Vegans of Color

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

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).


Don’t Use Classism and Anti-Sex Worker Rhetoric to Protest Fur December 23, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 3:05 pm
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Fur is for beautiful animals & scary hookers, claims an incredibly fucked-up post at the Vegan Shoe Lady. She cites a Guardian article where Ingrid Newkirk is quoted as saying, “Fur has lost all its cachet. It’s yesterday. I see prostitutes in Atlantic City wearing fur.”

The Vegan Shoe Lady then takes this idea & runs with it, suggesting that if we see a woman wearing fur in public, we should make loud comments like, “She’s probably a hooker. Tacky coat, lower-class manners – no one respectable presents themselves that way.”

Her other suggestion, should you see a person wearing fur standing outside holding coffee, is to drop change into their cup, implying that they look like a homeless person. She offers this caveat: “Please treat actual homeless people with respect – they are human beings, and many of them have untreated mental illnesses. More than 80% of young homeless people are forced to leave home, often due to abuse. True compassion extends to disadvantaged people, too, so be nice.”

True compassion extends to disadvantaged people but apparently not sex workers. Or people at the lower end of the class system. Why should we play into the prejudices of certain segments of the fur-wearing population? The post points out that wealthy fur-wearers probably don’t care about environmental or animal rights issues, which I imagine is true. But I refuse to believe that perpetuating stereotypes, prejudice, & shame is the way forward either.


More on how not to protest dog-eating November 21, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 6:38 am
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Continuing with posting links that are months old (in a futile attempt to catch up), the Vegan Ideal offers a persuasive analysis of the problematic nature of campaigns against dog meat in Korea, specifically the petition by In Defense of Animals urging people to “not buy Korean goods, support Korean businesses, or visit Korea.” That’s right — they are going to boycott an entire country* (it’s kinda like freedom fries for AR folks!).

(Long-time readers of this blog will know that dog meat in particular has been a hot topic. Kindly refer to websites like Derailing for Dummies before making any tired, racist comments in response again.)

* Note: I know someone is going to bring up boycotts of apartheid South Africa; I don’t really think the two situations are parallel, for some of the reasons talked about in the post from the Vegan Ideal.


A bunch of links & a query… November 18, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 2:50 pm
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I’m really bummed I haven’t been able to post more here in the past few months — more about that later, maybe, but for now, a few links:

First of all, check out the blogroll (on the right hand side of the blog — click over if you’re reading via RSS feeds!). I keep stumbling on new awesome vegan blogs but also even more excitingly, more blogs by vegans of color!

Secondly, a link I’ve had open in a browser tab for literally months: Self-Delusion and the Lie of Lifestyle Activism. This argues that the impact of individual changes such as building a compost pile or recycling are generally not enough to make a difference (& in the case of the widespread habit of recycling, can be counterproductive because of the emphasis on recycling as opposed to reducing waste). This is partly because, the post argues, modeling a behavior is not generally enough to get other people to adopt it. I read the full post months ago & didn’t wade through the plethora of comments, but I’m sure being vegan would be something that the author would put under that category as well. I don’t agree with everything — though there are some good points made there — but I think as vegans & vegan activists there is a lot to think about regardless.

Thirdly, I saw the other day that Battlestar Galactica‘s Grace Park is now shilling for PETA. Sigh.

Right, now my query. This is generally not an easy time of year for me, between the darkening of the days (& the declining temperature) & the holidays. I’m doing a lot of work just to keep myself on any kind of even keel, but one thing that often gets put on hold is, well, doing activist things or even feeling excited or inspired by the issues. It’s not as if I’m contemplating stopping being vegan — that is most definitely NOT the case — more just that I haven’t had the energy or inspiration to go trawling through all the vegan blogs & campaigns & stuff that I used to do.

What do you do when you find yourself in kind of a rut? I know for burnout taking a break is a good idea, but it’s not that I’m burnt out (well: not in terms of veganism, although I did have a huge disillusioning infuriating situation earlier this year [related to other issues] that has made me really pissed off with certain aspects of the activist crowd where I live). I’m just kind of… maintaining at the moment. I want to be inspired & invigorated again (note: shock tactics won’t do the trick, so no one suggest I watch Earthlings, please). Suggestions?


Who’s Monkeying Around for Veganism? December 14, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 11:51 am
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Recently I picked up a magazine from UK animal welfare group Viva that featured an article titled, “Don’t Monkey Around, Go Veggie!” It discussed a campaign they’re running, which highlights the loss of biodiversity in the Amazon rainforest caused by the raising of cattle for meat and uses a monkey as the main visual (see this leaflet [PDF file]). A photograph shows campaigners on the streets of Bristol; one is in a monkey suit, & two others, who appear — as far as I can tell — white, have monkey masks on their faces. Behind them, on a table, is a stack of monkey masks, presumably to give to interested passers-by along with leaflets.

My first reaction was that I could never dress up as a monkey: as a person of color I’ve been compared to animals & specifically to monkeys, gorillas, or other primates way too many times for that to be something I’d feel comfortable with (for more on this from an Asian American perspective, check out the anthology Screaming Monkeys). I know a lot of people of color who would feel the same way; historically the very humanity of many of us has been questioned, & comparing us to animals used to degrade us & justify mistreatment.

If I were handed a monkey mask on the street & exhorted to wear it on behalf of the animals, I would refuse for this reason. It seems pretty clear that this association of certain types of people with primates — and not in an empowering, “we’re all animals!” way — was not considered in planning this campaign. Color me surprised (pun intentional).


More on Colonialist Framings of Animal Issues September 16, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 8:20 pm
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Via Dani at the Vegan Ideal, Fair Weather Vegan writes about racist programming on Animal Planet. Here’s a snippet particularly relevant to my recent post about colonialist framings of Japanese dolphin slaughter:

It goes without saying that no one should shoot or otherwise be cruel to a dog, and that endangered species should be protected and nurtured. It is also probably true that Caucasians are currently overrepresented in the animal-based professions in America and Europe, just as they are overrepresented in the professions generally. PBS, which is usually pretty attuned to racial representation, shows a lot of whites on its nature programs too. But there are ways to present a certain unbalanced reality in ways that do not normalize or exacerbate it (and there is a large international population of animal professionals of color to be portrayed as well). Perpetuating colonialist notions of an ignorant and cruel populace, whether foreign or domestic, completely ignores contextual realities that might actually help solve the problem if they are acknowledged. (emphasis mine)


“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?


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.


Must Accessibility Mean Partaking in Other -Isms? August 8, 2008

Filed under: Uncategorized — johanna @ 8:04 pm
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It seems lately there is a lot of excitement around presenting vegan ideas in ways labeled as fun, hip, light, or humorous. We can reach out to new demographics! We can bust stereotypes of vegans being dowdy humorless bores! Etc. etc. ad nauseum. After reading the umpteenth blog post extolling the virtues of this new kind of outreach, I started to wonder just what it means that vegans are so obsessed with making our issues “fun”& “sexy.” And let me clarify that I’m not referring to the emphasis on good & tasty food here, which is obviously important, but on the packaging of our ideas. (more…)