Vegans of Color

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

Do PETA’s race-based tactics work, or just alienate? February 19, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 8:58 pm
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There’s a discussion going on here, in the Livejournal community debunkingwhite, over whether or not PETA’s latest campaign, comparing the AKC to the KKK, is racist.

The gist of PETA’s ad is that promoting purebred animals is no more morally sound than promoting racial purity among humans.

What disturbs me about the discussion so far is that everyone is basically saying that humans are worth more than dogs, thus PETA is wrong. The author of the post calls the AKC a “relatively benign” organization — I suppose that’s true if you’re not a puppy in a puppy mill, which are supported by, & legitimized by, the AKC. And I suppose, given the intense focus on breeding, you might think the AKC is benign if you’re not a dog euthanized because the shelter is full of dogs already.

I am generally not a fan of PETA. They have done a lot of sexist campaigns, & I don’t think their record on race has been any more productive (not to mention, I hate their stance on pit bulls & homeless animals generally). The thing is, I agree that it is speciesist to place human lives above animals; I think that’s wrong. So I can logically see the comparison between, say, slavery & factory farm animals.

However, as a person of color I am very sensitive to any sort of racial slur that compares people to animals. It’s been used so often, & so viciously, that I think it’s really hard to shake off the fear & anger evoked. I feel I can pretty safely say that most people of color have never been called an animal as a compliment. Thus I don’t really think it’s going to be very productive, comparing them to animals in the way that PETA does — meaning, using shock tactics to get attention, but in such a way that most folks are probably going to be put off. This is why I don’t use Holocaust analogies either. I’m not black, & I’m not Jewish, but I know that there are many people historically, & today, who would consider me, & members of my family, monkeys. And not in a positive, we’re-all-animals-together sort of way, but as in, “You piece of shit, I’m going to kick your ass.”

So that’s where I’m coming from on that one. What about you readers? What do you think of PETA’s tactics regarding race? I’m particularly interested in hearing from the vegans of color out there, but also people of color who may not (yet?) be vegans — do these tactics make you aware of speciesism? Do they make you empathize with animals? Or do they put you off finding more about animal rights issues?

There’s a wonderfully thoughtful post about this stuff on the Sistah Vegan Project blog here.