Ask not "Are Animal Lovers Sexist?," but "Can Animal Lovers Be Sexist?" (Answer: duh.)

Sunday, March 21st, 2010

lol kaylee - just needs a hammer

Don’t fear, Ms. Kaylee is here! lol dog sez, “wonder beyatch – be hear 2 smash ur kyriarchy, mkay?” She brought her Wonder Woman undies, but she’ll need to borrow a hammer. You got a problem with that, human?
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Last November, I penned a brief letter to the editors of VegNews, in which I questioned Rory Freedman’s casual use of the term “fur hag” – “hag” being a sexist, ageist and lookist slur. (VegNews subscribers can read the exact quote in context in Freedman’s column, “Prison or Bust,” which appeared in the December 2009 issue.) Fast-forward several months; my letter was published, albeit with several edits, in the March+April 2010 issue.

Not surprisingly – given the popularity of the term, as well as PETA’s “fur hag” campaigns – some readers disagreed with my comments, including Annie Hartnett of change.org’s newly-rebranded Animals blog. (Many thanks to Marji of Animal Place for bringing the post to my attention!) In Are Animal Lovers Sexist?, Hartnett argues that, ahem, attacking women for their femaleness is not sexist because most fur-wearers are women.

While I have previously deconstructed the term “fur hag” – as well as the campaigns’ associated imagery – what follows is a line-by-line response to Hartnett’s piece. Rather than rehash points that I’ve made elsewhere, however, I’ll use this as an opportunity to build upon my previous argument. If you haven’t already, please go read last January’s On “fur hags” and “fucking bitches.” before continuing on; doubly so if you’re surfing on over here from change.org. (Also related, and referenced in passing below: ARA PSAs: Women, Men and Fur and ARA PSAs: Attack of the Killer Cosmetics.) (1)

Before we begin, though, I’d like to reprint my letter, as Hartnett did not/would not do so, even upon request.

Here is the original letter, in its entirety:

As a vegan feminist, I’m increasingly disturbed by the number of animal advocates who are willing to engage in sexism (and other “isms”) in the course of their advocacy – “for the animals,” of course (as if women are not sentient beings as well). Take, for example, Rory Freedman’s use of the term “fur hag” to describe those who wear fur (“Prison or Bust,” December 2009 issue). “Hag” – a gendered slur that is synonymous with “witch” – literally means “an ugly old woman.” While fur-wearers may indeed be ugly on the inside, a person’s gender, age and physical appearance say nothing of her character. If Ms. Freedman – or any other animal advocate – feels the need to resort to insults, please keep them “ism”-free. “Jerk,” “loser,” “asshat”: all convey a point – without further marginalizing already-marginalized groups of animals, human or non.

Kelly Garbato
Kearney, MO 64060

kelly.garbato [at] gmail.com
http://www.easyvegan.info

By the way, I wrote a lengthy piece on the term “fur hag” last year, wherein I expound upon the sexist, ageist and sizeist nature of the phrase in much greater detail than is possible in 250 words or less. Additionally, I employ PETA’s associated “fur hag” campaign imagery to further illustrate my point. You can read the post in its entirety at http://bit.ly/vl8sB

Seriously, tho’, enough with the misogyny!

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On Carnism: Why Do We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows ?

Monday, March 1st, 2010

Carnism by Melanie Joy (2009)

Carnism: The Psychology of “Meat”-Eating 101

four out of five stars

Recently, I had the pleasure of reviewing Melanie Joy’s Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism (2010) though the website Basil & Spice. As a former psychology major and vegan of five years (and vegetarian for eight years on top of that), Carnism is right up my alley. Dr. Joy, a social psychologist and animal advocate, deconstructs our “meat culture,” identifying a number of key defense mechanisms that shield Westerners from an uncomfortable reality: how can we claim to “love” and “care for” nonhuman animals, yet enslave, torture, slaughter, dismember, process and consume them to the tune of tens of billions* per year? The answer lies in our carnistic system.

Carnism 101

Carnism, Joy posits, is the invisible belief system (or ideology) that underlies our unthinking consumption of “meat.” We have so internalized this behavior – “meat”-eating – that we do not even recognize it as a choice, but rather blindly accept it as a normal and necessary way of life; “meat” consumption is “just the way it is.” Carnism is the logical counterpart to vegetarianism: just as one can decide not to eat meat, so too is meat-eating a choice. And yet, while the terms “vegetarianism” and “veganism” are part of common parlance, we have no such word for “carnism.” Because the ideology that supports “meat” consumption remains unnamed, it’s seen as something natural, inevitable, existing outside of a belief system. Or it’s not seen at all – it’s invisible. We can avoid thinking about it because we lack the tools (words) with which to talk about it. In naming, there is power. Words matter.

This is, I think, is Carnism‘s greatest strength. With the introduction of one simple, short word, Joy gives us a tool with which to single out our “meat” culture for criticism and critique. “Carnism” unveils the choices behind the curtain – choices which are so incongruous with our innate sense of compassion, Joy argues, that we must go to great lengths to defend these choices from scrutiny. At a macro level, this is called psychic numbing: “we disconnect, mentally and emotionally, from our experience; we ‘numb’ ourselves. […] Psychic numbing is adaptive, or beneficial, when it helps us to cope with violence. But it becomes maladaptive, or destructive, when it is used to enable violence.”

On both an individual and institutional level, we engage in a number of defense mechanisms that help us to achieve psychic numbing:

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Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 12: The Wordy Vegan

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

The Handmaid's Tale (BBC Radio 4, 2000)

The Vegan Ideal: Our Bodies and Lives

In a series of posts, Ida dissects and rejects the cissexual “colonization” of transsexual bodies and experiences. While transphobia and cissexism are primarily linked with physical violence and systemic discrimination, discounting and silencing the voices of transsexuals – often in favor of cissexuals’ own mis-/un-informed theories and assumptions – is problematic as well. Unfortunately, transphobia and cissexism are all-too common in a number of “progressive” circles – including animal rights and vegan communities. Here, Ida takes vegetarian-ecofeminists to task for their transphobic attitudes.

This isn’t exactly light reading, but I encourage y’all to read each piece anyhow, and with an open mind. If you find transsexuality a difficult concept to grasp, consider this: given your position of not-knowing (read: ignorance), isn’t it best, then, to trust the thoughts, experiences and feelings of those most intimately affected by transsexuality – i.e., transsexuals themselves – and to place their voices in a position of primacy?

Part 1: Our Bodies and Lives: Transsexual Knowledge and Resistance;
Part 2: Our Bodies and Lives: Transphobic Trauma, Transsexual Healing; and
Part 3: Our Bodies and Lives: Questioning Cissexual Politics.

Steven @ L.O.V.E.: Toward vegan language and

Stephanie @ Animal Rights: Not It and That and What — She and He and Who and Whom

The importance of language – including word choice, pronoun usage, framing, writing in the active vs. the passive voice, etc., etc., etc. – is a subject we haven’t discussed nearly enough on this blog. Fear not; a review of An Introduction to Carnism – in which language assumes a starring role – is forthcoming, and once I’m able to return to Animal Equality: Language and Liberation (a year after beginning it, perhaps? oy!), I expect that you won’t be able to shut me up with the language “policing.”

Until then, Steven outlines four reasons why animal advocates should – must! – concern ourselves with language. Also check out Stephanie’s piece on pronoun choice and objectification.

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Green Books Campaign: Glossary of Terms for Anti-Oppressive Policy and Practice

Tuesday, November 10th, 2009

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It’s Time for a Green Book: 1 Day, 100 Bloggers, 100 Green Books, 100 Reviews

Today at 1:00 PM ET, 100 bloggers will simultaneously review 100 different books as part of the Green Books Campaign. Organized by Eco-Libris, the project aims to promote “green” books (i.e., those printed on recycled or FSC-certified paper) – many of which discuss “green” topics as well: environmentalism, climate change, wildlife protection, activism, “green” frugalism and food (including vegan cooking!) – are all represented in today’s carnival. You can view a complete list of participating bloggers and their books here, with campaign updates here. As participant #94, I’ll be reviewing Glossary of Terms for Anti-Oppressive Policy and Practice from CommonAct Press. (Stay with me here!)

I found out about the project rather late in the game, so there was only a handful of unclaimed books from which to choose. Normally I would have picked a title more directly related to veganism – in particular, The Simple Little Vegan Dog Book caught my eye, and although it was already taken, the publisher was kind enough to send me a review copy anyhow; keep an eye out for a post or two in the coming weeks! – but given time and other limitations, I chose Glossary of Terms for Anti-Oppressive Policy and Practice. The monograph introduces students to anti-/oppressive terms and concepts – a useful exercise for anyone interested in social work and/or justice.

As I’ve argued here and elsewhere, animal liberation is closely tied to other, human social justice movements – if not traditionally thought of as a social justice movement per se. As advocates, it’s our responsibility to develop a working knowledge of prejudice and oppression in all their forms, and to avoid further marginalizing one group of already-marginalized animals on behalf of another. Practically speaking, this strategy can help us to build bridges (rather than burn them) and attract potential allies (rather than alienate others). More importantly, fighting for/alongside oppressed peoples – human and non – is also the right, the moral, the vegan thing to do. For these reasons, methinks A Glossary of AOP Terms is right at home here.

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Review: Glossary of Terms for Anti-Oppressive Policy and Practice, edited by Bill Lee, Sheila Sammon & Gary C. Dumbrill (2007)

Though compact, Glossary of Terms for Anti-Oppressive Policy and Practice packs quite the anti-oppressive punch into its 37 pages. Editors Bill Lee, Sheila Sammon and Gary C. Dumbrill (who are themselves social work educators) touch upon a number of terms and concepts that students will encounter in both theory and practice.

Through my own college studies (primarily women’s studies courses), as well as several years spent pouring over progressive blogs in lieu of the Democrat & Chronicle, I was previously familiar with many of these phrases: sexism, patriarchy, institutional racism, other(ing), relativism, dominant ideology. Even so, a few terms (service users’ knowledge, internalized oppression) were new to me.

Glossary of Terms for Anti-Oppressive Policy and Practice seems most appropriate for students taking advanced sociology or social work courses. (Indeed, a Google search for the book’s title reveals a number of course syllabuses in which the glossary is included.) However, these are terms with which all adults – particularly those taking up the mantle of “progressivism” – should be acquainted.

While the book’s breadth of coverage is generally good, there are a few areas of concern.*

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"One man’s trash is another man’s delicacy,"

Saturday, September 19th, 2009

joked CNN HLN correspondent Jennifer Westhoven, while discussing Chinese/American “trade wars” on yesterday’s edition of Morning Express with Robin Meade.*

The so-called “trash”? Chicken feet:

China is threatening to cut off imports of American chicken, but poultry experts have at least one reason to suspect it may be an empty threat: Many Chinese consumers would miss the scrumptious chicken feet they get from this country.

“We have these jumbo, juicy paws the Chinese really love,” said Paul W. Aho, a poultry economist and consultant, “so I don’t think they are going to cut us off.”

Chicken exports were thrust to the forefront of American-Chinese trade tensions on Sunday when China took steps to retaliate for President Obama’s decision to levy tariffs on Chinese tires. The Chinese announced that they were considering import taxes on automotive products and chicken meat, a development that some trade experts feared could escalate.

I’m pretty sure the ten billion chickens slaughtered annually view their feet as anything but “trash.”

Wordplay FAIL.

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You’ve been Post’D!

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

Question: What happens when the spirit of viral video meets journalism?

Answer: Trenchant hilariousness.

First, Dana Milbank and Chris Cillizza of the Washington Post give it a try:
 


 
Next up, two unnamed everydudes:
 

 

I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather have a beer with the everydudes. I’m not usually a fan of the bathrobed-at-2 PM look (and I write this from the comfort of my couch, in last night’s jammies, at 11 AM), but it sure beats smoking jackets and pipes.

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Of vegans and vulvas.*

Tuesday, August 4th, 2009

Via Mylène – who always seems to find the most awesomest videos – I bring you this hilarious veg-on-the-street video: “What is a vegan?
 


 
Hint: it’s not a gay vegetarian.

* What else might the older gentleman at the beginning of the video be referencing when he guesses that vegans are women? Seriously, I’m stumped.

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"Generic" Individuals: The Ultimate in Speciesist Doublespeak

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Last week, I was watching an episode of The People’s Court I’d recorded back in May (DON’T JUDGE ME!!), and I happened to catch a “teaser” for that night’s news broadcast. NBC Action News in Kansas City, dog bless ’em, was doing an exposé of local area restaurants. Their crime? Trying to pass off “generic” fish(es) as red snapper fish(es).

It’s not very high-tech, but here’s a photo I took of the commercial’s fish graphics:

2009-07-08 - Fish Switch - 0002

So what’s wrong with this picture?

Well, there’s no such thing as “generic” fish. In fact, to refer to a group of sentient individuals (spanning one or more species) as “generic” is the ultimate in speciesist doublespeak.

Admittedly, I’m no expert on “fishing” or “seafood”; I’ve never been “fishing,” and was never an enthusiastic consumer of “seafood,” even in my omni days. Thinking at first that “generic fish” might be an industry or “fishing” term, I hit the Google. A search for the term “generic fish” didn’t turn up any such slang, just websites promoting “generic” fish clip art or selling “generic” fish oil capsules. Wiki wasn’t much help, either; most of the hits for “generic fish” are in the context of “this is the generic term for x species of fish.” As far as I can tell, KSHB pulled the term out of its keister.

(Granted, I could certainly be mistaken, in which case I welcome a correction! I’m not sure widespread use of the term would make it any less problematic, however.)

No doubt, what KSHB actually meant was “less expensive fish(es),” or “more common fish species,” etc. As in, the customer is paying for an expensive, “exotic” species of fish and receiving a cheap substitute, thus being cheated out of their hard-earned money. (Nevermind the many fishes who were cheated out of their very lives.)

Interestingly, the news reports on KSHB’s website do not refer to “generic” fish, though they do contain equally speciesist terms (for example, referring to the “cheaper” fishes as “counterfeit” foodstuffs).

Also note how I refer to fishes plural, rather than fish singular. The latter, more common usage implies that fish(es) are a single, indistinguishable lump of food, an inseparable mass of stuff – kind of like wine or crushed tomatoes.

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Bob Woodruff on boiling humans.

Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

Journalist Bob Woodruff made an appearance on The Daily Show last night in order to promote his latest project, Earth 2100:
 

 

I find it interesting that Stewart and Woodruff open the discussion with a clip of Earth 2100 that invokes the anecdote of the frog submerged in a pot of boiling water: namely, if you put a frog in a pot of water that’s already boiling, she’ll jump right out, having sensed the heat and danger. But if you place her in a pot of cold or lukewarm water and gradually raise the temperature, she’s none the wiser, and will remain in the deathtrap until she becomes frog soup. In this metaphor, humans are the frogs, and the pot is earth.

Which is all fine and good, except according to Snopes, this is a folk tale:

Like a fable, the “boiled frog” anecdote serves its purpose whether or not it’s based upon something that is literally true. But it is literally true? Not according to Dr. Victor Hutchison, a Research Professor Emeritus from the University of Oklahoma’s Department of Zoology, whose research interests include “the physiological ecology of thermal relations of amphibians and reptiles to include determinations of the factors which influence lethal temperatures, critical thermal maxima and minima, thermal selection, and thermoregulatory behavior”:

“The legend is entirely incorrect! The ‘critical thermal maxima’ of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water. If the container size and opening allow the frog to jump out, it will do so.”

The “boiled frog” legend is a ubiquitous one – one that, given its falsehood, is both speciesist and completely inappropriate for what I assume is supposed to be a scientific documentary. The latter point is a given, but allow me to explain the former: central to the anecdote’s premise is the idea that a frog is so utterly stupid that, given subtle but entirely discernible cues, “it” would remain oblivious to the increasing danger and allow “itself” to be boiled alive. “Let’s not be like those lesser animals!” the tale cautions. Except. In denying climate change and poo-pooing slight increases in average global temperatures as “insignificant,” the human species is actually exhibiting less sense than Dog gave a frog. The frog isn’t earth’s complacent village idiot – we are.

Also of note: Jon alludes to the presumed vivisection which led to the “discovery” that frogs might allow themselves to be boiled alive, given the right circumstances. Both Stewart and Woodruff appear to think that such gruesome experiments probably took place years ago, in the distant past. Except.

“The legend is entirely incorrect! The ‘critical thermal maxima’ of many species of frogs have been determined by several investigators. In this procedure, the water in which a frog is submerged is heated gradually at about 2 degrees Fahrenheit per minute. As the temperature of the water is gradually increased, the frog will eventually become more and more active in attempts to escape the heated water. If the container size and opening allow the frog to jump out, it will do so.”

While I can’t locate citations for these experiments, Wiki suggests that they’re more recent debunkings of “research” performed in the late 1800s (“research” on which the legend is apparently based).

So, yeah, we boil frogs alive – or attempt to, anyway. And that’s not even the worst of it.

Anyhow, back to Earth 2100.

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Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs, No. 1

Thursday, May 28th, 2009

Life Is Beautiful (1997)

I’ve decided to start a new feature (yet another!) on easyVegan.info. In “Intersectionality ‘Round the Interwebs,” I’ll highlight blog posts and news items that examine the various ways in which speciesism parallels or intersects with the oppression of marginalized human groups. In a word, intersectionality.

Previously, I was linking to these stories in my weekly weekend activist posts, but since they’re easily overlooked in a sea of links, I’d rather give ’em their own home. Deconstructing the patriarchy is hefty shit, yo!

So let’s get started, posthaste:

Stephanie @ Animal Rights @ Change .org: Pregnancy at Slaughter: What Happens to the Calves?, Part 1 and Part 2

Over the past few months, I’ve spent some time examining how modern animal agriculture subjects female animals to especially brutal and prolonged exploitation, turning their reproductive systems against them. Their children suffer greatly, too; the daughters of “dairy cows” are enslaved in the same conditions as their mothers, while brothers and sons, an otherwise worthless by-product of milk production, become “veal” calves; females born to “laying hens” become egg machines as well, eventually replacing their “spent” mothers, while males are simply disposed of in garbage bags and wood chippers; and so on and so forth.

In “Pregnancy at Slaughter: What Happens to the Calves?,” Stephanie turns her attention to the fate of newborn calves and late-term fetuses at the stockyard, where their mothers are faced with imminent slaughter. As she explains, some fetal calves die with – inside – their mothers, while others are harvested for use in “science.”

If you eat “meat,” drink milk, or wear leather, you’re complicit in this species-, sex- and age-based atrocity.

Stephanie @ Animal Rights @ Change .org: Women, Girls, and the So-Called Achievement of Killing

Following up on an earlier criticism of Feministing for celebrating a woman bullfighter as a feminist hero, Stephanie laments the pseudo-feminist news coverage of Teressa Groenewald-Hagerman, a 39-year-old Kansan whose major “accomplishment” is being the “first woman in the world to shoot an elephant dead with a bow and arrow.”

As Stephanie and others have noted, Groenewald-Hagerman’s slaughter of an elephant – someone’s father, brother, son, partner, friend – is no more a feminist victory than Aileen Wuornos’s unprecedented killing spree.

Elaine at Vegan Soapbox also weighs in:

Teressa was “inspired” to kill an elephant after a male friend said “women could never draw such a heavy bow.” But archery is NOT necessarily a hunting sport. My grandmother was an archer and she did NOT kill. She shot targets, not animals.

In order to prove the male “friend” wrong, Teressa needed only to show strength and skill, not a barbaric blood-lust.

Indeed. Sex-based discrimination in athletics (or any field dominated by men, for that matter) is a pervasive problem; the solution, however, does not lie in the slaughter of even more marginalized beings.

Vegetarian Star: Dan Matthews: Get Obamas Naked, Madonna Is Middle Aged Witch

PETA’s Dan Matthews on Madonna:

I was a fan of Madonna in the 1980s but she became this middle-aged witch who thought her style should be defined by wearing fur coats and eating foie gras. We had a long argument over her glamorising bullfighting in her music videos.

While I agree that many of Madonna’s actions are reprehensible, let’s not pretend that 1a) “witch” isn’t a G-rated euphemism for “bitch”; 1b) “bitch,” when used as an insult, isn’t misogynist; and 2a) “witch” isn’t also a sex-based slur, inasmuch as one never hears a man so insulted (e.g., “You warlock!”); 2b) “witch” isn’t also ageist and lookist, inasmuch as (bad) “witches” are conceptualized as old, wrinkled, ugly, scraggly, disagreeable, hideous creatures.

Alternatives one might employ instead of “witch”: killer, butcher, murderer, social carcinogen, Madge the Bunny Slayer. Lose the -ism in favor of creativity – you get the idea.

And also: fuck you, Dan Matthews.

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"…even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings…"

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

 

Prologue
Sound of a Battery Hen

 

 
You can tell me: if you come by the
North door, I am in the twelfth cage
On the left-hand side of the third row
From the floor; and in that cage
I am usually the middle one of eight or six or three.
But even without directions, you’d
Discover me. We have the same pale
Comb, clipped yellow beak and white or auburn
Feathers, but as the door opens and you
Hear above the electric fan a kind of
One-word wail, I am the one
Who sounds loudest in my head.

 
Over the past few months, I’ve written a series of posts on the themes of motherhood, maternal exploitation and deprivation, and the intersection of speciesism and sexism in Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals. Previously, I discussed examples of these vis-à-vis “pork production” and the “dairy industry.”

While Masson also explores the exploitation of sheep, goats, ducks and chickens in The Pig Who Sang to the Moon, the mother-child bond between a mother hen and her chicks receives the most attention of these remaining groups – so I’ll conclude my discussion with a look at “egg production.”

Photo via Jeanette’s Ozpix

In previous posts, I noted how female non-human animals (like their human counterparts) are especially vulnerable to exploitation because of their reproductive systems. Their ability to give birth – oftentimes referred to as a “miracle” in humans – makes them particularly valuable as the producers of future “commodities.” Their value, unfortunately, does not lead to preferential treatment from their captors. Instead, they suffer especially brutal and prolonged abuse.

As such, females become machines, assembly lines, destined to produce milk, eggs, flesh – and a replacement generation of baby-, milk- and/or egg- machines:

By the mere fact of their sex, sows, hens, ewes, does, nannies, cows and heifers – not to mention mares, bitches, jennies, jills, etc. – are ripe for especially brutal and prolonged exploitation. Oftentimes, this involves a constant cycle of pregnancy, birth, nursing and baby-napping, culminating with the female’s own death when she’s no longer able to breed or “produce” to her “owner’s” satisfaction.

Certainly, we recognize that the theft of a mother’s child is an atrocity when the victims are human mothers and children. At the same time, we argue that non-human animals deserve no rights because they are mere brutes, “lesser” beings, ruled by instinct and instinct alone. Yet, what is the drive to reproduce and parent if not an evolutionary instinct? And if we follow the popular line of reasoning – i.e., animals are creatures of instinct – does it not stand to reason that the maternal instinct is especially powerful in non-human animals?

Many – if not most – non-veg*ns find it difficult to relate to non-human animals, who (supposedly) are so different from us. At a fundamental level, our differing modes of communication make cross-species communication more difficult, particularly when one species (that would be us) has little interest in communication (and mutual understanding and respect) to begin with. Even so, many humans live with “pets,” the majority being dogs and cats; and, as we’ve come to recognize certain expressions and non-verbal cues in these mammals, such empathy can be extended to other, similar species – such as cows and pigs.

(More below the fold…)

Woman bites dog.

Thursday, May 14th, 2009

 


 
Dear WABC Reporter,

Do you honestly not see the irony in using a speciesist phrase like “dog eat dog” to introduce a heartwarming story that, in fact, demonstrates the exact opposite: that canines are complex animals who display a range of emotions and behaviors, including altruism, selflessness, bravery, friendship and love? “Dog is eat” is a prejudiced and hateful term that should be abolished from the human lexicon. Should you find yourself in need of an appropriate substitute, “human eat human,” “human eat dog,” or “human eats everything” may all suffice.

And also, re: your censorship of the injured dog – really? Methinks that the “food” on 99.9% of your viewers’ dinner plates was more gruesome, offensive and disturbing than the remote sight of a broken and bloodied* – but ultimately rescued – dog. There is no such redemption for the eight (give or take; no one knows for sure) murdered, dismembered, ground and processed cows in a “beef patty,” for example.

Otherwise, a beautiful piece.

Regards,

– A grumpy vegan and adopted mom to six furkids

* I first spotted this story on AC 360, where the sight of the injured dog was not blurred from sight. It was upsetting, but again, much less so than, say, the sight of a butcher carving up an animal corpse, which any man, woman or child can take in at more than a few grocery stores.

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On being someones, not somethings.

Wednesday, May 13th, 2009

I’ve heard mention of these campaign/outreach materials from Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary from time to time, but it wasn’t until I received a Mother’s Day action alert from the sanctuary that I clicked on over to check them out. Now that I’ve had a chance to look the materials over, I think I can honestly say that Peaceful Prairie’s fliers and pamphlets – particularly the “Milk comes from a grieving mother” series – are some of the most powerful I’ve seen.

Throughout its materials, PPS stresses the family ties of the (more often than not) nameless, faceless creatures we exploit for “meat,” milk, eggs and the like. When you eat meat, you’re eating someone’s father, brother or son. When you drink milk, you’re drinking milk that was stolen from a grieving mother and was meant to nourish her murdered baby. The exploitation of farmed animals necessarily involves the manipulation and severing of these familial relationships, so fundamental to their (and our) emotional and social well-being and survival. How do YOU say, ‘Don’t kill my baby!’? Should any mother have to?

PPS also gives these animals names and faces, by emphasizing their unique individualities, as well as their relationships to one another: Lillian is more than “just a pig,” more than “pork,” more than the sum of her animal parts. So much more! Lillian is both someone and someone’s daughter. Someone’s sister. Someone’s aunt. Someone’s mother, perhaps. Lillian is important and valuable and unique because she’s Lillian the individual – there is no other quite like her! – and because she’s Lillian to so many others. Like you or I, Lillian is irreplaceable.

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Mama’s little Kenneth Lays!

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

Over lunch, I caught myself admonishing the dogs, a few of whom promptly inhaled their food and then went scrounging around their siblings’ bowls in hopes of catching a stray piece of kibble, thusly: “Don’t be little piggies!”

I followed that up with a quick correction: “Not to insult pigs, of course.”

Except, conjuring up metaphors of pigs in order to scold someone for being greedy or gluttonous does, in point o’ fact, constitute an insult to pigdom. Even if done in a loving and affectionate manner, for all involved (and oh how I loves the piggies!). After all, the insult relies upon supposedly porcine faults: greed, gluttony, eating and indulging to excess, obesity in the form of pork fat, etc. Strip the stereotypes away, and the saying no longer makes sense.

A more appropriate phrase, then, might be “Don’t be heterosexual white fundie Christian dudes!” or something similar.

Or, more to the point, “Don’t be a Kenneth Lay!,” “Why you wanna be an Enron exec!,” or “Not my Nigel!

See? Purge one speciesist insult from your vocabulary, gain a whole slew of novel, creative and varied slurs. It’s like going vegan, but verbal. The possibilities are endless!

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Yo-ho-hum & a bottle of rum.

Monday, April 13th, 2009

Dear MSM:

The pirates who hijacked the Maersk Alabama last week, taking the ship’s captain hostage and demanding ransom for the vessel, its cargo and the captain, are just that – pirates. Call them criminals if you prefer, or armed robbers and kidnappers. International men of mystery. Swashbucklers, if you will.

But terrorists, they aint:

Terrorism is, most simply, policy intended to intimidate or cause terror. It is more commonly understood as an act which (1) is intended to create fear (terror), (2) is perpetrated for an ideological goal (as opposed to a materialistic goal or a lone attack), and (3) deliberately targets (or disregards the safety of) non-combatants. Some definitions also include acts of unlawful violence or unconventional warfare, but at present, there is no internationally agreed upon definition of terrorism.

Emphasis mine, in order to highlight the common conception of the term “terrorist” – think al-Qa’ida, Hamas, Hezbollah (and not the Tofu kind) – armed militant groups, seeking to overthrow the government in order to enforce their own ideology, in part by targeting civilians.

Twist the term as you might

“There are statements in international law that say pirates are the ‘enemies of all mankind,’ and that goes back to the 1600s,” said Linda A. Malone, director of the human rights and national security law program at the William and Mary Law School in Virginia.

“It’s a form of terrorism, but it’s not done for political reasons. It’s done for financial gain, although those lines are starting to blur,” Malone said. “It’s one of the oldest international criminal law offenses.”

– crimes committed solely for financial gain are…well, crimes: murder, theft, kidnapping, etc.

Twist the term enough, and you’ll render it meaningless.

I can see the headlines now: “Sexting Terrorism Paralyzes US Economy.” Mike Galanos will have a field day with that story.

Hugs,

2007-12-05 - Cpt Kaylee's Booty - 0025 [4x6]

A band of merry heathen veg*n pirate/terra-ists.

P.S. For more, see: Best, Steven and Anthony J. Nocella II, eds. 2004. Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals. New York: Lantern Books.

Don’t worry, I’m sure y’all can write it off as a business expense, given how you toss the term around with abandon.

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A new genus of the fauxgressive species?

Wednesday, April 8th, 2009

Sigh. Shit like this is, I think, a natural outgrowth of the Chicks Love a Vegetarian (and similar) way of outreach, in which my “pussy” is treated like a reward for good male behavior. While admittedly kinda sorta cute (zomg! fluffy baby chickies and hot boyz!!1!), it’s also kinda sorta sexist. Let’s not pretend for a second that “chick” isn’t slang for women, and that a rather obvious double entendre is at play here.

Of course, both are natural outgrowths of living in a patriarchy, so ultimately, IBTP.

(Photo via whizchickenonabun; “fauxgressive” via Shakespeare’s Sister.)

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"Useless eaters"

Saturday, April 4th, 2009

While compiling my final post about the intersections of misogyny and speciesism – which are evident in Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson’s The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals – I stumbled upon this memorable exchange, in the chapter on chickens. It doesn’t quite fit with the post I’m writing, but it’s such a powerful piece that I’d like to share it anyway.

In addition to highlighting another type of intersection, it also helps to illustrate how similar processes are at play in the animalization of humans and the objectification of animals (both humans and non).

I had wanted to see how broiler chickens are raised commercially for some time. Not easy to do. Such places are off-limits to the general public. Chicken suppliers do not want people to know the intimate details of how their cheap chicken comes to the dinner table. Recently, though, Tony – a friend of a friend of a friend – said he would let me visit his chicken farm, as long as I did not identify him with a last name or say exactly where the farm was. A few weeks ago, I drove to Tony’s. He took me to four shed-like barns secluded behind giant cypress shrubs, well out of view of the public.

“We are expected to keep them out of sight,” he said. […]

As I walked in, I was almost blinded by the sight of 25,000 pure white chickens, packed up right against one another as far as my eyes could see. […]

Every day, Tony explained, he walks through this stiflingly packed room and picks up the dead and the dying chickens and disposes of them. He eyed me warily.

“You’re not from one of those crazy animal rights groups, are you? Okay, then, well, I guess I can tell you, I also take out the ones that are not growing. It wouldn’t pay, would it, to keep them there? No profit, they are just useless eaters.

Masson places the following thought in parentheses, but it’s so important an observation, I think it deserves more. Instead of parentheses, bold type:

The phrase resonated for me. “Useless eater” was used by the Nazis to describe the inmates of psychiatric institutions whom the Nazis wanted dead, and indeed did kill.

(pages 91-93)

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Dear "Franz," (a postscript)

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Photo via gwenael.piaser

A few days ago, I posted a snarky little missive addressed to “Franz,” an angry, speciesist troll who left several (now deleted) comments in response to this post. At the time, I gave little thought to his all-too-predictable ranting before deleting the comments, however, upon further reflection, I kind of wish I’d left them up. So much to deconstruct!

Franz’s initial comment left me wondering whether he was an uber-militant vegan, or just another speciesist troll. In it, he noted that he’s an Ohio resident, and yes, all “pig farms” are like the one depicted in Death on a Factory Farm. And anyone who thinks otherwise is “fucking ignorant.” And furthermore, unless a “morsel of meat” has never crossed your lips, you’re a “fucking hypocrite” for criticizing factory farming.

He followed that up with an obviously speciesist rant about vegans (like myself, presumably) who spend (“waste”) time on animal advocacy issues when there are More Important Things to worry about. Who cares about the dismemberment of fully conscious pigs, when millions of Humans have died in the “civil unrest” in Darfur? And, ZOMG, what about the peoples?, and so on and so forth.

Obviously, anyone who spends more than a reactionary thirty seconds considering the issue can see what an utter load of bullshit anthropocentric excrement it is. For starters, we can play this game forever: Who cares about the rape of women in Darfur when other women are being murdered? Who cares about genocide in Darfur when there’s an AIDS epidemic in (Southern) Africa? Who cares about AIDS when the entire human population is threatened by climate change? Ranking oppressions is an exercise in futility. Who gets to decide which injustice is the most egregious – and thus the most worthy of our attention? Could it be the oppressors, hmmmm?

(FWIW, hop on over to any A-list feminist blog, and you can see the same dishonest attacks leveled at women who dare to criticize “trivial” examples of misogyny in Western cultures: Who cares about “Fat Princess” when women are forced into hijabs in Islamic countries!?!?1! This line of “reasoning” is nothing but a smokescreen, and a transparent one at that.)

Not to mention, such an argument assumes that we can only care about and work on a single issue at any one time; that different forms of oppression and social injustice exist separately and are wholly independent of one another, as if in a void; that one’s compassion, kindness, justice and ethics towards one marginalized group will not inform a person’s attitudes and actions towards other marginalized groups; and that a being’s compassion is a finite pie that must be doled out a slice at a time. Wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong.

But I digress. The most interesting part of Franz’s rant came in the second comment. By this point, my eyes were glazing over, but I’ll try to paraphrase as best I can. Franz implored me to consider the story of some dude whose wife and (three?) children had been murdered. I forget the man’s name, but seeing as Franz mentioned the case directly after scolding me for not personally rescuing the entire population of Darfur, I assume that the murders were a part of said genocide.

What about John Q. Smith, whose wife and children were murdered and dismembered right in front of him? Don’t you care about him?

The “casual” sexism inherent in this sentence didn’t hit me until a few hours later. Here, John Q. Smith’s (unnamed) wife and children are the primary victims: it is they who were murdered and dismembered. While I’ve no doubt that this is traumatic for John, the crimes committed against him (being forced to watch as his wife and children were murdered and dismembered) are nowhere near as serious as the crimes committed against the wife and children (murder and dismemberment). They lost their lives, while John was allowed to live.

Yet, the way Franz frames the sentence, you’d think the most horrific abuses were reserved for John. Franz doesn’t ask “What about this woman and her children, who were murdered and dismembered?” – rather, he saves the bulk of his pity for John, whose wife and children were murdered and dismembered. To Franz, John’s wife and children are not even worthy of names – they’re some man’s wife and children, i.e., property, and that’s all we need to know. Seriously, we may as well identify the woman and children with numbers and ear tags. You know, like “livestock.”

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"This is the oppressor’s language." *

Monday, March 30th, 2009

Photo via KayVee.INC

Will Potter wonders, Why Aren’t the EPA’s Most Wanted Fugitives Labeled “Eco-terrorists”?:

The brilliance of the “Green Scare” and the War on Terrorism more broadly is how the government and corporations have twisted language to push a political agenda. When environmentalists put their bodies on the line to stop environmental destruction? That’s “eco-terrorism.” When corporations destroy the environment for personal gain? That’s just business as usual. […]

Now, which is more worthy of receiving the “eco-terrorism” label? Crimes that indiscriminately put humans, animals and the environment at risk, for personal profit? Or narrowly-targeted actions (not all of which are even criminal) intended to stop environmental destruction?

Who do you think is the “eco-terrorist”: The tree sitter or Boise Cascade? The Earth Liberation Front or Monsanto? Tim DeChristopher or mining corporations? Earth First or General Motors?

Since ours is indeed the oppressor’s language, those who terrorize the environment are “smart businessmen,” while defenders of the earth and its inhabitants are labeled “violent” “terrorists” and punished with disproportionately harsh prison sentences – even though the former’s so-called “white collar” crimes destroy far more lives (human and non) than the latter’s so-called acts of “terrorism.”

* Adrienne Rich, quoted in Animal Equality.

It’s worth noting that Rich’s observation comes from a feminist perspective, however, the same applies to the relationship between human and non-human animals, and humans and the earth. Humans [in Rich’s words, men] are the oppressors, and our language necessarily legitimizes and reinforces the misdeeds we [men] commit against non-human animals and the earth [women]. Notice how the same processes are at play in each pattern of exploitation?

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"Faultlines"

Saturday, March 28th, 2009

Photo via kendiala

Lately, I’ve been thinking quite a bit about intersections: been speciesism, racism, homophobia, xenophobia, colonialism, classism and (especially) sexism, and between animal liberation and other social justice movements.

While it’s become clear to me that all forms of prejudice and oppression are interrelated – and indeed, spring from the same well – what I find most vexing is how all these injustices first came about. Were nature and non-human animals subjugated first, followed by women and marginalized men, or were many of these rungs built into the social hierarchy at once? Which came first – organized religion, what with its oh-so-convenient justifications for mistreating the aforementioned “lesser” beings, or were these dogmas created after the fact, as a way of rationalizing and continuing these inequities? Did women as group resist when their brothers began to betray them en masse? Perhaps nature betrayed us as well, by “blessing” us with bodies that, on the one hand, are capable of bringing new life into this world – yet by the same token are vulnerable and ripe for exploitation? Why do men (and not a few women) seek to bully and oppress others? Why can’t we all just get along?

pattrice jones has touched upon this subject in her writings time and again. At the most basic level, she links the rise of pastoralism to that of the patriarchy. Take, for example, this exchange from an interview published in Vegan Voice:

Q. In Australia we have an appalling track record with regards to indigenous rights. How is racism shaped to some degree by animal exploitation.

A. I’m glad you asked about that, because it was my scholarly investigations into the origins of racism that led me to understand how speciesism is related various forms of oppression among humans. Basically, pastoralism (human dominion over animals) and patriarchy (male dominion over women) — which arrived on the historical scene together and cannot be separated — formed the template according to which all subsequent forms of exploitation would be patterned. It’s not an accident that people who are going to be exploited because of their religion, ethnicity, disability, or race are first “dehumanised” — the very act of subjugation is the act of forcing the target group into the category of “animal,” which means both “being without rights” and “object to be used.” You mentioned the Australian record with regard to indigenous peoples. The European conquests Australia offers a case in point concerning the use of the category “animal” to oppress a group of people. Indigenous people were, essentially, treated as just one more species of indigenous animal, to be exploited when possible and exterminated otherwise. The atrocities that were committed against indigenous peoples would be unimaginable were it not for a long history of treating living beings in exactly the same way. That history made it easy to just add indigenous people to the list of beings who may permissibly be enslaved, killed, or used without regard for their own aim and interests. As long as the category “animal” exists, it will be possible for some human animals to push other human animals over the line into it. If we are serious about ending the exploitation of people, then we have to get rid of the idea of a living being without rights, who can be exploited or killed at will. There’s more — much more — but that’s the gist of it.

In her contributions to Terrorists or Freedom Fighters?: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals (2004) and Igniting a Revolution: Voices in Defense of the Earth (2006), jones examines animal liberation in general (and direct action specifically) through a (anarcha~)feminist lens. In both pieces (“Mothers with Monkeywrenches: Feminist Imperatives and the Animal Liberation Front” and “Stomping with the Elephants: Feminist Principles for Feminist Solidarity”), she returns to the theme of intersecting oppressions, and in so doing she conjures up many of the same questions that have been dancing around in my head.*

In particular, this passage from “Stomping with the Elephants” scratches the surface of the problem – ever so slightly, as the issue is enormous – which might be the concept of “property” – ownership, of both the land, and the beings residing upon it:

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