Vegans of Color

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

More on how not to protest dog-eating November 21, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 6:38 am
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Continuing with posting links that are months old (in a futile attempt to catch up), the Vegan Ideal offers a persuasive analysis of the problematic nature of campaigns against dog meat in Korea, specifically the petition by In Defense of Animals urging people to “not buy Korean goods, support Korean businesses, or visit Korea.” That’s right — they are going to boycott an entire country* (it’s kinda like freedom fries for AR folks!).

(Long-time readers of this blog will know that dog meat in particular has been a hot topic. Kindly refer to websites like Derailing for Dummies before making any tired, racist comments in response again.)

* Note: I know someone is going to bring up boycotts of apartheid South Africa; I don’t really think the two situations are parallel, for some of the reasons talked about in the post from the Vegan Ideal.

 

Some words for Western animal rights activists to take to heart August 27, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 1:50 pm
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I recently read Abolition Democracy: Prisons, Democracy, and Empire, which is a brief collection of interviews Eduardo Mendieta conducted with Angela Y. Davis. Here’s a snippet. Mendieta has asked, “…what do U.S. and Western feminists have to say to Islamic and Middle Eastern women?”

[Davis:] … What do women in those areas of the world that suffer most under Bush’s policy of global war have to say to western feminists? It seems to me that those of us here in the U.S. who are interested in a transnational feminists project would better serve the cause of freedom by asking questions rather than making proposals. So I would want to know how feminist and working class activists in countries such as Iraq might envision the most productive role for us. In the meantime, we must continue to strengthen the anti-war movement.

[Mendieta:] You’re calling into question the paternalistic assumption in my question, that feminists in the West, and the U.S., have to school Islamic women about how to proceed. They can do that work themselves.

[Davis:] Exactly. We have not yet moved beyond the assumption that the most advanced feminists in the world — whether they are white or people of color — reside in the U.S. or in Europe. This is a form of racism that forecloses the possibility of solidarity.

Something for animal rights activists to keep in mind! Though I suppose the same readers of this blog who find such courses of action — listening to people in other countries and from other cultures instead of just swooping in as the great colonialist savior — unthinkable when bloggers here suggest them will offer up the same tired protests to Davis’ words.

 

Veganism and Cultures of Origin June 13, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 11:51 am
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This is a topic that never gets old, but I’d like to talk about how veganism can make vegans of color feel dis/connected to their culture(s) of origin. I’d like to talk about this with vegans of color.

As a mixed-race Filipina, I have often felt like I was being implicitly judged by Filipin@s & found wanting: I don’t speak Tagalog (much)? I don’t go to church? I don’t… eat adobo??? To me, veganism is just one other thing to add to the list of things that make me feel awkward at times. It’s not enough to make me forsake the way I eat, of course, but I can sense the pressure, & can imagine how it could be even more intense for people who are more culturally connected than I.

It’s been a long, hard trip on the road to accepting myself, from a racial standpoint, & so I love stuff like “Children of the Sun” by Deep Foundation. Much love to those guys (I even wrote a zine article about how much that song means to me), but… the lyrics mention chicken tocino & the video features cock fighting, two things (of a few, some non-vegan related) that bug me. And I know those two things are seen by a lot of people as quintessentially Filipino.

This is why the Tsinay Vegan blog rules: check out that list of veganized Filipino recipes in the sidebar. There’s also veganized soul food, & of course loads of other cultures’ foods have been veganized by people of those cultures (& other people, of course, some of whom clearly can’t resist the exotic). I’ve also seen people talking about decolonizing diets that were not originally chock full of animal products.

I am interested here in hearing from vegans of color: what has your experience been, regarding veganism & whatever culture you may feel is your home culture/culture of origin (if any)? Have you gotten resistance to your diet? Or are family foods easily veganizable, or perhaps even inherently vegan? Is it even an issue?

(Again: I want to focus this conversation around the experiences of people of color who are vegan. Thank you for respecting the conversational space.)

 

More on Colonialist Framings of Animal Issues September 16, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 8:20 pm
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Via Dani at the Vegan Ideal, Fair Weather Vegan writes about racist programming on Animal Planet. Here’s a snippet particularly relevant to my recent post about colonialist framings of Japanese dolphin slaughter:

It goes without saying that no one should shoot or otherwise be cruel to a dog, and that endangered species should be protected and nurtured. It is also probably true that Caucasians are currently overrepresented in the animal-based professions in America and Europe, just as they are overrepresented in the professions generally. PBS, which is usually pretty attuned to racial representation, shows a lot of whites on its nature programs too. But there are ways to present a certain unbalanced reality in ways that do not normalize or exacerbate it (and there is a large international population of animal professionals of color to be portrayed as well). Perpetuating colonialist notions of an ignorant and cruel populace, whether foreign or domestic, completely ignores contextual realities that might actually help solve the problem if they are acknowledged. (emphasis mine)

 

“Anyone should be able to tell other countries NOT to eat creatures” September 13, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 9:09 pm
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Remember Kinship Circle’s colonialist campaign to get Western vegans to tell Korea & the Philippines to cease the dog meat trade? (There’s also a follow-up post.)

I see echoes of this same thinking in a recent post on Vegan Verve. After writing about Japanese dolphin slaughter, the blogger received a comment noting that in the US, lots of animals are slaughtered for food, sometimes in “crazy” ways. And furthermore:

Just because the Japanese are particularly exotic, particularly non-Western, we think we can criticize their traditions when it comes to food. They shouldn’t be eating dolphin or whale because, according to our Western upbringing, those are not animals that are to be eaten. The Koreans shouldn’t be eating dog, and the Chinese shouldn’t be eating anything that moves.

What the Japanese do when it comes to whales and dolphins is cruel and horrible, and poses a serious threat to the continuation of certain species (they overfish a lot too; global tuna populations, other fish are in trouble too), but there is a cultural angle too, and I don’t think it’s our place to tell them what they shouldn’t be eating. Hopefully before too long some groups will arise within Japan to protest this – when Japanese tell Japanese not to hunt and kill dolphins this way, and that they refuse to eat whale or dolphin, then things can change. (emphasis mine)

This, as you may recall, was my point in the earlier post about Kinship Circle: we in the West feel it’s our high-and-mighty duty to go & tell other countries, with which we have had an adversarial & racist relationship, what to do. Instead of listening to local activists & supporting them if & when they request it (& in the manner they request), US activists love to barge in, without thought to cultural context or self-determination & autonomy for folks in the countries they’re horning in on. (& yeah, go figure, the whole exotification thing makes it a lot easier to point fingers at OMG those weird savage people!)

In response to the commenter’s critique, the blogger replies:

Actually I quite disagree with you. I do believe that anyone should be able to tell other countries NOT to eat creatures, OF ANY KIND. Being vegan, I don’t quite understand why you would base your response on game meat in the U.S. and non-Western countries. Do you honestly believe that I am not against ALL animals being eaten?

Sigh. Gosh, do you honestly believe that I’m not against animals being eaten, either? And yet, I still find this quote incredibly offensive. Go figure.

The blogger also wonders:

Why the hell are there so many damn delicacies in Japan and other similar countries, and why do they mainly focus around poor animals? Does the United States have supposed delicacies that I am not aware of?

How about foie gras, among other “damn delicacies” eaten in the US? Many US vegans are aware of foie gras & legislative campaigns to outlaw it, for example. & what does “similar countries” mean? Scary “exotic” countries? Where people eat kerrrrrrazy things, unlike the US? What?

 

Colonial Fruits August 1, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Royce @ 2:16 pm
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So my last post, and the comments in it, got me thinking about how my veggies and things come to me. It’s pretty convenient to be a vegan nowadays– I can’t gauge how hard it was years ago, I haven’t been buying my own food long enough, but it is really easy to be vegan right now. Part of that is the fact that in most of this country there is a huge variety of produce, and produce that is available year round.

This is a post with a lot of questions.

And of course part of this variety is due to our ever globalizing world, which also means a world with a history (and present) of colonialism. I don’t know how much neo/colonial trade routes have to do with the production of my vegetables (at least during some parts of the year), but I know there is some major colonial undertones to the production of my fruit. Most of my favorite fruits are of the tropical variety, which of course means they come from the Global South.

See, in my ideal world, where these colonial relationships don’t exist, and capitalism is dead there is no way I could get my favorite fruits. So I’m wondering– how should I interpret my consumption of, what I now think of as colonial fruits. Outside of Southern California and Hawai’i (definitely colonial type relationships there) there is really nowhere that someone could grow coconuts and mangoes and banana and papaya and all those other fruits I love. I know colonialism isn’t exactly dead either, so how do I know that the fruit I purchased is even fair to the brown and black folks that grow them (curses to Late Capitalism btw). Also considering what I now know about some palm oil, I also can’t ignore the ecological effects of what I eat, and I have no clue how my favorite fruits are produced.

Also this means that historical colonialism, and most probably contemporary colonialism, make my being vegan easier. Another privilege of being a vegan in the Global North seems to be this privilege of trade.

So what is a vegan who takes a stand against racism and colonialism to do?

 

Asia for Animals Conference in Bali July 31, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 2:16 pm
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The fifth Asia for Animals conference will be held in Bali, Indonesia August 27-29th. It is billed as an “animal welfare” conference, so I’m guessing there will be talk of “happy meat” & the like (the menu will be “vegetarian — mainly vegan with the exception of certified free-range eggs in some dishes”). I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, given that Humane Society International is one of the sponsors, although perhaps they are more radical than the Humane Society in the US (hey, one can dream…).

I’m really interested in hearing more about who the primary attendees of this conference will be: Local Asian AR activists? Foreigners who don’t live in Asia? Expatriates from Western countries like the US who now live in Asia? And who will be on the panels?

I noticed in the conference description that the location is described as “until recently an idyllic fishing village on the eastern coastline of Bali.” There are many things that could explain the “until recently”; excuse my cynicism in wondering how much tourism has to do with it. It seems like the phrasing is geared towards appealing to tourists, as is the longer description of the area. The FAQs seem similarly aimed, with questions like: are there doctors or pharmacies near the conference? (In case you get sick from the weird Asian food, right? Or in case you’re worrying about your health just going to one of those funny countries?)

I was excited to hear about an Asian animal issues conference. I’m disappointed that the publicity for the conference seems aimed at foreign tourists, & that it fails to problematize the issue of tourism, though. If any VoC readers attend, please do let us know how it goes.

 

 
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