Vegans of Color

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

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

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 11:38 am
Tags: , , , , , , , , , 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.”


18 Responses to “Colonial mentality in US-based activists? Say it ain’t so!”

  1. […] Colonial mentality in US-based activists? Say it ain’t so! […]

  2. Brenda Shoss Says:

    I just stumbled upon this thoughtful commentary regarding Kinship Circle’s “One Country’s Companion Is Another’s Cuisine.”

    The original piece is a COLUMN (not an alert) which will run in the next issue of The Animals Voice magazine. Without having read the column, it appears my central point was missed: Some countries consume dogs. Some eat horses. Some ingest cows, pigs, and chickens. We are ALL complicit in their pain, suffering and death. We are all the same.

    In fact, the One Country… column is divided into sections about dog/cat meat trade, horse meat trade, and factory-farmed cows, pigs and chickens/turkeys. It goes into equal detail about each. Our ACTION ALERT, which accompanied this column, included letter-writing campaigns for all these areas — not just the dog meat trade.

    I completely agree it is hypocritical to judge one nation’s “menu” while heaping your own plate in suffering. In fact, that is why I framed this column as I did: For those “outraged” over Asian dog meat markets to glance down at their own plates.

    In the column, I symbolically compare a dog and a pig: ” Their fear and pain are equal. But the first is a dog, the second a pig — and herein lies our cultural divide. Empathy for the dog does not extend to empathy for the pig.” In fact, the point is more about the hypocrisy of the West.

    You can read the full column here:

    Brenda Shoss, president
    Kinship Circle

  3. vegansofcolor Says:

    Hi Brenda,
    Thanks for your comment. I am glad to see that the full column does address the disconnect between what animals Westerners believe are okay to eat & what aren’t.

    However, I am still disturbed by the line in the article about how Koreans & Filipinos are going to “Westernize their dog-eating ways.” Particularly in light of the fact that, as you mention, the West is hardly a paradise for animals raised for food, this still seems a rather colonialist statement. If one wants the Philippines & Korea to stop eating dog meat, why can’t we say that they are moving to stop eating dog meat? Why do they have to “Westernize”? As if Westernization was the epitome of everything good & progressive?

    And I still don’t think, as far as activism in general (not just limited to animals), that urging people in the United States to write letters to Asian countries berating them (in this case )for their own meat-eating ways) is going to be very productive or engender much good will. Instead of having these letter-writing alerts sent out, why not encourage folks to send money to animal rights groups based in these countries? Or to, y’know, have a dialogue with them about what they need (if anything) from Westerners? That would be much less patronizing.

    I would love, among animal rights activists in the US, to see more thought towards issues of race & colonialism & imperialism, & to be more aware of how there are deep scars left in many parts of the world due to the actions of the US. This does affect how American “do-gooders” are received in different countries; why wouldn’t it?

    I’d also like to see animal rights folks talk as much about Asian traditions of vegetarianism as they do about dogeaters.

  4. noemi Says:

    Brenda, you miss the point that Johanna is making. It’s the fact that you want to “westernize” the eating habits of Koreans & Filipinos because US-centric American eating ways are better??

    the point is more about the hypocrisy of the West.

    I agree completely.

  5. […] 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 […]

  6. vegansofcolor Says:

    Thanks Noemi. 🙂

  7. Tes T Says:

    I don’t mind telling the Philippines or Korea to stop their barbaric practice of dog meat trade. These animals are TORTURED before they are killed for meat. THERE IS NOTHING ACCEPTABLE ABOUT A SADISTIC PRACTICE. It shouldn’t matter if that view is from an American or Filipino or Korean. TORTURE IS NEVER ACCEPTABLE!

  8. vegansofcolor Says:

    Tes, you missed my point.

  9. Noemi M Says:

    I think this “not understanding” what you are saying Johanna, is another form of privilege. This glossing over the main point of your critique is why this blog is needed.

  10. […] For me, those people who are interested in animal liberation (as I am), must realize, this comparison of brown human beings to animals, insects, is not something in the past that is occassionaly drawn on to make a point. The comparison of brown human beings to animals is something that exists in the very fabric of our current society. It is a constant fascination this society has–massive black gorillas (aka black men) sexually attracted to blond white women. The invading Mexican Cockroach. The dog/cat eating Asians must be stopped! […]

  11. […] Vegans of Color, particularly this post: Colonial mentality in US-based activists? Say it ain’t so! […]

  12. […] Remember the anti-racist vegan activism syllabus from yesterday? Well today I’m going to summarize and comment on the first article from Vegans of Color called Colonial mentality in US-based activists? Say it ain’t so! […]

  13. […] pm Tags: colonialism, exotification, japan, othering, tactics Remember Kinship Circle’s colonialist campaign to get Western vegans to tell Korea & the Philippines to cease the dog meat trade? […]

  14. I smell racism here... Says:

    I’m hoping and wishing and praying that the inhumane cruel act towards man’s best friend is no longer practiced forever in many (it’s better if most) countries in the world . 😦 *sad sigh*

  15. I smell racism here... Says:

    I forgot this: I mean (it’s best if all).

  16. […] 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 […]

  17. […] individuals and organizations in their campaigns for animal rights and so-called food justice. This post in particular really hit home, especially in light of my prior research on the US colonial […]

  18. […] individuals and organizations in their campaigns for animal rights and so-called food justice. This post in particular really hit home, especially in light of my prior research on the US colonial […]

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