Colleen Patrick-Goudreau on human/animal exploitation.

November 11th, 2009 12:10 pm by Kelly Garbato

In this video series, author, activist and vegan cooking instructor Colleen Patrick-Goudreau (of Compassionate Cooks) discusses the impact of animal exploitation in the “meat” and “dairy” industries on animals, human and nonhuman alike. In particular, intersectionality is a thread that binds each brief video in the series to the others.

Take, for example, the segment titled “Female Exploitation,” in which Patrick-Goudreau explains the gendered nature of animal exploitation on farms – including smaller, “traditional,” “family” farms as well as large-scale, industrialized factory farms. While all farmed animals suffer under this system, the females of the exploited species – pigs, cows, chickens, etc. – experience especially torturous and prolonged abuse. To their owners, sows, heifers, laying hens and the like are nothing but walking wombs, baby machines, good only for perpetuating the farmers’ product line. Their reproductive systems are hijacked and turned against them; what should be a natural, joyful process for these mothers is instead perverted into a never-ending cycle of rape, forced pregnancy, birth, and kidnapping – until the mothers, spent, suffer the same fate as their offspring: slaughter, dismemberment, consumption. Precious few females find sanctuary, mother their children, grow old and predecease the generations that follow them; the generations they gave life to.

This is the female’s fate.

In “Maternal Instincts,” Patrick-Goudreau identifies the maternal instinct as a primal urge, one shared by all living beings; an instinct that cannot be stifled or bred away. She also touches upon the similar ways in which human and nonhuman animals have been – continue to be – devalued, possessed, mechanized. Treated as property. Units of production.

First comes dehumanization, then objectification. Only by doing away with each – by taking a hammer to every last rung on the hierarchy – can we foster respect and compassion for all beings. No one is free while others are oppressed.

Patrick-Goudreau builds upon this idea in “Inherent Violence.” The violence inherent in animal exploitation industries, she argues, harms perpetrators and victims alike. Men and women – many of whom belong to marginalized groups themselves – who abuse, kill and torment nonhuman animals, day in, day out, are victimized by the violence they’re paid to inflict on others. Violence hardens the heart and saps away one’s empathy, compassion and humanity (which itself isn’t strictly a “human” trait).

Slaughterhouse workers (and their families), for instance, suffer from higher than average rates of alcoholism, drug abuse and domestic violence (e.g., see Slaughterhouse: The Shocking Story of Greed, Neglect, and Inhumane Treatment Inside the U.S. Meat Industry by Gail Eisnitz, 1997). Likewise, those who work in the “meat” and “dairy” industries suffer from the same lack of care and consideration shown to the nonhuman animals they process. When the bottom line is profits rather than persons, safe working conditions are a luxury, not a right.

In “A Return to Compassion,” Patrick-Goudreau looks to our children to hep us (re)learn a more compassionate way of being. Many children show an inherent respect and reverence for life, in all its splendor and diversity. Too often, socialization into the dominant ideology strips them – us – of this vegan outlook.

Strip away the philosophizing and theorizing, and veganism is a surprisingly simple concept: meat, dairy and eggs come from animals. Living, breathing, sentient animals. Animals who have friends, families, feelings, thoughts, emotions. Animals who want to live. And it’s wrong for us to take their lives: coldly, calculatingly, greedily, without mercy or – worse of all – reason.

Children understand this on a fundamental level; as adults, we’re taught to forget, deny, rationalize. But there’s no arguing with the bellow of a grieving mother whose baby was just ripped from her side. None.

For a look at what children can be, when giving the room to nurture their compassion rather than bury it, check out this adorable story from Ryan at The Veg Blog. Should I feel guilty that I’m a wee bit jealous of a 3-year-old? (My father has been a vegetarian since he was 17 years old, but my siblings and I were raised as omnivores. I often wonder why he never pressed the issue with my mother. Perhaps I’ll ask him, one day.)

(h/t, Elaine.)

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Videos in this post:

Female Exploitation: Colleen Patrick-Goudreau of Compassionate Cooks explains the inherent exploitation of the female reproductive system in the dairy and egg industries.

Maternal Instincts: Colleen Patrick-Goudreau of Compassionate Cooks talks about the primal instincts all mammals have for their young and the effects of commodifying animals and people.

Inherent Violence: Colleen Patrick-Goudreau of Compassionate Cooks discusses the violence inherent in a system that is built on killing living beings day in and day out.

A Return to Compassion: Colleen Patrick-Goudreau of Compassionate Cooks discusses the process of desensitizing innately compassionate children – and the hope of returning to that compassion once again.

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2 Responses to “Colleen Patrick-Goudreau on human/animal exploitation.”

  1. Shannon Says:

    Thanks for this. I can’t see the videos b/c I’m at work, but I’ll try to watch them later. I just ordered Carol Adams’ “Pornography of Meat”–I think the links between speciesism and sexism/misogyny have been too little emphasized.

  2. From ownership and exploitation to connection and compassion – for all. » V for Vegan: easyVegan.info Says:

    […] Last month, I wrote about a series of videos in which Compassionate Cook Colleen Patrick-Goudreau examines the intersecting threads of human and animal exploitation. Specifically, we looked at four segments in the series: Female Exploitation; Maternal Instincts; Inherent Violence; and A Return to Compassion. Well, several weeks have passed, bringing with them three new videos to discuss! […]

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