Vegans of Color

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

The Real Cost of Earth Balance June 21, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 7:24 pm
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Deb over at Invisible Voices wrote recently about what really goes into those tubs of Earth Balance margarine that many of us vegans swear by. Here’s what a representative from Rainforest Action Network told her:

If killing orangutans were the only problem that existed with palm oil [used in Earth Balance], then maybe Earth Balance could get off the hook. But it simply is not. Every where that palm is grown — very much including Peninsular Malaysia — involves clear cutting rainforest and planting massive monoculture plantations — with serious consequences for both endangered species (the tapir lives in Peninsular Malaysia.. does it deserve to go extinct?) and the climate. It also involves displacing communities off their traditionally owned land, which regularly occurs in Peninsular Malaysia. Particularly in Peninsular Malaysia, migrant workers from Indonesia and India are forced into modern day slavery, forced to work for minuscule wages while paying back the companies for their their transportation from their country of origin. It’s a wreck. (emphasis mine)


“Engaging” POCs in AR Work? June 12, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 10:28 pm
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I was looking at the program for the Animal Rights 2008 National Conference & saw the following as a workshop topic on Saturday, August 16:

Engaging Ethnic Minorities (African-Americans, Latin Americans, Asian-Americans)

Hm, seems to be a bit incomplete there in their listing (& no peanut gallery comments from readers about how PC-ness has gone crazy & how could anyone list every single group, blah blah blah, because I’ll just laugh at you).

From the way the program thus far is laid out, it looks like there are several program options for each time slot; if so, at the same time, there is also this:

Commonality of Oppression (commonalities of oppressing animals, children, women, others)

Who are the “others,” do you think? Could they possibly include the “ethnic minorities” in the first workshop listing? In my experience, if you happen to ask folks to rattle off a list of -isms, usually sexism & racism would be first off the tongue — so it’s interesting that us POCs are relegated to the category of “other.”

In the Engaging Ethnic Minorities workshop, I am curious as to who will be speaking & who it is geared towards: Is it POCs telling a white audience how to “recruit” us? Is it white folks in AR who’ve done their marketing telling other white folks how to “recruit” us? The separate listing for a discussion of other oppressions makes me feel more like the Engaging workshop is meant to discuss pulling POCs in, with the subtext that it’s purely because more POCs means more veg*ns/AR activists… not out of a genuine desire to ally alongside us & work with us on other issues that affect us. I mean, that’s for the other workshop, right? Or perhaps for this workshop, in the following time slot:

Engaging Other Movements (health, environment, hunger, women, justice, peace movements)

Again, isn’t something missing here? Oh, yeah, how about a shout-out to folks working for racial justice? Naw, we got our one little panel about how white folks should engage with us… right?

I look forward to seeing more detailed descriptions of the panels as the conference grows closer, including names of panelists, because my first impressions thus far are not good. I had been considering trying to attend the conference (but wow, how expensive is it???) but I am leaning towards skipping it now.



I come out of my writing hole to write a response to La Chola’s most recent post on veganism and cruelty towards farm workers and the hands that feed us. I can relate to alot of what she is saying (more on this later), but what mostly prompted me was this:

Is a vegan lifestyle really a “cruelty free” lifestyle? Why is it so easy to prioritize cruelty inflicted on animals over cruelty inflicted on brown people? Why can people list a whole litany of wrongs committed against animals by the food industry–but at the same time those people “never really thought” about what happens to the workers?

As a person of color, a Mexican, a Mexican who virtually all my relatives built their houses and everything else they have by working in the fields and bodegas, and most recently a vegan, I have worked/lived/loved  with farm workers. Some of then are vegetarian or vegan. And it’s not easy to prioritize cruetly against animals over brown people-but there shouldn’t be a reason to prioritize, to say one is more important than the other. Many many of the activists I know who work for social justice, work for immigrations rights, work for worker’s rights, are against the border wall; are veg*ns. Yes I do agree, like a friend once told me when I was complaining about an awards ceremony to look at gorillas at a zoo that was part of a human trafficking conference, everyone does not see the connections like I do.  But  I will not continue to inflect pain and shed blood on animals because I cannot stop the cruelty against workers.  I gave up  meat, simply enough, because I felt it was violent. A few years ago, I took an oath to live a non-violent life as part of the 100 days of fasting: a response to the Minutemen’s presence in the Rio Grande Valley, organized by LUPE (La Union del Pueblo Entero, founded by Cesar Chavez in 1989.  I often thought of what that meant, being a survivor of domestic violence, in an overly oppressive culture where even being a feminist or calling oneself a Chicana gave you dirty looks. And I also thought of Cesar Chavez, his commitment to workers, to the people, and his decision to become a vegetarian which lasted the last 25 years of his life. He saw the connections between violence against animals and violence against people, he saw the cruelty in both the  animals he chose not to kill to eat and the treatment of farmworkers.  (Take that people who say I’m not a real Mexican because I’m veg*n)

But I don’t have to name famous activists who see the intersection, Vicki “Hasta La Vicktoria”, radical childcare extraordinary xicana activist & friend, is an ethical vegan, volunteer for  the CIW and along with alot of radial cool feminist vegans (how many adjectives can I use?) have taken part in the local boycotts along with CIW. Most, if not all, of the events I have organized or helped organize (Mujerfest, Voices Against Violence Vigil, Homenaje a Nuestras Muertas, RGV Zine/DIY fest) provide cruelty free food.

BFP asks:

Can I bring myself to say with a straight face that I no longer eat meat because I care about ending violence against animals?

I can say with a straight face that I do not eat meat because I an non-violent, because I truly care about ending violence-I can say in society, I can say in my community, but I’ll say that I want to end violence within my own family.

How do I make eating vegan/vegetarian a political choice about liberation without making the sacrifice one set of beings make with their bodies more important than another set of beings?

I don’t think we have to make that choice.


I never wanted to call myself a vegan because I didn’t want to be labeled, didn’t want to be seen as “hardcore”, didn’t want to be compared/aligned with hardcore vegans I have known and because I thought it would be difficult being working poor/being Mexican and being a single parent with no time ever ever to eat veg*n. I gave up cheese after being vegetarian for a while (being lactose intolerant I had already stopped eating anything diary) like Joselle did at Mutual Menu, because of the feeling of revulsion. And for the longest time I simply said, I don’t eat meat, then I don’t eat meat or any meat by products then I don’t eat meat, byproducts or dairy, and yes that includes butter (I honestly didn’t know butter was a dairy).

I’ve talked before on how growing up meat was a luxury. Meat was for special occasions. At family gatherings, the fajitas, cabrito was for the men. At birthday parties, you knew the family had money if they were serving carne guisada or fajitas. If they served chicken, or heaven forbid, tuna sandwiches, you knew they were working it. My mom would buy those 5 pound tubes of ground beef and would work that baby for two weeks for a family of six, using smallest possible amount and still have meat for dinner because it was a status-we have meat to eat for dinner, we are not starving. We are making the food stamps last. We are working it. If lunch or dinner was rice and beans, it was because we couldn’t afford meat, because it was all we had. If we were having rice or arroz con leche three times a day, it was because we were running low on food and back then the government still gave out these big boxes of powdered milk that lasted forever. And thank the heavens for those big blocks of cheese that feed us for weeks.

So it only follows that it was a hard decision to say I will no longer eat meat.  Was I crazy? How many years did we wish to eat meat, to have that “status” to only go back to eating poor? When the meat was given to the older brothers/cousins/uncles already setting up the connections in my mind at 12, how could I go along with it willingly at 25?? I was met with crazy stares from family; coworkers said I had gone “radical” and “hardcore.” My son’s father told me, and continues to tell me, that I “better not be turning his son vegetarian*” because he is Mexican and has to eat meat to be big and strong. (*I note that it sounds almost homophobic in nature).


I promise this post has an end.

As many women probably do, I had an eating disorder for most of my teen and adult life. Food was the enemy I could not get away from. Friends have told me that veganism is just another eating disorder, or a way to frame an eating disorder to appear acceptable.  I can honestly say that for me, it’s not a form of e.d. While being a vegetarian/vegan I have never binged and/or purged on meat products. I do realize that this can be true for others, or to slip means to eat meat or meat by-products being part of their e.d. and I understand that this is part of living w/ an e.d. I cannot say I haven’t slipped since I became veg*n, but not on meat products and that it, for me, is not used to mask an eating disorder.  What I’m trying to say also is that it was  difficult on the level of food being central to my emotional stability, mental health and depression. What I am NOT trying to say is that veg*nism “cured” me or that I no longer think I suffer from e.d. since I stopped eating meat, because that is simply not true. These choices are not easy ones. They are built on one another, and I understand the difficulty in working out all the sides. And yes yes yes veg*nism and vegetarianism was only one layer of the long (life long?) healing process for me.

*I feel like I am exposing alot of myself in this post and I retain the right to take this post off, or delete it. You can contact me at noemi.mtz at gmail. I will not respond to hate emails.


healing June 11, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — nosnowhere @ 11:23 am

everyone please go read la chola’s post on veganism and healing our bodies and hearts.


Poak Chops: Valuing Women, Pigs…Consumption June 10, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — dany @ 2:43 pm

My friend showed me this music video several weeks ago, and now, just as then, I’m in shock. The value of these women is placed directly onto their body through analogizing them to decapitated and fried animal parts. Literally.



We’re One of the Best! June 5, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 7:48 pm

Veg Bloggy Awards \'08 Winner

Best veg*n blogs, that is… according to VegNews magazine, who has selected this blog as one of the “21 best blogs in the first annual VegNews VegBloggy Awards”! The winning blogs will be featured in their July/August issue, which will be on newsstands on July 1st (I have yet to see what they say about us — I’m a little nervous, hee).

Heaps of gratitude to VoC reader Sara, who nominated us for the award (as well as any other readers who did, of course). Thank you very much!

It’s very exciting to me that a blog discussing the intersections of race, gender, class, & other identity issues with veganism would be selected for such an award. This will hopefully give much wider exposure to this kind of analysis. I feel very lucky to have such great folks blogging here at VoC (thank you!), & want to give a special shout-out to Noemi & Nadia — when I first said I was itching for a place for vegans of color to talk online, they both said, “If you start a blog, we’ll write for it!” Without their encouragement I don’t know if I would’ve gone ahead, so… thanks! And thank you to our many supportive readers, as well (to those of you reading out there who don’t get it, thanks for providing continual reminders of why the work we do is necessary).

I can’t wait to see what other blogs are so honored; I’m sure we’re in very good company, & am very grateful that we’ve been recognized in this way. Yay for us!


“When you have children….” June 3, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — dany @ 10:11 pm
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A couple of days ago, while drinking cosmos during happy hour before going out to see the Sex and the City Movie, my friend asked me if I “would send my children to [alma mater] Macalester.”

I responded by telling her that if yes, some how I managed to procure a child under my guardianship who was of appropriate age to consider a college education, I could afford to send them to an elite liberal arts college, and they were interested in going to Mac, I would be supportive of them if they chose the school.

Like many, I’m sure, I frequently get asked if I would be interested in raising my children vegan. Like many, I’m sure, I’ve been asked why I would be unwilling to “just let them choose whether or not they eat meat” (ironically, ignoring the fact that meat-eating is in itself an ideology)

This question (problematically) assumes that:

1) That I intend on being a mother (because I’m a woman)

[note: this also assumes heterosexuality and participation in a patriarchial society that places value on women based on their reproductive abilities… similarly to our non-human friends]

2) I will be the sole person to decide my childrens’ diet (because… I’m a woman of color?)

3) Carnism, like whiteness, is rendered invisible and therefore “normal” (because, just as we live in a white supremacist world, we live in a specieist one)

I can’t help but wonder if men get similar questions upon informing others of their veganism.

I just had to drop in here, and ask you all: what are the implications of veganism on women of color who are already too frequently deemed unfit mothers?


Brigitte Bardot: Not My Ally

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 10:09 pm
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Until a few minutes ago, I only had the foggiest idea of who Brigitte Bardot was, or why I should care.

She’s just been fined for anti-Muslim remarks she made in France. She’d written on her website that Muslims were “destroying our country by imposing their ways.” Bardot, described by the BBC as a “prominent animal rights campaigner,” is said to be, in this instance (she’s been fined several times before for anti-Muslim statements), incensed about “the slaughter of animals for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha.”

Two comments here: one, how about all the animal slaughter that non-Muslims living in France support every day with their diets? By focusing so heavily on Muslims, Bardot is showing what her real problem is: she’s an anti-Muslim bigot. And two, way to add to the reputation of animal rights activists as heads-up-their-asses folks who are oblivious to any other form of oppression or injustice but that visited on nonhuman animals by humans. (Intersectionality… it’s a pretty popular concept on this blog lately. Wonder why?)


Understanding Intersectionality & Food: How to Get It Wrong

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 7:55 pm
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My recent post about Breeze Harper’s anthology on race & class in sustainability/ethical consumption movements is being discussed at Alas, A Blog, & by someone blogging at the Atlantic. The latter post is particularly textbook. It’s short, so I’ll quote it in its entirety:

I genuinely don’t understand this. I’m pretty comfortable with the concept of privilege, but I fail to see how my choices in foodstuffs contribute to it. I’d order the book to find out, except that it sounds very, very silly.

Yeah, because race & class issues are “very, very silly.” To some folks more than others; more often those who don’t have to deal with them personally, I’ve found.

I’m also bemused that supposedly Erik Marcus commented to say, “The book might sound a good deal less silly if only every sentence at the website you’ve linked to wasn’t so poorly written.” I’m assuming it’s a troll hoping to stir up some vegan infighting, although who knows? Maybe Erik Marcus really has nothing better to do than critique our writing styles.

Several comments on both posts seem to be expressing some disbelief that food & diet could be in any way tied to class or race. They also seem to focus mostly on consumption (ie. what access do certain groups have to fresh, local food?). But as posts on this blog have demonstrated over & over again, there’s much more to the story than that. Like any movement, veg*nism, animal rights, & sustainability movements are affected by the biases of the societies they spring from. And that plays out in who is encouraged to join, what tactics & rhetoric get used, etc. Focusing solely on food security/access — which is very important, don’t get me wrong — ignores so much. It’s a little bewildering to see all these people stubbornly refusing to see this, but then I guess that’s what privilege is all about, huh?


Freegans of Color? June 2, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Royce @ 7:00 pm

So the semester ended for me here at Vassar, and as all the seniors moved out of their on-campus apartments they threw out a lot food. So my friends and I did the reasonable thing for a bunch of broke students who are working on campus during the summer– we grabbed our backpacks and hit the dumpsters.

This isn’t the first time I’ve dumpstered food, I lived off of it last summer. And I run into a lot of freegans on my dives, especially when in big cities. But the one thing I never run into are freegans of color besides myself, and occasionally a close friend of  mine. So my question is– where are these freegans of color?

Freeganism is a largely white middle-class movement (that seems to forget that poor folks have been eating garbage forever). And when I’m dumpster-diving I seem to have a few more issues to deal with, as a Black male, than my white comrades. They aren’t nearly as afraid of the police (or security), or threats of calling the police (or security), nor do they get harassed by law enforcement while diving to the degree that I do. I got harassed by security several times while diving on my own campus, until my white friends pop their heads out of the dumpsters. I’m also extremely embarassed for people to see me diving, because I can tell that I’m not just me, I’m also a representation of Black people in general.

So other than that I was wondering if any freegans of color can shed light on experiences.