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.

 

The Cult of Veganism; or, Sit Down & Shut Up, Little Brown Girl May 7, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 9:08 pm
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In the last post, Nadia questioned why some white male vegans harp on their suffering, as vegans, when actually, veganism & animal rights rightfully center the animals.

In response, Dave Warwak (the teacher canned recently for forceful advocacy of veganism to students in his junior high school art class) left this comment, saying in part:

How about we prioritize our time and energy by bashing factory farming instead of bashing our own kind for speaking out against injustice? I am all for pulling ourselves up by the bootstraps and part of that is speaking out. Many silent vegans struggle with oppression – we all feel it, but to ponder about “why white guys feel discriminated against” does the animals a great disservice in these extremely urgent times when we could be focusing our energies on real good.

The essence of this comment is that those of us concerned with anything else rather than the suffering of non-human animals are divisive, are weakening the vegan cause, are traitors. And we should just stop complaining & hew to the vegan party line.

It sounds remarkably like white feminists castigating women of color for calling out the racism of mainstream US feminism.

Instead of critiquing white male privilege within vegan circles, let’s go do some “real good,” right? Because heaven knows opposing racism & sexism, especially if we — gasp — critique other vegans, is a time-waster, a distraction from the REAL issues.

We’re being asked to identify as vegans over any other aspect of our identities & our lives. Again, the parallels with the feminist movement are just astounding. Women of color get punished for speaking up about racism in feminism. Vegans of color questioning whitecentric vegans also are penalized for such heretic thoughts. Color me surprised (pun intentional).

Do (white, male) vegans see themselves as my ally automatically when they learn that I, too, am vegan? Do they assume we’re on the same side? (Is it even a conscious thought?) Such vegans divide the world into two parts: people who are vegan, & thus allies, & those who are not vegan.

Some of us don’t have the luxury of seeing things that simply. Some of us will never, ever have the privilege of ignoring, if we want to, the rest of who we are in favor of focusing solely on our diets. Why? Oh yeah, because the world won’t let us. Because being who we are — completely aside from veganism — can be very dangerous sometimes. Some of us are getting raped or fired for being gay or pulled over for Driving While Black or losing our homes due to gentrification or being harassed on the street or getting deported or being tortured or having the franchise taken away from us or struggling to get health care or…

Oh yeah, & how about how race & class affect who has access to affordable vegan food (among, you know, the many ways discussed on this blog that these issues intersect with veg*n ones)? Oh, wait, I’m being divisive again, aren’t I?

Warwak also says, “Veganism is for all animals. ‘All animals’ includes humans.” Yes. Then why should vegans pretend that the only oppression that matters is non-human?

The very idea that one should ignore the impact of markers such as class, race, gender, sexual orientation, disability, etc. is completely repugnant. Clearly this viewpoint is steeped in deep, unthinking privilege. It is no secret that a lot of people of color, for instance, are put off animal rights issues because of racism & colonialism in the movement. Women are put off when they see veganism used to encourage women to hate their bodies.

None of these critical issues are going to go away. They are all interconnected. To claim to be able to pull one strand, one lone form of oppression, away from the whole tangle, & to hold it up as the One Thing Worth Fighting For? Naive at best, & damned offensive & dangerous at worst.

And stifling dissent, as Warwak would have us do, is the mark of a cult. That’s no movement I want to be part of, & people who think that way are not my allies.

 

Making Connections… or Not February 22, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 8:41 pm
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I’ve just discovered the Pittsburgh group Animal Freedom, which does animal rights work that seeks to incorporate a broader understanding of other social justice issues too.

Check out the syllabus of their Animal Rights Study Group. Lots of good stuff in there!

One linked reading that particularly drew my attention was a letter from a Korean person objecting to the way a campaign against the Korean dog meat trade (carried out by Westerners) was run.

I am afraid those pictures [of dogs destined to be eaten] make viewers hate all Korean people because I saw a lot of comments on the internet with racial hate toward Koreans…. However I don’t believe those Koreans, who see dogs and cats as food, will listen to others (especially westerners) who have also two morals in their way of living. For example, Western people are eating much more meat in daily life than Korean people….

I find this quote particularly interesting, given that the president of Kinship Circle, Brenda Shoss, recently commented on my post in November criticizing their own campaign to stop the cat & dog meat trade in Korea & the Philippines. Shoss seems to think that I missed Kinship Circle’s point, but I feel that the points I made about the colonialist nature of such campaigns still stand, & were not addressed.

 

Colonial mentality in US-based activists? Say it ain’t so! November 26, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 11:38 am
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EasyVegan.info has posted some recent calls to action from Kinship Circle. They were apparently sent out to Kinship Circle’s e-mail list with the subject “One Country’s Companion Is Another’s Cuisine.”

That’s a very true statement, but my heart sank nevertheless as I looked at some of the alerts. Headlines include No More Dogs for Dinner in the Philippines and Outlaw Korean Dog/Cat Meat Trade For Good.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t think people should be eating dogs or cats, just as I don’t think they should be eating cows, sheep, pigs, or chickens. But there’s a long tradition of the United States, & the West in general, telling other countries (hint: the non-white ones; sometimes they’re referred to as “the developing world” or the “global south” or “the third world”) what to do — and colonialism & imperialism are hardly things of the past.

Given this background, I find it highly, highly troubling that organizations like Kinship Circle are encouraging people in the US to write to the governments of Korea & the Philippines condemning their cat/dog meat trade. It certainly isn’t going to win the animal rights movement any friends over there. Like the Philippines hasn’t had enough with hundreds of years of colonialism (first from Spain, then from the US) that it is still scarred by today? Do they really need — or want — more Americans telling them what to do? Do United States-based animal rights activists think that this is going to be received warmly? Oh, thank you for enlightening your little brown brothers! I don’t think so.

I find it disturbing for the same reason I am wary of how feminists here respond to the issue of female genital mutilation: feminists in the US rightfully condemn this action. But swarming into African countries where this is still custom, with the attitude (conscious or not) that you’re going to save your slightly backwards sisters from their barbaric cultures? Not productive. Not helpful.

And in the case of eating animals, it’s not like we’ve made such amazing progress trying to get folks in our own country to stop, which I think makes it even more obnoxious that we’re being encouraged to lecture other countries about this nasty habit. (Not to mention I really, really hate the whole dogeaters thing.)

So what should United States animal rights activists with a yen to become involved internationally do? How about connecting with local animal rights activists abroad & listening to them, learning from them & trusting in their knowledge of, & experience with, their culture? And letting them take the lead in their own countries? That’d be a good start.

ETA: I just noticed that, in an article that Kinship Circle sent out along with the action alerts, they say: “In 2007, Koreans and Filipinos acknowledged global opposition to dog meat with rules to Westernize their dog-eating ways.” (Emphasis mine) WOW. Well, at least you’re clear about the intentions you have, huh? Not just to quit with the dog-eating but to Westernize, which is a hardly-veiled way to say “colonize.”

 

 
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