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.

 

Black Dog Syndrome October 3, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized,vegan — Joselle @ 5:30 pm
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A recent episode of Animal Voices covered a topic new to me, Black Dog Syndrome (BDS). BDS is defined as “the low adoption and high euthanasia rate of black dogs in shelters.” Two activists working on behalf of black dogs in shelters, Tamara Delaney of Contrary to Ordinary: The Black Pearls of the Dog World and Heather Rosenwald of Start Seeing Black Dogs, were featured on the show.

It’s so crazy to me that black dogs get intentionally or subconsciously ignored and abandoned. Here are some of the reasons why:

  • The color black is often vilified and associated with evil or bad luck in the US.
  • In the media, black dogs are often associated with aggression and menace.
  • Facial features of black dogs don’t show up as well on pet adoption websites.
  • Black dogs “get lost” in shelters, too–they don’t stand out as much as lighter colored dogs
  • Black cats also get a bad rap since they are particularly associated with bad luck and superstition.

Of course, all of these theories are inextricably linked with how people of color are so often viewed–menacing, strange, foreign, bad, unattractive. The show’s host, Lauren Corman, did ask both guests to touch on how ideas of race and racism have made black dogs invisible or undesirable. While they did not personally see this playing out in the communities they worked in, they did agree that this was an issue raised by others in the BDS community. 

During the episode, Corman also breifly shared a story about a shelter who was criticized by the NAACP for using the phrase, “Black is Beautiful,” during a campaign that coincided with the holiday, Juneteenth, which celebrates the abolition of black slaves in Texas.  My reaction to the comments on the news article I linked to could be a separate post in and of itself. Most of them tell the NAACP to just chill and stop harassing the innocent animals. I’m inclined to take a similar, though more muted, position. Now that I know what BDS is, I am all about getting the word out on behalf of these animals and when I am ready to care for another dog, I will go out of my way to adopt a black one. The response to and from the NAACP, however, is again a case where activists in the animal welfare/rights movements and in other social justice movements are seen as diametrically opposed. I have not seen the NAACP’s original statement to the shelter so I can only assume that the organization thought that using such a powerful phrase as “Black is Beautiful,” was disrespectful and that even subtly comparing the plight of black dogs with the plight of black Americans trivializes that human struggle. Since black American slaves were legally considered property in much the same way animals are, this bristling is even more understandable. This is a shortsighted view, however, that ignores how the same systems of oppression that create and sustain racism are the same ones that enable animal use and ownership by humans. The comments to the NAACP to “just get over it,” is an example of how issues of race are often so easily dismissed by those who are not on the receiving end of racism.

In an appropriate side note, Philadelphia’s homeless animals (mostly cats and dogs) are facing a crisis. Due to budget constraints, the city is looking for an outside contractor to take over the Philadelphia Animal Care and Control Agency (PACCA), which would probably change the focus from trying to get the animals adopted to just killing them. Citizens for a No-Kill Philadelphia (http://www.phillynokill.com)* is lobbying City Hall to save PACCA. The Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) was formed in 2004 as the adoption arm of PAWS. Prior to the formation of PAWS, 9 out of 10 animals were killed by the city. In the first quarter of 2008, their save rate went up to 70%.  If you’re in the Philadelphia area, or are just interested in helping homeless cats and dogs, I encourage you to check out the work of these organizations.

* Typed out the link because when it was embedded, it went to a funky, virus-looking site. Don’t know what happened in the translation but the site is legit so I typed it out.

 

Adopt Frazier (Southern CA) April 7, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 8:41 pm
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Frazier is a perky senior beagle mix that needs a new home.

Frazier, beagle mix

According to the Pasadena Humane Society, Frazier is a sweetheart who loves attention, especially being brushed (as you can see in that photo). He gets along well with other dogs & knows some basic commands. The shelter has a Senior for Senior program, which means the adoption fee would be waived for adopters over 60 years old.

Adult animals, especially senior ones, often are overlooked by people fixated on kittens & puppies. But they need homes too, & there are many benefits to adopting an adult companion animal — their personalities are more evident than with baby animals, for one, which means fewer surprises. I speak as someone who’s adopted 3 adult cats, & who hopes to give homes to many more adult animals over my lifetime. When we adopted our cats, we chose ones that the rescue groups said were affectionate & sweet, & yes, that’s just what we got!

If you know anyone who could give Frazier a good home, please get them in touch with the Pasadena Humane Society through the links above.

And as always, I’m stealing Elaine Vigneault‘s idea; her succinctly stated reasons for doing this are:

1. To remind my readers of all the companion animals who need homes
2. To highlight the personhood/personality of animals
3. To give link love to animal rescue organizations
4. To lighten my blog’s mood a bit with adorable animal pictures

 

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.

 

Adopt Snow (Central Illinois)

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 7:53 pm
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Continuing with our semi-regular featuring of pets that need homes, here’s Snow:

Snow, the Great Pyrenees

I decided to search on Petfinder for dogs with snow-related names, because NYC is getting 6-9 inches of it today. Snow is a 12-15 month male Great Pyrenees, & gets along well with other dogs. If you, or anyone you know, is interested in adopting this big cutie, contact the rescue group at the link above.

As always, props to Elaine Vigneault for the idea. She highlights adoptable animals on her blog:

1. To remind my readers of all the companion animals who need homes
2. To highlight the personhood/personality of animals
3. To give link love to animal rescue organizations
4. To lighten my blog’s mood a bit with adorable animal pictures

 

Do PETA’s race-based tactics work, or just alienate? February 19, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 8:58 pm
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There’s a discussion going on here, in the Livejournal community debunkingwhite, over whether or not PETA’s latest campaign, comparing the AKC to the KKK, is racist.

The gist of PETA’s ad is that promoting purebred animals is no more morally sound than promoting racial purity among humans.

What disturbs me about the discussion so far is that everyone is basically saying that humans are worth more than dogs, thus PETA is wrong. The author of the post calls the AKC a “relatively benign” organization — I suppose that’s true if you’re not a puppy in a puppy mill, which are supported by, & legitimized by, the AKC. And I suppose, given the intense focus on breeding, you might think the AKC is benign if you’re not a dog euthanized because the shelter is full of dogs already.

I am generally not a fan of PETA. They have done a lot of sexist campaigns, & I don’t think their record on race has been any more productive (not to mention, I hate their stance on pit bulls & homeless animals generally). The thing is, I agree that it is speciesist to place human lives above animals; I think that’s wrong. So I can logically see the comparison between, say, slavery & factory farm animals.

However, as a person of color I am very sensitive to any sort of racial slur that compares people to animals. It’s been used so often, & so viciously, that I think it’s really hard to shake off the fear & anger evoked. I feel I can pretty safely say that most people of color have never been called an animal as a compliment. Thus I don’t really think it’s going to be very productive, comparing them to animals in the way that PETA does — meaning, using shock tactics to get attention, but in such a way that most folks are probably going to be put off. This is why I don’t use Holocaust analogies either. I’m not black, & I’m not Jewish, but I know that there are many people historically, & today, who would consider me, & members of my family, monkeys. And not in a positive, we’re-all-animals-together sort of way, but as in, “You piece of shit, I’m going to kick your ass.”

So that’s where I’m coming from on that one. What about you readers? What do you think of PETA’s tactics regarding race? I’m particularly interested in hearing from the vegans of color out there, but also people of color who may not (yet?) be vegans — do these tactics make you aware of speciesism? Do they make you empathize with animals? Or do they put you off finding more about animal rights issues?

There’s a wonderfully thoughtful post about this stuff on the Sistah Vegan Project blog here.

 

obama “cares about animal rights very much” January 25, 2008

This is probably old news to lots of folks — I’ve been trying to limit my consumption of election news, for my sanity — but the AP had a story on January 16 called “Obama Pledges Support for Animal Rights.” It’s a short article, but here is the relevant chunk:

Obama responded that he cares about animal rights very much, “not only because I have a 9-year-old and 6-year-old who want a dog.” He said he sponsored a bill to prevent horse slaughter in the Illinois state Senate and has been repeatedly endorsed by the Humane Society.

“I think how we treat our animals reflects how we treat each other,” he said. “And it’s very important that we have a president who is mindful of the cruelty that is perpetrated on animals.”

Sounds decent at first, especially considering we’ve lost Dennis Kucinich again, & Clinton has ties to corporate agriculture.

But what does Obama mean? How far is he really willing to go on behalf of animals (& on a personal level, does he eat meat or dairy)? The Humane Society is definitely an animal welfare group — as opposed to animal rights (ie. “happy meat” is okay, even though the animal still dies unnecessarily). Hm, maybe that’s what Obama means — he’s interested in supporting small farmers who slaughter sentient beings, & not large corporate factory farms. Great. Unfortunately, the “cruelty perpetrated on animals” doesn’t stop when you give them access to the outdoors & feed them grass, instead of making them cannibals… & then still kill them at the end.

(And I hope, that if his children do persuade him to add a dog to their household, that he doesn’t buy one from a pet store — & better yet, that he adopts one that already needs a home.)

 

sacrificing for the cause January 7, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 11:54 am
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In this post, Filipina activist Ninotchka Rosca lauds the strength of some of the women activists she has worked with over the years. She lists examples of commitment, including doing work while seriously ill or the day after a major car accident. She then says:

Me? I think the worst for me was when, because of an impossible schedule, I had to give up Guapo, the little cocker spaniel. That wasn’t much, but bursting into tears and embarrassing myself and the friend who had driven us to the animal shelter was.

You don’t have to look far to find stories of activists who have sacrificed their personal lives for their causes, such as folks who have had to place their children in the care of another in order to continue doing their work. In comparison, Rosca says above that giving up her dog “wasn’t much,” & that “As we say in the organization, for liberation, others have given up more. Much, much, much, much, much, much more…”

I would imagine that activists who had to leave their children would be given tremendous respect for their difficult choice (at least I would hope so!). I suspect that part of Rosca’s dismissiveness regarding her cocker spaniel was a reaction to knowing that others would think that giving up “just a dog” is nothing to cry about, & that if she was upset, it meant that she was a wimp & not committed enough to the cause.

This cavalier attitude about the lives of companion animals isn’t limited to activists, of course. Check Craigslist (in pretty much any city, I’m guessing, but NYC for sure) & you’ll see dozens of ads for folks discarding their animals because they got bored with them, can’t be bothered to work with their animals to overcome minor behavioral problems (imagine if humans got rid of their children because they wet the bed too much!), or other appalling reasons. In this disposable society, animals are treated as accessories we are free to discard as soon as our whim changes. Yes, there are folks who don’t do this — but then they get dismissed with labels like “crazy cat lady.” (I especially think that women who have chosen not to have children & who share their home with multiple animals get targeted as mentally ill & bitter & whatever.)

But I think that this ties into so many unhealthy attitudes I’ve seen myself (& heard about from others) in activist communities. Yes, activism is not a walk in the park; it requires hard work, & yes, sacrifice. But I don’t think the answer to grief & stress related to these sacrifices is to talk about how others have sacrificed much more! Why do we get into these “more activist-y than thou” pissing contests? And why are we expected to smother feelings that are unrelated to the cause? Some of my friends have complained numerous times about being unsupported, within activist circles, with regard to their mental health issues. Because we’re supposed to be so bad-ass that we can just crush our depression ourselves & keep on marching against the man, right? Or… we’re supposed to be depressed, look at how screwed up the world is, but don’t take time off to take care of yourself, don’t talk about being depressed or medication or therapy.

This is turning into a ramble, but I guess the point I want to end on is that creating & perpetuating forms of activism that don’t offer support for a life outside activism (including families of both human & animal types) doesn’t seem really sustainable or effective to me. I know so many people who think that activism means spending every night at meetings until the wee hours & then every weekend going to interminable marches in far-flung places (& probably getting arrested). How many people would sign up for that kind of life if they had a choice? Why can’t we support people in ways that make giving up their family not an option (or at least, the very very very last-ditch option)?

(I am sure some folks will read this post & curse me as a lazy bougie wannabe or something — but the fact remains that the world needs more activists. Sure, you’ll always have folks who are ready & willing to throw out everything else in their lives for the cause. But how many more people would get involved if there were more ways to do so that didn’t involve that? Wanting to have love & family & other interests in one’s life isn’t a character defect.)

 

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.”

 

Do I look like a dogeater to you? November 5, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 11:00 am
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When I first saw the dog on a plate shirt, I thought it was clever. The text says, “Why not? You eat other animals, don’t you?” To me, that’s a fairly reasonable & succinct way to point up how subjective this society’s view on animals is: some of them we think are cute, so we keep them as part of our family. Some of them we don’t think are cute, so we feel okay about eating them. It’s not logical at all.

Other societies revere & revile different animals: cows in India, for example, have a different status than cows here. And, you know, there’s that whole Asians as dogeaters thing.

I’m not denying that some Asians, at some times, have eaten dogs. What gets me is how pernicious the stereotype is — all Asians as savage dogeaters! They’re eating Fido & Fluffy, what barbarians! — & how it ignores the fact that Western society has its own subjective values about what animals are, for some reason, okay to kill. And it plays into the whole idea of Asians as mysterious, dangerous, & very Not Like Us.

The other day I was looking at vegan shirts online & saw this shirt again. I imagined myself wearing it… & wondered what people would think, seeing an Asian woman wearing a shirt with a dog on a plate, with the most visible text reading, “Why not?”

I decided to pass on the shirt.

(Mind you, as a mixed-race person I get identified incorrectly a lot — but that, & the issue of why people feel they have the right to stand around in public & try & guess “what” I am, is another post for another blog…)

 

 
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