Vegans of Color

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

Abuse Isn’t Vegan August 10, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 9:16 am
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What’s it worth to you to have good vegan recipes? Would it bother you to pay money to a publishing company run by an abuser? (more info here; linkdump here.) This cookbook has gotten a lot of positive reviews, but I won’t buy it because I can’t stomach giving money to Microcosm.

Probably a lot of people reading this blog, who may have this cookbook or be thinking about ordering it, won’t know the story behind its publisher. Given that people have been speaking up about this recently, I thought it would be good to add my voice to theirs. I am thankful for the bravery of people speaking out. Because there’s backlash. There’s always backlash. I know the arguments that will be used to dismiss any concerns about Microcosm here; I have been hearing them for years, in the largely non-public discussions about the issue of abuse in zine/activist/punk rock/whatever communities in general & Joe Biel in particular. And every excuse given to defend Joe Biel & denigrate those critiquing him I’ve seen used before to defend other abusers.

People say, have said, will say: who cares, they sell good zines! We can’t boycott everybody! Every company has something bad about them! The good done by these zines outweighs any bad done by Joe Biel! He said he’s sorry! Are we really sure Alex is telling the truth? It’s one person’s word against another! (& why, why should we believe women who say they have been abused?) She’s just jealous! It’s just blown-up zinester drama! Blah blah blah ad nauseum.

I’m going to moderate comments to this post pretty closely: if you are thinking of throwing out any of those trite dismissive arguments, your comments are subject to deletion.

Sure, some of Ploeg’s recipes sound delicious. But do I need to have them at the cost of supporting a company whose head purports to support anarchist & feminist ideals, yet enacts precisely the opposite?

No. That cost is too high. As Alex says:

So, the question is do I think people should support Joe Biel and Microcosm? If you think survivors of abuse should be believed, supported and respected and you believe abusers should be held accountable to their community and those they have hurt then I think you know my answer.


More on classism, and some thoughts on ableism, within vegan movements March 27, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 1:53 pm
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Stephanie at Animal Rights & AntiOppression: Classism from Vegans Doesn’t Help Animals, Nonhuman or Human.

Steph at Vegan About Town: the ability to make choices.

And Prof Susurro at Like a Whisper re-posts a list of Feminist Reading Tools for Recognizing and Dismantling Intersectional Oppressions in solidarity with Breeze’s offering of resources here.

Nathan Gilmore at Alia Porci recently presented this thoughtful post: Earning the Right to Be Vegan: On the Intersection of Ableist Privilege and Speciesist Power. Here’s an excerpt:

Ability prejudice can also play out in the even subtler forms of animal rights activism that demand a intimate familiarity with every single hot topic in the movement, or at least, the ability to show yourself well-versed any of a number of disciplines ranging from law to sociology to ethics. While each of these certainly is germane to the broader issue of animal rights, and can be used with great efficiency, might it not be conceivable that the vegan, who for whatever reason (e.g. disability), honestly and truly cannot engage these issues so deeply might read this demand as a slammed door in the face?

Over the past year I’ve been thinking more about the privileging of the able-bodied (& neurotypical) in activist movements — including, but by no means limited to, veganism & animal rights. Often certain types of activism are held up as the pinnacles of commitment & getting shit done: direct action; mammoth demonstrations on the street; confrontational protests; etc. These are more risky for people who do not fit within a certain paradigm. For example, the risk of being dragged away by the cops at a protest may look very different to you if you are: POC; gender nonconforming; undocumented; a person with childcare commitments; female; disabled — not that any of these categories are mutually exclusive, of course!

I remember during the late ’90s & early ’00s, in the NE & mid-Atlantic area of the US, if you were an activist in certain circles it was almost taken for granted that you would do a lot of summit-hopping: primarily (but not always) to NYC or DC, wherever the next big anti-globalization protest was. If you weren’t climbing on the bus early in the morning every week to go protest, people asked why.

Maybe you find it uncomfortable to stand or walk for long periods (especially in the cold!). Maybe the routes of protest marches aren’t necessary accessible to those with mobility issues. Maybe you’ve got anxiety or other mental health issues that make potentially confrontational activism an issue. Maybe you can’t afford to take time off work / pay for childcare / pay for the bus even with sliding scale fares! (&… maybe you have doubts about the efficacy of huge demos as the best use of activist time & energy, but that’s a whole ‘nother issue…)

I really appreciated the paragraph in Nathan’s post that I quoted up there because it highlights one way in which neuro-atypical people are often invisibilized within activist communities (as are people with disabilities — PWD — in general). Here are some other standard activist behaviors that might be challenging to someone who’s not neurotypical or someone with mental health issues:

  • Tabling
  • Doorknocking
  • Wheatpasting flyers
  • Leading workshops
  • Working the door at events
  • Being a panelist or debater

Of course a lot of these may pose issues for PWD in general. And yet how much do these sorts of things form the core of activist work in many communities? Could we be alienating PWD from our movements partly by not thinking more of how standard activist work could be more inclusive (in addition to, you know, recognizing that PWD exist)? I think a lot of activist groups are still lagging behind on making events truly accessible, but I don’t think I’ve often seen consideration of PWD beyond a hasty search for accessible venues, if that.

(And given how many vegans push the health aspect of veganism, I wonder if any of the spaces on this bingo card have been used to PWD: specifically the ones about diet/exercise or how if you just took vitamins etc. you’d be cured. Shudder.)

EDIT: It seems I misused the term neurotypical up there; I had gotten the impression from seeing it online that it was used to cover a wider spectrum of conditions than autism, but apparently not? Neurodiversity maybe is more what I was looking for, as I meant to use a broader term & it sounds like some people, at least, use it in that sense. Also, I probably should have specified that the list of challenging activist items was at least partly inspired by my experiences with activism as someone dealing with mental health issues.


… & the rest of you can wait March 21, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 3:24 pm
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In response to being called out for claiming that leafleting to college students & faculty couldn’t have any whiff of classism about it, Elaine Vigneault offers up her reasoning for why she chooses to focus on animal rights activism as her priority. There are some things that could be picked apart in the post, but what stuck out most for me was this:

I advocate veganism predominantly to the privileged precisely because they are privileged. They have the most power to affect significant change in our society on behalf of animals, the environment, and public health.

So instead of denying, as in the comments on Prof Susurro’s post, that leafleting solely to college students & faculty might possibly have a class element to it, Elaine now turns around & says that this is a deliberate tactic, that those who are privileged must be prioritized for their power.

In other words, let’s bank on their privilege instead of, I don’t know, working to help other people become empowered.

What are the rest of the people supposed to do in the meantime? And what about people from non-privileged groups who are doing advocacy work within their communities? Are they then wasting their time? Is grassroots work pointless unless it targets the government (as a body Elaine cites as having power to change attitudes about nonhuman animals) or other powerful groups? Should we hinge all our efforts on legal change? What would animal activism that (further) ignores marginalized groups look like? Where will it get us? How do we gain by setting our eyes on those with the most power?


Intersectionality Includes Animals January 26, 2010

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 3:20 pm

Renee at Womanist Musings says: Vegans, Vegetarians It’s Time To Talk. In the post, she explains the problems she sees with not eating meat, & with veg*ns & animal rights activists.

Anyone who has looked at this blog will see that the bloggers here share many of the same concerns as Renee: the treatment of farm workers (as well as slaughterhouse workers); the sustainability of veganism; PETA (there have been so many posts slamming PETA on this blog I can’t even link them all); racism among vegans & AR activists (ditto); whether a vegan diet is cheaper; how vegan doesn’t always mean “cruelty-free”; factors that affect access to vegan food (this has come up in numerous posts & comments); etc. Royce also wrote an eloquent response to an earlier post on WM about these topics.

The bloggers here see veganism as part of a larger anti-oppression movement. We, too, are frustrated & angered when vegans do not have a similarly intersectional approach.

That said, despite the complications sometimes involved, we are obviously still vegan for a reason.

Two parts of the post struck me particularly: Renee says though she eats meat, she “would certainly not support intentional animal cruelty.” This is something I have heard meat-eaters say not infrequently. Even leaving aside the issue of taking away an animal’s life (if one could leave that out of the equation!), information on how farmed animals are treated (beaks cut off without anesthetic, tails cut off without anesthetic, hung upside down on a slaughtering line & cut open while alive, boiled alive, kicked around by slaughterhouse workers, stuffed in wire cages unable to walk — to name only a few examples) is widely available & has received a lot of attention in the press over the last few years. This information is not a secret.

Intentional animal cruelty is central to the meat industry in places like the US, because it means more animals can be killed faster; to do otherwise would cut into profit. (& “happy meat”? A myth.) I’m not sure how much more intentional one could get.

The second part that struck me was the statement that some veg*ns use “their choices as a stepping ground to moralize to others.” This, too, is something that I have heard used many times in reference to veg*ns, though I’ve also heard similar statements used to critique feminists, anti-racist activists, etc. — it’s very easy to accuse someone of being preachy. I find it frustrating that the dominant ideology — to eat meat, in this case — is not recognized as an ideology, that the status quo is unquestioned & those disagreeing with it can be accused of moralizing while those in line with it are not espousing any moral view at all. (There’s lots about this in the recent book Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism, discussed here.) Let’s at least be honest about the fact that the ideology of meat is indeed an ideology, & its proponents can be as moralizing as anyone else.


notes on “Veganism Overly Defined” January 6, 2010

I just read the blogpost that Johanna linked to over at Vegan Soapbox. So I thought I’d post my notes on “Veganism Overly Defined” until such a time as I finish my critique.


It is possible for an advocate to attach favorite causes to Veganism and it result in the listener becoming turned off by the package.

1. The author has already constructed “Veganism” as a whole, complete, entity. A solid being in which one can “attach” another issue like one would staple a flier to a telephone pole, or tape a card to a present. Concluding with “the package” reiterates that Veganism is a complete object, closed and sealed in plastic. That anything not in this package that is attached will distract from the true “Veganism.”



It doesn’t take much for the racism to come out…

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 10:05 am
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One of the Sea Shepherd boats was rammed by a Japanese whaling vessel.

While I am not a particular fan of Sea Shepherd, this is a heinous event. However — I’m sure the rest of the vegan blogosphere will be talking about the event itself, so I’m not going to do that here.

I want to look at the reactions I’ve seen so far. One of the things most immediately apparent to me is the racism. It’s one thing to condemn the whalers for sinking the ship. It’s quite another to use language like “dirty Jap bastards” (offensive on two counts, how efficient!) repeatedly — as you can see on Facebook & other places. I’m just waiting for the Pearl Harbor references to start up. (EDIT: Someone suggests: “Would it be wrong of me to just straight out assault the jap consulate as he gets in his car to head over market and mission streets in San Francisco its time for some good old American Street Violence TL style” — lovely!)

Yet another reason why people of color may be put off by AR/vegan issues (it’s a real privilege to write off other issues as merely the “bruised feelings of some humans “; you can’t then be surprised if “some humans” want nothing to do with your offensive campaigns).


Intersectionality December 24, 2009

Imagine that your community has been devastated by an un/natural disaster, like Hurricane Katrina. Imagine that where you live is at great risk for being devastated again. Imagine that you know wealthier, whiter parts of town are better protected from future disasters. Imagine that there are two toxic landfills near where you live, unfairly reopened without due process. Now imagine that you also are trying to farm vegetables and fruits on a plot of land in a city despite all of these things that stand in the way.

Right then, not everyone has to imagine that.


Weight, race, & veganism – possibly triggering December 18, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 2:24 pm
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I am (half-) Asian American. I’m also thin. And short. When people find out I am vegan, I feel like often their responses (explicitly & not-so) fall into two main categories: (more…)


Some thoughts about companion animals December 13, 2009

I know adopting homeless animals is a contentious issue for some vegans; Vincent Guihan recently pondered this eloquently: Caring for other animals: does the personal adoption of other animals harm the movement?

For the Pits wrote about a man killed by a pack of dogs in Australia. The post talks about the racism & classism often evident when people think about attitudes towards companion animals among POCs/the poor/indigenous people/etc.

I re-read Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation & The No Kill Revolution in America this weekend. I was as moved, infuriated, & shocked as I was the first time around. For those of you who haven’t read the book, another reason why PETA sucks is their hypocritical behavior regarding animal rescue (Nathan has two posts about this).

(& really, PETA apologists, don’t waste your time commenting. Any such comments are prone to deletion &/or mockery.)


Gender policing has no place in AR/vegan movements December 3, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 3:34 pm
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A couple of weeks ago I read this post by Nathan Winograd, about why single-issue thinking is not appropriate for animal rescue advocates. Nathan Twittered about this New York Times article about teens who dress in gender nonconformative ways at school. He then received comments stating that he shouldn’t write about such things, as “it dilutes the support [he] receive[s] for the No Kill message.”

I have huge respect for Nathan; I think his book, Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation & The No Kill Revolution in America, is incredibly important (& unlike many in the animal rescue movement, he puts his money where his mouth is & is vegan). And people listen to him — so I am hoping his eloquent words will get more people to think:

I believe in No Kill. But I also believe in animal rights, human rights, gay rights, gender equality, and racial equality….

I believe that you must embrace compassion wherever and however it presents itself. That is who I am. And that is what I will promote publicly and privately. Compassion, compassion, compassion, compassion. For animals, for cross dressing kids, for that fly that President Obama should have left alone rather than killed. It is the unending drumbeat I will play until my time on this Earth is finished.

I know we can do better; that we can construct our communities in a way that is truly kind, fair, and compassionate to everyone—regardless of race, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or species; that we can bring to our society the fullest expression of our common pledge to promote the general welfare for ourselves and our posterity, and I do not doubt that ultimately that pledge will be interpreted in ways which we—trapped in our own time—cannot even begin to imagine. History reveals this to be the case…. the arc of history not only bends toward greater compassion, but for greater compassion to a wider circle of groups; indeed, to include the planet itself. From that perspective, the No Kill movement is an extension of all that historical progress that has come before it, and will be an extension—and a part—of those movements yet to come that will push the envelope even further. Taking the long view, the issues are the same. I am not “off topic.”

On a related note, there is a very important series on Vegan Ideal about transphobia & cisgender privilege in our movements (part one, part two, & part three). I highly recommend these posts; please read them, because these issues are often handled in really problematic & oppressive ways.