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.


NYT on the Kamayurá July 27, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Royce @ 2:23 pm
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NYT on the Kamayurá, and other indigenous folks:

Cultures threatened by climate change span the globe. They include rainforest residents like the Kamayurá who face dwindling food supplies; remote Arctic communities where the only roads were frozen rivers that are now flowing most of the year; and residents of low-lying islands whose land is threatened by rising seas.


Speciesism, it’s complicated

Filed under: Uncategorized — Royce @ 9:21 am
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Speciesism is easy. Humans oppress non-humans.


What if it gets more complicated? Numerous bloggers on VoC have questioned the way that vegans, AR activists, and everyone else respond to the oppression of some animals over others; the oppression of whales, simians, and pets (as defined in the North/West) as oppossed to livestock (as defined in the North/West), deer, and bugs.

The way we see, and judge, speciesism is shaped by our own socio-cultural contexts.

The closer an animal is to us (physiologically or mythologically) the more we care. We value animals we have deemed to be smarter over the dumber ones. The cute over the ugly. The human-esque over the alien. Animals that we used to eat are less important than the ones we always pet.

There is a hierarchy of the harm one does to animals as well. Vivisection is ‘better’ than dog fighting. A zoo is ‘better’ than animal husbandry.

Intersection Ahead: Racism, classism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia, (and on and on) color our perceptions of animal oppression: Our families don’t whale, they don’t dog fight, they don’t experiment on apes (Our great cousins!). Our neighbors may hunt and go to circuses, but they aren’t doing anything as alien as whaling! Our families may eat cows and chickens (Happy meat? Even better) and go to zoos, but that is something everyone does, and it isn’t as barbaric as somethings that those people do like eat dogs.

Those people, over there, actually eat (whale/dog/cat/guinea pig/monkey).

(Sexism)How often do we talk about the fact that livestock are raped on an unprecedented scale. Hypothesis: a human rape culture, leads to the rape of nonhumans as well. A human rape culture allows us to overlook this rape as insignificant.

Science is a hegemonic force. We often give (‘legitimate’) science extra chances. After all, despite how horrible animal testing is (‘especially on apes’) we got so many things from it, or so popular mythos tells us. Science also helps tell us which animals deserve saving more. Hint: The ones most similar to us.

We create a complex hierarchy of animal oppression based on our own biases (and utilitarian thinking). The more accepted by the Allfather (the big ol’ white patriarch) the less we touch it. It is easier to attack the practices of the Other/others either because one doesn’t recognize their biases, or because one seeks to side with the One in order to get more support.

But tackling speciesism isn’t supposed to be easy.


Anti-Whaling Advocates and the Far Right July 12, 2009

In writing about the Makah whaling controversy in her book Conquest: Sexual Violence and American Indian Genocide, Andrea Smith notes:

The Coalition for Human Dignity documents how animal and environmental rights groups, such as the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (SSCS) and the Progressive Animal Welfare Society, collaborated with far-right Republican legislator Jack Metcalf to oppose the Makah. Metcalf has openly spoken at the meetings of overtly racist and anti-Semitic organizations and has called for the abrogation of Indian treaty rights. These groups, instead of developing strategies to negotiate their differences with the Makah that respected Native sovereignty, advocated for the U.S. to abrogate its 1855 treaty with the Makah that guarantees their right to whale hunt. What these “environmentalists” did not consider is that if they had been successful in legitimizing the abrogation of one treaty, it would have the effect of delegitimizing all treaties. They would be destroying the efforts of Native peoples across the country who are opposing corporate control through the use of treaties. Many of the leaders of these organizations, such as Dave Forman, Farley Mowat, and Paul Watson of SSCS, are also promoting an anti-immigration platform in environmental groups such as the Sierra Club… Also collaborating with SSCS is Brigitte Bardot, ally of the leading neofascist political party in France, the National Front. She is also overtly anti-immigrant, particularly anti-Arab and anti-Muslim. In Le Figaro, she stated: “Now my country, France, my homeland, my land, is with the blessing of successive government again invaded by a foreign, especially Muslim, overpopulation to which we pay allegiance.” (emphasis mine)

I know a lot of vegans adore the SSCS; I wonder how many of them knew about their connections to right-wing bigots.

Before some commenters trot out the same racist, colonialist arguments that frequently pop up in such discussions, you might take a look at this post about dolphin slaughter or this one about Brigitte Bardot & save your time.


Gay Animal Rights Activist Attacked in Ohio January 4, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 7:25 am
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Nathan Runkle, founder & executive director of Mercy for Animals, was brutally attacked recently at a gay nightclub in Dayton.

The press release states Nathan’s wish that sexual orientation be included in Ohio’s hate crimes legislation.

pattrice jones offers two posts about what people can do to help & how we — queer people, vegans, & allies (I note of course that these categories are not mutually exclusive) — can move forward from here:

So, if you’re somebody who cares about or works on LGBTQ issues but has not (yet) integrated the animals into your analysis of oppression, let this attack on a gay man who has dedicated himself to animal rights motivate you to educate yourself about the connections. And, if you’re a straight animal liberationist or veg*n advocate who hasn’t thought deeply about your heterosexual privilege and what obligations you might have to divest yourself of that, let this near-deadly attack on a gay animal advocate remind you (if Proposition 8 and Obama’s selection of a homophobic preacher to speak at his inauguration did not) that homophobia is still alive and dangerous.

In both instances: Educate yourself about the intersections and then figure out how you might integrate what you learn into your activism and your daily life. Those of us who are already hip to that particular intersection ought to realize that there’s always more for us to learn too. Finally, all of us can be inspired by Nathan’s relentless activism and take up the charge to do just a little bit more while he’s recovering from this terrible trauma.

As the press release notes, Mercy for Animals brings an intersectional analysis to its work:

MFA has long worked to bridge the gap between the common prejudices which lead to oppression and abuses faced by both animals and minorities. In recent years MFA has joined gay advocates in gay pride marches by forming human rainbows preceded by banners declaring, “No one is free when others are oppressed.” The organization has also been a lead opponent of gay rodeo events, citing the community’s obligation to protect animals from needless violence.

I’m sure I speak for all the VoC bloggers in expressing sorrow & outrage at this attack, & in wishing Nathan the best.


Factory Farming Goes Mainstream October 13, 2008

Filed under: vegan — Kanika Ameerah @ 10:43 pm
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Tomorrow’s Oprah will feature an investigative report involving factory farming.   Here’s a brief description of the show:

Lisa Ling Reports: How We Treat the Animals We Eat

Have you ever wondered what cage-free or free range really means? Lisa Ling takes a rare look inside some of America’s farms. Where does our food come from?


Considering how wide Oprah’s audience is, I am quite elated that she decided to do a show on factory farming.   I highly doubt if masses of people will go veg upon seeing the show, but if mainstream America finally learns where their meat comes from, perhaps there will be an outcry large enough to put a stop to the suffering of farm animals.

I will check out Oprah tomorrow after work if I can (normally, I am home when her show is half-over), but I’d love to see open discourse and reviews from others who have seen the show.  Discuss!  🙂


Counterfeit Goods Not Vegan September 16, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 9:29 pm
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VeganShoeLady says knockoffs aren’t vegan:

…no matter how fake the leather/fur/wool/silk might be…. In recent years, most knockoff goods have been made in shady conditions (read: sweatshops), often by child workers. In Deluxe: How Luxury Lost Its Luster, Dana Thomas describes an account of Thai children whose legs were broken to keep them from going outside to play while they were supposed to be making fake handbags…. Being vegan is about reducing suffering. When you buy fakes, you are giving your money to people who are actively making the world worse.


Four Recent Links August 31, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 12:18 pm
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Breeze Harper’s podcast is back, with a great episode on the links between speciesism & racism.

At the Vegan Ideal, Dani writes about whiteness & the AR2008 conference, linking to a post from a Rainforest Action Network attendee who notes:

the People of Color caucus that met earlier today asked to read a statement – calling for anti-oppression and anti-racist workshops at future AR conferences – and was denied the opportunity to speak.

In the comments of my post questioning the conference, it was suggested that bringing in race issues to AR spaces would be kind of a distraction from the real work of AR, something suggested more blatantly by folks responding to (& inspiring) this post.

pattrice jones is starting a Carnival Against Vivisection. The deadline for the first carnival is September 6th.

Josh of Herbivore talks about the (lack of) diversity in the models on the Herbivore site & what to do about it.


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.


Young Folks and Intersectionality August 23, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — Royce @ 6:53 pm
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Josh over at Vegan Metal Bike Dad Punk Blog has posted two posts detailing his frustrations with this “I Hate Kids” mentality that is pervasive in the vegan community. Some people have responded harshly (sort of an understatement) to his assertation that it is a form of bigotry, and people disagree (saying that is a personal preference). And some dislike his comparison of saying “I hate kids” is like saying “I hate people of color.” I personally think that it was a valid comparison– as much as one can compare such things, after all both bigotries have different histories.

What I found interesting was the way the arguments against giving a shit about ageism (or not acknowledging that they are ageist) are damn near identical to the arguments white vegans give about not caring about racism.

To me, being a vegan entails compassion and non-abuse towards animals. Not people, big or small, but animals. “Don’t have choices, don’t have conscience”, proliferated for use and gain animals. En masse.

People require, and receive, a completely different approach from me, on the basis of their personal merit.     –monia, leaving a comment @ ppk

Fuck worrying about other systems of oppression, lets worry about individuals. Despite the fact that this same person, and others, grouped all children together and cast judgement. People will fight for their right to hate children. Also, the thing that really put me on edge was how somehow these same sorts of folks will make connections between their veganism and their childlessness due to some idea of the world being overpopulated. See I know the overpopulation argument is steeped in racist, malthusian logic.

But even some of thew ones who were pro-children made an argument that I hear vegans use for other oppressed groups. The [insert group of people here] are animals too– so I care argument. Maybe I just don’t understand why some vegans have to spin it that way– instead of just caring because other people are beings with desires and interests who deserve respect.

What are your thoughts?