Rape & Slaughter: Empirical Correlations

Slaughterhouses and rape

I had the pleasure of presenting at the American Sociological Conference last August in San Francisco with a panel of several talented female scholars in the field of Animals & Society.  One such presentation, that of Racine Jacques, a Ph.D. student at the University of Central Florida, especially caught my attention because of its implications for vegan feminist theory.  Ms. Jacques had discovered a very strong relationship between rape and the presence of “beef” slaughterhouses in the community.  This relationship remained strong even when controlling for a number of other variables typically responsible for increases in crime rates.  She reports that the presence of a slaughterhouse corresponds with a 166% increase in arrests for rape.  Her study looks at other forms of crime, but rape stands out as especially significant.

Racine Jacques

Racine Jacques

This study partially confirms what vegan feminist scholars have been theorizing for some decades:  Violence against women and violence against animals are closely entangled and likely aggravated by patriarchal rule and capitalist economics.  In a society where the bodies of women and other animals are considered commodities and resources for the privileged, it should come as no surprise to find intersections of violence.

Ms. Racine’s study, “Social Disorganization in Slaughterhouse Communities,” is due to be published in an upcoming issue of Society & Animals.  A more nuanced discussion of the race and class oppression felt by the slaughterhouse workers themselves is included in her analysis.

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

The Patriarchal Orientation of Sex, Race, Economic and Human/Nonhuman Classes

By marv wheale 


Neither capital nor labor tend to consider women as a sex class beneath men.  Both economic classes are prone to treat sexual relations as private, naturalist, voluntaristic, thereby not collectively antagonistic.  Sexual equality is generally perceived as almost a given by men and women of the lower and middle economic classes.  They acknowledge some irrational differences that manifest because of poverty and cultural discrimination.  Racism is frequently explained along the same lines.   Celebrating diversity and commonality  are deemed as the answers to sex and race prejudice.  Full gender and race equality will be achieved in an economic classless society, they think.  So sex and race relations are subsumed into the class struggle and defined in primarily economic terms.  At the same time men and women in the capitalist class are mostly white at least in developed nations.  They often admit that women, especially women of color and of aboriginal descent (minority men as well) do not have equal economic power to white men but this will be resolved over time with more awareness, education and acceptance of differences.   These elite, not unlike their subordinate classes, are resistant to the idea that there is a systemic sex and race division of power inside and outside the marketplace and the state.

In fact the sexes and races are classes too.  Anyone who understands social classes knows that they refer to power inequalities not bigotry.  Male dominance is a sex class.  It signifies the political forms men’s power has taken over time:  the sexual allocation of childcare and labour, pornography, sexual harassment, stripping, burlesque, beauty practices, rape,  prostitution, battering, obligatory heterosexuality, homophobia,  transphobia, the state, capitalism, colonization, the military, etc.  Women assimilate into these constructs.  They did not determine them.  Hence male supremacy is institutional sexism not a natural or solely individual phenomenon.   In terms of race class, it was white men in Europe, Australia and North America who organized  the government, economy, servitude of  men and women of colour, segregation and the occupation of indigenous lands – all illustrations of institutional racism.

As a correlation think about capitalism.  Capitalists and workers do not have the same power to dictate each other’s lives.  It would be ludicrous to believe that capital is not dominant over labour and that mistrust and intolerance are the causes of the ill feelings towards each other.  To see the enmity in economic class divisions as a result of reciprocal misunderstandings would be an obscene misrepresentation of reality.   Capitalist rule is institutional economic classism.   Mutual respect, dialogue and compromise are not the solutions here to power and powerlessness;  abolition is, at the system design level.

Big fish eating smaller fish eating smaller fish; meant to represent capitalism

Many millennia ago males constructed masculinity thereby creating femininity out  of females, causing the rise of the sex class hierarchy.   When women  were privatized and isolated into pair bonding/marriage it obscured their sex class status and the systemic violence towards them.  Conjugality kept them divided against themselves by publicly declaring their primary identification as spouse/wife.  Women’s lower economic status is shrouded as well when they marry men because men generally have more wealth.  What’s more, women mediate economic class relations between men  when they marry across (and within) class lines.  Women serve to ease monetary and race class hostility by having men of different classes bond across women’s bodies providing political stability and legitimacy to the whole class system.

Woman and man holding signs that read "marriage equals" with a figure of a man and a woman

As noted by Cheryl Abbate the ascendancy of the male gender is obvious on the basis of aggression alone:  The idea that masculinity is responsible for violence, including sexual assault, is rarely disputed.   As Kilmartin points out, the vast majority of violent acts are committed by males, leading us to conclude that there is a high correlation between masculinity and aggression (Kilmartin 1994, 211).   According to the FBI (2011), approximately 90% of violent crimes in the United States are committed by men.”

Male dominance exists cross culturally in common and particular local forms too.  Women are inferior everywhere in terms of the gendered/sex lines of power.  Trouble is, the partitioning is usually defined as the biological sex differences by men (and many women) concealing its sexual politics.  When the Left admits that austerity measures and poverty affect women, First Nations and people of colour more than white men, it seems to be aware of the centrality of white male privilege;  but the Left doesn’t honestly face the universal historicity of patriarchy, preceding and following primitive accumulation.

Since all the world is a structural stage and the central element is patriarchy, gender conditions our choices in sexual relations in conjunction with capitalism in economic relations.   No one purely chooses heterosexuality no matter how much consent there is because the assent is shaped by inequality.  Heteronormativity under male imperialism is (man)datory whether it be monogamy, sexual harassment, pornography, prostitution or polyandrous relations.    As mentioned earlier, in western countries male monopoly is integrated with white supremacy as the public setting for people of color.  The difference is that many progressives suppose race classes should be undone while the majority uphold masculinity and femininity as innate.  They only want femininity to be as socially valued  and empowering as masculinity.  Liberal feminists take this viewpoint that sex work, cosmetics, BDSM, marriage and housework can be liberating.

Woman at SlutWalk protest holding sign that reads "Is it legal to eat me if I wear bacon?"

The following rhetorical questions should resonate with socialists and feminists alike :  Do workers meaningfully choose their type of work or place of work?  Have women played an equal part with men in conceiving and building the major institutions of society?  If working conditions improve would oppression disappear? If women are granted greater legal protection from male violence does their exploitation vanish?   If you have satisfying and high paying work, does that imply your work is not exploited? If a woman has high status in society by male standards does that mean she isn’t discriminated against or sexually objectified?   As feminist scholar Catharine Mackinnon once said, is “a good fuck…any compensation for getting fucked?”   I hope we all have honest answers to these questions.  Apply race to these queries, which we must, and you will have another layer of subordination alongside and below white women.  Add colonization, sexual orientation, age, disability, body shape and biosphere debasement to the equation, and more intertwining injustices come to light.


Women and Nonhuman Animals

Capitalists, socialists and anarchists have other conceptual barriers linked to male hegemony:  an aversion to regarding nonhuman animals as a subjected class.   Moreover these speciesist androcentrists dismiss women’s rank in interrelationship to animals’ position.   The comparative mirror reveals the oppressions are not the same: women aren’t eaten and animals aren’t usually men’s sexual fetishes, for examples.   Nonetheless there are numerous similarities.  Dog and pony shows are analogous to beauty pageants and runway modelling.Hypermuscular man is binding the corpse of a chicken   Animals are imprisoned and assaulted in our homes, corrals, barns, laboratories, rodeos, horse races, circuses, zoos, aquariums and fight rings.  Women are detained and abused in prostitution, brothels, rape camps, strip clubs, peep shows and in their homes.  It is men who typically control these forms of enslavement of women and animals.  Domesticated animals are cooked and photographed in sexual postures as the pornography of meat.  Women are sexually depersonalized in and by pornography.   Harassment is common to either group.   Animals and women are most frequently killed by men, and some women have been slaughtered, eviscerated and dismembered like animals by men.  In addition, societal assumptions in general that animals “exist” for human welfare should not sound totally different from women’s experiences under male expectations.  Even the therapeutic role animals and women play correlate.   Most people live their entire lives without learning of the barbarity that occurs behind the closed doors of brothels, pornography studios, massage parlours, sex trafficking, strip clubs and private dwellings on the one hand, and slaughterhouses, vivisection labs, animal entertainment industries, animal traffickers, product-testing facilities, factory farms and households on the other.  The business of exploiting women and animals for pleasure, convenience, amusement, taste and moneymaking is intentionally well hidden.   Disclosure would undermine the power and profit of male capitalist and socialist enterprises.   Men must have their sex and steak at all costs.

Men walking through red light district with women's bodies in the windows

The truth of the interrelationship of patriarchy, capitalism and speciesism is revealed by vegan feminists who believe it is crucial not to conflate them in ways that are fanciful and offensive to women or untrue of animals.   When relating the rape of women and farmed animals for instance, Corey Lee Wrenn  calls for respect: “Knowing that about 1 in 3 women have or will be raped, I find it extremely inappropriate to utilize rape imagery to promote veganism.  First off, our primary audience is women.  If 80% of the movement is women, and 1 in 3 women are rape victims, that means that more than 27% of our movement (or more than 1 in 4 activists) are likely to have been the victim of rape.  Any rape victim can tell  you, seeing images of rape or reading graphic descriptions is extremely triggering.  It is also revictimizing when it is made obvious that our community doesn’t care enough about our safety to avoid using our experiences for animal rights claims on our behalf.”   A discerning approach is always necessary to examine these oppressions together and separately.


Transforming Cognizance

Vegan feminists unmask and demystify our personal identities.  Part of seeing through the identity fog means admitting the delusions we took for granted, the “habitual patterns” –  the assigned gender hierarchies of masculinity and femininity, human species superiority and capital control –  reinforced through millions and millions of moments of social learning.  Before “awakening” we thought  it wasn’t possible for things to be any other way as if these tendencies were an unchanging part of human nature (coming from the stork or written in the stars).  These assumptions easily perpetuated themselves because they are some of the most unquestioned beliefs we have.  As we begin to grow in consciousness and apprehend the alternatives to the prison of gender roles, non-human animal inferiority and labour submission, we become unstuck from oppressive attitudes.  Declaring a primary loyalty to women’s or animals’ or workers’ liberation is now regarded as a misconceived notion.  They are different, interrelated and of equal value.  There is no complete separation among them when each is understood as they actually exist in the context of patriarchal systems and rules.

All this illustrates the extraordinary power and influence of male ideologies over our consciousness, unconsciousness and societal institutions. They render dissenting views like the abolition of pornstitution,  animal products and capitalism as absurd and unintelligible – it has always been this way so it must be this way.  Overcoming the suppression of freedom of expression by male dogma is daunting but achievable.   Promoting veganism is an essential though utterly deficient way forward.   Political engagement in women’s, people of colour’s, workers’ and other species’ emancipation from  patriarchal organizational injustice is the ultimate solution.    Single issue approaches focusing on higher status animals as in dogs, cats, bears, whales, dolphins, sharks, elephants, tigers, gorillas, etc., does not constitute a serious engagement with comprehensive structural violence when they omit contextual analyses and strategies.


Feminism, Anti-Capitalism and Anti-Specieisism

That deep feminism is the missing underpinning of anti-speciesist socialist/left/anarchist analyses is another point of this reflection.   Some pro-animal revolutionaries from these traditions agree that all oppressions including sexism are entangled.     However they are reluctant to admit that men, often white males, have dominated the top tiers of monarchial, feudalist, religious, slavery, animal industry, state, military, capitalist, colonialist, family and pornstitution systems.   The animalist left typically denies that the male sex class could well be the enveloping power of all social hierarchies throughout (his)tory. Patriarchy was never unvarying. It evolved in various ways depending on how societies were organized within the hierarchies of men of which women and animals had little decision making power. It would be more factual therefore to resolve other class struggles within the broader sex class struggle.   Male supremacy should be emphasized as the first among equal subjections rather than one structure among many.  Opting for an “interlocking equal oppressions method” has the effect of minimizing foundational sources and influences even though women oppress animals, women capitalists have power over their workers and white women as a group have advantages over people of colour.

How can we devise appropriate strategies to change the world if we don’t  analyze it accurately?


Note: Few of the ideas in this post originate with me.  The principal ones stem from feminists like Cheryl Abbate and Corey Lee Wrenn  who have taught me how to think rationally, critically and inclusively,  something my non-feminist teachers failed to do. 


Speaking of Logical Fallacies…A Response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

– Corey Lee Wrenn

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

The New Frontier of Rape Porn in Animal Rights

Trigger Warning: Graphic descriptions of rape and violence against women.

On a public walkway, women are gathered around.  One woman cradles her baby. Suddenly a gang of men dressed in black with ski masks grab her. They pull her child away, place the baby in a crate, and she screams and cries for her child. The assailants rip open her blouse, exposing her breasts. She is beaten, pulled by the hair, and a man forcibly clamps a breast pump to her nipple. She screams in agony, blood pours from her breast. When they are finished milking her, they beat her about the head, tie a lead to her neck, and drag her to a waiting van, where she is dumped inside.

Screaming woman holding a baby surrounded by men in black ski masks

This assault (what Nonhuman Animal rights organization 269 Life describes as a “performance”) is currently hosted on Youtube (not linked to here because it basically amounts to rape porn). As of this writing, it has over 36,000 views. The top comments are:

Stop it boner!


Nice tits!

One commenter requested they go further and actually rape, maim, kill, dismember, and cannibalize her:

LOL! Great! Keep doing this so people can see how radical vegans really are. Why stop at branding and milking? Seems kinda wimpy to not go all the way. C’mon, 269, you can do better than this. Let’s see impregnation! Spaying! Neutering! Euthanasia! How about butchering! Fire up the grill along side the branding iron. A video of you radical vegans chomping on some human steaks would really prove how sincere you are about animals being equal to humans.

But 269 Life reassures us that the message we should be gleaning is that dairy consumption is immoral and exploitative.  Really? Because all I got from watching this video was sick to my stomach, fearful for my life, and flash backs to my own experience with rape and male violence. As for the male viewers, they were apparently turned on and hungry for more.

Dairy farmers do not dress in black with ski masks and dump their victims in vans, the stereotypical rapist does that.  269 Life uses the language of human female rape and murder to tell a story about cow rape and murder.  While there are certainly similarities, 269 Life has botched this job big time.  By the way, the infant used in the rape demonstration was real.  Exposing a baby to this violence, staged or not, qualifies as child abuse.

Incidentally, this group also hosted another street demonstration where three white men were chained and branded with a hot iron.  As with the white woman who was forcibly separated from her child and beaten by her owners, these branded men in chains draw on a history of human slavery.  There’s something disturbing about white skinned activists from a mostly white organization reenacting a history of racial oppression while simultaneously failing to acknowledge it in their narrative.

Man with chain around his neck and a brand on his arm lays on the ground.

In another street demonstration, this time against foie gras (the diseased livers of ducks who are force fed sometimes to the point that their esophagus or stomach ruptures before they are even slaughtered), a male activist forcibly holds down the head of a young woman. Her face shows terror, his shows violent determination. Her hands are bound and a feeding tube is forced into her mouth.  The imagery is, not by coincidence, drawing on the popularity of “gagging” gonzo porn.  Watching a woman gag on a penis, or feeding tube, whichever, is supposed to be sexy . . . especially if she is hurting and humiliated.

Woman in a PETA protest on her knees with her hands tied behind her back, looks scared and in pain, a man is pushing her head down and forcing a feeding tube down her throat

In another demonstration by the Vancouver Orphan Kitten Rescue Association, a parade float that is intended to “raise awareness” for homeless kittens is one big mobile strip joint. Nearly naked women writhe and flip on stripper poles down the street. Somewhere in the crowd of nearly naked women, you can make out a sign that pictures a kitten in need. One commenter writes: “Nice pussies.”

Parade float with many women in underwear and lingerie dancing on poles. A kitten adoption group.

Some third wave feminists hail stripping as “empowering,” but for less privileged women who live the reality of sex work, there is nothing glamorous or liberating about stripping at all.  The profession has extraordinarily high rates of sexual assault, rape, and pimping.

Animal rights activism draws on very real violence against women, children, and people of color, aggravating it, normalizing it, and sexualizing it.  It’s clear from the public reaction, their intention to help Nonhuman Animals is getting completely obscured.  Instead of alleviating violence and suffering, they aggravate it.


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

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