racial privilege and bargain with patriarchy in hopes of higher status by association.

When these tactics are criticized, their vitriolic supporters go ALL CAPS. They become aggressive and threatening, desperate to protect their privileged approach as common sense while framing their critics as anti-vegan. Anyone that finds such an approach problematic is accused of not caring about animals, or told, “If you don’t like it, go somewhere else.” “Make veganism great again,” they seem to suggest.

“PC” culture isn’t welcome here. Neither are women, people of color, disabled persons, trans persons, and others. In fact, they are framed the bigots for daring to challenge the discriminatory status quo.

trump-fans

The result of anti-intersectional vegan campaigning is strikingly similar to that of Trump’s. The ranks swell with sexist, racist, blissfully ignorant, and hateful deplorables. More than tapping into and inviting in this bigotry, this framework actually aggravates it, creates it, and normalizes it. Being racist, sexist, or otherwise prejudiced and discriminatory is becoming an acceptable value so long as it is positioned as necessary for the protection of the oppressed.

Violence begets violence. History has shown that appealing to privilege will encourage behavior change that is unstably based on violent ideology. This violent ideology supports discriminatory actions. It further marginalizes the underprivileged. Vegans will do well to avoid taking cues from Trump’s play book. It is unsustainable and wholly incongruent with the principles of social justice.

I am further wary of post-Trump appeals to “come together” or strive for “unity.” It is akin to victim-blaming. Rape survivors hear it. Communities impacted by police violence hear it, too. Those who have been wronged by institutional oppression are not those who should be concerned with unity. They should be focused on how to strategize to survive systemic violence. Vegans betray justice by insisting all movement parties “just get along.” There is no ethical justification for supporting violence in our society or a social justice movement. Both Trump’s campaign built on hate and the vegan movement’s campaign built on hate will have deadly consequences to minorities impacted by that ideology.  “Unity” rhetoric is a form of social control and protects, rather than challenges, inequality.

 


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network. She is a Lecturer of Sociology and Director of Gender Studies with a New Jersey liberal arts college, 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 Exemplary Diversity Scholar 2016 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.

whyveganism.com

How Vegans can be Better Pro-Intersectional Activists

vegan-unity

Content Warning: Ableism, trans antagonism, racism

By Aris Austin

A couple of weeks ago, I published an article on why vegans need to be better pro-intersectional activists. If you haven’t already read that article, I encourage you to read it before moving on to this one. If you’re short on time, here’s a quick summary: Being a pro-intersectional activist (1) is the right thing to do and (2) will make our movement stronger.

So, how can we go about actually being pro-intersectional activists? I am by no means an expert on the issue, but I do try my best. I hope to outline a few first steps we can all take below.

1. Listen

Listen, listen, listen. This is number one on my list for a reason. Leadership starts with listening. Unless you are a single mother struggling to feed her family, you won’t know what her life is like unless you listen to her. And if you try to advocate for her before listening, you’re talking over her instead of using your voice to amplify hers. That isn’t good advocacy.

Listening doesn’t necessarily mean needing to seek out that single mother, or sitting on your hands until you happen to hear her speaking. You can educate yourself. It’s easier now than ever to listen to the stories, experiences, and needs of people. A simple Google search will yield countless articles, blog posts, and videos from single mothers talking about their experiences. So do some research. Listen to the voices of oppressed individuals. Learn, and then use your own voice to amplify theirs.

2. Never stop listening

If you haven’t seen Chimamanda Adichie’s Ted Talk, “The Danger of a Single Story,” I encourage you to watch it. As she explains, “The single story creates stereotypes, and the problem with stereotypes is not that they are untrue, but that they are incomplete. They make one story become the only story.”

We cannot allow ourselves to think that because we know a single story, we know every story. Listening to that mother’s story is an important step, but it does not make us an expert on the lives of everyone struggling to feed their children. How can we claim to know the story of a disabled mother of two in Chicago simply because we’ve already listened to the story of an able-bodied mother of three in São Paulo? Their experiences may be completely different. If we ever make the mistake of thinking that we’re done learning, we limit our ability to do good things and increase our potential to cause damage.

3. Own your mistakes

This one can be hard to do, but it’s also incredibly important. And hey, we all mess up sometimes. Every single one of us has made some kind of mistake in the past, and as we learn, it’s reasonable to expect ourselves to make more. However, the way we handle ourselves after making a mistake can mean the difference between a good and a bad conversation. Because of this, it’s important to handle ourselves well.

In my article on why vegans need to be better pro-intersectional activists, I used an example where you unintentionally hurt a friend by using the term “moral schizophrenia” to describe the treatment of animals. Let’s explore that example again, first looking at what might happen owning your impact.

You: “The way people cuddle their dogs at night and have no problem slaughtering pigs…They don’t even feel bad about eating bacon, but recoil at the thought of eating dogs. It’s total moral schizophrenia!”

Your friend: “Whoa, hold on. I get what you’re trying to say, but it really bothers me that you call it “schizophrenia.” That makes it sound like people with schizophrenia are violent, or don’t know how to make moral decisions. I have schizophrenia, remember? I would never hurt anyone.”

You: “I see what you mean, but that’s not my intention. I’m just saying that people treat animals in unpredictable and sometimes violent ways. I’m not trying to offend anyone.”

Your friend: “But when you use it like that, it’s ableist. You’re adding to the stigma that makes people see me as violent, unsafe to be around, and unfit to live in society. Will you please stop using that term?”

You: “You don’t get it. That’s not what I mean at all. I mean, obviously I feel safe around you, so you know that isn’t what I mean. I get that the term might offend you, but it’s a pretty common term in the animal rights movement. Sometimes we have to use shocking language to explain shocking things. Anyway, if most people knew that pigs weren’t all that different from dogs…”

You have completely lost your friend at this point. By defending yourself instead of listening, you’re causing hurt and perpetuating stereotypes that potentially limit her options in life. You’ve probably caused some damage to your relationship, and you’re certainly not getting anywhere with your vegan message. Worse, you may have given her the impression that veganism is an inherently ableist movement, and you’ve left yourself open to making the same mistake in the future.

Now let’s look at an example where you own your impact and address your mistake:

You: “The way people cuddle their dogs at night and have no problem slaughtering pigs…They don’t even feel sorry about eating bacon, but recoil at the thought of eating dogs. It’s total moral schizophrenia!”

Your friend: “Whoa, hold on. I get what you’re trying to say, but it really bothers me that you call it “schizophrenia.” That makes it sound like people with schizophrenia are violent, or don’t know how to make moral decisions. I have schizophrenia, remember? I would never hurt anyone.”

You: “Wow…I guess I never thought of it that way. I don’t know what to say, except that I’m sorry for hurting you. I’m going to make an effort to stop using that term, and to be more aware of casual ableism in my language. Thank you for telling me.”

Sure, it sounds a little corny, and apologizing and owning your impact probably didn’t fix everything. Your friend may still be hurt. But by simply apologizing and not arguing, you’ve minimized the damage you’ve done and taken a big step toward doing better in the future. Rather than alienating your friend, you’ve shown her respect, and you’ve taken a step toward deconstructing oppressive systems.

It can be hard to take being called out well. Our first reaction is to become defensive, because we feel like we’re being attacked. It might be helpful to keep in mind that your friend probably only spoke up because she trusts you. She knows that you’re a good, thoughtful person, so she expects you to be willing to correct your mistake. In a way, her calling you out may be a sign that she thinks highly of you and is willing to push you to do better.

4. Speak up

This step combines all of the previous steps and helps you create positive change. You can’t (and shouldn’t) rely on your friend to educate every vegan on why saying “moral schizophrenia” is wrong. Let’s say that after your conversation, you went home and did some extra reading on why saying “moral schizophrenia” is problematic (educating yourself is great!). Now, let’s say that a few weeks later, you hear another vegan drop the term. This is your chance to speak up.

It’s probably more constructive to engage this other vegan in a conversation rather than outright attacking them. Since you also used to use the term, you can start by finding common ground with them, and then explaining why you’ve changed your mind. Let’s look at an example:

You: “Hey, I just wanted to point out something you might not be aware of. I noticed your use of the term “moral schizophrenia,” which is something I used to say too. But a friend recently pointed out that it implies those with schizophrenia are violent and dangerous. That’s already a major stereotype that can limit their employment, housing opportunities, and even safety. When we use it to describe violent systems, it only worsens the societal stigmas they have to live with every day. I know you probably didn’t mean any harm, but do you think we could talk about using different language that isn’t so harmful?”

They may change their behavior based on that simple conversation. Even if they reject your invitation, at least you did the right thing. You’re acting in support of your friend, and you’re working to remove harmful behavior from the vegan community. In doing so, you’re doing the right thing, and you’re making the vegan movement stronger by making it more inclusive and accessible.

It is important to note here that we should use our voices to amplify the voices of oppressed individuals rather than “talking over” them. What I mean by this is that we should be mindful of the space we’re taking up, especially if we’re speaking from a place of privilege. Like many things, this is dependent on the situation. If a man in a group of men hears a misogynistic remark from his friend, that is absolutely the time and place for him to speak up. However, if that same man finds himself in a room where several women are already discussing their own experiences of harassment from men, this is probably a good time for him to listen and learn rather than launching into a speech of his own. Women in our society are already so often “spoken for” by men, so it’s best for him not to take over the conversation, especially because he’s probably the least experienced person in the room on that particular subject.

5. Act in solidarity with others

I’m not saying we all need to drop animal rights as our first priority. But there’s little that bothers me more than people who purposely ignore every other form of oppression simply because of animals. To avoid speaking out against racism or xenophobia simply because you think the group of people being attacked is especially bad for the animals is (and yeah, I’ve seen stuff like that coming from some fairly prominent vegans). To condone slurs about Chinese people “because they eat dogs” ignores the fact that (1) people in many other countries eat pigs, who aren’t so different from dogs, (2) there are many wonderful activists in China working to end the dog meat trade and (3) racism is never justified, no matter what stereotypes you decide to believe.

We can do better by avoiding this mistake, but we can also do better by acting in solidarity with others. There are so many other movements that deserve our support, and we can give it to them by making very few or even no sacrifices to our work for the animals. Consider North Carolina-based group Vegans for Peace. Members of their group have joined other LGBT rights activists for several protests against North Carolina’s discriminatory House Bill 2. I imagine that many of these activists are animal rights activists first and foremost, but they understand the injustice happening in their state, and they’re taking the time and effort to protest it.

Acts of solidarity like this not only help combat injustice, but also make the vegan movement more inclusive. A group of vegans protesting HB2 tells the government that trans discrimination is wrong. But it also tells trans people that they’re safe around that group of vegans. And if we help people feel safe and welcomed around us (rather than making them feel unsafe or excluded, like some vegans seem intent on doing,) it greatly increases our movement’s potential for growth and positive change.

This is part two of four in a series on veganism and social justice.


meAris Austin is an author, student, and activist who writes fiction and nonfiction that aims to dismantle oppression. Their fiction has previously been awarded with honors at Colorado State University, where they attend school and serve as president for the university’s animal rights group. Aris can be found on Facebook page and more of their writing is available on their website.

We Need More Pro-Intersectional Activism in the Animal Rights Movement

Aris Austin

Content Warning: Rape mention, ableism, racism, misogyny

People tend not to respond well when individuals outside of a group criticize said group. So I’m here, a dedicated member of the animal rights community, to say this: we need to do better on inclusivity. Way better.

I’m not saying this to argue, and I’m not saying this to accuse anyone. I’m saying it because it’s absolutely necessary if we want to think of ourselves as good, compassionate people. I’m saying this because it’s the right thing to do. It can make us—and our movement—better.

Many of the animal rights activists I know do an excellent job of supporting other social justice movements and recognizing oppression. But some of us are so awful at it that it makes me cringe. I don’t believe that the vegan movement as a whole is intentionally racist, or sexist or ableist. But when so many of us say or do hurtful things and then don’t own it when called out, I can see why those outside of our movement say that. When we uphold activists with racist messages, or organizations that use (intentional selection of the word use) women’s bodies for media attention, I understand why so many people see our movement as uninterested in helping humans.

I remember a time when I was part of an online group dedicated to mentoring new vegans. One of the other mentors—a person of color—took issue with the fact that so many other mentors were alright with spreading the message of a very well-known activist who is particularly racist and sexist. I agreed, and thought it would be pretty straightforward for the rest of the mentors to listen. After all, this person took the time to explain why they, as a person of color, often felt marginalized within their own movement because of people’s willingness to support this activist. I was shocked by the response.

People immediately leaped to defend this activist, claiming that he “had done so much for the animals” and therefore was a good person. Others said that this was “about the animals, so those kinds of issues aren’t important here.” One person even told us to “take our intersectional veganism somewhere else.”

Newsflash: being vegan doesn’t give you a free pass to be an awful person. Fighting one form of oppression while actively supporting other forms of oppression makes absolutely no sense.

Let’s do a quick thought experiment. Imagine you’re at dinner with your family, and you are the only vegan at the table. Your uncle eyes your plate and decides to ask why you don’t focus on something more important, like human rights. You stare at him for a moment, stunned. How can he not understand this? You explain the many intersections between animal rights and human rights—connections between meat and environmental racism, farm worker abuse, the language used to make both animals and people seem like objects—the list goes on. You explain that animals also have lives that matter to them, and that regardless of whatever else we advocate for, being vegan minimalizes violence and is the right thing to do. He calmly apologizes and explains that he meant no offense, but that human rights are more important, so the animals will have to wait. And then he goes back to eating his steak.

Angry? I’d be angry.

Let’s imagine a second scene now. You’re at a coffee shop, explaining the moral inconsistency in loving dogs but eating chickens. Your friends are surprisingly interested, and you throw out an ableist term than many vegans still use: “moral schizophrenia.” One of your friends seems taken aback. She explains that she understands the point you’re trying to make. However, she also asks you not to use that term, because it implies that individuals with schizophrenia are inherently violent and immoral. She reminds you that she herself has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, and like many with schizophrenia, she has never acted violently. She is, frankly, hurt.

So you “apologize” to your friend, but you don’t actually own up to the hurt you caused. Instead, you explain what the term is meant to imply, that you mean no harm in using it, and that sometimes we need offensive language to explain such an important issue. Then you continue the conversation, using the term “moral schizophrenia” again. You probably even expect your friend to listen to your message and be totally okay with it.

Oops. You just became the uncle who made you so angry a minute ago.

This is exactly what happens when people blow off human rights violations with the excuse that the animals are worse off, or use controversial language like “slavery,” or “rape” to describe the abuse endured by farm animals. We can argue all day about what does and what does not constitute rape, but the important thing so many people miss is this: it has been explained over and over that using this term in animal rights issues is offensive and even hurtful to many rape survivors. Several rape survivors have asked for the use of the term rape to be left out of these conversations. And since we can use other language to describe the reproductive manipulation and forced impregnation of farmed animals (I just did it twice) this hurt is unnecessary. That alone should be enough of a reason to stop using the word rape in those conversations. In fact, we ought to be willing to turn animal rights communities into safe spaces and fight all forms of oppression, simply because it’s the right thing to do.

Doing the right thing alone should be enough motivation. Our movement—a movement built on love and justice—ought to be concerned with all forms of oppression, not just the forms we know the most about. If you truly need another reason to be kind and inclusive though, here it is: making our spaces safe for people of all marginalized groups is one of the best possible things we can do for our movement. Not only is it right to stand in solidarity with people fighting their oppression, but our acts of solidarity will also help them feel welcome in our spaces and more open to our message.

For example, Collectively Free, a pro-intersectional animal rights group, counts New York Pride among their followers on Instagram. Now, I don’t know the exact reasons NYC Pride has for following CF, but I might speculate that this has something to do with CF’s continuous support of the LGBT community. In the words of Raffaella Ciavatta, one of CF’s co-founders:

“When you have groups like Pride NY follow you on Instagram, you must be doing something right. Unless of course, you simply don’t want to make the AR movement accessible to minorities…”

Building a pro-intersectional AR movement is the right thing to do, and it makes us better. Imagine what would happen if every vegan fought for LGBT rights? Not with any kind of ulterior motive, but simply to support our fellow human beings. We would add millions of voices to their cause. And what if the LGBT communities in turn supported us and joined our movement, simply to support the animals? They would add millions of voices to our cause. And when we join with even more groups, then what happens? What happens when animal rights and racial equality and feminism and LGBT rights and disability rights groups all join forces? Ideally, we could throw off our oppressions together. It suddenly becomes something more than fighting the issues facing each of us. It becomes an issue of liberation for everyone.

We’re stronger together. So let’s stand together.

 

This is part one of a series of posts on animal rights and social justice. Part two will outline some tips for being a better pro-intersectional advocate.


meAris Austin is an author, student, and activist who writes fiction and nonfiction that aims to dismantle oppression. Their fiction has previously been awarded with honors at Colorado State University, where they attend school and serve as president for the university’s animal rights group. Aris can be found on Facebook page and more of their writing is available on their website.

Is Intersectionality Speciesist?

Vegan Intersectionality

With the growing popularity of intersectional approaches in vegan spaces, there is some concern about what this means for a meaningful anti-speciesist message. I have written at length on this topic in my book A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory, but offer this essay as a quick reference to readers. In short–intersectionality can be speciesist, but it need not be.

Developed in the context of Black feminism by Dr. Kimberlé Williams Crenshaw, intersectionality theory asks us to acknowledge how various forms of oppression are entangled with one another. Intersectionality theory insists that our struggle for social justice cannot be single-issue. For vegans, this means that we cannot advocate for Nonhuman Animals while ignoring (or aggravating) sexism, racism or any other “ism.” Doing so overlooks the root cause of injustice.

Intersectionality theory acknowledges that some individuals belong to multiple oppressed groups; their experiences cannot be fully understood with a single-issue analysis. For instance, Black feminists insist that any feminism lacking a critical race component is insufficient or incomplete: Black women’s experiences are not always comparable to that of white women. Women’s liberation efforts which fail to acknowledge this difference will be disjointed and fall short of success. Racism and sexism are not the same, but they manifest similarly. Thus, leaving any group behind leaves the system intact.

While intersectionality is a theory of Black feminism, it can also be applied to understand other complex identities. Consider how a dog’s experience is different from that of a human. Consider also how a disabled dog’s experience will be markedly different from that of an able-bodied dog in a human supremacist and ableist society. Intersectionality theory asks us to be conscious of differences in experience, and the complexities of oppression. Intersectionality is about awareness to difference.

However, some have suggested that intersectionality displaces the centrality of Nonhuman Animal suffering in the vegan movement. Some have also suggested that intersectionality somehow opens up the door for anyone and everyone to claim to victimhood, thus absconding them from their responsibilities for anti-speciesist political engagement.

This simply isn’t the case. A pro-intersectional approach acknowledges the reality of oppression and seeks to uproot it. Racism, sexism, speciesism, etc. all rely on similar mechanisms (in-group/out-group maintenance, stereotypes, objectification, etc.) and manifest in similar ways. A pro-intersectional approach only seeks to acknowledge and accommodate these unique positions in society in our collective journey to justice.

We may have cross-cultural moral universals (such as the renunciation of unnecessary violence), but there is no one-size-fits-all moral solution. In an ideal world, all humans would be vegan. But the world is teeming with intersecting oppressions, and veganism is not (or may not appear to be) attainable. It’s our job to make it so. Intersectionality is a political approach, not a hands-off, live and let live resignation.

Importantly, abetting oppression is never part of intersectionality’s accommodation of difference. This is why vegan pro-intersectionalists firmly reject all welfare reforms and single-issue campaigns, which have been shown to be ideologically problematic and empirically counterproductive. Some non-vegan/plant-based intersectionalists take no position on the capitalist co-optation of non-profits or the agricultural industry’s manipulation of post-speciesist ideologies. They may also suggest that veganism is what you make of it. But this position is not universally accepted.

Crowd of protesters leave animals behind

As I understand it, veganism is a political expression of anti-speciesism. It is not just about the personal; it is first and foremost about the collective. Plant-based diets can certainly be liberatory, anti-colonial, feminist, or anti-racist, but a plant-based diet without the anti-speciesist element ultimately stops short of our obligations to other animals.

I’m not the vegan police; I can’t tell communities living in life-or-death situations how to manage their scant resources and it’s not my business to tell others how to self-identify. Nonetheless, it is important to be clear: eating plant-based foods while still engaging in speciesist actions is problematic. It is ethically problematic to wear “leather” or “wool.” It is ethically problematic to vacation to Seaworld or buy “purebred” dogs. It is ethically problematic to support PETA and the HSUS as well, because these organizations promote institutionalized violence against animals.

So, intersectionality can be speciesist if it fails to meaningfully incorporate a vegan ethic. But then, intersectionality theory in practice has never been perfect. There are lots of non-vegan feminists, heterosexist anti-racists, sexist gay liberationists, etc. Many activists claim to both understand the connections and live by them, but research indicates that all social movements are grappling with internal discrimination. This is not good, of course, but there is no need to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

We must still be accountable to the marginalized. For those of us identifying as “vegan,” we must be vigilant in our obligation to embrace an anti-speciesist position so as not to aggravate systemic violence against Nonhuman Animals. To do so, we must first live up to our own potential. Second, we must also use whatever privilege we enjoy to help others do the same. Recognizing that oppression impacts some communities in ways that makes their participation in social justice difficult, it’s up to activists to find solutions to break down those barriers.

Perhaps most importantly, we should be listening and lending platform to those folks engaging this difficult work who are themselves part of those communities. If marginalized human groups were given support, encouragement, and resources instead of being hassled, derided, and patronized by wealthy white vegans, we could see some serious change. Vegans with relative privilege should be wary of imposing their unique worldview unrealistically on vulnerable groups (who, by the way, became vulnerable in the creation of said privilege; this is no circumstance of chance). White-identified vegans in particular should beware of the white savior complex, as this mindset can replicate patterns of oppression. Privileged people will need to get comfortable with relinquishing control. After all, equal access and equal representation will be the new status quo in a liberated society, will it not?

We need to promote veganism for Nonhuman Animal liberation, but we can’t do so if we build a wall between ourselves and our audience. The anti-speciesist vegan movement has much to inform other movements, but we must remember that other movements have much to inform us, too. This is how bridges are built, solidarity is nurtured, and oppression is dismantled. If we want liberation, this step is not optional.

The Nonhuman Animal rights movement must prioritize coalition-building. In doing so, however, we must be clear about our obligations to other animals. Veganism should be encouraged and engaged when possible, and single-issue campaigns that compromise the well-being of Nonhuman Animals should be firmly rejected.

Some activists working in vegan spaces come to the table from other movements and do not include Nonhuman Animals in their advocacy, or, they may promote speciesist non-profits or speciesist tactics. I am sensitive to the fact that some people occupy more precarious social positions and must prioritize other justice campaigns. I am also deeply committed to supporting the efforts of others wherever it is ethical to do so. Raising anti-speciesist awareness in sister movements is a worthy goal, as is raising our own awareness to the struggles of others.

The only vegan pro-intersectionality I condone is that which embraces and acknowledges other forms of oppression without undermining our obligations to other animals. Indeed, a position is hardly intersectional if it works to ignore, invisibilize, or further marginalize any oppressed group–human or not.

 

You can read more about the importance of species-inclusive intersectionality in A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory (Palgrave 2016).


Corey Lee WrennDr. Wrenn is the founder of Vegan Feminist Network. She is a Lecturer of Sociology with Monmouth 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 Exemplary Diversity Scholar 2016 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.

whyveganism.com

Veganism, Degrowth and Redistribution

Bird subsumed in oil spill

By Marv Wheale

The Vegan Feminist Network is dedicated to scrutinizing the interconnections among speciesism, genderism, heterosexism, colonialism, racism, poverty, disablism, ageism, sizeism, ecocide…..  Today I would like to concisely examine some related elements that could exercise a role in overcoming these structures of subordination.

We know that veganism is the credible stance to take against the ideology and praxis of human  supremacy.  Yet when we practice and promote a vegan way of life within capitalism, veganism stands unopposed to the continuation of economic inequality, middle class values/lifestyles, the larger systems of animal use and ecological erosion (obviously vegans do mitigate these troubles to a limited extent).

Chicken corpses on conveyor belt

For veganism to succeed and not be isolationist it must be anti-capitalist and degrowth.  Though socialism may resolve economic class divisions, it’s emphasis on growing the economy puts a strain on ecosystems, nonhuman species habitats and climate (possibly as much as capitalist development).   Mining, industrial agriculture, intensive logging and fossil use are integral parts of many socialist agendas, except  the green kinds.  Perpetual production growth is a dead end for a liveable planet.

Compulsory societal wide frugal living is required for securing biosphere sustainability and enhancement.

We could call it “revolutionary simplicity”. But how do we end indigence with economic contraction?  Don’t the poor need growth to have a dignified life?  

Not in the conventional sense.  Improving employment, wages, living conditions, local vegan food production, education, public health and transportation and providing clean water don’t have the same devastating impacts on nature as aggregate expansion for private or government gain.

Free vegan food being offered at a Food Not Bombs tabling

Dispersing wealth evenly, vegan living, green energy, social housing, workers’ cooperatives, working less hours, men care-giving instead of worshipping porn and sports teams, cultivating talents, idle contemplation and revelry are types of progress that don’t ravage the earth and living beings like commercial extractivist societies do.

Redistribution, economic democracy,  animal/human animal equality, producing and consuming less, and post-growth economies would be powerful forms of intergroup solidarity and justice for all.

Veganist degrowth and redistribution is not a full-grown theory, plan of action or affiliation.  It is nonetheless worth exploring and perilous to dismiss.  Something nonvegan socialists and capitalists should adopt as well.   

SoaringFrigateBird

Dreamer?  Climate disruption, environmental despoliation, destitution and war may force us to take radical measures.  Now is the time to spread the conversation to raise consciousness to act for a nonviolent transition.

 


Marv is a moderator for the Vegan Feminist Network Facebook page.

El Veganismo no es “La Ética de los Alimentos”: El Veganismo tiene que ver con la Justicia Social

Translation by Mariángel Villalobos. You can follow her on Twitter @mvillabe. The original English version of this essay can be found here.

Mother cow and calf nuzzling

Por Syl

Me quedé más que decepcionada después de leer el reciente post de Olivia (de Skepchick) y la discusión que le siguió en la sección de veganismo. Primero que todo, no hubo en absoluto una conversación sobre las conexiones entre el ateísmo y el veganismo. Siempre me parece una pérdida completa de tiempo tratar de explicar la falta de interés en el veganismo en espacios ateos. Los ateos parecen ser suficientemente críticos siempre y cuando ellos permanezcan en la pequeñez de la conversación relacionada con la creencia de que el veganismo es una acción basada en la acción ética del individuo, en lugar de una posición propia de justicia social y un movimiento fundado en ciertas creencias éticas. Algunas de las características clave de esta construcción miope del veganismo son:

(a) Fundamentalmente, el veganismo es un asunto ético fundado en el individuo.

(b) El veganismo es un ideal inalcanzable. Es una guía en lugar de una meta realizable.

(c) El veganismo es una práctica relacionada con la alimentación, una ética de alimentación, y/o una dieta.

(d) El veganismo consiste en intentar hacer “lo mejor que se pueda”.

(e) Naturalmente, el veganismo conlleva momentos de “culpa” porque uno no puede ser un “vegano perfecto”.

(f) El veganismo es una práctica aislada conceptualmente de otras prácticas de justicia social.

En su post, Olivia se refiere consistentemente al veganismo como “ética de la alimentación” o una “dieta” (c) y resto de (a) a través (f) se puede ver en solo un pasaje:

Podemos ver que no todas las conclusiones éticas abstractas demandan una perfecta conformidad, porque nuestro propio bienestar debería ser parte de nuestros cálculos éticos. Cada uno de nosotros tiene una cantidad limitada de tiempo, dinero, y energía, y tenemos que decidir en cuáles áreas vamos a concentrar esos recursos. Hay una sorprendente cantidad de cosas que podemos hacer para mejorarnos a nosotros mismos y a nuestras comunidades, y simplemente no podemos cumplir con todas. Si cambiar nuestra dieta agota nuestros recursos profundamente, nos puede lastimar, o dejarnos ansiosos, enojados, infelices, e incapaces de actuar éticamente hacia las personas que están a nuestro alrededor (como un ejemplo, yo sé que soy una perra irritable cuando no consumo suficiente proteína). Si una preferencia ética en particular nos deja sin más energía o recursos, puede que no sea la manera más efectiva para mejorar el mundo.

Déjenme referirme de (a) hasta (f).

(a) El veganismo, fundamentalmente, es una posición de justicia social basada en el colectivo político. Esto significa que la explotación en masa y la tortura de los animales solo puede ser erradicada con la reestructuración política y social. Demandamos reestructuración política y social para también dirigirnos a las situaciones de otros grupos oprimidos… porque ser anti-racistas, anti-sexistas, anti-homofóbicos, etc., es tomar una posición de justicia social. Estas no son posturas éticas del individuo (aunque ellas son fundadas en preocupaciones éticas e implicaciones éticas le siguen). No hay charla sobre “y tú!” (“do you!”) cuando se trata de posturas de justicia social, porque adoptar una postura de justicia social es hacer cierto reclamo sobre tus propios derechos. Los derechos son un concepto universal, no un concepto de “y tú!”.

El veganismo no es solo una postura de justicia social sino que también se basa en una postura crítica. Es una postura fundada por la crítica de nuestra heredada narrativa de consumo con respecto a los animales. Tomamos la cuestión con la suposición de que los animales deben pertenecer a nuestra narrativa de consumo y nosotros mantenemos que es en parte por esta fallada suposición de que los animales deben permanecer sin derechos. Si los animales simplemente son seres para que nosotros consumamos y usemos, ya sea como alimento, vestimenta, entretenimiento, sujetos de investigación, etc., entonces es contradictorio también mantener que ellos son seres que merecen ser protegidos de los abusos. Mientras asumamos que los animales pertenecen a la narrativa de consumo, a ellos nunca se les concederán derechos. (Les remito a mi post anterior).

(b) Alcanzar metas veganas es sin duda un proyecto que se puede realizar. El único obstáculo en el camino para ver esto es la tendencia a reconstruir el veganismo como un proyecto basado en la ética del individuo! Obviamente, los esfuerzos éticos hechos por individuos aislados no podrían desmantelar el mito sobre el papel de los animales en la narrativa de consumo actual. La narrativa de consumo es una historia sistémica completa con fuerzas económicas, culturales y políticas; entonces, si vamos a encontrar una buena estrategia para embestir el problema, va a tener que ser a un nivel sistémico. La abolición de la esclavitud no fue simplemente la suma de proyectos basados en la ética del individuo. Más bien, fue el resultado de llamadas hacia la reestructuración social y política. Ciertamente, la abolición pudo haber sido un ideal inalcanzable si los abolicionistas no hubieran conseguido ver que la raíz de esta tradición opresiva estaba basada en una narrativa sistémicamente sostenida. En otras palabras, nuestras grandes injusticias sociales no existen simplemente porque hay personas “malas” que no están dispuestas a luchar por ideales abstractos e irrealizables. Las grandes injusticias sociales existen porque hay estructuras construidas y mantenidas que funcionan para perpetuar esas mismas injusticias. Estas estructuras son lo mismo que alimenta la ilusión de que deshacernos a nosotros mismos de ciertas injusticias sociales son ideales “abstractos” desprovistos de realidad o simples fantasmas del optimismo que la naturaleza humana nunca puede acomodar.

(c) El veganismo no es una simple práctica alimenticia, o ética alimenticia, o una dieta. Esto no es para decir que las prácticas alimenticias no son asuntos de justicia social. Ciertamente lo son y merecen más atención. Sin embargo, el veganismo es una posición de justicia social con la meta de asegurar los derechos de los animales y, como tal, no se agota por lo que comemos o vestimos. Me disgusta hasta escuchar los términos “veganismo”, “prácticas alimenticias” y “éticas alimenticias” en la misma oración. Si, como hemos argumentado, los veganos propiamente llegan a la posición de justicia social criticando la suposición de que los animales deben pertenecer en la narrativa de consumo, entonces le sigue que los veganos no miren conceptualmente a los animales como comida. Llamar al veganismo “ética alimenticia”, o una “dieta”, o una “práctica alimenticia” es un perezoso nombre errado.

(d&e) El sentimiento de culpa solamente tiene sentido cuando se ve el veganismo de forma miope como un proyecto ético del individuo. Voy a tener que apoyar este argumento con un ejemplo. Una de mis películas favoritas por desgracia tiene una corta escena con una innecesaria estupidez misógina. Cuando la temida escena se acerca, yo -como una firme feminista- no me siento culpable. Más bien, me siento frustrada y –como mucho (y a lo peor)- impotente como un individuo. Como vegana, soy consciente de que en la actualidad no puedo vivir una vida libre de explotación animal. Como he mencionado anteriormente, nuestra sociedad ha sistematizado e institucionalizado la dependencia humana de animales y de la explotación y tortura animal. Cuando aprendo que las paredes en mi casa (muy probablemente) contienen productos de animales explotados, parece inapropiado sentir culpa. Yo no soy culpable en este caso. Más bien, me siento frustrada por lo penetrante que el problema es y como mucho (y a lo peor)- impotente. El sentimiento de impotencia disminuye después de un rato y la frustración que queda me recuerda cuál es el lugar correcto para mi activismo: en el nivel sistémico. Sentimientos momentáneos de impotencia, que son naturalmente fundados en la impotencia individual, y la frustración, son emociones productivas porque indican que el problema trasciende al individuo. La culpa no es productiva porque indica que el problema deriva del individuo.

Shakespeare character holding a bunch of carrots asks, "To vegan or not to vegan?"

Algunos podrían objetar que yo he prestado poca o nada de atención al sentirme culpable cuando se trata de algún “desliz” o de ser “flexible” en cierta compañía, o de aquellos en ciertas situaciones quienes -independientemente de posiciones de justicia social- debemos depender de los animales para alimento y vestido. Con respecto a lo primero: como ya he manifestado, creo que el veganismo es debidamente entendido como una crítica a la narrativa de consumo y del lugar de los animales en ella, lo que significa que un vegano o vegana realmente cree que los animales son sujetos que merecen derechos. Creo que adoptando una posición crítica hace que los “deslices” o la “flexibilidad” sean imposibles. (Polémicamente), creo que los fenómenos de los “deslices” y la “flexibilidad” tienen mucho que ver con adoptar la posición ética del individuo, la cual se basa en nociones vagas de estatus morales y “crueldad” y no hace mucho para alterar conceptualmente o críticamente a la persona.

(De nuevo, polémicamente) no considero que situaciones que involucren dificultades extremas sean de preocupación inmediata para los veganos. Como veganos, debemos estar preocupados por la narrativa de consumo; estamos preocupados por la historia que nosotros como sociedad contamos sobre los animales y el lugar que ellos ocupan en nuestras rutinas de consumo. Cuando las personas usan animales para la supervivencia básica, ellos no están interesados en crear una narrativa de consumo en la cuál los animales son los perjudicados por algún privilegio percibido. Ellos no tienen el poder para institucionalizar estas nociones. Ellos simplemente están tratando de sobrevivir. El profesor Will Kymlicka se refiere a esta situación como una que reside fuera de las “circunstancias de justicias.” Este es un caso diferente a lo que debería preocupar a los veganos. (Similarmente, cuando rocías un insecto en tu cocina con un spray para cucarachas, consecuentemente matándolo, esta es una situación diferente de las que a los veganos les debería preocupar. Tales incidencias aisladas no tienen nada que ver con mantener la presente narrativa de consumo, de la misma manera que rociar la cara de un intruso con el mismo spray para cucarachas no tiene nada que ver con actuales violaciones a los derechos humanos.)

(e) El veganismo no es un asunto de justicia social aislado de otros asuntos de justicia social. Olivia declaraba anteriormente, “Cada uno de nosotros tiene una cantidad limitada de tiempo, dinero, y energía, y tenemos que decidir en qué temas enfocar nuestros recursos.” Tal punto de vista es rampante entre veganos y no-veganos. Conforme a esta mentalidad de “asunto-único” (“single-issue”), los activismos son estructurados para referirse a un asunto y se refieren a este asunto como siendo fundamentalmente independiente de y diferente de otros asuntos. Como resultado, tenemos que priorizar asuntos. El enfoque de asunto-único oscurece la realidad de cómo el racismo, sexismo, clasismo, discriminación en base a la diversidad funcional, homofobia, especismo, ecocidio, etc. no están solo conectados pero son dependientes el uno con el otro para formar lo que yo llamo un “holismo pernicioso”. Si uno ve esta realidad, el enfoque de el asunto-único parece complemente incoherente. Si todos estos asuntos contra los que luchamos están enredados en una profunda, interconectada red, entonces no tiene nada de sentido estructurar nuestro activismo como si ellos no estuvieran conectados o como si no fuesen interdependientes. Aislar un asunto de esta red es equivocarse sobre la raíz y profundidad del problema, por lo que cualquier activismo que siga de este aislamiento es fútil. La mayoría de las veces, los enfoques de asunto-único son desposados simplemente por la falta de diversidad. Puede ser difícil descubrir cómo ciertos asuntos en particular están conectados si no se tiene en cuenta con las experiencias relevantes.

Por ejemplo, históricamente, los movimientos feministas en su lucha se han centrado solamente en el aspecto de género, simplemente porque sus miembros y las mujeres a las que convirtieron en su objetivo y por las que hablaron fueron todas mujeres blancas de una clase en particular. Hasta hace poco, nunca se les había ocurrido a las organizaciones feministas convencionales que la raza y la clase sean fuerzas sociales que dan forma al género.  Aunque a las organizaciones veganas les guste comparar entre las similitudes de la explotación humana y animal, raramente lo llevan al siguiente paso lógico, concluyendo que estas similitudes tienen algo que ver con la misma estructura que apuntala estas explotaciones. La anatomía de esta estructura en la cual todas las explotaciones giran es el holismo pernicioso que existe entre todos los -ismos regresivos. Entonces, adoptar un compromiso en el camino correcto hacia el veganismo, no significa quitar tiempo, dinero y energía de otros compromisos valiosos.  Tener un compromiso con el veganismo es solo comprometerse en atacar la subyacente estructura del especismo, que está estructuralmente incrustada en todos los otros –ismos regresivos.

Como he mencionado en otro lugar, esto no es decir que el activismo vegano sea feminismo, sea activismo anti-racista, etc. Sin embargo, luchar contra la fuerza que le da forma a la explotación animal también requiere luchar contra las fuerzas sociales que le dan forma y se cruzan con tal fuerza. El género, la raza, la clase, las capacidades, la orientación sexual, etc. Este es el enfoque del asunto-múltiple o como a veces se le denomina “activismo interseccional”. Para una buena demostración de este enfoque, considera este punto que la Dra. Breeze Harper hace cuando ella argumenta que hay algo incoherente en llamar a los productos veganos “libres de crueldad” si han sido hechos por niños esclavos!

Conclusión. La moraleja de todo esto es que el ver el veganismo desde la perspectiva del individuo como una práctica que se agota a sí misma en tu ética personal es diametralmente opuesto al objetivo del veganismo, que es erradicar el mito de que los animales pertenecen a la narrativa del consumo. Puesto que las protecciones legales son las únicas cosas que podrían prevenir significativamente la explotación de seres vulnerables y puesto que el lenguaje de los derechos es el único lenguaje que puede asegurar la vulnerabilidad formal de los seres, nuestra tarea como veganos es asegurar los derechos de los animales si vamos a alcanzar nuestra meta. Las implicaciones éticas que siguen a este punto de vista son solo eso: ellas siguen la posición crítica que aumenta nuestra postura de justicia social y consecuentemente define nuestras prácticas. Necesitamos insistir que estamos involucrados primero y más que nada en el negocio de justicia social. El discurso de la moralidad meramente nos dice algo sobre nosotros– sobre nuestro carácter, sobre si nosotros somos buenos o malos. El discurso sobre los derechos nos dice algo sobre los animales– acerca de que merecen lo que aún no tienen.

 


Syl is a local activist and PhD student in philosophy in Chapel Hill, NC. She is currently working on her dissertation, which posits the “human” in the human/animal binary as a location of naturalized whiteness and in which she argues for an interpretation of the human/animal binary as racist. Syl also has secondary interests in black feminism, the history of philosophy and philosophy of animal death.