Why There Are A Lot Of Vegan Feminists

March 08, 2019 2 min read

Why There Are A Lot Of Vegan Feminists

For feminists who adopt vegan lifestyles, food choices offer a means to subvert the patriarchal foundations of the food system. Vegan feminists stand in solidarity with animals to challenge dualistic hierarchies that put women, non-gender conforming individuals, and animals at a disadvantage. 

 

As Angela Davis describes, the norm for diets in Western culture entails thinking of animals raised for food production as commodities: “Most people don’t think about the horrendous suffering that those animals must endure simply in order to become food products to be consumed by human beings.” Recognizing the suffering that animals endure can lead to an emotionally charged feeling of empathy. Vegan feminists often identify with animals as victims of exploitation in a system that merely places value on them both through the lens of marketability and objectification. 


As a victim of rape, Elizabeth Enochs describes how veganism honors her defense of victims and her belief that all living creatures deserve care. Like many other vegan feminists, she cites how the forcible domination within the meat industry specifically targets female animals whose reproductive organs are exploited for their profitable function.

Female cows are artificially inseminated and continuously forced to endure pregnancies and births in quick succession. Their calves are then taken from them to be slaughtered for veal meat. The physical strain these activities impose on animal bodies is intense. And whereas male cattle are killed, the females must live through these painful and traumatizing processes. Feminists who choose veganism can easily recognize the similarities between the experience of these female cattle and women whose bodies, domestic labor and even child-rearing abilities are often devalued and controlled by men in society.  


Another vegan feminist activist, Karolina Skowron, points out how both women and animals are objectified in the media. Women are often called a “piece of meat,” or they are portrayed as idealized body parts on billboards. And rather than accurately depicting animals, the meat and dairy industries portray them as smiling cartoonish figures that gloss over any suffering they endure.

Lisa Ketterer points out that this objectification creates ahierarchy whereby women and animals are both classed as inferior. And according to the symbolic logic of patriarchy, “weaker” counterparts are seen as deserving of the suffering they endure as a natural consequence of inferiority. As a result, patriarchal language strips both females and animals of the agency by suggesting they are irrational, tied down by their bodies and less capable of higher orders of thinking and feeling like a few examples.  
Vegan feminism tackles these issues of exploitation, objectification and patriarchal language by addressing food consumption through the lens of identity politics. By recognizing the complexity of race, class, gender and even animal status, we can start to understand how privilege operates uniquely at different intersections.
Poet Audre Lorde eloquently reminds us, “There is no such thing as a single-issue-struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” By leveraging the relative privilege we have to act as allies to those without a voice, we can help improve the lives of all oppressed living beings, including animals. Veganism is one way that feminists strive to do so.
To learn more about vegan feminism, check out theVegan Feminist Network.

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