You Are What You Eat: Nonvegan Pigs and Intersectional Failure

“YOU ARE WHAT YOU EAT” warns People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals in a billboard designed for the residents of Baton Rouge, Louisiana. While audiences are unlikely to go vegan from such an approach, it does exemplify the Nonhuman Animal rights movement’s propensity to draw on human discrimination to shame compliance.

A PETA blogger writes:

Vegans weigh an average of 18 percent less than meat-eaters, and they are less prone to heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. I’d call that a good reason for Louisianans to cry “wee, wee, wee” all the way to the produce aisle.

This essay will unpack the number of ways in which mean-spirited campaigns, especially those lacking an intersectional lens, can become terribly counterproductive.

Sizeism

In a society that stigmatizes fat and a movement that is resistant to acknowledging the intersecting nature of oppressions, it is tempting to utilize fat-shaming to impose veganism as the preferable alternative as PETA has done. There are a number of problems with this tactic, however. First, scientific evidence supports that fat-shaming does not work, and it has actually been deemed a health hazard by some scholars due to its ability to inflict psychological, physical, and occupational harm to fat persons. Second, it is logically inconsistent. Many vegans weigh less, but as much as one third of plant-based eaters do not.

Speciesism

Perhaps the most paradoxical aspect of PETA’s pig campaigning is that the advertisements bank on the stigmatization of pigs in order resonate with viewers. Pigs are no more gluttonous than any other mammal, except those who have been genetically altered by modern agricultural practices. These pigs often have insatiable appetites as they have been “bred” for rapid growth to increase their market weight. Even if pigs were naturally gluttonous, however, utilizing a stereotype about Nonhuman Animals to advance Nonhuman Animal interests is logically unsound.

Classism and Racism

Louisiana is marked by extreme poverty and has a high population of people of color still reeling from a legacy of institutionalized discrimination. Louisiana was of course a slave state prior to the 1860s, but slavery continues today through the new system of mass incarceration. Louisiana is the world’s prison capital, with one in 14 men of color behind bars.  Baton Rouge ranks #4 in concentrated poverty, and ranks second to last in regards to children born prematurely and living in poverty. It is also plagued with food deserts, complicated by a substandard public transit system.  In fact, as many as 100,000 Baton Rouge citizens live in a food desert.  It’s not a matter of simply eating healthier, it’s a matter of having access to healthier options in the first place.

Given that the city PETA targets in this campaign has such a high population of people of color and lower income persons, the choice to animalize residents is also problematic. Historically, animalizing people of color and poor persons has served as a means of maintaining white superiority and class privilege. Animalization justifies institutionalized discrimination. As long as society sees Nonhuman Animals as a point of comparison to denigrate, this tactic will likely repel potential vegans rather than attract them.

Ableism

Lastly, it should be considered that regardless of body type, the consumption of animal products is linked to a litany of life threatening diseases such as those identified in PETA’s advert. These diseases hurt and kill, and mocking them with the “This Little Piggie” nursery rhyme is inappropriate. Disability is not a condition to be shamed or trivialized, especially so given its tendency to target vulnerable communities.

While this campaign is particularly confused, it certainly is not an anomaly in anti-speciesist claimsmaking. Ads like these demonstrate a serious need for diversity in movement leadership, as well as research into the effectiveness of persuasion techniques. Most importantly, there is a fundamental need to acknowledge the intersectional nature of oppression. Vulnerable human groups need not be degraded in the promotion of veganism’s message of compassion. Indeed, the tactic and goal in this case are wholly unsuited to one another.

 


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

Fifty Shades of Chicken

TRIGGER WARNING: Contains graphic descriptions of rape and violence against women and other animals.

NOT SAFE FOR WORK: Contains graphic sexual language and disturbing images of violated animals.

Roasted chicken corpse bound in twine

Vegan feminists argue that oppression is intersectional. In particular, the ways in which women are exploited and harmed are very similar to the ways in which other animals are. A shining example of this intersection is found in Fifty Shades of Chicken, a cookbook that parodies Fifty Shades of Grey (a best selling novel which glamorizes submissive sexuality and violence against women).  Fifty Shades of Chicken, a book “for chicken lovers everywhere,” takes this disturbing subject matter to another level of degradation.

Throughout the book, a chicken’s body is used to replace that of a woman, and she is referred to as “Chicken” or “Miss Hen.”  The choice of “chicken” was not accidental.  Chickens eaten by humans are almost always female.  The body parts of chickens (breasts, legs, thighs) are often applied to that of human women, and human women are often called “birds,” “chicks,” “chickens,” or “hens.”

The cookbook features several images of a muscled, shirtless man dominating a chicken’s corpse with weapons, kitchen utensils, and binding (twine). In one image he is shown sodomizing her with an upright roasting device.  In others, he is shown penetrating her with a baster and shoving cream into her bottom with his fingers.  Most of the photographs of the finished “product” show the bird’s body splayed and ravaged.  She is posed pornographically to mimic a defiled human woman.

Man in an apron firmly places a chicken's corpse onto a funnel

The chef known as “Blades” sodomizes “Miss Hen” with the “erect member” of a vertical roaster.

The recipe titles are also disturbing:

  • “Popped-Cherry Pullet”
  • “Extra-Virgin Chicken”
  • “Please Don’t Stop Chicken”
  • “Jerked Around Chicken”
  • “Mustard Spanked Chicken”
  • “Cream-Slicked Chick”
  • “Chile-Lashed Fricassee”
  • “Skewered Chicken”
  • “Steamy White Meat”
  • “Bacon Bound Wings”
  • “Dripping Thighs”
  • “Thighs Spread Wide”
  • “Chicken Thighs Stirred Up and Fried Hard”
  • “Red Cheeks”
  • “Pound Me Tender”

And my favorite:

  • “Hog-Tied and Porked Chicken”

It is a regular smorgasbord of entangled oppression, violence, sexism, and speciesism.

These recipes are inextricably representative of rape culture.  Sexualized violence is presented as normative, the female body is objectified as a passive recipient of male desire and aggression, and the obligatory obsession with virginity and female purity is highlighted.

Shirtless, heavily-muscled man prepares to bind a chicken's corpse on a cutting board

Chapter Two, “Chicken Parts and Bits,” literally reenacts the fragmentation of the female body into consumable pieces which are wholly divorced from the person they once belonged to.  This objectification erases personhood and makes exploitative consumption all the more palatable.

The recipe instructions also entail graphic violence, domination, and control:

Much pleasure and satisfaction is to be had from tying up your bird.  Not only does it show your chicken who’s boss, but a tight binding ensures the chicken cooks exactly how you want it–evenly, moist, and tender.  It also closes off the chicken’s cavity, so the juices swelling within can’t spill out, at least not until you’re ready for them.  (p. 34)

Using large, strong kitchen shears and a confident hand, forcefully cut the backbone out of the chicken; first cut along one side of the backbone, then cut along the other side until it releases, then pull it out.  Gently spread the bird open, pressing down on the breast to flatten it (see Learning the Ropes).  Massage the flesh with 1 1/2 teaspoon of salt. (p. 116)

Position the chicken’s nether parts over the vertical roaster’s erect member and thrust the bird down.  Tuck her wing tips up behind her wings, behind her body.  Tie her legs together with a piece of butcher’s twine or cooking bands […] (p. 120)

It reads like a manual for serial killing.

Several gruesome pornographic narratives were included to preface the recipes and work the reader up into a hot bother for the pleasurable consumption awaiting them.  Take this example from “Backdoor Beer-Can Chicken”:

‘Hush,’ he says.  He smile and holds up a beer can.

‘Yes, baby, have a drink, I’m sure you need it.’

‘Oh, no, this is not for me, Chicken.’  He quirks his mouth into a wicked smile.

Holy f***…Will it?  How?

I gasp as he fills me with its astonishing girth.  The feeling of fullness is overpowering.

He rests me on the grill and I can feel the entire world start to engorge.  Desire explodes in my cavity like a hand grenade. (p. 137)

Or this story from “Flattered Breasts”:

Suddenly he seizes me and lays me out on the counter, claiming me hungrily.  His fingers pull me taut, the palms of his hands grinding my soft white meat into the hard granite, trapping me.  I feel him.  His stomach growls, and my mind spins as I acknowledge his craving for me.

‘Why must you always challenge me?’ he murmurs breathlessly.

‘Because I can.’ My pulse throbs painfully.

He grabs a fistful of kosher salt.

‘I’m going to season you now.’

‘Yes.’  My voice is low and heated.

He reaches for a rolling pin, then hesitates, looking at me.

‘Yes, please, Chef,’ I moan.

The first blow of the rolling pin jolts me but leaves behind a delicious warm feeling.

‘I.  Will. Make.  You.  Mine.’  he says between blows. (p. 62)

These narratives often present the chicken’s corpse as a willing accomplice. This is quite telling, given that she was beheaded and drained of blood days before she arrived in this man’s kitchen under saran wrap. This narrative of willingness is ubiquitous in rape cases and pornography. Even girls and women who are drugged or unconscious are frequently considered “willing.” It is therefore not surprising that a decapitated corpse, in the case of Miss Hen, is depicted as consenting.

As with other females, Miss Hen’s sexuality is strictly controlled and meant only for male entitlement. The relationship of domination that makes consent an impossibility, privileges men, and leaves women and Nonhuman Animals in a position of subservience is obscured.  Instead this chicken is “free-range,” implying that she has a choice in the matter.

What is worse, these actions are supposedly done out of “love” and for her pleasure.  It is not enough that women and Nonhuman Animals submit to male superiority, they must also be seen as enjoying their subjugation.  If the consumer was made aware of the immense suffering that lies beneath the surface of pornography, prostitution, exotic dancing, dairy, “meat,” “leather,” zoos, horse racing etc., the pleasure of that consumption would be challenged.  Previously unexamined oppression would come to light. What a buzz kill.

This book takes the male fantasy of ultimate control over a humiliated, submissive woman to its full fruition.  Men cannot legally coerce women into obliging sex slaves through force and fear.  They cannot legally fragment women into their body parts, strip them of their identity and self-efficacy, or pulverize and consume their bodies for sexual gratification (though more men than we like to admit do).  However, men can have the next best thing–they can humiliate, torture, dismember, and objectify a female Nonhuman Animal for pleasure. He can molest her, sodomize her, rape her, bind her, break her, “pork” her, and “slick” her with cream to the point of physical arousal and salivation.

Whether the victim is human or nonhuman, the script is the same. Control over the vulnerable is sexualized; domination and power is hot stuff.  And it’s completely legal, with full support from a patriarchal society.

He continues to fondle my liver with his fingertips until I can’t stand it.

He gently places my quivering offal into a skillet where some softened onions are waiting for me.  Holy f****** s***…we’re cooking in the middle of a party?  Everyone’s mingling and chatting, but I am not paying attention.  He stirs my insides with a deft wooden spoon, around and around [ . . . ] (p. 103)

As traumatizing as this book is on its own, what is perhaps most upsetting is the complete lack of criticism from the general public. The book racks up rave reviews by Amazon users who are beside themselves with laughter, folks who can’t get over just how darn clever this book is.  Violence against women and Nonhuman Animals is often trivialized, masked by humor, downplayed, and made more or less invisible…but surely, the triggering offensiveness of this book could not be ignored?  Not so. At the time of this writing, Fifty Shades of Chicken enjoys a whopping 5 out of 5 stars on Amazon.

The message could not be clearer:

Women=Nonhuman Animals=Sexualized=Dominated=Meat=Objects of Pleasurable Consumption

and

Nonhuman Animals=Feminized=Sexualized=Dominated=Meat=Objects of Pleasurable Consumption

. . . and apparently this is a hoot.

 


This essay was based on the work of vegan feminist Carol Adams.  For more information, check our her comments on Fifty Shades of Chicken posted on her blog.  See also the book’s promotional video on YouTube depicting a bird’s corpse being bound and cooked by an imposing looking  man accompanied by music and narration intended to convince the audience that the assault is “sexy.”

An adaption of this essay was published in 2013 in Relations: Beyond Anthropocentrism 2 (1): 135-139.

You can read more about intersections of sexism and speciesism 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

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.

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.

Why Are White People Outraged Over Cecil The Lion but Not about Sandra Bland?

By Michele Kaplan

TRIGGER WARNING: The following article contains discussion of racism and police violence.

Author’s Note: This article is not suggesting that every white person is outraged over Cecil (let alone outraged over Cecil and not Sandra Bland). This article is also not suggesting that there aren’t any people of color who are outraged over the death of Cecil. However this question was asked by many people on the internet, and so thus the title, and thus the following is my two cents. 

Sandra Bland

Every time there is a trending topic, you can pretty much expect the following to happen. There will be a large amount of blog posts written about it. Some from the heart and some because people see an opportunity to bring more attention to their blog. Then, if the topic is trending long enough, there is the “inevitable” backlash.

Gorilla

You may or may not recall #Shabani, the “heartthrob Gorilla”, who was trending not too long ago but for a very brief period of time. So brief that there simply wasn’t enough time for a backlash to occur.

Sometimes the backlash is a reaction to a system that pins various groups against each other. A system that promotes the idea that there isn’t enough to go around, so you better get yours before your neighbor gets theirs. How often has there been situations where the powers that be say “Hey, specific oppressed demographic, you want your civil rights? We’ll give it to you, but it’ll be on the backs of these groups.”  (As if that was the only option. As if that was your best bet.) So, instead of intersectional activism (or realizing that all forms of oppression are actually connected and that we are far more powerful united, then we could ever be divided), it promotes Single Issue Activism, where every group is separately scrambling to be heard and to make progress.

For some groups, there is so much injustice against them, that they are on the constant verge of nearly drowning in it, and don’t even have the energy to then take on other causes than their own. The system loves this, because when the powers that be can keep us exhausted, the system can remain status quo.

The internet and the existence of trending topics is a prime example of that. Whenever there is a trending topic, other groups who perhaps do not feel heard, who are not getting the justice they deserve, see another cause in the spotlight and may start to feel angry or even bitter. Why are they getting all this attention but not my (worthy and valid) cause?! Some may start to panic that this will take away attention from their recent state of trending. Not because they are greedy for the spotlight, but they are validly desperate and know that the internet has a really bad habit of taking on a trending topic, utterly immersing themselves in it to the point of exhaustion, and then they move on. And if you’re aren’t directly impacted by a particular situation (like what’s going on in Palestine as one of many examples) then you have the luxury of moving on to the next trending outrage du jour.

Lion

Cecil, The Lion has been the latest trending topic that people are livid about, and like clockwork the backlash has started. However, there has been one legitimate question that is going around, that I would like to address.

Why Are White People Outraged Over Cecil The Lion But Not About Sandra Bland?  

And of course as a white person, I can not (and will not) say that I speak for all white people (seriously white bloggers, please stop saying that you do), and I certainly haven’t done an official survey by any means amongst all Caucasians, but as an animal rights activist and ally to the #BlackLivesMatter campaign, I do have some theories. Keep in mind, this is no way a comprehensive list and not necessarily in any order of importance.

1.) Because Racism. Let’s just get this one out of the way. The one we all knew existed. Some white people are livid about the death of Cecil, The Lion but do not give a crap about Sandra Bland (or any other innocent person of color who was physically harmed and/or murdered by the police.) because they are racist.

(On a side but related note, please refrain from using the hashtag #AllLivesMatter for Cecil. This is pissing some people off and rightfully so.)

Meme of Cecil the lion juxtaposed with a pig in a factory farm, both read, "I am Cecil"

The hashtag #IAmCecil and #CecilTheLion are popular pro Cecil hashtags that does not co-opt the #BlackLivesMatter hashtag nor does it have racist connotations like #AllLivesMatters. Image from TheirTurn.net

Having said that, here’s where it gets a bit more complicated.

2.) It’s A lot Easier To Get Pissed At That Hunter, Than It Is To Tackle Systemic Racism. It seems like this country can’t go a week without another innocent person of color being physically assaulted and/or murdered by the police. At times it’s just too much and a person may want to avoid (or at least take breaks) from the topic, because it’s so heartbreaking to see so much injustice (one after the other) and typically without legal consequence. I can’t even imagine what it’s like for people of color (particularly parents) to be inundated with bad news after bad news on a daily basis that directly and deeply impacts them on a very dangerous level.

That being said, sometimes humans (even though they care) start to shutdown and go numb in response to a mind blowing amount of injustice. Sometimes (especially if they aren’t aware of the importance of self care), people burn out and feel helpless in creating change for a particular cause. And then along comes Cecil, The Lion. So Cute and friendly. Plus he’s endangered! And he was killed how?!

Picketing outside the home of Cecil's killer. One sign reads, "KILLER"

And while said police brutality related deaths are often met with little consequence, Time Magazine recently reported that the government has introduced The CECIL Act which aims to “curb trophy hunters.” A baby step in the right direction, but progress nonetheless. The people have spoken and the government reacted in a pretty timely manner. With Cecil, people can be outraged and have way quicker results (at least addressing the immediate issue. The root of the problem? Meh. The nation is not as interested.) There’s no “Yeah, but what about Lion on Lion crime” or victim blaming, thus making the mainstream conversation really really easy. “Hey are you pissed off as to what happened to that lion?” “Yes!” “Great, me too!” “Let’s discuss and bond over our outrage” Done.

3.) The Hypocrisy Factor One thing that animal rights activists deal with (at least the ones who advocate for all animals, not just the Cecils and Shamus of the world) is the fact that our society is highly hypocritical when it comes to our compassion for animals. People are so pissed off at this hunter who murdered Cecil, to the point where some have adopted a mob mentality and are calling for harm to the hunter. They will frequently post about it, as they eat their chicken with bacon and cheese sandwiches and type with great fury while wearing their leather boots.

Piglet leaning on tiny guitar

“I will now play you the song of my people. It’s called “I don’t want to be your sandwich, dammit” off my latest CD “No Animal Wants To Die”

Meanwhile, this idea of selective compassion for animals is considered totally normal in our society, but for the animal rights activist, the hypocrisy can be frustrating as all hell, and this frustration often results in this particular issue becoming their main focus.

“But, question: how can people make an animal and not another human being their main focus?” This naturally is a touchy subject (and probably an article in itself) especially considering that historically humans have compared other humans saying they’re “like animals” (and thus inferior) in order to justify oppressing the living crap out of them. However, it should be noted (like all false ideas of superiority) that just because one group decides and declares themselves superior, it doesn’t mean that it’s true. That is why many animal rights activists reject the concept of speciesism (the idea that one species is by default superior over other species and thus it’s okay to oppress them), and go with the idea that we are all animals (which is actually scientifically accurate).

But why would an intersectional animal rights activist (who advocates not just for the non-human animals, but for the human ones as well) make Cecil their focus?

(See #4)

Window open to a blue sky

4.) The Small Window Of Opportunity. Even with the success and popularity of such films as Blackfish (which made a huge dent in Seaworld’s profits and challenged the way our society views certain animals), a conversation about animal rights (outside of the animal rights movement) is just not that common. Even more rare is when it involves “livestock” aka: the animals we have deemed as nothing more than “food”. We were raised to save the dolphins but eat the tuna. Cats are family but pigs are bacon. Thus when a situation like Cecil comes along, where an animal rights topic is actually trending? Small window of opportunity! (echo echo echo).

People knew when the news of Cecil’s death came out, that the animal rights community would speak out, but most animal rights activists did not predict people who normally do not take much interest in animal rights, to react with such outrage. This is a potential opportunity to expand the conversation, and deal with not just Cecil’s death but the root problem of speciesism. This could be the opportunity to show people that as long as any animal can be killed in the name of pleasure (whether it’s the “pleasure” of hunting or the “pleasure” of bacon), no animal (including Cecil) will be safe. Opportunities like this do not come very often and because any at moment in time, another topic could come up and wipe out Cecil’s popularity, soon to be forgotten, we must focus on this topic and give it the most attention on our social media accounts. What if people post about something else and that distracts people from this issue? People feel they must seize the opportunity before it passes (because it will.)

Like I said. Sometimes people are focusing on Cecil, The Lion and not horrific situations like Sandra Bland because they are flat out racist, and that’s all there is to it (and there’s no excuse for it.) But sometimes it’s a reaction to a system that has all of us desperately scrambling to be heard, and sometimes at the expense of hearing each other.

Bear

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.

On Intersectionality in Feminism and Veganism

Akilah holding a piece of pizza

 

By Aph Ko

 

Dear Akilah,

I hesitated to write this open letter because frankly I think open letters can be corny and self-serving. However, after watching your intersectionality pizza video, I sincerely wanted to reach out to you to open up a conversation about a topic that is usually over-looked, or teased within mainstream feminist spaces: non-human animal rights. As a young black vegan feminist, I feel like I might be able to offer a different perspective on intersectionality, taking into account non-human animal bodies. I would urge you to at least consider checking out black vegan feminist literature in hopes that it might offer something new to your articulation of feminism and intersectional activism.

As a fan of your work, I must say that my goal is not to be a hyper-critical asshole because I am very much aware of how much courage goes into putting your thoughts out there, especially through digital media and vlogging. In this letter, I hope to build on what you’re saying in your intersectional video.

First of all, I thought your video was pretty clever. I am constantly in awe of feminists who diligently attempt to explain how oppression operates to people who might not have the language to completely grasp it. So, kudos to you for taking the time to even focus on intersectionality.

However, I must say that intersectionality too often has been co-opted as a tool to explain oppression to white people, instead of being a tool for minoritized people to understand their social locations and to develop methods to navigate it. So, I’m going to take a slightly different approach to intersectionality.

Trust me—I understand the connections you make in your video. My main contention is with the props and metaphors you used to bolster your thoughts about intersectionality because I think they matter immensely.

Your use of cheese pizza, sausage, and burgers [to explain intersectionality] demonstrates how difficult it can be, even when you’re a feminist, to see how ingrained oppressive hierarchies are.

My goal here is to perhaps start a necessary conversation about the bodies we include in our discussion about intersectionality, as well as the bodies that are routinely excluded [that need to be included].

Your video demonstrates that despite the fact that “intersectionality” is one of the trendiest words in our generation, our social justice movements are still largely compartmentalized, which makes it possible for really awesome anti-racist, intersectional feminists to completely disregard non-human animal rights.

Species Intersectionality

The position that non-human animals occupy in our cultural imagination is proof for how easy it is to accept the lower status of some beings without even a second thought. I would assume that this should be concerning to you, especially since feminism is all about fighting for the rights of the minoritized and powerless.

Please understand this—incorporating animal bodies into your activism isn’t a distraction from anti-racism or sexism—it’s an extension of the conversation because in reality we’re not just talking about racism or sexism, we’re talking about white supremacy and patriarchy. We’re talking about capitalism and other discriminatory systems of domination that operate off of exploitation. Therefore, although our bodies might look different, we must all come together, not to show how we’re similar, but to demonstrate how these systems negatively impact us all.

So many people shout that animal rights is a distraction from feminism and anti-racism…that animal rights “DERAILS” the conversation and to me, it sounds like people have absolutely no idea what the conversation is really about.

Dr. A. Breeze Harper [a prominent kick-ass black vegan feminist and creator of the Sistah Vegan Project] states:

“I simply cannot look at food as an ‘everyday mundane object.’ I understand the meanings applied to food as something that represents an entire culture’s ideologies around everything. For example, food can tell me a society’s expectations about sexuality, gender roles, racial hierarchies of power and ability.”

Our automatic cultural reflex to say “Well, they’re animals, who cares” demonstrates just how deep the roots of injustice run. You can look at the comment sections for some platforms that shared your video: people kept reciting the same scripts like they were on autopilot. People kept saying how they were “hungry” and wanted to go eat hamburgers and cheese pizzas. Many folks in the comments section didn’t seem to challenge themselves or even problematize their behaviors: they seemed comfortable which is generally a sign that their principles are not being challenged. As activists, we shouldn’t appeal to people’s comfort.  Despite the fact that people made the connections you wanted them to make, particularly to race and gender, I thought it was a missed opportunity to politicize non-human animal bodies.

Akilah-2

Oftentimes, when we talk about animal bodies, people get defensive because they don’t want to be “compared” to animals. [Most of us black feminists know the history of black people specifically being compared to apes and monkeys—you can think about the recent Michelle Obama incident] Again-the goal isn’t to “compare” us to non-human animals, it’s to show that the systems that rape and slaughter non-human animals benefit from the systems that exploit us.

The fact that being called an “animal” is even an insult speaks to the ways that animals-as-less-than has already been naturalized in our culture.

This is actually called speciesism. Speciesism is when humans deem themselves the most important and valuable species which allows them to give no moral consideration to other species. Because of this, humans are allowed to do whatever they want to other species Again—it’s another hierarchy socially constructed to explain away the exploitation of another group of sentient beings.

Speciesism isn’t *like* racism or sexism. I’m not here to make crappy analogies to already existing systems of oppression. It is its own brand of oppression that often intersects with systems that intimately minoritize us.

It’s unfair that certain bodies are automatically coded as “less than” and certain bodies are automatically coded as “superior.” We live in a white supremacist patriarchy where white, middle class, able-bodied men are the standard, and everyone else is less-than. Because of this unquestioned, rigged framework, many bodies exist in systems that thrive off of their oppression and exploitation. This is where feminists and social justice activists must intervene.

We can’t reproduce this same logic in our own circles, especially as feminists. To disregard the oppression of other bodies reproduces a Patricia Arquette-type of analysis.

We can’t have activists shout about intersectionality, only to get quiet when it comes to the actual connection-making part of it.

To use cheese, sausage, and hamburgers to “explain” how human oppression operates is nothing short of ironic.

Non-human animal bodies are exploited to such an extent that they are stripped of any type of subjectivity—they exist for us which makes it possible for you to disregard their structural exploitation in a video about oppression. You used meat products as de-contexualized props to talk about humans which made the analysis ironic for those of us who practice veganism and politicize the ways that non-human animal bodies are arbitrarily designated as less-than.

The problem with your video is that it didn’t make people question the structural abuse of animal bodies—or the fact that animal bodies are things for our use and consumption. If anything, your video supported the myth that non-human animal bodies are to be used for human consumption and entertainment. You inadvertently employed speciesism in a video about intersectionality which is kind of anti-intersectional.

Just replacing the meat pizza with a vegan pizza won’t do the trick either because veganism isn’t the cure-all to oppression, although it would have been an improvement. Veganism without politicization will only yield de-contexualized diets. It would have been powerful if you used a vegan product and included non-human animal bodies in your analysis.

We must actively politicize the abuse animals experience as well as the systems that benefit from it. In fact, in studying food politics, it becomes evident how all of these oppressive systems collide, and strategically impact poor folks of color. It’s no secret at this point that the meat and dairy industry in the U.S. exploits the hell out of its brown workers. [Even in some produce industries, this is a problem too which deserves its own post!] Folks of color also disproportionately live in food deserts saturated with unhealthy animal products.

We must seriously consider non-human animals in our intersectional analyses as feminists. We can’t have liberation when people “don’t care” about the exploitation of an extremely vulnerable group of beings.

When you make a video about intersectionality and oppression, and people want to eat hamburgers in response, you know they missed the point.

Sure—to your credit, your video wasn’t specifically about animal abuse. I got that—but your video was about how we can better understand the oppression of bodies that don’t look like our own and how we can build better social justice movements that can accommodate bodies that are routinely excluded from the mainstream social justice narratives.

Non-human animals *must* be a part of this conversation, but not as props to help bolster your other points about humans.

The fact that people even get upset when animals are brought up in feminist discussions is because there’s an inherent anxiety surrounding animal bodies. We don’t have a good argument for abusing animals or eating them. People generally bring up “other” cultures that can’t go vegan, or don’t have the privilege of caring about animal rights—but many of us live in a culture or geographical space where we *can* care and change our behaviors—and those are the folks that I focus on.

People are terrified to talk about non-human animal abuse because it reveals how contradictory our moral compasses are. When we don’t politicize animal suffering in our movements, we merely have people who are committed to social justice-so long as they are at the center of the analysis. This type of set-up can’t yield intersectional movements.

One of the most noticeable tenets of white feminism is the inability to understand how oppressions connect—therefore, some white feminists routinely exclude other bodies from their analyses [cue Arquette]. We shouldn’t use this as a template for our own activism.

So, overall, thank you for making a video and opening up another dialogue about the importance of intersectionality in our social justice movements, however, I would sincerely urge you to check out some material that incorporates vegan feminism. In fact, there’s a conference next week from the Sistah Vegan Project. It’s called “The Sistah Vegan Conference: The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter.”

I hope we can engage in a dialogue about the different bodies we talk about when we discuss intersectionality. I would like to highlight a quote that you said in your own video:

“I think it’s time we talk about feminism a little differently/more inclusively…”

I 100% agree. Understanding intersectionality isn’t about becoming a more “perfect” activist, it’s simply about understanding oppression a little bit better which is something that I think we can all be better at, myself included.

Thanks!

~Aph

 

This post originally appeared on Striving with Systems on April 16, 2015.

Aph Ko is a freelance writer and creator of the web series Black Feminist Blogger. You can check out a recent interview with her here: “Creating Revolution: Interview with Aph Ko.”