Vegans of Color

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

VegNews: Making The “Exotic” Safe For Privileged Western Vegans February 27, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 12:55 pm
Tags: , , ,

VegNews is offering a “Great Adventure” to “exotic India.” Let’s take a look at the itinerary.

You’ll start off in Delhi, which they describe as “[r]uled by Hindus, Muslims and eventually the British” — & oh yeah, now India is actually an independent country, but the badly-written sentence doesn’t mention what happened after the British. Who cares, right?

Also scheduled is a visit to Jaipur, which “has intrigued and seduced travelers, wanderers, caravans and traders throughout history.” Yes, OOOOH EXOTIC. There you’ll “have dinner with a local family” for that oh-so-authentic touch of “traditional warm Rajasthani hospitality”. (I am reminded of how Thailand’s tourist industry bills it as the “Land of Smiles,” & how the Philippines is often referred to as full of friendly, helpful people. Shall we examine what might incentivize such behavior? Shall we look at what might motivate the West to view certain nations in these terms?)

You’ll also do yoga, by the way — I suppose you might be familiar with it since it’s such the rage in the West among health-conscious types like vegans. But I bet it’ll be even more enlightening when you do it in India!

Journeying to a “rustic yet charming” village, you’ll also enjoy traditional folk dancing & even stay with a Raja & his family in their palace! Because they’re the “long time friends” of the tour operators — I am sure the lure of commerce has nothing to do with why they might be hosting you!

In case you were possibly feeling a bit conflicted about your role as a rich Western tourist, never fear; after enjoying the Raja’s hospitality you’ll then head “to a local village school to donate, on behalf of the group, much needed school supplies and books and where [you’ll] be welcomed as honored guests of the students and teachers who have a special surprise waiting.” Phew! Nothing like a bit of band-aid charity to soothe the tourist soul (but make them earn it! Sure hope that surprise is a good one!). Then your conscience will be clear before that night’s attendance at an “auspicious Hindu ceremony.”

To continue with the extra-special-authentic nature of the trip, you’ll also visit a Bishnoi village. Bishnois are vegetarians & “many of their villages, like the one [you’ll] be visiting today – look quite similar to the way they have looked for hundreds of years.” Yay! Western tourists love to see earthy primitive brown people living like they have for hundreds of years! It’s so quaint! You’ll get to visit a village girls’ school & then enjoy a farewell party that the Raja’s family will throw in your honor — purely out of his affection for you, no doubt.

Next stop Udaipur, where you’ll traipse through “one of the five holiest sites in the Jain religion.” Don’t worry, I’m sure the temple is completely as it was before hordes of tourists started coming through! It will all still be totally authentic!

After some time at an animal sanctuary (that part does sound good), you’ll be off for a cooking class — so even after you return home, you can still have a bit of the Other with you whenever you want to cook an exotic dinner! Then yet more yoga & authentic folk music & dance as your trip winds down.

What’s that? Your luggage has exceeded the weight restriction for the airline? Well, yeah. Your Western cultural & financial privilege makes for a pretty heavy load.

(… & if anyone is going to comment suggesting that the point of this post is that no one should travel anywhere, then you’ve vastly missed the actual point of this post, so don’t bother.)


Exoticism & Chinese American Food January 6, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 5:03 pm
Tags: ,

Not specifically vegan, but check out this great Racialicious post debunking myths many people in the US have about Chinese food (& thus, about Chinese people).

I thought it made a good counterpart to the continuing discussion on VoC about the word “exotic” & why it is offensive.


Exotic to whom? November 3, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 10:18 am
Tags: , , , ,

A few years ago, there was an article in a veg magazine that was called “Exotic Produce 101.” I think it was meant to be part of a series; anyway, the one I saw focused on Asian produce. Apparently, “[f]or your family and friends, [Asian] greens are exotic enough to be interesting but familiar enough not to be scary.”

Let’s unpack the assumptions in that sentence. First of all, the assumption that whoever is reading this is unfamiliar with Asian vegetables — & thus is probably not Asian. Second of all, that “exotic” equals “interesting.” And also, that while “exotic” is good, too exotic is bad, Other, frightening.

Now I know that vegans pride themselves on the wide variety of food they cook & eat. Me too; I’ve long thought that veg*ns (especially vegans) eat a more varied diet than omnivores. And I like to learn about new cuisines to try too. But sometimes it starts to feel a little colonial, a little imperialist, you know what I mean? Calling the article “Produce from Around the World,” for example, would’ve been a lot less loaded than “Exotic Produce 101.” If we are what we eat, what does this imply for folks for whom this “exotic” produce is normal? Are we exotic & exciting & Other, too? Are we to be coveted for our ability to spice up your (white) life? (Oh yeah, I forgot: that’s how it works. Gwen Stefani wearing a bindi = cool. People who wear bindis because it is part of their cultural background & tradition are “too ethnic” & get targeted by people like the Dotbusters gang.)

Related to this, I mentioned online that one thing I wish I could find a really good vegan substitute for was bi bim bap — the vegetarian kind that has a fried egg in it. A few people mentioned that they had no idea what food I was even talking about. Okay, I’m not Korean, but I am Asian, & I have friends who are Korean & w/whom I’ve eaten bi bim bap. For me, it’s part of my cultural experience of being Asian. I could’ve substituted in pancit or lumpia from my own cultural tradition (both of which are easier to veganize, but let’s just use that as an example) & probably would’ve received the same bewilderment. Sure, there are probably lots of vegans who know what all these foods are (some of them are probably even Asian too). But because the only response I received was puzzlement, I feel safe assuming that there are many vegans who don’t. It felt kind of lonely. If I had said, “I want a really convincing mac & cheese recipe!” I don’t think anyone in the thread would’ve had trouble understanding what I was looking for.

Oyceter writes here about common & hidden cultural knowledge (Coffeeandink has a round-up of responses here). She says:

Your holidays, the ones that you travel miles away to celebrate, are always the ones people forget about. Your history, the one where you trace back where your ancestors came from, is never taught in class. You have to explain what you’re eating. You have to sit there and feel dumb that you don’t get a reference when everyone else in the room does, or face their disbelief when you say that you don’t get it. But when you mention something from your culture, everyone shuts up and doesn’t know what to say, since they don’t know what it is.

It’s not people denying you a job or refusing a loan, but it’s still isolating and painful. And it can be a little thing, like a non-knitter sitting with knitters. But the non-knitter can go back to non-knitter society pretty darn fast (ha! darn! get it? ok-i’ll-go-away-now).

Yeah. Vegans feel alienated from mainstream society a lot. And some vegans feel further alienated by vegan society, y’know?


Conference Update: Embodied and Critical Perspectives on Veganism by Black Women and Allies August 15, 2013

Filed under: vegan — Dr. Amie "Breeze" Harper @ 1:19 pm

(Updated with times for each presentation)

1st Annual Sistah Vegan Conference

“Embodied and Critical Perspectives on Veganism by Black Women and Allies”

Date: September 14, 2013

Time: 10:00am-6:00pm PST (USA)

Location: Web Conference Using This means the location is on the Internet, accessible by computer or telephone. 

Registration $45.00

Conference Recordings: The entire conference will be recorded and downloadable 24-48 hours after the event. Those who have already paid for the LIVE conference viewing will have access to the recordings. However, if you simply want to purchase the recordings, that option is available for $25.99. However, this option will not be available until the recordings have been processed. Hence, you cannot register to download the recordings until 24-48 hours after the event.

Please note that anyone can register as an audience member to learn about the critical and embodied perspectives of women of color vegans. Anyone can register as an audience member . One need not identify as a girl/woman/womyn/trans vegan of color to participate. This is open to all.

Click here to register




10:00 AM PST

Introduction: How Veganism is a Critical Entry Point to Discuss Social, Animal, and Environmental Justice Issues for Black Women and Allies. 
Speaker: TBD
Length: 10 minutes

In this introduction to kick off the conference, the speaker will introduce how the concept of veganism can shed light on critical issues effecting Black girls and women in the USA. She will explain how veganism, as both method and philosophy, is an often overlooked perspective in a USA society that has normalized the exploitation and abuse of racialized minorities such as Black females, as well as the normalization of violence against the environment and non human animals used for human edification. This talk will be an introductory segue into the scheduled talks and discussions. It should hopefully open up innovative ideas by intersecting veganism, health activism, food politics, animal compassion, and anti racism into the lives of Black women and our allies. In addition, the speaker will introduce what is means to be an “ally” in the context of the Sistah Vegan Project.


10:15 AM PST

Keynote Talk: How Whiteness and Patriarchy Hurt Animals

Anastasia Yarbrough

Inner Activism Services

Length: 30 minutes (20 minute presentation; 10 minute Q&A)

Abstract: In the animal rights movement, racism and sexism are treated primarily as separate forces comparable to but not wholly relevant to animal protection, with the exception of leftist pockets inspired by ecofeminist animal liberation thought, the Animal Liberation Front and other direct action groups, and the emerging Critical Animal Studies.  As recent as the 2013 Animal Rights Conference, the “mainstream” animal rights movement tends to treat anti-racist, anti-sexist movements as struggles of the past that inform the new frontier social justice movement that is animal rights.  However, the goal of this talk is not to argue how and why this tokenizing is a problem.  Instead, my focus is to spark a dialogue on how white supremacy and patriarchy directly impact the animals we’re striving to help and protect, thus giving further relevance in the animal rights movement to become more conscious of how racism and sexism operate in society.  As a black woman who is also a long-time activist for animal liberation and justice, I have the unique position to see these intersections and notice that human violence towards animals is rarely ever lacking color or gender, nor is it always simple to tease apart from systemic issues like racism and sexism. Therefore, I hope that this talk can serve as a useful and engaging spark that is relevant not just to animal rights activists but also to social justice activists who are just beginning to consider animals.


10:50 AM PST

Presentation Title: PETA and the Trope of “Activism”: Naturalizing Postfeminism and Postrace Attitudes through Sexualized Bodied Protests

Aphrodite Kocięda

University of South Florida

Length: 30 minutes (20 minute presentation; 10 minute Q&A)

Abstract: For this presentation, I will explore PETA’s marketing campaigns that use the trope of “activism”, couched in vegan and anti-animal cruelty rhetoric, to naturalize postfeminist ideas and postrace attitudes about women’s bodies. In this postfeminist space, attaining a white sexy body becomes activist work. For PETA, the ethical aims of the vegan diet (is purported to) coincide with attaining a particular type of femininity that excludes women of color. Women of color are only strategically used in their campaigns as authentic signifiers of “diversity”  where the white framework remains undisturbed. PETA uses “activist” rhetoric in their ads to bolster and naturalize the postfeminist and postrace ideas inherent in their logic.


11:25 AM PST

Presentation Title: An Embodied Perspective on Redefining Healthy in a Cultural Context and Examining the Role of Sizeism in the Black Vegan Woman Paradigm

Nicola Norman, B.S. Nutritional Science

Baltimore, MD

Length: 30 minutes

This presentation takes a look at sizeism and how it affects attitudes in the Black community and the mainstream towards Black Vegan Women. Body Mass Indexes calibrated to white norms contribute to producing stigmas and increasing challenges to women whose bodies seem to exist at the intersection of social and cultural pressures/expectations. How big our hips, buttocks, and thighs are, are constantly being put under a microscope by family, friends, community, and the bigger society that we live in. This may be affecting Black women on the fence about trying veganism for its health benefits or deter them already due to these pressurized standards. Black vegan women of all sizes are often chastised for not meeting those standards. Black female bodies are very commonly exoticized in society.  I will give examples of this and look at how sizeism is many times at the crux of this. Lastly, I will offer suggestions on how to combat the challenges of sizeism within mainstream vegan rhetoric in the USA.


Break 12:00 PM PST


12:25 PM PST

Presentation Title: Cosmetic Marginalization: Status, Access and Vegan Beauty Lessons from our Foremothers

Pilar Harris

Pilar in Motion (

Length: 30 minutes (20 minute presentation; 10 minute Q&A)

Abstract: The terms ‘Vegan’ and ‘Cruelty Free’ are labels that help lend integrity to commercially produced cosmetics. Yet these labels may also be used for marketing purposes, particularly in campaigns not created with black identified women as the intended target consumer. Although the internet has largely transformed access to cosmetic products labeled ‘Vegan’, there exists a degree of status and exclusivity in terms of the price point and distribution of these products, so that many black identified women remain marginalized. These products include body care, makeup and feminine hygiene items, the things we use daily and that are closer to our bodies than the clothing we wear. One option in taking a stance against cosmetic marginalization is to extract from our histories (personal, cultural and otherwise) the beauty lessons that were intended to nourish, protect and cleanse our bodies long before they could be known as ‘Vegan’.


1:00 PM PST

Open Discussion: “Why I Relinquished the Gospel Bird and Became a Vegan”: Girls and Women of African Descent Share Their Reasons for Choosing Veganism

Length: 45 minutes

During this hour long moderated and open discussion, Black girls and women will share their reasons for choosing veganism. If you would like to participate, email sistahvegan (at) gmail (dot) com to secure your space to speak. Space is limited to about 8 storytellers. You will have about 5-7 minutes to share your journey.


1:50 PM PST

Keynote Talk : “Midwifery, Medicine and Baby Food Politics: Underground Feminisms and Indigenous Plant-based Foodways and Nutrition”

Length: 35 minutes (25 minute talk, 15 minute Q and A)

Claudia Serrato

University of Washington

Doctoral Student of Sociocultural Anthropology

During this decolonial era, Indigenous midwifery in East Los Angeles despite the several attempts to dismantle this ancestral practice along with their Indigenous plant based nutritional advice thrives as the alterNative to biomedicine. The Indigenous foodways and nutritional ways of knowing guided by these midwives is critical in restoring or decolonizing pregnancy, birthing, feeding experiences and most importantly health. In placing the decolonial present into perspective, a herstoricalfeminist narrative of early Los Angeles, midwifery, medicine, law, and the baby food industry discloses a critical dimension of the colonial matrix of power, which has neglectedly been overlooked in determining changes in diet, health, and birthing. In recovering Indigenous foodways and nutrition, underground feminist practices in the urban ethnoscape of Los Angeles restores womb and taste healing memories.


2:30 PM PST

Presentation Title: Constructing a Resource Beyond Parenting as a Black Vegan: Discussing Geography and Theology and Their Contradictions Within

Candace M. Laughinghouse

Regent University, PhD Candidate (Theology of Animals)

 Length: 30 minutes (20 minute presentation; 10 minute Q&A)

Abstract: Surprisingly, I receive more support from non-blacks when it comes to parenting as a black vegan. Within the black community, I am guaranteed heavy doses of skepticism and defensive responses if I choose to reveal that my children have never ingested a hot dog, hamburger, bacon, and chicken!  But beyond parenting as a black vegan are the challenges that relate to geography, theology, and even my own appearance. The Sistah vegan movement (as I like to call it) is inspiring as I pursue a doctoral degree in theology of animals and the effects on black theology. As a parent, my job is to protect my children and teach them the road to fulfillment in life involves education, using their talents, and compassion for all sentient beings.  I want to present the above topics as many black parents have a theological foundation that can be seen as contradictory to being vegan.


3:05 PM PST

Panel DiscussionYoga for the Stress Free Soul Sista

And Radical Self-Care Teaching: Exploring Privilege in Yoga & Veganism for Girls of Color

with Sari Leigh

Anacostia Yogi


Kayla Bitten

Length: 50 minutes (40 minute discussion; 10 minutes Q&A)


Abstract: Sari Leigh will give black women,  practical yoga tools to help resolve stressful home situations, past racial traumas, heartbreaks and reconnecting to spirit. Participants will learn the 15 second Mind Cleanse, A Soulful Flow yoga sequence and the revolutionary power of Mantra.  Kayla Bitten will address how, on a daily basis, we people of color continue to reap the oppressive consequences of a society who refuses to see us as part of the movement to a society of innovative development and solidarity. Working with young girls and women, Kayla has witnessed first hand the effects of a society whose racist and misogynistic views has stifled them; stifled them in a way that has them questioning their worth, pushing them to participate in harmful ways of nourishment both physically, emotionally, and spiritually, and their all around position as a young girls of color living in America. Advocating ways to engage in radical self love and care is an important practice that Kayla teaches these promising young girls. She achieves this through eating habits and yoga, but she also continues to realize the lack of representation in an area where engaging in such self care is considered ‘for white people only’ (or westernized to an unnoticeable position), blatantly financially unattainable, not having the access, or being taught by those who do not have an ‘all inclusive’ work ethic. Kayla will discuss how we can began to help young girls learn and unlearn ways to decolonize and resist through acts of self care such as accessibility to spaces where we can learn about vegan/vegetarianism/ healthy eating (and ultimately how to create our own spaces where these resources can be attainable) and yoga.


Break 4:00 pm PST


4:20 PM PST

Open Discussion: Reflections on the Sistah Vegan Anthology

Moderator: Dr. A. Breeze Harper (tenative)

Length:  35 minutes

In 2010, Lantern Books published Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health and Society. It was the first book of its kind to centralize the Black female vegan experience in the USA. Regardless of racial or ethnic identity, all are invited to openly dialogue about how Sistah Vegan anthology, as well as the Sistah Vegan Blog, affected their lives. How did you end up with the book? What chapters stood out for you? Did you give the book to a friend or family? Do you teach with the book? What would you like to see in the second volume? Email sistahvegan (at) gmail (dot) com if you would like to participate. Space is limited, so please reserve your spot.


5:00 PM PST

End of Conference Keynote Address:

Is Black Decolonization Possible in a Moral Economy of Neoliberal Whiteness? How USA Black Vegan Liberation Rhetoric Often Perpetuates Tenets of Colonial Whiteness 

Dr. A. Breeze Harper

Research Fellow

Department of Human Ecology, Community and Regional Development

University of California Davis

Length: 60 minutes (45 minute presentation; 15 minute Q&A) 

Abstract:   For this concluding keynote, I analyze the food that a popular Black vegan guru promotes in order to ‘purify’, ‘decolonize,’ and ‘liberate’ Black Americans from legacies of colonialism and racism. First, through an Afrocentric framework, I show how this Afrocentric philosopher resists anti-black conceptualizations of Black women as “unfeminine” and “breeders.” Such a stance is empowering and a declaration of anti-racism against the mainstream USA narrative that Black women and girls are disposable and worthless. After this analysis, I use Black feminist theorizing to explore how the meanings this famous health activist places on particular vegan commodities, unconsciously reproduces heterosexist, ableist, and black middle-class ‘reformist’ conceptualizations of a ‘healthy’ Black nation. Lastly, I explore how USA Black vegan consumer activism may often be at the expense of oppressing other vulnerable communities (i.e. how certain Black liberation empowering super-foods come to us because of economic policies embedded in neoliberal whiteness).  If we engage in vegan consumerism without regard for how our vegan commodities get to us (i.e. sweatshops, child slavery, displacement of indigenous communities) what does this truly mean in terms of liberation, as well at the limits of decolonization within a USA capitalist moral economy?

Registration Fee:  $45.00

Click here to register

I ask for a registration fee to pay speakers, pay for webinar service, and also to fund the Sistah Vegan project to become a non-profit organization. Go here to learn more about that.


Against Cultural Day-Tripping February 12, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 3:40 pm

(I was going to start this post with some vaguely sarcastic line about how it’s all exotic all the time around here lately, but… it’s blatantly clear that some readers DO just come here to gawk at the weirdo non-white vegans & their weirdo ways. Which, by the way, fuck you.)

Ida over at The Vegan Ideal posts about vegan cultural tourism, something I, & many of the bloggers here, have witnessed countless times:

A few months ago I got an email announcing a vegetarian get together at a Cambodian restaurant. Eating food associated with Cambodian culture is a perfectly valid basis for a vegetarian gathering, and I’m totally in favor of having an event at a place like a Cambodian restaurant. But what struck me was how the event was advertised as a “foray” into the food of Cambodian culture.

She describes why this terminology is offensive & potentially alienating to those who are not white/Anglo/Western, & also notes that the very idea of a “foray” into another culture presumes that “after the evening out, attendees are expected to go back to eating “normal” (Western) vegetarian food.”

In other words, it’s fun to see how wacky brown people live for a meal (because you can really tell from one meal, of course!), & then everyone (again, an assumed white/Western/Anglo “everyone”) goes back to their “normal” lives.


Vegan cookbooks: helping folks eat the Other February 8, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 7:32 am

I’ve written before about exotification in discussions around vegan food, but it’s something I’m always thinking about & that has come up a lot lately. This year I’ve set myself a goal to cook at least one recipe from the many cookbooks I own. Hence I’ve been scouring them more than usual.

Has anyone else noticed that a staple of many a vegan cookbook is a recipe for African Peanut Stew or African Yam Stew or something similar? I’ve also seen (though less frequently) recipes for, say, Asian-Style Tofu or whatever. I cannot recall ever seeing a cookbook featuring anything like European Bean Soup. Is it because to most vegan cookbook authors/food bloggers, it would be preposterous to assume that there is anything universal or overarching about the many countries that make up Europe, or their cuisines? And yet we don’t often see the same distinction granted to countries in Africa.

“African” stew? Is the recipe from Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa? Is that tofu done Chinese-style, Japanese, Filipino? Never mind the many variations even within those categories (just to preclude comments along the lines of “But hey, lots of countries in Africa do that kind of stew / lots of Asian countries use tofu!”).

Another thing I’ve seen not infrequently in vegan cookbooks & food blogs is the following construction:

“[Non-English ingredient or recipe name] must be [non-English language] for ‘delicious’!”

I also spotted this recently at Food Fight, who guess that “Mahalo is Hawaiian for ‘fake Almond Joy.'”

Oh, how cutesy. How patronizing. We don’t know what those funny foreign languages mean but we sure do love their grub!

The obsession with authenticity is another thing. This, like all the food othering in this post, is not limited to vegans, of course. My white boss (a one-time vegetarian turned omnivore due to happy meat, I might add) once praised my lunchtime curry because it “smelled really authentic.” She then went on to bemoan how she couldn’t manage to cook Indian food “authentically.” I squirmed, & said something about how surely what mattered most was whether she liked what she cooked. This only served to encourage her to rattle on about how important it was to get food “authentic.”

Anyway, there are countless examples of vegan recipes that stress their authentic nature. One I stumbled upon recently was in The Urban Vegan, in a recipe for “Blue Mosque Ayran,” which apparently is a drink you can find “at any cafe or from any street vendor in Istanbul.” I’ve never been to Istanbul, so perhaps I’m missing something in how this drink would be connected specifically to mosques (whose architecture are often held up as images of the exotic & dangerously foreign, I note), much less how the recipe in the cookbook is “so refreshingly good that the imam would definitely approve.” I dunno — has anyone ever seen an Italian recipe touted as being so delicious that the priest would approve?

I did some Googling & found that a common Turkish recipe is Imam Bayildi — which apparently means “The imam fainted” (when he tasted the recipe). I didn’t really see any other references to the imam having a lock on what is authentic Turkish food or not, but if someone knows differently, please let me know. I wonder if the Urban Vegan knew of this particular recipe & made a deliberate reference to it, or if it was just an example of throwing in something seen as “exotic.”

On the same page of that cookbook, by the way, is a recipe for “Political Biscotti.” The recipe notes that cafe culture frequently features both biscotti and political discussion. The biscotti are political because they contain both carob & chocolate, two flavors about which “people tend to be very ‘either/or'”:

They are always considered separately, as two distinctive flavors that were never meant to come together, sort of like Palestine and Israel. … The dates [in the recipe] act as a sort of sticky-sweet peacemaker, a culinary UN if you will.

Yeah. She went there. The bloody oppression of Palestinians reduced to a clever comment about biscotti.


Veganism and Cultures of Origin June 13, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 11:51 am
Tags: , , , ,

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.)


Eating Cat Is the Same as Eating Cow January 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 3:17 pm

Thanks to Kanika for the heads-up on this one: Pet lovers protest cats on the menu in China. I’ve said it before, & I’ve said it again: it gets under my skin when Westerners criticize Asian nations for eating cat & dog. Meat eaters have no excuse; why should this be any more or less horrifying than eating cow or pig? Oh yeah, because they happen to judge that one animal is cute & one is not (I even met someone once who said she was a “cute-itarian” & wouldn’t eat pigs because she thought they were cute, but all other meat was fine to chow down on). As Angry Asian Man says:

In the face of articles like this, you can’t deny it: they eat cats in Guangdong. And they cook ’em up good. And I’ll admit, that grosses me out a little. Then again, I also have to ask, so what? How is this more or less humane or disgusting than the practice of eating any other animal?

I was glad to see that sentiment expressed on a major blog (one of my favorites!) that isn’t about animal rights; maybe it will make some folks think.

Oh yeah, & what about when veg*ns criticize dog- and cat-eating? It’s so often steeped in colonial racist attitudes. To quote Angry Asian Man again: “The insinuation is that [Chinese] restaurants [that serve cat] — and by extension, Chinese people — are inherently dirty, strange and exotic.”

The article points out that some Chinese have been protesting this practice (I’d be curious about the ratio of flesh-eaters to vegans among them), though of course it mentions that PETA has been condemning it as well.


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

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 9:09 pm
Tags: , , , ,

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?


Exotification & the Vegan Traveler September 2, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 9:20 pm
Tags: , ,

I’ll say it up front: I love to travel. I love to see new places; I love trains, planes, buses & big huge backpacks (so much better than cruddy suitcases!). But I’m conflicted about it. I know that when I travel I am also carrying the baggage — & privilege — of being an American, with a certain amount of financial privilege, & the privilege of speaking a language that is considered, for better or for worse, the closest thing to a global tongue right now. What does it mean for me to travel to other parts of the world? I try to be conscious of issues of exotification, but sometimes I wonder if leisure travel, especially to a country or culture not “your own” (which I realize is a complicated issue for many people, self included), inherently makes the places & people you’re visiting subject to exotification.

We’ve talked about how frustrating this stuff is recently. I thought I’d examine some specific examples of the ways in which vegan travel is discussed, in light of that, & throw it open for discussion. (more…)