Vegans of Color

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

Liberation Veganism September 3, 2010

Why not? Why not a veganism, not unlike liberation theology, that creates, marches, speaks and shakes with messages sparking hope for and actualization of human liberation? Why not conceive of a vegan movement and practice that is intermingled with human rights and sustainable development in “developing” countries and communities? Would it be possible, beneficial even, to expand the liberation aspect of veganism past animals alone? I think so.

In full disclosure, as an activist, much of my work has concerned African liberation and unity, third world internationalism, human rights, sustainable agronomy, complementary and natural medical practices, and at an earlier time, anti-war movements. As most broadly generalized without accepting any concrete labels, my operating socio-political ideology tends toward some manner of radical humanist anarcho-socialism. And aside from being vegan for eleven years, none of my work to date has directly concerned the animal rights movement; I’ve gone to the United Nations a few times, but not yet an animal rights conference. This is not said to remove wind from or disparage the animal rights movement, but just to be completely honest. At the same time, though, given that human rights are so frequently violated everywhere I go or look, whether my own rights as a black man in Gotham or the rights of people who look like me all over the world, as well as the rights of women, cultural/ethnic/religious/sexual minorities, children, the elderly, the landless, people with disabilities, and so on, I lose too much of my breath and tears on the miserable human condition, and find it almost impossible to apply myself to the animal liberation movement as it exists as an isolated campaign with that sole concern.

But enough about where I come from. I say that the development of the Liberation Veganism concept can easily give veganism an element of appeal towards more folks, especially people of color and youth whose thoughts are currently tending towards revolution. These proto-revolutionaries, on hearing about Liberation Veganism, just may consider incorporating veganism into their revolutionary practice because it makes so much sense as pertains to overall human liberation and racial and social justice.

Liberation Veganism understands and blamelessly trumpets the truths of how unsustainable meat production and animal husbandry are, even at pastoral or “artisanal” scales. It acknowledges and clarifies to others that the class war I spoke of earlier includes the conflict between humans and animals through the commodification of animals, as well as between humans who find themselves at odds as laborers or capitalist masters of an industry of blood, cruelty and violence. Liberation Veganism is in accord with those revolutionary thoughts that understand that if we simply want to feed more human beings and actually realize more and sustainable equity in the world, the actual possibility of making of our world “a garden and not a graveyard” suggests that more of us, worldwide, need to start to leave the meat alone.

Liberation Veganism is obviously not THE answer, but I strongly believe it is part of the arsenal of “better practices” in pursuit of revolution and human liberation, as well as animal liberation. I hope not to come off as blatantly speciesist (though I’m sure I already have and won’t try to make excuses for it after the fact), but I’m in the game largely in pursuit of my own better humanity and for human beings. When I went vegan at age 15, it was about both health and ecological issues, for the Earth at large. And now I am trying to think very deliberately about how veganism can relate to human rights. That is why I think Liberation Veganism may be a concept for proto-revolutionary proto-vegans to consider.

If a plant-based diet will both keep millions of tons of greenhouse gasses out of the atmosphere and feed many magnitudes more human beings, sustainably and consistently, than our current prevailing food regimes, especially since the world is getting hotter and harder on plants, than veganism has to by nature only be beneficial to the entire realm of human rights. This is simply because more abundance, and the dismantling of industries of inherent violence, will result in at least some reduction in the deadly competition over resources that imperil humanity, such as the feared immenent and current wars over water, food, and so on. If transition away from automobile culture, towards renewable energies, and towards composting and water recycling are part of the green movement that might buy us all more time on the world as we know it, than veganism – a veganism cognizant of the human and Earth liberation elements of its actualization – also must be part of that same movement. And it has to be about as many of us humans as possible.

Since we pursue those things which materially and otherwise most benefit us, as do all other creatures, then a veganism that appeals to our longevity and the leveling of the balance of power in human societies should theoretically find mass appeal.Veganism in explicit combination with human rights, or veganism plus human liberation, can be understood as Liberation Veganism. Liberation Veganism as I’ve struggled to define it here has its obvious ethical elements, ecological arguments, and social justice underpinnings, but as a liberation movement, it can and must include all the social capital of successful trends: propaganda, recipes indigenous to our cultures which veganize palates and minds from the grassroots, and the revolutionary gatherings, rallies and potlucks that find ways to intermix all manner of human rights and liberation issues with the way we eat.

So, Liberation Veganism. Maybe it’s a silly, corny idea, but I hope someone out there might be thinking similar thoughts and just might take this meme and run with it.


Humane Society Endorses Obama September 24, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Kanika Ameerah @ 3:02 pm
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Here’s an exerpt of HSLF President Mike Markarian’s blog entry dated 9/22/08:

Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) has been a solid supporter of animal protection at both the state and federal levels. As an Illinois state senator, he backed at least a dozen animal protection laws, including those to strengthen the penalties for animal cruelty, to help animal shelters, to promote spaying and neutering, and to ban the slaughter of horses for human consumption.  In the U.S. Senate, he has consistently co-sponsored multiple bills to combat animal fighting and horse slaughter, and has supported efforts to increase funding for adequate enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, and federal laws to combat animal fighting and puppy mills.

In his response to the HSLF questionnaire, he pledged support for nearly every animal protection bill currently pending in Congress, and said he will work with executive agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Department of the Interior to make their policies more humane. He wrote of the important role animals play in our lives, as companions in our homes, as wildlife in their own environments, and as service animals working with law enforcement and assisting persons with disabilities. He also commented on the broader links between animal cruelty and violence in society.

(emphasis mine)

I have many thoughts swimming in my head over this issue, but no words to express them so far…What is your take on this?


Rights or Liberation August 8, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Royce @ 3:53 am
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I have always loved words. I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t amazed by the power of words, both written and spoken. I’m big on word meanings and the idea of animal rights hasn’t sat well with me for a while, at least not since I gained an interest in both anarchism and black liberation.

As I read more and more about anarchism I realized that the State isn’t the be-all and end-all for change. But it was my own readings into both the Civil Rights movement and the Black Power/Liberation movement(s) that my eyes really opened. I had learned every February for 13 years about the Civil Rights movement, about how it won all these rights for African-Americans. But I read about and saw with my own eyes that it didn’t solve all the problems facing Black folks. Thats when anarchism and the Black Panthers entered my life.  Black Panthers weren’t depending on the State to create change in their communities, but they weren’t going to silently take care of their communities– the State heard their complaints loud and clear (by the way I know this piece focuses heavily on Black folks, and I don’t mean to marginalize other people of color, because my readings of Yellow, Red, and Brown Power movements also helped me develop my thoughts). And though a ton of shit still needs to be done for liberation of all folks of color, and the Black Panthers were far from perfect, the Black Panthers presented ideas that were revolutionary in scope and that could lead to real radical change.

So what does this have to do with animal rights? And why do I have a problem with it? Animal rights don’t sit well with me for several reasons.

Animal rights are dependent on the State. Only the State can give rights, and as we’ve learned, from history, law alone doesn’t change things. By relying on the State we give up some of our autonomy for creating change. The other problem is the laws on the books don’t protect a lot of animals, despite the sort of discourses Animal Precinct may create. The law doesn’t change people, at most it puts people in cages, and puts animals in different ones.

Animal rights also get co-opted by consumerism. If we think boycotting this company or that company to force cruelty-free products (dubious phrasing for the most part) is all we need to do then again we are falling short on creating real change.

Animal rights also compartmentalizes suffering. If we can get specific laws passed then the animals will be slightly better off. When we get a law passed the image becomes that now things are ok. When a corporation bends on one point, its a victory to be celebrated. An example for this is the KFC  Canada/PETA thing. PETA has basically advertised for KFC by telling folks to go buy the new vegan option, and though it is wonderful that KFC now has a vegan option, and more “humane” conditions for the chickens it kills, i still kills chickens in the same numbers as before. The only ones who benefited were vegans with a new option at KFC.

Animal rights, being dependent on a rights-base discourse, also has a habit of ignoring other issues. Intersectionality doesn’t even enter the discourse, because when you are fighting for a new law or rule, one has to be specific. This specificity in discourse means you can care a helluva lot about animals, but be sexist or racist (or engage in supporting any sort of system of oppression) and yet again PETA pops to mind.

I prefer animal liberation (despite the fact that I hate Singer’s book). As I learned, from the Black Panthers, liberation encompasses the tactics used in rights-based discourses but isn’t limited to them. One can write to a politician or corporation and whether or not something is done a that level, change will be sought anyway. I also feel that liberation struggles are linked in a way rights are not. When fighting for liberation one is actively engaged with dismantling the system(s) of oppression, and if oppressions are linked (which a lot of us seem to think they are), then one can fight several battles with the same action. I think that liberation is more full, where as animal rights creates legal change that forces people to treat animals differently, animal liberation is a fight for a paradigm shift, for political, legal, social, psychic, an material changes in how we all interact with animals.


“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.