Book Review: A Vegan Ethic: Embracing a Life of Compassion Toward All, Mark Hawthorne (2016)

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

A Concise and Compelling Introduction to Veganism and Intersectionality

four out of five stars

(Full disclosure: Changemakers Books sent me a free book in exchange for an honest review. I also downloaded an electronic ARC through NetGalley.)

If, as the animal rights movement argues, there is no moral distinction between human and nonhuman animals—if animal rights are human rights—then it makes sense that we should be working for the liberation of all species.

In introducing the topic of intersectionality, pattrice [jones] asked the audience, “What is 6 times 7?” A few people yelled out, “42!” pattrice said, “OK, everybody imagine 42. Now, what is the 6 and what is the 7? You can’t say, can you? No, because the 42 is the product of the 6 and the 7 in interaction with one another.”

I think it’s safe to say that for most Black people in the United States, a polar bear on a melting ice floe is not the face of climate change—it’s Katrina.

“Compassion is a verb.”

Despite what 30+ years of PETA campaigns would have you believe, ethical veganism is not inherently incompatible with human rights. In fact, many of us vegans believe (passionately!) that the opposite is true, thanks to the concept of intersectionality.

First introduced by Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, intersectionality is the idea that different forms of oppression don’t exist in a vacuum, but rather interact with one another. For example, Crenshaw coined the term to explain the myriad ways that racism and sexism interact, thus acknowledging that the oppression experienced by black women (“misogynoir”) is unique from and arguably more complicated than that experienced by black men or white women. The concept has since expanded to include all marginalized groups: women; people of color; immigrants; LGBTQ folks; those living with a physical or mental disability; sex workers; religious minorities; children and the elderly; the impoverished; and nonhuman animals.

While the animal rights movement has been a little too slow (imho) to incorporate the idea of intersectionality into its activism (see, e.g., PETA’s many problematic campaigns, not to mention their vociferous defenders), more and more vegans are expanding their circle of compassion to include human animals. In his third book, A Vegan Ethic: Embracing a Life of Compassion Toward All, Mark Hawthorne makes a concise yet compelling case for intersectionality and inclusivity. His argument is actually quite simple: “If veganism is about doing your best to not harm any sentient life, we must logically extend that circle of compassion to human animals as well.” What more is there to say?

(More below the fold…)

Bloggers Unite for Human Rights

Thursday, May 15th, 2008


Via Elaine, I discovered that today is Bloggers Unite: Human Rights day…and a bit belatedly, at that. Since it’s almost midnight, and I need to get to bed like 30 minutes ago, I thought I might post three very specific actions you can take on behalf of human rights causes. (For more resources, check out my Get Active! page. Keep scrolling for the human rights resources…they’re there, I swear.)

1. Write Yahoo! to protest their aiding and abetting in human rights violations.

Via Amnesty International: “Shi Tao, a Chinese journalist, is serving a ten-year prison sentence for sending an email to the U.S. Yahoo! helped put him there. They provided information to the Chinese Government, which led to his unjust imprisonment. Yahoo! needs to hear from people like you and me in droves. Corporations like Yahoo! are very sensitive to public outcry. We must tell Yahoo! that we won’t stand for violating privacy and ask them to use their influence to secure Shi Tao’s release.”

2. Save Darfur

Visit to learn more about the conflict in Darfur and take action. Two good places to start: the current initiatives (Urge China to help end genocide; Secure helicopters for the Darfur peacekeepers; and Get peacekeepers get on the ground) and activist resources pages.

3. Infiltrate a vegan potluck.

Waste the FBI’s anti-terra funding on TVP chili and chocolate-on-chocolate vegan cupcakes (they’re taking over the world, dontchaknow?), have a terra-ific veg*n time and report back nothing. It’s a win-win, my ski-masked friends.