Vegans of Color

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

Nobody Deserves a Tsunami March 14, 2011

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 3:55 am
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I’ve posted before about my discomfort with the rhetoric of the anti-whaling movement.

Now I see that Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd has posted a little poem on Facebook about the tsunami that’s hit Japan:


Neptune’s voice rolled like thunder thru the sky
Angrily he smote the deep seabed floor
From the shore echoed mankind’s mournful cry
……The sea rose up and struck fast for the shore

From out of the East with the rising sun
The seas fearful wrath burst upon the land
With little time to prepare or to run
Against a power no human can stand

Whether or not you interpret this as the tsunami being karmic retribution for whaling or prefer to see it as an oh-so-coincidental comment on the uncontrollable whims of an anthropomorphized force of nature, this is completely out of line & no different from those people who are saying Japan deserved the earthquake & tsunami because of Pearl Harbor. I am disgusted by the 550+ people on Facebook who clicked to indicate that they liked the poem.

If you have spare money & are so inclined, [community profile] help_japan & help_japan are running fannish — see my worlds intersect! — auctions to raise funds for disaster relief. There are lots of non-fannish things being offered, too, & certainly on the Dreamwidth auction (the first link) all you need is a valid e-mail address to bid.


It doesn’t take much for the racism to come out… January 6, 2010

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).


These “Herbivores” May Still Eat Animals December 21, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 2:52 pm
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It’s pretty easy to find examples of media in the West that tie meat-eating to manliness. Connected to this, NPR reports that in Japan, men who are taking on traditionally feminine traits are known as “herbivores.”

Described as “a quiet army of sweet young men with floppy hair and skinny jeans,” they may prefer “sewing, baking and crocheting clothes for [their] stuffed animals,” as does the protagonist of one TV show said to be popular among herbivores.

Though the story features a Sweets Club, for men who like desserts, nothing else about diet is mentioned. The mere idea of non-standard masculinity is enough to brand you as a wimpy leaf-eater, it seems — nothing in this story indicates that the men are, in fact, herbivoric in diet.

The story also demonstrates how manliness — or lack of — is tied to capitalism, economic productivity, & presumably providing for the family (& lustily creating one, of course): “But there are fears about the financial and social impact of herbivores. Their low levels of spending and lack of interest in sex invoke two of Japan’s biggest problems: its lackluster economy and declining birthrate.”

So if “herbivores” are men acting in un-manly ways, what about women acting in non-womanly ways? They’re carnivores: “economically empowered working Japanese women who know what they want.”

(Hat tip to Absolutely Fobulous for the link.)


“Anyone should be able to tell other countries NOT to eat creatures” September 13, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 9:09 pm
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Remember Kinship Circle’s colonialist campaign to get Western vegans to tell Korea & the Philippines to cease the dog meat trade? (There’s also a follow-up post.)

I see echoes of this same thinking in a recent post on Vegan Verve. After writing about Japanese dolphin slaughter, the blogger received a comment noting that in the US, lots of animals are slaughtered for food, sometimes in “crazy” ways. And furthermore:

Just because the Japanese are particularly exotic, particularly non-Western, we think we can criticize their traditions when it comes to food. They shouldn’t be eating dolphin or whale because, according to our Western upbringing, those are not animals that are to be eaten. The Koreans shouldn’t be eating dog, and the Chinese shouldn’t be eating anything that moves.

What the Japanese do when it comes to whales and dolphins is cruel and horrible, and poses a serious threat to the continuation of certain species (they overfish a lot too; global tuna populations, other fish are in trouble too), but there is a cultural angle too, and I don’t think it’s our place to tell them what they shouldn’t be eating. Hopefully before too long some groups will arise within Japan to protest this – when Japanese tell Japanese not to hunt and kill dolphins this way, and that they refuse to eat whale or dolphin, then things can change. (emphasis mine)

This, as you may recall, was my point in the earlier post about Kinship Circle: we in the West feel it’s our high-and-mighty duty to go & tell other countries, with which we have had an adversarial & racist relationship, what to do. Instead of listening to local activists & supporting them if & when they request it (& in the manner they request), US activists love to barge in, without thought to cultural context or self-determination & autonomy for folks in the countries they’re horning in on. (& yeah, go figure, the whole exotification thing makes it a lot easier to point fingers at OMG those weird savage people!)

In response to the commenter’s critique, the blogger replies:

Actually I quite disagree with you. I do believe that anyone should be able to tell other countries NOT to eat creatures, OF ANY KIND. Being vegan, I don’t quite understand why you would base your response on game meat in the U.S. and non-Western countries. Do you honestly believe that I am not against ALL animals being eaten?

Sigh. Gosh, do you honestly believe that I’m not against animals being eaten, either? And yet, I still find this quote incredibly offensive. Go figure.

The blogger also wonders:

Why the hell are there so many damn delicacies in Japan and other similar countries, and why do they mainly focus around poor animals? Does the United States have supposed delicacies that I am not aware of?

How about foie gras, among other “damn delicacies” eaten in the US? Many US vegans are aware of foie gras & legislative campaigns to outlaw it, for example. & what does “similar countries” mean? Scary “exotic” countries? Where people eat kerrrrrrazy things, unlike the US? What?


Dolphin slaughter = Pearl Harbor? November 8, 2007

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 10:10 pm
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Eric at An Animal-Friendly Life posted recently about Hayden Panettiere’s direct action against the slaughter of dolphins in Japan.

His post included a photo of a protest he attended last year, which he wrote up in this post. The photo shows a banner (which, to his credit, Eric says he didn’t like) that says “1941 Pearl Harbor” and “2006 Dolphin SLAUGHTER” with a Japanese flag in the middle.

Pearl Harbor. Dolphin slaughter. I think that’s a really irresponsible comparison, & no, not out of speciesism — not because I think Pearl Harbor is more serious because it involved the deaths of humans (which I’m sure is the objection many people will make). No, I think it’s problematic because it is racially inflammatory. Remember what happened after Pearl Harbor (or maybe you never learned about it in school — I know I never did)? You know, the internment of over 120,000 Japanese Americans? Because, as they said, a Jap’s a Jap. Japanese people will always be loyal to the emperor & can never be true Americans, no matter if they were born here, had ever been to Japan, spoke Japanese, etc. Seize their property & lock ’em up! (German Americans & Italian Americans did not receive the same treatment — sauerkraut got renamed “liberty cabbage,” but there were no internment camps.)

Think those sort of sentiments died off after World War II? Think again. I remember when that Pearl Harbor movie came out a few years ago; I took a look on some mainstream movie message boards & saw an astounding number of people spouting the same racial hatred: Japanese (like all us inscrutable Asians, let’s not forget) are perpetually foreign, Other, of dubious loyalty. And they’re sneaky — why else would they have done something like Pearl Harbor? So of course they deserved to get nuked, right?

Back to the banner — sneaky Japs are killing dolphins? Is that the message we’re supposed to get? What purpose is served by fanning the flames of this race hate? I also just don’t think the banner’s logic is effective: it seems to imply that killing dolphins, like Pearl Harbor, is an affront to the United States, & is something that the US would never engage in. Because animal slaughter never happens here, right?

What does rhetoric like the banner do for the dolphins? I’m not sure, but I can tell you this: ever wonder why there aren’t more people of color in the animal rights movement? Tactics like this are part of the reason why.