Category Archives: Speciesism

Discrimination based on species; animal rights and animal liberation issues

White vegans need to check their privileges

[Image: Poster reading “Black Lives Matter: A Vegan Praxis”. Features a silhouette of a person with their hands up in the air. Their torso is the head of a bull with a bullseye between the eyes. Poster design: Alise Eastgate of Eastrand Studios.]

I’ve been talking about veganism a lot less lately because I’m frankly embarrassed to be associated with many of the prominent vegans in the “animal whites movement.” We have foodie vegans singing the praises of expensive juice cleanses, nondairy cheeses, and gourmet vegan restaurants. We have activists like Gary Yourofsky and the Non-Humans First movement saying that oppressed humans can speak for themselves, and nonhumans have it worst than anyone else on the planet, so all efforts need to focus on them, and no tactics are off-limits. And we have white vegans co-opting the BlackLivesMatter hashtag to focus attention on nonhuman animals, and calling black people racist and/or speciesist when we complain about this.

Black vegan chef Bryant Terry summed up the situation thusly in this Facebook status:

Bryan Terry quote on BlackLivesMatter

[Image: Bryant Terry Facebook status: If you have shared innumerable posts about how humans can be more compassionate towards animals and you have not said one peep about police terrorizing and killing little black girls and boys, a terrorist killing 9 black people in a church this month, 6 black churches being burned to the ground in the past week, and the myriad ways that anti-black racism manifests, I encourage you to think long and hard about how you might expand your “compassion” and fight for justice for all living beings.]

Blacks and other people of color don’t have the privilege to ignore racism, whether inside or outside of the animal rights movement. I can’t blame black people for caring more about the bodies of their loved ones being violated and killed by police and terrorists than the bodies of nonhuman animals being violated and killed by farmers and slaughterhouse workers. And given the mainstream media’s slant on the events highlighted in Terry’s quote above, it is laughable to say that we have a voice, while nonhuman animals do not. We have the ability to speak, but our voices are ignored and silenced.

Fortunately, more of us are speaking out on racism in the animal rights community.  [Edit, October 2016: I had embedded here a video by black vegan Rachel Richards, founder of the “Check Your Activism” channel on YouTube, but the video and the channel itself seem to have been deleted.]

I linked to the sites of some other activists who get it in my blog entry on activism with DxE. One I want to highlight today is Dr. Amie “Breeze” Harper of Sistah Vegan Project. I read her Sistah Vegan anthology several years ago, before my transition to male. I was excited to see an entire book of essays by black female vegans. I also felt a kinship to Dr. Harper as a practitioner of Buddhism; while I don’t currently identify with Buddhism as a religion, the Buddhist concept of ahimsa, or nonviolence, is central to my ethics (which is why I chose Ahimsa as my middle name). Her blog is filled with excellent, thought-provoking essays on racism, sexism, food justice, and many other issues, in addition to (and in conjunction with) veganism.

Dr. Harper organized an online conference, “The Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter“,  which I attended earlier this year. It was an excellent, interactive series of talks, covering racism, sexism, cissexism, and many other issues that are usually ignored by the mainstream vegan and animal rights movements. Recordings of the conference are available for purchase, and a book will be forthcoming.

I’ve contributed to the Sistah Vegan Project’s fundraising campaign on GoFundMe, which has been running for over two years now and has raised just over $10,000 to date. In contrast, when the popular high-end vegan restaurant, Millennium, announced that they had to leave their San Francisco location and started a Kickstarter campaign to fund their move to Oakland, they raised over $100,000 in less than a month. This is, to put it bluntly, fucked up.

I’ve seen this racism and classism in the the trans community as well. From the linked article:

…in a popular queer group a white trans man posted his fundraiser for top surgery and raised roughly half his funds within a day. He also garnered a lot of support from members of the group. A trans woman of color posted her fundraiser for living expenses because she was fired from her job due to discrimination and she was asked to promptly remove the post because it violated “community policy”.

After reading the above, I gave money to the Free CeCe documentary campaign, to elevate the voices of black trans women. Even with the backing and promotion of Laverne Cox and Janet Mock, that project is not yet fully funded.

If animal liberation is to succeed, the movement must address the concerns of oppressed humans as well as nonhumans. The BlackLivesMatter movement must not be co-opted or ignored by  white vegans. Black voices, vegan or non-vegan, need to be heard.

 

We are all animals

[Image: A group of people holds up signs with photos of animals, the words “WE ARE ALL ANIMALS”, and the Direct Action Everywhere logo.]

Update, July 2016: Since publishing this post I have left Direct Action Everywhere (as has Saryta Rodriguez, who is in the top center of the above photo.) My points about animal liberation and the intersections of oppression still remain.

Yesterday my partner and I participated in an action with Direct Action Everywhere. I’ve been involved with this animal liberation group for about a year now, ever since having a falling out with Gary Francione, whose writing first got me interested in becoming an animal rights activist. Though I’ve been vegan since 2011 and vegetarian since 1992, it wasn’t until last year that I was convinced I should actively speak out against animal exploitation.  Welfare reform isn’t the answer, as “humane farming” is a myth. The answer is abolishing the property status of animals, or to put it in a more positive way, animal liberation.

Direct Action Everywhere protest at Whole Foods Market[Image: A group of people marches outside a Whole Foods Market, carrying a colorful banner reading “WE ARE ALL EARTHLINGS” and featuring the eyes of human and non-human animals.]

I like Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) because the people I’ve met in that community are more diverse and outspoken against human oppression than many of those in larger animal rights organizations. I’ve learned that all oppression is interconnected, including racism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and speciesism. I won’t support animal rights groups or individuals who use sexist campaign tactics, like PETA, or say hateful, violent things about women or ethnic groups, like Gary Yourofsky. The ends do not justify the means.

Direct Action Everywhere protest at Chipotle[Image: A group of people hold signs with photos of animals and the words “WE ARE ALL ANIMALS”. A woman in the foreground holds a white rabbit. Another woman speaks into a megaphone, a large dog standing next to her.]

Total animal liberation means everyone, humans and non-humans alike. Other writers and activists outside of DxE who get this include A. Breeze Harper of Sistah Vegan Project, Sarah K. Woodcock of The Abolitionist Vegan Society, lauren Ornelas of the Food Empowerment Project, Corey Wrenn of Vegan Feminist Network and The Academic Abolitionist Vegan, Christopher-Sebastian McJetters of Vegan Publishers, and Will Tuttle, author of The World Peace Diet.

Direct Action Everywhere protest at Chipotle[Image: A group of people stand outside a Chipotle restaurant, holding signs and a banner. In the foreground a man is speaking into a megaphone. Behind him a woman is holding a large white rabbit.]

As a queer black trans person, I feel safe and respected at DxE. In addition to taking photos at their events, I’ve written several entries for their blog, The Liberationist, on the topics of masculinity and aggression, dairy and racism, and gender identity and respect. I also participated on a DxE-hosted panel of queer-identified activists discussing the links between LGBTQ and animal rights. The organizers and most of the panelists were people of color. It was an empowering experience.

Direct Action Everywhere protest at Chipotle[Image: A group of people stands outside a Chipotle restaurant, carrying signs including a colorful banner reading “WE ARE ALL EARTHLINGS”.]

Lately, I haven’t been as active in DxE or other animal liberation activities as I would like, as depression and dysphoria have made it difficult for me to leave the house much of the time. I’m glad I made it out to this weekend’s action though, as it was in downtown San Francisco (so I could walk there and back), and I wanted to get photos of the companion animals the activists were encouraged to bring along. I especially couldn’t get enough photos of my friend Lisa with one of her beautiful rabbits, Aster.

Lisa pets her companion rabbit, Aster[Image: A woman with straight brown hair, rabbit-shaped earrings, and a blue T-shirt smiles while petting a large white rabbit sitting in a carrier.]

Rebeca and her dog friend Lexie[Image: A woman with curly brown hair and a blue T-shirt smiles while kneeling and petting a large brown-and-white dog.]

Pat and her dog friend[Image: A woman wearing a straw hat and brown jacket smiles while holding a small white dog.]

I’ve uploaded the full set of images to Flickr under a Creative Commons license, so they can be freely shared for noncommercial use with attribution. (I also posted the photos to Facebook, but I’d rather not drive traffic to that organization currently, in light of their harmful, ongoing “real names” policy.) Looking forward to spending more time with my friends, human and non-human, at DxE.

 

 

Whose holiday is it again?

[Image: The face of a steer, Brahma, partially superimposed over the face of the author, Pax.]*

Tomorrow, many US-Americans will celebrate the birth of a country that was founded by and for the benefit of  white heterosexual cisgender theistic men, on lands stolen from indigenous people, with the forced labor of black slaves.

Many will feast upon the flesh, milk, and eggs of non-human animals, who did not and could not consent to having their lives and children taken away from them. Many vegans will feast on plant-based treats right alongside them, but few will say a word about animals.

Some will drink too much alcohol. Some will get behind the wheel of a car, intoxicated. Some of those who make it home safely in this drunken condition will turn on their spouses and children.

Many will enjoy fireworks that scare the living daylights out of companion animals, as well as many humans with posttraumatic stress and sensory processing disorders. The show will often conclude with a song celebrating military victory.

America, fuck yeah.

* Brahma was rescued from the dairy industry by the humans at PreetiRang Sanctuary.

Pope Francis is no ally of mine

Originally published on LiveJournal.

It seems every time Pope Francis, the current head of the Catholic Church, suggests that we might not want to torture or outright kill people who don’t look or act like us, progressives fall all over each other to embrace him as an ally. Saying “If someone is gay and seeks the Lord with good will, who am I to judge?” landed him on the cover of The Advocate as “Person of the Year”. And now, saying “It is contrary to human dignity to cause animals to suffer or die needlessly” has garnered the praise of animal rights organizations, and even the “Abolitionist Approach” vegan anti-welfarist Gary Francione.

Let’s look behind the curtain at what this man is really about. As head of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis supports equal rights for one and only one category of people: Straight cisgender monogamous human males. He does not support reproductive rights for women (or anyone with a female-assigned reproductive system). He does not support same-sex marriage. He does not support gender transition. He does not support anyone other than straight cisgender men taking leadership roles in the Catholic Church.

In these regards, he is no different from any other Pope before him. Many individual Catholics feel differently, but it is the Pope specifically who is being praised by LGB and animal rights organizations. And as a queer trans person, I cannot tolerate this hypocrisy. This Pope, like all other Popes before him, is unapologetically sexist, heterosexist, cissexist, and speciesist.

I chose the words “heterosexist” and “cissexist” rather than the more familiar “homophobic” and “transphobic” to highlight that I don’t necessarily believe Pope Francis hates or is afraid of LGBT people. But whether he loves us or hates us is irrelevant; he is oppressing us. He makes theism, celibacy (in the case of gays and lesbians), and non-transition (in the case of trans people) prerequisites to his acceptance of us as worthy humans. Having compassion for someone and not outright condemning them is not allyship. If the Pope – or anyone else – does not support full and equal rights for all people regardless of gender or sexual orientation, he is not an ally.

In animal rights terms, the Pope’s language about “needless” suffering and dying is a welfarist smokescreen unless he follows it with a clear declaration that animals are not property for humans to enslave and kill for their flesh, eggs, milk, or any other purpose. Again here, it does not matter whether or not the Pope truly loves animals. I disagree with those who say that you cannot simultaneously love animals and be non-vegan. It is entirely possible, sadly, for someone to love an animal and still believe it is OK to enslave and kill them, because we live in a deeply speciesist society.

What matters is the perspective of the victim: The animal who is suffering and dying. And all farmed animals suffer and die needlessly, regardless of whether they are imprisoned in a factory farm or a backyard. As long as animals are considered the property of humans, this will not change, no matter how many encyclicals the Catholic Church releases talking about the value of animals in the eyes of the Lord. It is lip service, it is political, it is empty. “Humane” farming is the ultimate betrayal, visible in the terrified eyes of every fish, pig, chicken, calf, and lamb whose throat is slit for their flesh, skin, eggs, milk, or wool. Animal farming itself is, indeed, “needless”. But you won’t hear that from the Vatican.

I don’t want to hear about baby steps. Humans who make purchasing decisions are adults, not babies, and don’t need a religious figurehead to decide for them whether or not to enslave and kill animals for their meals, clothing, and entertainment. As a queer black trans human who seeks total animal liberation, the Pope is no ally of mine.