Vegans of Color

Because we don’t have the luxury of being single-issue

A Few Links: Black Veg*ns; PETA’s Race Problem (Again) July 4, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 7:40 pm
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Blackvegetarians.org has an interview up with Kristin Candour & Tashee Meadows, founders of a group called Justice for All Species, a group “of people of color with the mission of providing resources to communities of color to promote a vegetarian diet and a harmonious relationship with humans, fellow species and the earth we share.”

Both Candour & Meadows find useful the comparison of nonhuman animal exploitation with slavery, something I am not comfortable with; Meadows did add an interesting comment on the issue:

However, I am concerned about who is not being compared to animals. When the comparisons made by animal rights groups focus solely on communities that have been “treated like animals,” read Blacks, Women and Jews, the chance of white men, often the architects of such systems, being compared to other species is rare. This leaves them in a class unto themselves, and may unwittingly reinforce an existing hierarchy of oppression.

Dani at The Vegan Ideal gives us thoughts on PETA’s targeting of people of color street vendors in LA, written about here. Dani highlights an important point:

In a society built on white supremacy and capitalism, people of color, especially those who work on the street, make easy targets. Molyneux notes that if the PETA volunteer had harassed a rich white man, say one who owns a meat packing plant that exploits both workers and nonhuman animals, the volunteer might end up in jail. However, by targeting people of color working on the street the same volunteer has all the support of the institutional racism and classism, including the LAPD.

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9 Responses to “A Few Links: Black Veg*ns; PETA’s Race Problem (Again)”

  1. Browne Says:

    I think many people in the vegan movement have missed the whole point of veganism. To me it would seem if people are animals and animals are people then human injustice would be something you would fight for just as strongly as animal justice.

    In my own head I’m part of the earth movement. I’m going to fight for every living thing to be able to live their life to the fullest. I think about the growers of vegetables and I think about how the workers from the Honduras, Haiti and Mexico are treated. I think how big corporations fight, so that they don’t have to pay people one freakin’ penny more and I think if we can’t treat each other right how are we going to convince people to treat other species correctly?

    I think the vegan movement would go so much further if they had a human justice component, because seriously if you’re hungry are poor, thinking about such things as should I go vegetarian or vegan are very low on your priority list.

    I think if those of us who had the luxury to do so made sure that everyone had shelter, food and enough time to think that more people would treat all of the creatures of the planet with respect. I don’t like this compartmentalizing of various movements.

    Human justice and animal justice are the same.
    Racism and sexism are the same.

    There is only one movement, the earth movement, of course we all have our specialties, but I think we have to be real careful (which I think it’s alot easier to be more universal in your thinking if you’re a person of color, because you freakin’ know) in regards to movements into thinking what do we want the end result to be.

    I think PETA is short sighted. I think PETA is selfish. I think PETA forgets that everyone is rich and white and since most people in the world aren’t rich and white, ultimately their movement will fail, it’s sad, because they have the resources to be a little less narrow minded, but they choose not to, because this seems to be a freakin’ hobby for lots of people in the movement.

    Browne Molyneux

  2. PETA’s an extremely large organization. And yes, they make a lot of mistakes. But I really don’t think the actions of one individual member/ volunteer should be held against the entire organization. I’m not a PETA apologist and I do think they have some serious problems, but I also think PETA is often unfairly attacked. Given that this is the actions of ONE PERSON, it reeks of an unfair attack on PETA.

    When I was a kid I used to buy rats from the pet store in order to save them from death as snake food. I was young and ignorant, but I was trying to do the right thing. I was so ignorant, I actually made things worse by mixing the sexes and winding up with lots of baby rats to find homes for. But my heart was in the right place.

    The woman was probably of the same mindset. She was trying to help the turtles. Or… imagine this, she was just looking for a fight. Reading the description of events makes it sound more like the latter:

    http://www.downtownnews.com/articles/2008/06/30/news/news01.txt

    Moreover, your preference for people of color’s livelihoods over turtles’ lives is no better than her preference for turtles’ lives over people of color’s livelihoods. We all have our preferences and our priorities. Some are more justified than others.

    Personally, I believe there are other opportunities to make a living in LA than by selling turtles. And I think people who sell animals should receive criticism regardless of their race. Selling turtles in LA is no different than selling puppymill dogs in Vegas is no different than selling purebred dogs in Florida is no different than selling chickens in the supermarket. It’s all wrong.

    Granted, there are better and worse ways to spread the message that animals shouldn’t be property. And there are relevant circumstances to take into account. But none of that makes selling animals OK and none that excuses someone from criticism.

    By the way, PETA DOES go after the rich vivisectors by publishing their addresses and information about their activities on a regular basis: http://www.stopanimaltests.com/
    No, they try to stay clear of legal violations, but it’s inaccurate to act as though they don’t heavily target “the rich white guy” because they do.

    Side note/ not related… this link might be of interest to you:

    http://www.nytimes.com/reuters/world/international-korea-protest.html

  3. PS
    I do, however, agree with that assessment:

    “In a society built on white supremacy and capitalism, people of color, especially those who work on the street, make easy targets. Molyneux notes that if the PETA volunteer had harassed a rich white man, say one who owns a meat packing plant that exploits both workers and nonhuman animals, the volunteer might end up in jail. However, by targeting people of color working on the street the same volunteer has all the support of the institutional racism and classism, including the LAPD.”

    I’m just trying to point out that this should all be an attack on racism and discriminatory laws that harm both pro-animal people and POCs. Attacks on PETA, because the general public can’t differentiate between PETA and the rest of the pro-animal movement, tend to be attacks on all of us. Whenever someone says something nasty about PETA, they’re usually saying something nasty about all vegans and all animal advocates. PETA didn’t write or support the AETA, you know?

  4. johanna Says:

    Elaine — I am bemused at your assessment that I must prefer POC lives over the lives of turtles. My point, & that of Dani & Browne, I believe, was that working-class POCs are an easy target, & activists like the one working under PETA’s name take advantage of systemic racism & classism in choosing such targets, especially given the inevitable limit on activist time & energy. Which is vile. Given your second comment, I find it interesting that your first response did the “it’s wrong no matter what race the person is!” thing, so often followed by cries of reverse racism in many discussions.

    Re: PETA being the public face of AR — yes, & that is a problem. I am wary whenever an activist suggests that criticism of movement groups or leaders ought to be toned down or done behind closed doors because we shouldn’t air our dirty laundry (as you also implied in the Earth Balance post). Yeah, PETA is often used as a stand-in for all of AR by outsiders, but this does not require those of us in the movement to give PETA a pass, especially when PETA shows itself to be clueless about other movements & issues, as it so often does.

    Browne — To me it would seem if people are animals and animals are people then human injustice would be something you would fight for just as strongly as animal justice.

    You’d think so, huh? Sadly I see vegans all the time proving that this is just not true.

  5. [...] has all the support of the institutional racism and classism, including the LAPD.” (via Vegans of Color). (I think there are even more interesting layers to this puzzle of oppression and violence given [...]

  6. Dani Says:

    I disagree, Elaine. I think there’s ample evidence that as an organization PETA consistently works to uphold and sustain the oppressive status quo. These aren’t unintentional mistakes. For instance, PETA regularly targets workers in undercover video investigation. Then they have those workers charged under anti-cruelty laws. PETA is specifically targeting individual workers, as opposed to the systematic and organized violence against the workers and nonhuman animals.

    Researcher Dr. George Gerbner points out that most real violence and crime is organized and systematic. He writes: “Approaches that focus only on aggression and lawlessness view violence from the law enforcement point of view. Their critical edge represents media (and other) institutional interests. They distract attention from wholesale ‘official’ violence and state terrorism, from the disproportionate victimization of women and minorities, and from demographic and social conditions that are much more closely related to actual violence and crime.”

    Anti-cruelty laws define kicking or beating an animal destine for slaughter as an illegal act of cruelty. Yet these very same laws also define as legally, socially, and culturally acceptable the breeding, keeping, and slaughter of those very same animals. Again, it is the individual action of a frustrated worker and not the systematic and organized structure of wholesale official violence that PETA is choosing to focus on. PETA know that this approach will get them media attention, which seems to be the organization primary goal. And in the process PETA uphold and sustain the oppression of both humans and other animals. There is no real difference between the routine PETA investigation in labs, slaughter houses, and on hog farms, and the PETA volunteer’s investigation of street vendors.

    Also, that white activists continue to hold conferences where they complain about AETA and at the same time call for stricter anti-cruelty laws is an obvious example of white privilege.

  7. Browne Says:

    “Moreover, your preference for people of color’s livelihoods over turtles’ lives is no better than her preference for turtles’ lives over people of color’s livelihoods. We all have our preferences and our priorities. Some are more justified than others.” Elaine

    Wow! I can’t believe you just said that. I said that if you want to help animals don’t go after easy targets that get nothing done and distract the movement.

    You obviously value the rights of your class and race and gender over that of the lives of turtles and people of color.

    You don’t care about the many animals that are killed because of the marketing of pets and purses.

    White rich guys are the ones in general responsible (in American and Western Europe) for the genocide on animals for food and pets and furniture and coats and using them and people in a wasteful way if you can’t see that it’s people who are rich white (or members of the Imperial countries) who are the responsible ones for the destruction of the planet. If PETA and people like you don’t wake up and stop worrying about with random brown guy is doing it will be your fault that the animals are dead, the ice caps melt, and we’re all dead.

    IF PETA doesn’t want to be associated with this woman, they should denounce her publicly. Downtown LA’s demographic are currently some of the most rich people in LA, this isnt’ some random thing from a little town in Kansas. The demographic of downtown LA warrants PETA publicly saying if they support or do not support this woman’s actions.

    Focus on real issues, real causes and stop antagonizing poor people, because it’s easy.

    Browne

  8. Christina Says:

    “In a society built on white supremacy and capitalism, people of color, especially those who work on the street, make easy targets. Molyneux notes that if the PETA volunteer had harassed a rich white man, say one who owns a meat packing plant that exploits both workers and nonhuman animals, the volunteer might end up in jail. However, by targeting people of color working on the street the same volunteer has all the support of the institutional racism and classism, including the LAPD.”

    This articulates the situation very very well. I see the exact same situation in the gay rights movement, where white gay advocates will blatantly stall and circumvent conversations brought up by minorities who want to counter bias that affects very important life situations such as who gets funding, education, and help. In the same vein, I read some really good analysis’ of the treatment of the “black church, ” comments by white-gay commentators shortly after Pastor Mcklurkin’s public comments. Much of this analysis came fromblack lesbians and homosexual men. Not only is there a difference in the willingness to condemn and belittle the motivating force behind many of the legislative decisions in regards to gay rights (white conservative Christians), but there is an insultingly explicit self-perceived role of director or manager among “conscious” white folk AND some minorities which enables them to believe that is there job to instruct the negroes what to do, regardless of how little an impact our numbers are having in the grander scheme of damage being done. There’s a tone of “black people should” that is undeniable and exceedingly annoying. Instead of engaging and learning from the groups from which they misunderstand in the first place, the goal is to renovate from the exterior. There’s a million ways to say this, but I’ll be as blunt as possible. When you start taking care of home, the neighbors won’t attract anymore of your attention.

  9. [...] A photograph taken in Japan is captioned, “A pair of Harajuku girls, captured in their native habitat.” Yes, I agree that humans are animals, too, & thus like animals, we have habitats. Nevertheless, this got my back up because the issue I’ve seen too often is who doesn’t get compared to animals. [...]


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