Vegans of Color

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

Keeping the Species Pure August 24, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Royce @ 9:39 am
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This post has very little to do with what is happening in the world of today, and perhaps I spend too much time thinking about the future, but this post is going to be a bit speculative. I’ve thought a bit about chimeras, specifically parahumans, for quite awhile. Basically since I heard about the rabbit/human embryo in China back in 2003. But I stumbled on stuff about it again this weekend, and the stuff freaked me out.
I’m not freaked out about the idea of human/non-human hybrids– I’ve accepted that they may very well one day share this planet with us. I’m more freaked out by the way people talk about them. I’m not the only one who takes this seriously– in 2005 the Brownback Bill, also known as the Human Chimera Prohibition Act of 2005, was in Congress. What the bill, and a lot of people are saying has a subtext of keeping the species pure. These hybrids are called subhuman (Why would we call them that?). There is a fear that if this happens we won’t be able to judge what is human and not. People really seem to hate the idea of a spectrum.
But why would people want to create chimeras— from what I’ve read it nowadays falls into medical research. The fact that animals aren’t great for vivisection cause some scientists to mix them with human DNA. And also there is the fact that in a speciesist world these chimeras if they ever come to exist as parahumans would be used for expendable tasks.
The thing is these chimeric beings could already exist, in a way. After all scientists have been putting human genes in animals for years– who knows what effects that has that we don’t know. There’s a scientist now that wants to replicate a human brain in mice. And people have been trying to make hybrids forever: there was ol’ Ivanov who spent his life trying to create human/ape hybrid soldiers for Stalin (using black and brown folks to mix with the apes). Thank god Ivanov didn’t have today’s knowledge of genetics.
So this fear of chimeras is based on speciesist claims that basically rely on a human supremacist view of the world, and animals. And the pro-chimera side is based on a speciesist, human supremacist claim to animals, and the ability to use them. As people who recognize the intersectionality of oppressions I feel we are in a unique place to think about the condition that these (for now) theoretical parahumans would be in. Besides the fact that the claims made now mirror (largely) outdated ideas about race, racial mixing, and using folks of color for medical research.


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.