Vegans of Color

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

Some words for Western animal rights activists to take to heart August 27, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 1:50 pm
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I recently read Abolition Democracy: Prisons, Democracy, and Empire, which is a brief collection of interviews Eduardo Mendieta conducted with Angela Y. Davis. Here’s a snippet. Mendieta has asked, “…what do U.S. and Western feminists have to say to Islamic and Middle Eastern women?”

[Davis:] … What do women in those areas of the world that suffer most under Bush’s policy of global war have to say to western feminists? It seems to me that those of us here in the U.S. who are interested in a transnational feminists project would better serve the cause of freedom by asking questions rather than making proposals. So I would want to know how feminist and working class activists in countries such as Iraq might envision the most productive role for us. In the meantime, we must continue to strengthen the anti-war movement.

[Mendieta:] You’re calling into question the paternalistic assumption in my question, that feminists in the West, and the U.S., have to school Islamic women about how to proceed. They can do that work themselves.

[Davis:] Exactly. We have not yet moved beyond the assumption that the most advanced feminists in the world — whether they are white or people of color — reside in the U.S. or in Europe. This is a form of racism that forecloses the possibility of solidarity.

Something for animal rights activists to keep in mind! Though I suppose the same readers of this blog who find such courses of action — listening to people in other countries and from other cultures instead of just swooping in as the great colonialist savior — unthinkable when bloggers here suggest them will offer up the same tired protests to Davis’ words.


Race & Class in Ethical Consumption & Sustainability Movements May 20, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 2:27 pm
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Somehow I didn’t hear about this before, but there was a recent call for papers (the deadline for abstracts has already passed, sorry! is extended until August 1) for a new anthology edited by Breeze Harper (of the Sistah Vegan Project): Race and Class Consciousness: Contradictions, Resolutions, and Reconciliation in the Ethical Consumption and Eco-Sustainable Movements.

An excerpt:

The alternative foods, ethical consumption, and environmental sustainability movements in the USA, have grown exponentially in the past decade. The fusion of white racialized consciousness, 1st Worldism, and middle/upper class experience drives the formulation of “ethics”, “morality”, and “sustainability” that the “status quo” dominating these movements espouse. Rarely, if ever, has the status quo of these movements written about how [white] racialized consciousness and class status impact their philosophies and advocacy of animal rights, veganism, fair trade, ecosustainable living, etc., in the USA. Deeper investigations by academic scholars have found that collectively, this “privileged” demographic tends to view their ethics as “colorblind”, thereby passively discouraging reflections on white and class privilege within alternative food movements (Slocum 2006) and animal rights activism (Nagra 2003; Poldervaart 2001). Consequently, academic scholars such as Dr. Rachel Slocum feel that rather than fostering equality, “alternative food practice reproduces white privilege in American society”. (Slocum 2006, 13) This oversight deserves critical redress if the goals of these movements are to be globalized and accessible to people of color and low-income people.

The discouragement about reflections on white & class privilege has definitely been more than just “passive” from readers of this blog at times, especially lately, although obviously the passive discouragement is a big player as well. As one of my favorite LiveJournal icons says, “White privilege: you’re soaking in it.”

I can’t wait to read this anthology! On another Breeze Harper note, last I heard, the Sistah Vegan Project anthology is due out sometime this summer. Yay!


Veg*n Futures, Take Two May 14, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 7:57 pm
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Some of you may remember this post on futures without meat, as expressed in science fiction & fantasy.

Over Memorial Day weekend, I am going to be on the following panel:

Soylent Green or Just Plain Soy?

Soy has been portrayed as a miracle product, able to be transformed into food to please any human or alien palate. Is a vegetable-based diet inevitable as we realize the environmental impacts of deforestation to raise cattle, animal waste contamination of ground water, and massive water shortages? What would a world full of vegetarians look like? Will our brave new vegetarian world be a soy monoculture, or are there alternatives that can still feed the world? Is there such a thing as vegetarian SF/F?

M: Heather Galaxy, Johanna Eeva, Ian Hagemann, Isabel Schechter

All the panelists except one are people of color, neatly putting paid to stereotypes.

Where will this awesomeness be taking place? At WisCon, a feminist science fiction convention that’s been around for over 30 years. Intersectionality is generally a big deal at WisCon; last year there were so many panels about race that I said gleefully that I felt like I could do RaceCon if I wanted.

If anyone has any further suggestions for veg*n science fiction or fantasy, please let me know! I’ve since read Scarlett Thomas’s The End of Mr. Y, which has an animal rights sensibility (there’s a really gut-wrenching & important scene about the plight of lab mice). What else?


futures without meat? January 24, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 1:56 pm
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I read a lot of science fiction & fantasy. Occasionally in these books, we’re shown societies that don’t eat any animal products. I’ve found they tend to fall into two categories.

In the first, the vegan thing is part of a larger, governmentally-imposed ban on certain foods. This is generally seen as a bad, nanny-state, Big Brother sort of thing. For example, in Kage Baker‘s Company novels — which I love, btw — meat is banned, as are alcohol, chocolate, & other such substances. No one seems happy to be avoiding meat, & in fact, they sneak the banned stuff whenever they can.

In the second, not eating animals is just seen as normal. It’s not enforced by the state, it’s just tradition, & in fact, eating flesh is seen as barbaric. I’m blanking on specific titles right now, but I know several years ago when I was doing some research in grad school on feminist science fiction that some women’s SF featured such societies. Some of them were, in retrospect, rather embarrassingly hippy-dippy (earth mother second wave feminist sort of stuff) — not because of the vegan stuff, though!

Have any of you read any science fiction or fantasy w/meatless worlds? What were they like? What about any other novels dealing w/animal rights issues more generally? Naomi Novik‘s Temeraire books feature dragons that are as intelligent as people, & who begin to agitate for better treatment from the humans they work for/with. All the humans still eat meat, & from an animal rights standpoint I think it’s dangerous in reality to advocate for rights for certain animals based on an intelligence cutoff (no one in the books suggests that, say, cows should have rights). But I still think it’s an interesting thing to come up in the books.

There are science fiction/fantasy anthologies on the most random & sometimes bizarre themes these days (Vampires & birthdays! I also heard there is a werewolves-&-Christmas one coming out too!). Has there ever been one about veganism/animal rights? That would be fascinating — particularly if the contributors tended towards being happy vegans, & not folks convinced that big government is out to take all our freedom away.