Checked your human privilege lately?

// 29 March 2010

devon pigz.jpgMy name is Amy Clare, and I am a vegan feminist. (Or should that be veg*n fem*nist?) For my last post as one of this month’s guest bloggers, I’d like to talk about speciesism and human privilege.

For those unfamiliar with the term, speciesism means discrimination against another being on the grounds of species; simply, the oppression of non-humans by humans. The moral arguments for the granting of rights to animals are somewhat beyond the scope of this post, however they are summarised here and here. Simply put – if you accept that non-human animals can suffer, then the only conclusion to be drawn from observing our world is that their suffering is largely seen to be unimportant on the grounds that they are not human; hence, they are victims of speciesism.

As feminists, we can see very plainly how oppression works when it relates to gender, but as human beings it is much more difficult to accept oppression as it relates to species. This is because our human privilege blinds us just as male privilege blinds many men.

Some have likened becoming a feminist to taking one of the pills in The Matrix – suddenly, you can see the world as it really is. You become aware of every instance of oppression, and when others then dismiss this oppression, it is unbelievably infuriating. I feel the same whenever the topic of animal rights comes up in conversation, and omnivores shrug their shoulders at me and declare that they enjoy meat, so why should they stop eating it? For me, this is the same as hearing a man say that he enjoys rape porn, so why should he stop watching it?

Human beings are very adept at ignoring their privilege. We have created a world where the use of other species as means to our ends is seen as normal, natural and desirable. Anyone sticking up for the rights of non-human species is quickly dismissed as a bit ‘weird’, a killjoy, or just ‘oversensitive’ – sound familiar? Many human beings, when confronted about their privilege, react angrily – again, ring any bells?

The sheer scale of our human privilege is in fact staggering. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the food industry. As it is possible for the vast majority of people, at least in rich countries like the UK, to eat a healthy and delicious plant-based diet, the consumption of animal products is primarily about desire. Non-humans’ lives are seen as so worthless that they are exploited and slaughtered in their billions for the fulfilment of this desire. When we saunter down to Tesco of an evening, we can pick from a huge variety of different packages of their flesh or secretions, all laid out for us in vast fridges and freezers, some of which lingers in our mouths for micro-seconds, and much of which ends up in the bin, either the supermarket’s or the customer’s. Thus is the worth of a non-human animal: to be hurt and killed just so that a sufficiently large choice of dinner could be offered to a human. What is that, if not human privilege?

Where sexism and speciesism intersect, the result is a grim life for many female animals. Women may feel as though they are treated like baby-making machines; billions of female non-humans literally are. The reproductive organs of cows, hens, sows and ewes are seen as nothing more than factories providing products for human beings’ consumption, whether that’s milk, eggs, or baby animals for the meat trade. They are restrained, artificially inseminated without their consent and made to endure forced pregnancy after forced pregnancy, eventually being killed as their ‘productivity’ wanes – if this happened to a woman or girl we would call it torture, rape and murder, and we would be utterly horrified by it. Why is it different for another species?

Women being used and abused for the pleasure and convenience of the patriarchy is something we fight against every day. We can recognise our own oppression, organise and speak for ourselves; without our work, male privilege would go unchallenged and unchanged. Non-humans, however, can’t speak the language of the beings in charge; they can’t organise protests or lobby parliament. It is therefore up to human beings to recognise our privilege and realise that the dominant position we enjoy over other species causes unimaginable suffering. This is why I now take pains to ensure that my life is as cruelty-free as possible, and why as long as I am a feminist, I will also be a vegan.

Further reading:

*Animal Rights & Anti-oppression, a vegan feminist blog;

*Kelly Garbato writes about being a pro-choice vegan, sexism in the animal rights movement and intersectionality;

*A blog post from L.O.V.E. about veganism and transphobia;

*Vegans of colour.

Picture by me!

Comments From You

Laurel Dearing // Posted 29 March 2010 at 6:22 pm

whilst i am a vegetarian (veganism is really hard if you dont like cooking or nuts and beans =/) and take as many steps as i can without messing up my life too much, mostly because people dont see things the way i do, i do detest things done by groups like PETA who will oppress one group in order to use shock value.

I’m not sure how people that really do not feel animal life is important will take the rape-porn comparison, but it works as well with porn in general, knowing that a lot of the workers and actors are abused or coerced for entertainment of others.

i havent quite figured out with me how far my morals about animal rights are “personal belief” and how much stuff i really do think people breaching is wrong and disgusting. i certainly cant stand killing of things for no reason whatsoever, or because something was “annoying”, nor for sport.

with eating, i think it depends on need and circumstance. whilst i would urge people to cut down on consumption and avoid battery chickens eggs, veal, things like that, the problems will exist as long as people want cheap cakes using eggs, or milk which requires the cow to be pregnnt and produce calves, including the young males that are eaten.

the most interesting thing for me is the idea of the links between oppression of women and class creation with agriculture. see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anarcho-primitivism#Civilization or the similar article on eco feminism.

im not sure whether its something id want to push on people, but i certainly think awareness of such issues are very important so that people can “take the pill” as such to make up their own minds with a better idea of what they are doing.

Hannah // Posted 29 March 2010 at 7:41 pm

I agree with a lot of this post and am always surprised by how many people in liberation movements eat meat (and by the same token, when PETA runs misogynistic campaigns). I’m vegetarian and a big reason for this is what you call the Matrix comparison – once you see the logic of domination in one context then it’s hard to ignore it in similar contexts without feeling hypocritical. By the way, for anyone wanting to read more about the ethics of diet, the best argument is probably still Peter Singer in Animal Liberation, which popularised the word ‘speciesism’.

I know the logical outcome of recognising that vegetarianism is good is that veganism is more consistent – in fact, I accidentally convinced a friend to become vegan by giving him my argument for vegetarianism – but for various reasons I wouldn’t be able to do it. I didn’t want to make this the focus on my post though, I think it’s important rather than arguing amongst ourselves that we try and have a discussion with people who aren’t yet convinced.

Alicia // Posted 29 March 2010 at 8:12 pm

I feel quite strongly about this issue but I am very uncomfortable about the repeated comparisons with the rape of women here. I may not be the first to admit this, but however cruel and wasteful the meat industry is in this country (the huge demand for skinless chicken breast whilst pretty much discarding and/or reducing to mush the rest for sausage-making for example), using the humiliation of women as a tool to emotionally manipulate fellow feminists is just tacky.

I have been an on-and-off vegan for various reasons, health and consumption-wise mostly, and find it difficult not because I find the taste of meat and cheese so hard to resist but because I cannot afford it. Being a foreign student in the UK with virtually no income narrows my food options to nothing more than vegetables, beans, and plenty of tofu. Let’s not even talk about vegan chocolate and cookies – they’re luxury goods!

I am constantly torn between my class condition and the moral choices I make each time I go out to buy food. I sometimes feel that as long as the economic inequalities entrenched in the global food production are not redressed, feminists like myself will find minimising human privilege an uphill battle.

Charlotte // Posted 29 March 2010 at 9:15 pm

Vegan feminist loving this post!

Not sure if I necessarily agree with it all, but it’s definitely a really interesting read.

To the commenter above: it’s a strange misconception that veganism is ‘difficult’ and one I really don’t understand. I have lived in the city and in a rural area and have never had too much difficulty finding food for myself.

Yes, you have to spend some time reading ingredients lists, but you already have to do that if you’re a vegetarian!

To be honest, vegetarianism for the sake of animal rights really confuses me. The meat and the dairy trade are one and the same. The dairy you eat comes from animals that will be killed and eaten. Animals used in the dairy trade are tortured and treated far, far worse than animals used for meat.

http://www.milksucks.com

And on the topic of cakes, vegan cakes and ridiculously easy to make and can be make without buying in anything special!

Before I was a vegan I never made cakes because I never had enough fresh eggs or butter – nearly everyone always has vegetable or sunflower oil in the kitchen, and that’s all you need for delicious vegan baking!

ruth // Posted 29 March 2010 at 10:00 pm

An excellent post. I am a vegan feminist too, and I agree wholeheartedly with your arguments. Sadly, I’ve had a shocking reaction when presenting them myself to people with the past; so many people just really aren’t willing to see the connection between male privelege and human privelege when it comes to non-human animals.

Disquietman // Posted 30 March 2010 at 4:57 am

While I can understand your point of view and I do sympathise for the creatures we consume however I do not see being vegan a sustainable solution. Viewing oppression as in a broader scope I can also see how it is the same sense of entitlement and ownership that leads to the oppression of women. Your description of the way we breed animals is accurate and disturbing on lots of levels

The problems I see with your answer (not eating meat) to this problem are twofold.

One: The reality is though that all creatures oppress other creatures. Every species that exists does so at the expense of another. Humans are simply the most efficient at this process and hence the most successful. The only difference is as humans we have an awareness that lets us see and sympathise with other creatures suffering. It is a philosophical point really. Because we are aware, does that mean we should avoid their suffering? The only way we can resolve this issue is to limit our success. This limiting would have to start from population control and lead to lifestyle change. Sadly the reality is that we will never convince our species to limit is success. It goes against our genetic drives. Like all species we will continue to succeed until an external process forces us to stop.

Two: Not eating meat simply diverts the oppression and suffering from direct to indirect forms. As mentioned by the previous post many forms of animal product can not be avoided simply by not eating meat, but more importantly every acre of ground that is turned into crops destroys ecosystems. If we convert from meat to plant material and reduce animal consumption (either direct or indirect) we will simply continue to destroy their habitat. True, many generations of animals will not be produced and eaten but the original creatures will be killed and displaced at any rate. We exist and we will consume to the degree we succeed at existing. Eating meat or plants is a choice between killing creatures once now or repetitively ongoing.

Your sentiment is good, suffering of animals should be avoided where possible but the only true answer is to voluntarily limit the success of our species so that other creatures can have a space on this planet of finite resources.

Claire // Posted 30 March 2010 at 9:07 am

This is a very thought provoking post and I do admire your logic and stance. This website often gets bogged down in what constitutes a feminist. There are so many different definitions and approaches. I think it is possible to be a meat-eater and a feminist. Actually part of my emanicipation is the acceptance and use of privilege sometimes, not the refusal to accept it. That goes for eating meat – though I make some of my purchasing choices on the basis of sources and animal treatment. Use of privilege goes with having access to politicians to do more effective lobbying, or using networks to promote causes I believe in. I want privilege. I want privilege for others who share my world view too – to help change views and have responsibilities and accountabilities rest with the right people. I see the seeking of privilege as inevitable in humans (and in animals) and hope that those with it exert it wisely. I agree you are free to refuse privilege on your moral grounds. We are all free to develop our own moral grounds and to be judged accordingly. The blog requires us not to make sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, classist, ablist comments and I would subscribe to all of those aims. The blog rules don’t disqualify me from contributing and thus being a “real” feminist because I eat meat.

Jessica // Posted 30 March 2010 at 10:10 am

Thanks for this article Amy. We do most definitely have a human priviledge.

I think the important message is to think about how your way of life has an impact on animals. There are two points I’d ask people to consider.

The first is simply using products which are made of dead animals. You may decide that you can support killing other animals for food. But is it an informed choice? Going to a local farm and seeing the animals is an informed choice. Seeing a whole carcass in the butchers is an informed choice. Skinning a whole rabbit is an informed choice. Buying nothing but skrink-wrapped processed chicken is not.

The second point to consider is how the animal lived. If you’re fine with killing it, are you fine with torturing it? Some people buy their meat from a free-range butcher, a local farm, or choose cafefully at a supermarket. Sometimes people presume that all animals live in a nice 1950s farmyard.

I think it’s important to think about this and important to debate it. We might come to different conclusions, but we shouldn’t ignore the suffering which most of the food industry relies on. If you’re philosophically fine with speciesim then it is possible to buy cheese and eggs from local farms and to eat only free-range meat.

Pat // Posted 30 March 2010 at 11:56 am

@Alicia: I agree it can be a bit hard to find foodstuffs suitable for a vegan, but you only need to find one shop that sells (say) smoked tofu, else you can buy stuff online. Even Tesco and Sainsbury’s stock tofu and veggie sausages these days.

I do think it’s a bit of a myth that food is more expensive if you’re vegan or veggie, though.

@Disquietman: You conflate eating meat with success? Why? Can a vegetarian not be successful? And what do you mean by success?

You talk about lifestyle change, and that is exactly what vegetarians and vegans are choosing to do.

I think you miss the glaring point that animals themselves eat plants, which must be grown on land that could otherwise be used to produce food for humans directly for a much lower input of energy. Meat is a horrendously wasteful method of generating calories. Fewer animals = fewer crops to feed them = more land to grow crops for human consumption. Simple as that.

Amy Clare // Posted 30 March 2010 at 12:03 pm

A few points:

To those who are uncomfortable with the two mentions of rape: in para four, my intention was to show that the argument ‘I enjoy doing x therefore it is morally acceptable to do x’ is a fallacy. In para seven, I haven’t said anything incorrect. Many animals are forcibly artifically inseminated when they cannot consent; and as I said in the post, if this happened to a human, we would call it rape. This is simply the truth. An inconvenient and uncomfortable truth, but true nonetheless. Would it be right to tell lies or gloss over what really happens in order to protect the emotions of the privileged group? We don’t apply that to sexism, so why to speciesism?

@Disquietman:

“The reality is though that all creatures oppress other creatures.”

The reality, though, is that throughout human history, men have oppressed women.

“Because we are aware, does that mean we should avoid their suffering? The only way we can resolve this issue is to limit our success. This limiting would have to start from population control and lead to lifestyle change. Sadly the reality is that we will never convince our species to limit is success. It goes against our genetic drives.”

Perhaps, also, we will never convince men to limit their ‘success’, or white people, or straight people, or able-bodied people, or cisgender people… it probably goes against people’s ‘genetic drives’ to stop seeking power and dominating others. Best give up and accept our lot then, eh?

“Every acre of ground that is turned into crops destroys ecosystems.”

What do you think livestock eat? They mainly eat crops, specifically, grain. It is an incredibly inefficient way to produce food, as evidenced by the amount of crop calories needed to produce one meat calorie (the amount differs from animal to animal). If all the crops currently used to feed livestock were instead used to feed humans, world hunger could be greatly reduced or even eliminated, and more land would be freed up. Also – the amount of water used to produce meat is staggeringly inefficient when compared to crops, and in a warming world, water will become more and more scarce. The Amazon rainforest is currently being chopped down at an alarming rate partly for grazing beef, partly to grow livestock fodder. The excrement from farmed animals pollutes rivers, and their burps release methane into the atmosphere, a greenhouse gas.

In terms of damaging ecosystems, meat and dairy farming win hands down over crop farming.

“We exist and we will consume to the degree we succeed at existing…the only true answer is to voluntarily limit the success of our species so that other creatures can have a space on this planet of finite resources.”

I find the ‘inevitability’ argument to be morally abhorrent. People use the same argument against climate change and all manner of other oppressions. Where there are nutritious alternatives available, people *can* choose not to eat meat. Concerns about population are a red herring. A conversion of most of the world to a vegan diet would actually free up loads of resources and better support human beings.

Amy Clare // Posted 30 March 2010 at 12:36 pm

@Claire:

I find your argument bizarre. Would it work for gender relations? How would you react if a man posted on here and said: “I want male privilege, it’s inevitable for me to seek it. Don’t worry though, I’ll use it wisely!” You’d be okay with that? Seriously? Would you say that it’s up to men to refuse their privilege on moral grounds, and if they don’t choose to do so, that’s fine?

“The blog requires us not to make sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, classist, ablist comments and I would subscribe to all of those aims. The blog rules don’t disqualify me from contributing and thus being a “real” feminist because I eat meat.”

I’ve published your comment, Claire, so you haven’t been disqualified from this blog or from feminism (that’s a bit beyond my remit). However, what if the blog asked you to not make speciesist comments? Some feminists believe that transphobic comments are okay (see Helen’s recent post for proof) – are they ‘real’ feminists? Which prejudices are okay/not okay for feminists to have? Seems to me that your argument is just ‘I like the status quo’, at least when it comes to species.

Troon // Posted 30 March 2010 at 12:53 pm

Thank you for another thoughtful post, and for all the posts in your guest slot. I can clearly see the similarities you point out between how different forms of oppression are justified, and was for a long time a vegan on the basis that meat production is incredibly inefficient and damaging, and that poor humans suffer the most from the damage caused.

I think my problem, however, is that in two respects I find my speciesism not only ingrained (which may simply be a lack of consciousness raising) but I would not want it changed. First, I’m absolutely sure that in a life-or-death situation I’d rather emergency services rescued a strange human than a loved family pet. Second, and I don’t wish to open up a discussion of all and any forms of testing on animals, I’ve never seen any credible evidence that what kills animals will not kill humans, and hence that midway medical trials on animals which revealed fatal problems with treatment saved human lives. Again, I think this is a good thing, I’d rather support systems which produced dead rats than dead women.

And behind this is a sense that animals don’t have the same potential as humans to think, develop, be individuals, or develop ideas such as speciesism. There may be an acute humancentricity here, but it is surely a good one which can also serve as a spring into action against discrimination, including feminism? And if I’m willing to countenance allowing animals to die to save human lives, isn’t saying I’m not willing to let them die when alternatives exist not so much anti-speciesism but just speciesism within the limits I set (rather like men ‘giving’ women rights, in their terms) ?

Tamasine // Posted 30 March 2010 at 1:06 pm

Interesting article; I’m a feminist vegetarian and a lot of my motives for changing my diet were based on the rights of animals to live in a safe and natural environment in which if they were killed for meat they would be done so in a manner which reduced stress and sufferring. I was vegan for about two years, but the pleasure of soya milk wore off…

I guess I’ve never thought of the analogy of reproduction in this way; so much of the (factory) farming production of animals has still be relatively kept in the dark; it would, I guess have (some? perhaps still limited?)implications for the provision of cheap meat for consumption which I suppose wouldn’t be changed unless, other aspects of society are changed e.g. around the (capitalist) means of production.

In terms of human privilege over animals my take on it would be that as individuals with (relative) power it is a human requirement to ensure that basic animal rights are maintained/upheld as opposed to the removal/erosion of rights including factory farming.

Jessic (the same one who commented above) // Posted 30 March 2010 at 1:09 pm

Actually, I think Disquietman has a point with the statement “all creatures oppress other creatures”.

I personally believe that we live in a world red in tooth and claw. I think that natural life is horrible, selfish and violent. And I strongly suspect that humans in their “noble savage” form would be murdering cannibal rapists. So I do believe that we live in a world in which all creatures oppress other creatures.

However, I also think that we, as social animals, have choosen to create a society. (And, no, I don’t think that individuals can opt out of society.) We define each other as other humans. Within the context of the social group, I believe that equality for all is as close to a moral right as it’s possible to get. So I also believe very strongly in feminism.

This also leads me to speciesism. Feminism comes from my understand of what it means to be part of a society of humans, not part of nature.

So I’m a feminist who admits to speciesism. Any comments? (I’m liking the debate going — this is what message boards should be used for!)

Disquietman // Posted 30 March 2010 at 1:13 pm

@Amy

“The reality, though, is that throughout human history, men have oppressed women. ” I wouldn’t debate this point. It is accurate enough and describes much of human history in regards gender relations.

To your point about certain groups “Success”. Actually you are right. Once of the challenges of equal opportunity for women (other minorities differ) is that providing equal opportunity reduces the success rate of men. Increasing the workforce by adding women creates the perception of added competition for the same amount of jobs (yes i know it’s not quite accurate) and some men reject this competition. It is only one facet of sexism but it is there. I would not suggest we give up changing this because I believe it is possible to make change in this area. In fact a great deal has already been achieved and with a lot of work over coming generation I feel this will improve even more. My point was that you have very little chance to change mindset about creatures outside their own species. We will always place our own species over that of others. All creatures do this, even the ones we torture and eat. It is not nice, it simply is. A Lion does not debate the moral imperative of eating a baby gazelle. It simply eats it. We on the other hand have morals and can debate amongst ourselves the right and wrong of our food choices. The debate is healthy but it wont change the overall result.

Western populations are approx .05 percent vegan. To counterpart this, China in the last 40 years has increased it meat consumption by 300% and dairy by 400%. 1.5 Billion people eat three times more meat today than in 1970 simply because they can afford to buy it. It is cruel. It is unsustainable. Yet it is the reality with must live with.

To be honest calorie counts per acre is just a matter of degrees. Meat destroys more but you can not escape the fact that to survive you must and will destroy another creatures habitat. It is inevitable, however much the idea is abhorrent. If you can find a way around this great, I am unaware of it though.

You are right. There are choices, we could go vegan if we chose. But we wont. The human headcount will therefore directly relate to the damage we cause. More consumers = more consumed.

On the topic of oppression within our own species I feel you have far more chance of success. We have empathy for our own kind and this can be used to change mindsets. It is never easy but it can be done. We should never accept oppression of anybody, be they female or otherwise and I feel that with education and by actively participating in changing minds equality can be achieved. I would say that attaching feminist issues and human equality to diet and animal rights probably wont do you a lot of good. It is an interesting topic to discuss but I’m not sure it will sway many minds or make many evaluate their own sexist ideals. I think it is also a little flawed in that I’m quite sure many of the people oppressing animals are women. Is a woman who breeds chickens in cages a sexist because she forces a species to reproduce for her own wants? Or is she only speciest?

Disquietman // Posted 30 March 2010 at 1:27 pm

@Pat I don’t connect eating meat to success, I connect one species oppressing another with success. All creatures oppress the other species around them in order to survive and continue their species. In our case we achieved this by oppressing every other species. In many ways we are victims of our own success and this is now coming back to cause us grief.

One way we achieved this success was by eating meat. For various reasons we would not have reached the point we have today if we had not taken up eating meat. It has been a cornerstone to our species success in dominating this planet. As Amy has pointed out and I agree, meat is resource intensive to produce. It consumes a lot of plant matter or land space that could be used to directly produce plant based food. However meat is by far the most efficient form of food source for human beings. It has it’s down sides but if you want to survive in the short term, meat is your best bet. Long term is another matter.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 30 March 2010 at 1:32 pm

@charlotte, part of my point is that i dont want to bake anything, deliciously veagan or not! i want things to be available on shelves! as i happens, tm half the time i just shove a quorn product in the oven/microwave and eat it as it is. im far far too lazy to prepare anything. i know thats a form of privilege, but i have tested my laziness and found that a choice between working minimally for something or starving, i tend to let myself starve down to the last moment. i dont even make myself go food shopping more than once every couple of months. anyway, its a derail, but i do find the idea of actually having to bake or cook difficult. if i came across vegan products in tesco or wherever i would use that instead, but the only time i seem to see easy vegan food seems to be at vegan food fairs, and at holland and barrat, where its still expensive.

darren // Posted 30 March 2010 at 3:08 pm

I don’t think it makes any sense to say, as Disquiet Man does, that animals oppress each other. Oppression is unjust or cruel exercise of authority or power.

Tes // Posted 30 March 2010 at 3:14 pm

I would love to be able to eat vegan. The problem for me, is that due to various health and allergy-related problems I can’t eat a lot of things that vegans use to substitute the nutrition they get from meat. What I do try to do, despite it often being more expensive, is buy ethically-sourced products as much as I can.

That said, while it does make me feel that much more guilty (which is my problem, I’m not trying to make it yours!), I’d never actually thought of species related priviledge. I’ll keep trying to find other things I can do to lighten my own impact.

K C // Posted 30 March 2010 at 3:28 pm

I don’t think it’s wrong to compare the meat industry to pornography- both violate rights of a creature. Yes, women are creatures. Humans are creatures. We are mammals and we must stop pretending we are somehow on a separate sect of the animal kingdom simply because of our species’ (destructive) habits. By the same principles, it is extremely important that people be cognitive of other advanced species such as dolphins or apes, who have similarly created society’s that endure rape, classicism, speciesm (dolphins will kill sharks for no specific reason sometimes) pleasurable sex, murder, war, construction, and an extensive range of emotions outside of what directly benefits the animal’s immediate decision. If we lose sight of this insight, we begin to think we are somehow “above” other animals and cannot place their being and right to being on our own level. I learned from other radical feminists that we cannot rank oppression- this includes whether the victims are non-white, children, or animals. It can all be fought at the same time.

Additionally, the arguments that justify the use of pornography are perfectly comparable to the arguments of refusing vegetarianism- they revolve around the simple “I am not willing to stop doing what brings me privilege pleasure”. “Scientific” arguments are pulled, moral arguments are pulled. It can get tiring. Rape is a delicate subject, but I am sure you meant no offense in your definition, and I have use similar comparisons with little reason to change. It’s a harsh-reality, and for animals that cannot speak in our language- someone needs to give them a voice. I think if people saw the horrible screams and fearful eyes animals in the meat industry, for example, endured, they could find that such expressions are very similar to the ones placed on victims of sexual and physical violence.

Jenni Hill // Posted 30 March 2010 at 3:41 pm

I’m sorry to be the dissenting voice here, but I find this post really demeans the real mission of this website.

I think this is just a small step above those PETA campaigns comparing women to animals – which is too often the thought process of people who do awful things to women.

We are women and we are better than (the) animals (we’ve been treated like). That’s what I’m fighting for, anyway.

JenniferRuth // Posted 30 March 2010 at 3:55 pm

I think this article is generally good, but it doesn’t acknowledge the class and wealth issues that surround veganism.

It might be the case that a lot of the people who visit this website could afford (both in money and time) to become vegan but a lot of people don’t have that choice. It is often cheaper, especially in our Tesco-saturated culture, for a working class single mum to buy meat than enough veg to fill the families stomach. Secondly, vegan products often cost far, far more than milk/eggs/bread etc. Even if someone living near or below the poverty line wanted to be vegan they might not be able to afford to do so. Neither might they have access to the internet or the time to go to a library to learn how to cook with new ingredients. This also counts for replacing clothes made of leather/wool/etc.

There is also the issue that many lives in the developing world are dependent on the exploitation of animals, whether that be for food or simply for work. They might not have any other work to go to. For example, the tuna industry has become the main source of income for many local communities South China Sea area.

This is just the briefest comment on these issues. They obviously are more wide-ranging and impactful than I have surmised here.

Now, I’m not justifying any of this or saying that animal exploitation is a-ok. I’m just saying that there is an aspect of privilege to veganism, especially in the UK.

Laura // Posted 30 March 2010 at 4:10 pm

I agree with Troon. Although I’m vegetarian, source animal products carefully and think it’s important that animals are treated humanely, I make no apologies for caring more about humans. If I had to save a cow or a woman, I’d save the woman every time.

Pat // Posted 30 March 2010 at 4:25 pm

@Disquietman: Whether or no humans happened to have eaten meat during their evolution is irrelevant to whether we should eat it now. To paraphrase, you are confusing descriptive and normative statements (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Is%E2%80%93ought_problem).

The argument can be used to attempt to justify oppression of women and slaves, for example, since both happened in the past and therefore must have been integral to human progress! And let’s not even mention the anthropic principle, which is along similar lines.

You go on to say: “[M]eat is by far the most efficient form of food source for human beings.”

In what sense?

Also: “It has it’s down sides but if you want to survive in the short term, meat is your best bet.”

Why’s that then? Have you ever had to chase, kill and cook a wild boar to keep from starving to death?

Amy Clare’s analogies between sexism and speciesism are strong. So far, I’m afraid you’ve just trotted out very old and very tired arguments, Disquietman.

Shea // Posted 30 March 2010 at 4:46 pm

@ Jenni Hill – I don’t think the comparison demeans women. It about the exploitation of the generative capabilities of all female animals including homo sapiens. I agree with Hannah, that once you become feminist/Marxist etc you begin to see the effect of privilege and oppression, its hard to ignore these in other contexts i.e towards tranpeople, or the disabled so why is it impossible to see when practiced against another species?

I find a speciest discussion crucial given the changes to biotechnology, such as egg donation, IVF and cloning which have the potential to further reduce women to their reproductive capacity.

Given pro-life stances on the “sacredness” of life, their refusal to be vegan and to condemn the meat industry starts to make them look illogical and hypocritical. Further more the advances in bioengineering now mean we have animal/human “cybrids”- human DNA in an animal egg. Are these “cybrids” human, because they contain human nuclei?

I do have some probs though- as darren pointed out its not really correct to describe animals as “oppressing” one another. Oppression is the unjust use of force or authority to subjugate a group, usually through the mis-use of laws. That isn’t applicable in the case of animals.

The idea of animals being “raped” through artifical insemination. Could they/do they ever really “consent”? I understand that female animals in nature usually “choose” their mate, but the idea of consenting implies an active choice and understanding of what is involved, not merely submission which I think is closer to what most animals do in the wild (obvs there are exception, i.e where animals mate for life). (Sorry the pedant in me).

I am also vegetarian but like Troon, I suffer with what I call “embedded speciesm”. I hate the way animals are treated in agriculture and especially in scientific research. But as a scientist I can’t outright condemn animal vivisection, because when it comes down to it, I would much rather they test a new chemotherapy drug on a rat than someone’s four year old daughter.*

Its probably the major point on which my politics on this fall down. I just can’t really reconcile them.

(* that isn’t to say I agree with cosmetics testing or that I don’t believe there are better models out there to use in experimentation. I think alot of its laziness and an unwillingness to contemplate other models of testing. I would eventually like to see an end to animal vivisection, tbc)

@K.C- I agree with what you are saying, despite the contradictions. I think we need to afford animals alot more agency than we currently do.

But I really liked this post, it’s brilliant and a discussion thats long overdue.

Can I vote we keep Amy Clare as a permenant blogger?

gadgetgal // Posted 30 March 2010 at 5:04 pm

I’ll have to second Laura on agreeing with Troon here about caring more for humans – whether innate or not that’s the way I feel too. Doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t consider sustainability or trying to reduce/get rid of cruelty towards animals, though, and I think your article has highlighted some really interesting points on the individual’s responsibility. That’s a first step, but I don’t think any great headway will be made until it’s made collectively with many other countries cooperating. Getting the ideas out there is the right way to start, though!

I can see how the rape analogies might seem to be a bit PETA-esque, but since you seemed to use them as a genuine informative comparison and not to try and belittle women for shock value (like PETA) then I think they made sense from that perspective. But I’m not the best person to comment on that – I’ve been assaulted, but never raped – so I don’t know what others might think. I can understand why some people might feel uncomfortable with it. But I got your meaning, and I didn’t think you were being flippant or uncaring in your comparison!

You’ve done some great articles this month, Amy Clare – whether we agree or not they’re always very thought-provoking, hope you can do some more soon :)

Amy Clare // Posted 30 March 2010 at 5:15 pm

@Disquietman:

“My point was that you have very little chance to change mindset about creatures outside their own species.”

I’m sorry but I don’t accept this. If you admit, as you do, that it is possible for society to change to bring greater gender equality, there is no reason for society not to change similarly to recognise and accomodate the rights of non-human animals.

“We will always place our own species over that of others. All creatures do this, even the ones we torture and eat. It is not nice, it simply is.”

You’re not arguing here, you’re just stating. Your argument essentially boils down to ‘This is how it is, so this is how it’s meant to be.’ I don’t accept it. Even if every other species was speciesist, it would still not be a moral argument for humans continuing to be so.

“A Lion does not debate the moral imperative of eating a baby gazelle. It simply eats it.”

So what? If a lion didn’t eat the gazelle it would starve. Even if it could debate the morality of what it was doing, it wouldn’t be able to come to any other conclusion than to eat the gazelle because if it didn’t, it would die. Most human beings however would *not* starve if they gave up meat/dairy.

“We on the other hand have morals and can debate amongst ourselves the right and wrong of our food choices. The debate is healthy but it wont change the overall result.”

Humans are capable of holding moral debates and yet we are still slaves to our genetic drives when it comes to meat-eating. Curious.

“Meat destroys more but you can not escape the fact that to survive you must and will destroy another creatures habitat.”

And yet as I said in my last comment, vastly reducing meat and dairy farming would free up lots more land, due to land not being needed to grow animal feed or build animal farms. Some of this land could be made wild again. Are you saying that if we are going to destroy a creature’s habitat anyway by growing vegetables, we may as well destroy many more habitats, in fact as many as possible, by farming meat? How does that make sense?

“It is inevitable, however much the idea is abhorrent. If you can find a way around this great, I am unaware of it though.”

The way round it is for people to vastly reduce or even eliminate in some cases their meat and dairy consumption.

“There are choices, we could go vegan if we chose. But we wont.”

Again, argument from inevitability. It’s a bad argument logically and also useless practically. It’s an argument that can be applied to essentially any status quo scenario in order to defend it from change. But societies can and do change despite such resistance.

Also – speak for yourself. The Vegan Society regularly gets people wanting to take the vegan pledge.

“We should never accept oppression of anybody”

Except non-human animals, apparently.

“I would say that attaching feminist issues and human equality to diet and animal rights probably wont do you a lot of good…I think it is also a little flawed in that I’m quite sure many of the people oppressing animals are women.”

Thanks, but I’ll decide what arguments I choose to employ! Many of the people oppressing POCs, LGBTQI people and disabled people are women. Many of the people oppressing *women* are women. There is no flaw in my argument. People who are oppressed themselves often engage in the oppression of others.

“Is a woman who breeds chickens in cages a sexist because she forces a species to reproduce for her own wants? Or is she only speciest?”

She would be using the chickens as a means to *her* ends. Therefore she is exploiting the animals, and ignoring their suffering, especially if they are in cages. To do so she would have to see their suffering as unimportant so yes, that makes her a speciesist. It is also rather sexist, yes, because again it is the female reproductive system that is the object of the use/abuse. (Male birds suffer a different fate, but a gruesome one nonetheless.)

@Laurel Dearing:

I don’t mean to pick on you, because you’ve said some interesting things. I just want to make a quick point about vegan convenience food. At the moment only a few small companies make it, and this is directly because of vegan food being seen as only for a small percentage of cranks. The more demand there is, the more of this stuff will be produced and the lower in price it will become.

About laziness/cooking… I hate to be harsh but sometimes the only way to be compassionate toward others is to settle for a bit of inconvience to oneself. Many vegan products are available online, and the Vegan Society offers a lot of help and support to people wishing to go vegan. But it comes down to a willingness and effort to change behaviour, as with many things – whether that’s policing your own language to make sure it isn’t offensive, taking the bus instead of driving to reduce your carbon footprint, etc. Being ‘lazy’ is a privilege, as you say.

I’m not saying it’s possible for everyone to make the change to a vegan diet, but most people can. It is possible, for *most* people (not all), to learn to cook. There are many nutritious vegan meals that are simple and quick to make. If you search amazon for vegan recipe books, you’ll find there are dozens.

@Jenni Hill:

You are not the first person to say that the campaign for animal rights demeans humans. It’s a common argument. In fact many men use a version of it, to argue that the campaign for women’s rights demeans men.

What you’re saying is that because some men compare women to non-human animals in order to insult or debase them, this means that non-human animals deserve to suffer. That’s illogical.

Many men feel that as they are better than women, to compare them to a woman is insulting. I simply don’t see the reason to repeat this type of error with regard to species.

luise // Posted 30 March 2010 at 5:53 pm

i know this way of topic but are vegans only pro-choicers. most reasons vegans choose to be vegan are similar to anti abortionists.

Amy Clare // Posted 30 March 2010 at 6:01 pm

@Troon:

“First, I’m absolutely sure that in a life-or-death situation I’d rather emergency services rescued a strange human than a loved family pet.”

Are you talking about a family pet who is loved by you or by another stranger? Either way, you’re using an extreme example. Most speciesism doesn’t manifest in scenarios such as the one you describe, where a human’s life and a non-human’s life are directly at odds. It certainly isn’t relevant to most meat-eating.

“Second, and I don’t wish to open up a discussion of all and any forms of testing on animals, I’ve never seen any credible evidence that what kills animals will not kill humans, and hence that midway medical trials on animals which revealed fatal problems with treatment saved human lives. Again, I think this is a good thing, I’d rather support systems which produced dead rats than dead women.”

There is evidence that animal tests are not always accurate when it comes to predicting the effect of drugs on humans. Thalidomide is a good example – this drug passed animal tests. There was another example fairly recently where the human trial of a drug passed by animal tests caused grave injury and illness in the subjects, a group of young men. There are alternatives to animal testing, but currently it is a legal requirement.

However, even if animal testing was 100% reliable and there were no alternatives, you are still using an extreme example. As I’ve said above, most instances of speciesism are not directly concerned with human survival. Simply saying that you would want a rat to die rather than a woman is simplistic, and does not take into account the many ways in which speciesism enables humans to cause suffering in non-humans purely for pleasure, entertainment, fashion, etc.

Peter Singer argues that we have a moral imperative to take into account and *reduce* the suffering of non-human animals wherever possible. Where the suffering or death of a human is *directly at odds* with the suffering or death of a non-human animal, Singer argues that it makes sense to favour the human if only because the human is likely to live a longer, richer life than the non-human. If the human were severely mentally disabled, he argues, there would not be much to choose between them. This is because Singer, in eschewing speciesism, bases these types of tough moral decisions (where one or other being must die) on characteristics like ability to suffer, ability to enjoy life, length of life, and so on. To return to your example of the family pet and the fire, if the strange human were severely mentally disabled and had only months to live, and the pet were young and healthy and had its whole life (around 10-15 years) ahead of it, Singer would choose the pet, all other things (such as other humans’ emotional attachments) being equal.

I would make the point that Singer is not advocating a reduction in rights for the severely mentally disabled, but rather, an increase in rights for non-humans, removing the arbitrary ‘species’ line and basing these *hypothetical and very extreme* moral choices on more meaningful characteristics.

I just want to add another further explanation that Singer’s position in this instance is to do with loss of life rather than pain. He makes the point in his book (pages 20-21 if anyone has it) that pain is pain no matter what the intellectual capability of a being is, and all is to be avoided wherever possible. Whereas, he says, the death of a being is more of a loss if s/he has a richer mental life, which he characterises as an ability to anticipate the future and make plans for it, among other things. My own opinion is that it’s a bit more complicated than that, but anyway.

***I’m quite aware that Singer’s argument may seem offensive to some and I’m trying to take pains to represent him properly in this comment, as anyone who has read his book – where he has space to set out his arguments in detail! – will know that his views are not disablist in any way.***

As I’ve said, the vast majority of non-human suffering is nothing to do with human survival, and as such we can eliminate it by living compassionately. It is with a compassionate attitude, and a willingness to take non-human suffering into account, that new technology could be invented to make animal testing unnecessary, for example.

Furthermore there are many emergency situations where some humans are saved and others left to die, and these decisions are based not on arbitrary characteristics but on practical issues such as who has the best chance of survival. Choosing some humans over others in this way is not an argument in favour of causing unnecessary suffering to humans in general, therefore the scenarios you mention are not arguments for causing unnecessary suffering to non-human animals.

“And behind this is a sense that animals don’t have the same potential as humans to think, develop, be individuals, or develop ideas such as speciesism.”

So? The only relevant characteristic as to whether a being should be subjected to suffering is whether or not they can suffer. All the evidence shows that many non-humans *can* suffer. They can feel pain, discomfort, fear and distress. Mentally disabled humans aren’t able to develop ideas such as speciesism but would this be an argument for causing them to suffer?

“There may be an acute humancentricity here, but it is surely a good one which can also serve as a spring into action against discrimination, including feminism?”

Sorry, but I don’t see why human characteristics such as the ability to create feminism are an argument for causing suffering to other beings.

“And if I’m willing to countenance allowing animals to die to save human lives, isn’t saying I’m not willing to let them die when alternatives exist not so much anti-speciesism but just speciesism within the limits I set (rather like men ‘giving’ women rights, in their terms) ? ”

Isn’t that rather like saying it’s okay to be sexist in some situations? I’ve shown (above) how speciesism isn’t necessary at all for humans to be favoured in the vast majority of situations where their survival is directly at odds with that of non-humans. To repeat myself, though, this is not how most speciesism manifests.

Amy Clare // Posted 30 March 2010 at 6:53 pm

@JenniferRuth:

A vegan diet is not expensive when viewed as a whole. I agree that fake meat and fake cheese can be expensive, but it’s possible to be vegan and not bother with these – I don’t eat vegan cheese, for example. Staples like lentils, beans, whole grain carbs, etc, are all very cheap. In fact historically, vegetarian and vegan diets have always been associated with poverty, and meat was seen as a symbol of wealth (still is, in some societies). I base most of my diet on pulses, beans and whole grains, along with fresh and frozen vegetables, tofu, nuts and occasional ‘fake meat’ products such as veggie sausages. Both my boyfriend and I eat this diet and our food bill is always low.

Soya milk costs 60p a litre from Sainsbury’s (it’s fortified too), eggs could be replaced with a tin of beans for a quick nutritious breakfast, or houmous for lunch, and most bread is vegan.

I know what you mean about Tesco-saturated culture but I think the default position of ‘must buy meat’ can be challenged through education. In most cases the beeline people make for meat is culturally conditioned. Many immigrant Hindu people live in poverty here in the UK but eat a vegetarian diet based on lentils and pulses.

I agree with your point about internet access and affording recipe books, all I could suggest to anyone in this position would be to seek out a local vegetarian/vegan group, who would usually advertise in health food shops; my local group holds potlucks at people’s houses (free food!) often with free cookery lessons and recipes given out. At a deeper level, I think schools could play a large part in teaching kids to cook with vegetables and pulses.

As for replacing clothes, Stephanie Ernst wrote an article about this very issue at one of the blogs I linked to above, direct link is here. I agree whole heartedly with her stance.

I agree with your point about the developing world and that’s why I was careful to caveat my points in the article with ‘in rich countries like the UK’. The vast majority of non-human animal suffering is not due to people in developing countries feeding themselves; in fact it can be traced back to demand from rich countries, who eat far more meat per person than people in the developing world, despite the abundance of alternatives available. I place the majority of blame and therefore the majority of responsibility for non-human suffering onto wealthy developed countries.

@Shea:

I just wanted to say a couple of words about consent. I take the view that if a being (human or non) is not capable of consenting, then consent is not given. Whether they choose to mate or are forced to mate in the wild is largely irrelevant to whether it is morally acceptable for humans to forcibly penetrate them. Just as the presence of males fighting to the death over a female in the wild is not an argument for humans to organise death-matches among men for the right to mate!

Bestiality (penetration only apparently) is illegal in this country on the grounds of animal cruelty, presumably because of the consent issue, so the fact that artificial insemination is allowed is somewhat hypocritical.

Anyway I largely agree with what you said, and thanks for the compliment! :oD

Jeff // Posted 30 March 2010 at 7:08 pm

First of all I’d like to echo Shea’s vote to keep Amy Clare on as a blogger, I think her posts are extemely informative and enjoyable.

The comparison of meat-eating and rape-porn in this post is not, I feel, necessarily offensive, but is rather just an extreme and unlikely example.

I think the whole veganism issue, and indeed probably sexism, boils down to the value to which you assign the victim in whichever scenario plays out. Men assigning women a lower value than themselves are obviously likely to be sexist towards them, ditto humans assigning non-humans a lower value than themselves would lead to speciesism, animals having been assigned so low a value that their worth is low enough that most people consider their enjoyment of meat to be greater than the value of that animals life.

Laurel Dearing // Posted 30 March 2010 at 8:32 pm

its definitely the nuts and beans thing that put me off a lot… soy milk, fair enough, not that i drink milk anyway, but i think fake meats and cheese are the way i dont miss the real stuff. id never have weined off meat without it. when i have a vegan meal i very often feel missing a taste, and i get cravings for certain foods. eggs… well, much as i like humous, i dont want it fried on toast or scrambled or boiled after ive consumed too much alcohol. im nit-picking really on my own problems. if quorn was vegan id be much happier to look at getting rid of dairy in my diet, because it wouldnt take much after that. eggs however… i wonder, do you consider if you keep chickens in good conditions, like having a big yard for just a few, who you dont kill, for it to be wrong to use the eggs? assuming you dont have them fertilised anyway its just a period? i know with shop bought eggs, or especially products using eggs, you never can be sure what quality it is, but if you knew where they came from, and it was well looked after, im curious. im with you on the life saving scenarios. i think itd be down to gut instinct for me. selfishly, which i care about most i expect. i feel more protective over my pets because ive brought them up so to speak, than i do about the rest of my family. but its not to say i value its life more. i dont have different values for life. i dont dwell on accidental deaths, like stepping on a snail; im bigger, these things happen, and i dont like peta’s campaigning comparing animals to women, on gut instinct, because its in a society where animals arent seen as the same, and seems more like demoting women than upgrading the animal, but i still dont know who id save in a fire. as many as possible, starting with the one shouting loudest or having most trouble i suppose!

Melaszka // Posted 30 March 2010 at 11:10 pm

Another vegan feminist here!

I’d just like to add my voice to those arguing that a vegan diet is not expensive/out of reach for anyone who’s not middle class.

Pulses are dirt cheap, even if you buy them in cans from the corner shop because you can’t afford the bus to Tesco (have been in that position lots of times).

My food bills are lower than my working-class meat-eating parents’ (who, contrary to the poverty=must eat shit McFood stereotype, have always been far more into cooking from scratch than my middle-class friends, because it is cheaper) and several times lower than my middle-class meat-eating friends’.

Yes, I acknowledge that commercially produced meat/dairy substitutes are expensive (don’t tend to eat meat substitutes much, and the expense of diary substitutes is more than compensated for by savings made elsewhere in a vegan diet), but our consumerist society tries to foist over-priced luxuries on us, no matter what diet we are on, so I don’t see vegans need to be more wealthy than anyone else or are under more pressure to spend money than non-vegans.

I do take the point about needing leisure time to learn how to cook vegan dishes – it’s no coincidence that I became vegan during a long period of unemployment.

Vicki // Posted 30 March 2010 at 11:20 pm

I just want to say thank you for an excellent post. I agree with EVERY word of it.

Horry // Posted 31 March 2010 at 12:18 am

Once you’ve identified how oppression works, yes, you can spot it everywhere. All very clever, and all very paralysing when suddenly you’re trying to make a case for partial equality when you know there’s no absolute equality anyhow. It’s a paralysis which seems to beset feminism in particular, and I for one really hate it. It’s unfair and it’s horribly mistrustful and judgemental of people trying to do good. And it’s a massive waste of time, since the more you stick to analysing patterns from the superior position of oppression initiate, the more others will never measure up, regardless of the positive things they achieve.

I actually find your arguments deeply offensive. Your penultimate paragraph in particular reminds me of “A Natural History of Rape”, that evpsych classic which essentially took human concepts such as consent, partnership, marriage etc. and applied them to animals in a way which made no sense whatsoever, but used it to suggest rape was “natural”, regardless of the chasm of perception regarding consent between humans and other species. Female animals suffer but I don’t think you have the right to compare it to rape. If you don’t grant human females their own level of complexity, if you’re not willing to accept there may be a uniqueness in their perception of bodily integrity which can’t be blindly applied to all other species, you do undermine their suffering, treating it as “what happens when x is done to your body” and nothing more.

I also think the assertion that the treatment of female farm animals is an example of “where sexism and speciesism intersect” is rubbish. It’s an example of what happens when animals – all animals – are reduced to nothing more than their biological functions, and that’s quite different (it doesn’t exactly benefit male calves killed at birth, for instance). I don’t think farmers are remotely interested in whether sows are equal to boars (no Orwell quotes!), or experience pain differently, or deserve to suffer because that’s their female lot, or should be disempowered – they just find them more useful in one very specific context, and it’s one in which they are indeed more useful. Lazy comparisons between this and how women experience sexism aren’t helpful, and simply diminish our understanding of what sexism means and how it affects people. So that’s why it’s different for another species.

aimee // Posted 31 March 2010 at 12:27 am

I have to agree with the people who disagree with the post, and i DO think it’s offensive to compare consumption of animals to consumption of porn. Women are not animals; they are not resources, they are sentient being with thoughts, feelings, ideas and importantly, potential. Animals, in my opinion, are not. They are resources that it’s natural for us to consume. In fact there’s distinct evidence to show that the consumption of meat allowed our brains to develop in the way that they have. If you’re going to say animals are as sentient as humans, then where do you draw the line? What about plants? Surely they show the requisite behaiviour for sentience? What are we meant to eat?

I totally disagree with the way animals are treated and the ways in which animals are exploited in the ways that they are. I don’t agree with battery farms, I dislike animal cruelty and animal testing, but I will also make no apology for valuing the life of a human over the life of an animal. Can we be concerned about the welfare of human women first?

nick // Posted 31 March 2010 at 8:54 am

I eat meat. I like eating meat.

I dont have a problem with people who are vegitarian , vegan or any other

persuasian. i dont try to convert these people into eating meat …..and I dont want to be told or converted into becoming veggie …..although I do eat fruit & veg as part of my diet …

I do not like cruelty and exploitation of animals ….mass animal factories are

wrong and do not provide any kind of health and welfare for the animals ….

I dont think my diet will change …..and if we do get a summer I will be cooking meat and fish on my bbq …….there will also be salad and veg available too…..

depresso // Posted 31 March 2010 at 9:52 am

I just want to challenge the idea that veganism is more expensive than a ‘normal’ diet – a litre of soya milk was 56p the last time I bought it down the Co-Op, I believe a litre of cows’ milk is about 90p.

Yes, the Cauldron tofu that Tesco and Asda and so on all sell is about £1.60 a block, but one easily does 2 servings. The price is also probably somewhat inflated probably because the supermarkets believe it to be a specialist item – they won’t sell as much so they make the money back there that they lose on loss leaders like minced beef and chicken breasts. And there’s no arguing that fresh fruit and veg is cheaper than meat. £5 for two packs of skinless chicken would go much, much further on potatoes and carrots and broccoli and apples and so on.

The only real barrier to going vegan exists between people’s ears – that it’s a class issue, or a wealth issue, or that they can’t imagine living without [fill in as applicable] Trust me, after about a month, you don’t even think about cheese or ice cream any more and the taste is repellent anyway! (Having had a few slip-ups in the year since choosing to become vegan)

Amy Clare // Posted 31 March 2010 at 11:13 am

@Horry:

“Your penultimate paragraph in particular reminds me of “A Natural History of Rape”, that evpsych classic which essentially took human concepts such as consent, partnership, marriage etc. and applied them to animals in a way which made no sense whatsoever, but used it to suggest rape was “natural”, regardless of the chasm of perception regarding consent between humans and other species.”

You have completely misread that paragraph. *In no way* did I suggest rape was ‘natural’. If an animal is forcibly penetrated and inseminated by a human being this has *absolutely nothing to do* with what they may experience in the wild, a point I made in my response to Shea. I don’t think it’s ‘natural’ at all, far from it, and even if it did happen in the wild, this is not an argument that it’s okay for human beings to do it.

“Female animals suffer but I don’t think you have the right to compare it to rape.”

Don’t I? What rights *do* I have? Clearly not free speech, according to you. But that’s moot, as again, you’re misreading. What I said was if a woman was forcibly inseminated in the same way as female farm animals are we would call it rape. This is true and I make no apology for saying it.

“If you don’t grant human females their own level of complexity, if you’re not willing to accept there may be a uniqueness in their perception of bodily integrity which can’t be blindly applied to all other species, you do undermine their suffering, treating it as “what happens when x is done to your body” and nothing more.”

Rubbish. Nowhere did I say or even imply that that an average woman’s experience of rape is *exactly the same* as a non-human’s. Furthermore I have never said that human beings aren’t more complex than non-humans generally. My argument was based around the fact that non-humans are capable of suffering, not that their inner life is every bit the same as your average human. There’s no doubt in my mind that non-humans suffer when subjected to this treatment, and I have no qualms about calling it rape because this is the word we use when beings are forcibly penetrated when they do not or cannot consent. It doesn’t have to mean that every victim has exactly the same *level* of suffering. That’s something you concluded based on your own misreading of what I wrote. I have not undermined anything.

“I don’t think farmers are remotely interested in whether sows are equal to boars (no Orwell quotes!), or experience pain differently, or deserve to suffer because that’s their female lot, or should be disempowered – they just find them more useful in one very specific context, and it’s one in which they are indeed more useful.”

Yes and women are more ‘useful’ when it comes to bearing men’s children. That wouldn’t give men the right to own and use them though, as has been the case historically. It’s literally this which makes it sexist – the use and abuse of the female reproductive system.

“Lazy comparisons between this and how women experience sexism aren’t helpful, and simply diminish our understanding of what sexism means and how it affects people. So that’s why it’s different for another species.”

I can assure you that my comparisons are not ‘lazy’ as I have spent a lot of time reading and thinking around this issue. It doesn’t diminish humans’ experiences one bit to discuss non-humans’ experiences and rights. Unless you also feel that discussing women’s experiences diminishes what men go through in their lives. What I want to know is why non-humans are so unimportant that their female bodies can be treated literally as factories for products. Why are they *so* different that their suffering literally doesn’t matter? Why do we have laws making penetrating animals for sexual pleasure illegal on the grounds of animal cruelty, whereas penetrating them to make food is okay? I’m sorry but your conclusion is meaningless – you haven’t explained at all why it’s simply ‘different’ for another species. All you’ve done is rant at me for things I haven’t actually said.

@aimee:

“Women are not animals; they are not resources, they are sentient being with thoughts, feelings, ideas and importantly, potential.”

No disagreement there, except that technically women *are* animals, all humans are.

“Animals, in my opinion, are not.”

You’re wrong. Many species of animal are sentient. Any species with a functioning brain and nervous system can feel pain, for example – and this is the relevant characteristic when deciding whether it’s morally acceptable to cause them to suffer pain.

“They are resources that it’s natural for us to consume.”

Utter rubbish and very offensive, both to me and probably other readers who care about non-humans’ rights. This is an old, tired argument that is completely baseless. Humans have been viewed as ‘resources’ in the past – particuarly African people, by white Americans. I’m sure many pro-slavery arguments contained just that very sentence. It was unacceptable then and it’s unacceptable now.

“In fact there’s distinct evidence to show that the consumption of meat allowed our brains to develop in the way that they have.”

So? That’s irrelevant. There’s actually evidence to show that *cooking* food – of all types – is what helped our brains to grow, but that’s moot. Even if you were right, that’s still not an argument for continuing to eat meat now, when there’s equally nutritious alternatives freely available for most people. Unless you think that by continuing to eat meat human beings will evolve massive super-brains. No evidence for that thus far though, is there?

“If you’re going to say animals are as sentient as humans, then where do you draw the line? What about plants? Surely they show the requisite behaiviour for sentience? What are we meant to eat?”

Another tired, old, ridiculous argument. “Oh but teh plantz feels teh pain!” No they don’t. There’s no evidence for that, whereas there is *ample* evidence that many non-human animals (including most of those commonly eaten) feel pain, distress, fear, discomfort etc. Peter Singer points out that pain evolved in animals for a distinct reason – to allow us to move away from sources of danger (like a prickly bush or a fire), or towards a source of help, relief or shelter (e.g. a quiet place to lick one’s wounds). Only mobile organisms can benefit from pain as a sense. Plants are immobile and thus can’t benefit from it – and if an additional sense confers no benefit, then energy is generally not wasted on it.

Even if plants *did* feel pain, a vegan diet would still be best as it involves the consumption of the least amount of plant matter overall (when you take into account plants fed to farmed animals).

“I totally disagree with the way animals are treated and the ways in which animals are exploited in the ways that they are.”

Why? You’ve already said you think they are resources for us to consume. Why does their suffering matter to you if it’s ‘natural’ for us to cause it?

“Can we be concerned about the welfare of human women first?”

I don’t see it as an either/or situation, personally.

@Laurel Dearing:

About your point re: eggs. If you gave a home to a rescue hen who had lived on a battery farm, and would otherwise have been killed, then that would be a good thing as you would be saving that being from death. It may produce some eggs, it may not; the quantity would certainly decline as it got older. The emphasis would have to be on giving it a good life, freedom to roam, etc – the eggs should be secondary to that. In other words the hen’s needs come first, your wants second.

If you bought chicks from an animal supplier with the intention of raising them to produce eggs then that’s different – you’d be giving your money to an organisation which bred chicks and killed all the male ones, kept other, exploitative farms in business etc, thus you’d be supporting animal suffering and death with your money.

JenniferRuth // Posted 31 March 2010 at 11:32 am

@ Amy Clare

The point is: you still have the time, the effort and the education to work out how to make a vegan diet work for you. Not everyone has this and it is very easy to say that people just need better education, or they could just join a local group, or that they don’t have to buy specialist vegan products. It is worth remembering that most peoples’ food choices are made for convenience, the fact that some people have a lot of mouths to feed and not much time to do it in and what is available to them.

Now, I’m not arguing with the ethical argument of veganism. Neither am I saying that trying to educate people on how they can achieve a vegan diet is a bad thing. But what I am saying is that the message needs to be tempered with a privilege check of class and wealth otherwise it is going to be met with a lot of resistance by people who will be quite justified in saying that you don’t understand the barriers to going vegan.

Mobot // Posted 31 March 2010 at 12:16 pm

I did a course on ecology and ethics during my first degree… at this point I was pretty close to being vegan (no meat, no dairy but disregarding things like giving up wool because the sheep “get cold” without it in the summer!). Identifying myself primarily as a feminist and putting human rights first, I was appalled and disgusted by Peter Singer, and by PETA. I come from a family of disabled people. I work with disabled kids. I think that, despite being a hypothetical situation designed to promote a philosophical point, this idea of saving a healthy animal over a severely “mentally retarded” (his words I believe) child is both disgusting and philosophically flawed…

With RIGHTS come RESPONSIBILITIES (not shouting at you here btw!). The language of rights, and the very concept itself are human constructs. That is not to say we cannot apply very human traits such as compassion and justice to other animals. But not *rights* as these are bound up with uniquely human social mores. I’m not saying humans are separate from nature, or even superior. But humans organise ourselves differently to other animals through our capacity for complex language and our self-awareness/ability to think up abstract concepts like rights or veganism for that matter. This has resulted in our success as a species as well as – unfortunately – our cavalier attitude towards the earth. It is our capacity for empathy that allows us to organise ourselves well socially… As a human, I can’t help feeling more of a direct connection and empathy for other humans. This takes priority over connections with other creatures in a way that, for me, feels almost instinctive. That is why people (and feminism) will always come first for me. I may be vegetarian but as I’ve got older I’ve learned that I can’t fight every battle and have become more selective. I’ve also learned that I can’t preach people into agreeing with me, like I tried to do in my late teens/early twenties. These days, I work hard to try and support people to have their human rights upheld and I make no apology for that taking precidence over my concern for animals. That’s not because I think humans are more deserving as such, but because I am human and I have emotional connections to people that cannot be forged to the same extent with animals. If I was a cow, I’d be more concerned (in my limited capacity for concern) with other cows. Call me selfish if you will!

And this whole PETA-esque likening of rape to eating meat is obviously going to be deemed insensitive on a feminist site – only those who share your philosophical/ontological perspective are going to find favour with that. Give everyone else a break for picking different battles – together, hopefully we can all do our bit towards ending different kinds of oppression but let’s not berate each other for not being equally motivated by the exact same causes.

Amy Clare // Posted 31 March 2010 at 12:16 pm

@JenniferRuth:

On the contrary, I do understand. I am disabled, and I don’t have very much money. Please don’t assume that because I am vegan I must be well-off and have all the privileges in the world to make it work, because that’s just not true. In fact I don’t have a great deal of energy or time when I have a lot of ‘spoons’, but I choose to spend at least part of it on pursuing a vegan diet. What I’ve discovered is, it doesn’t take that much more time, energy or money than pursuing an omni diet. The change that has to take place – and I’m talking about UK residents here rather than people in developing countries – is between the ears, as depresso said.

You asked me about people who don’t have internet access or access to recipe books and I gave some suggestions… you then tell me that these suggestions were ‘easy to say’, and now I’m wondering if I could in fact say *anything* that would convince you a vegan diet is possible for most people.

I agree that society needs to better enable a vegan diet, but this will only happen with demand from people who want to go vegan.

FeminaErecta // Posted 31 March 2010 at 12:17 pm

I will commit fully to an organic vegan lifestyle when every single vegetable has a sticker on it saying ‘this was picked by someone earning at least minimum wage’.

angercanbepower // Posted 31 March 2010 at 12:26 pm

FeminaErecta, that’s as useless as when socialist men say, “Well, all this gender inequality will be solved when the means of production are owned by the forces of production, and until then we’ll just have to accept that there can never be equality under a capitalist system.”

The world isn’t perfect and you can’t wait for it to be perfect before you act.

Lilly // Posted 31 March 2010 at 12:34 pm

(Note: I’m quoting from JenniferRuth, though my comment isn’t directed AT you…!)

“It is often cheaper, especially in our Tesco-saturated culture, for a working class single mum to buy meat than enough veg to fill the families stomach.”

Others have already written about the relatively low cost of the basic foodstuffs of a vegan diet… but if it is indeed easier – if not necessarily cheaper in terms of money – for the working-class single mum to reach out for some heavily processed meat product in the supermarket, then isn’t it very bizarre and horrendous that this should be so? It’s a recent development, after all: not very long ago, meat was a luxury – and in poorer societies, it still is. If we cared about the environment at all, it would be one now. I’d rather pay more for game – and eat it only rarely – than touch supermarket meat with a ten-foot pole.

(Let’s not forget two things. One, that these working-class single mums benefit directly from the hunger of working-class families in the poorest countries; and two, that the kind of meat that’s actually fresh and good for you IS expensive. If anyone’s interested in learning more about the stuff you get for less money, there are several books I’d recommend: ‘Not on the Label’ by Felicity Lawrence, ‘We Want Real Food’ by Graham Harvey, ‘Bad Food Britain’ by Joanna Blythman, and ‘Stuffed and Starved’ by Raj Patel, among others.)

Actually, I’m not against killing animals for food (though I don’t do it myself). I’m against destroying the environment for food, treating living creatures as if they were non-sentient pieces of rubbish, and packaging slabs of meat in plastic containers that totally divorce them from any context, so that consumers don’t even think of the meat as coming from any ANIMAL. If they had to look their “prey” in the eye, most of them couldn’t even do it. And then they condemn hunting as a cruel bloodsport. “How could you shoot that cute little bunny?” Well, what the hell is that stuff in your Big Mac, then? Not as important as the cute little bunny of your imagination?

No: if you insist on eating meat but wouldn’t have the nerve to kill the animal yourself, then you’re a coward, a hypocrite, and a fool.

Jeff // Posted 31 March 2010 at 12:36 pm

“Utter rubbish and very offensive, both to me and probably other readers who care about non-humans’ rights. This is an old, tired argument that is completely baseless. Humans have been viewed as ‘resources’ in the past – particuarly African people, by white Americans. I’m sure many pro-slavery arguments contained just that very sentence. It was unacceptable then and it’s unacceptable now. ”

Like I said, this is what these arguments are going to boil down to. Whether or not you value an animal enough to consider it more than a resource. I would suggest that the majority of people do not, and that is why they continue to eat meat. Whilst I do care for animals, and would object to what I would consider their abuse, I would not consider killing them for food to be abuse, and I will willingly admit that whilst I would consider an animal to be a living sentient creature that deserves to be treated with kindness and respect, I would also consider it a food resource.

And to pre-empt the following;

“Why? You’ve already said you think they are resources for us to consume. Why does their suffering matter to you if it’s ‘natural’ for us to cause it? ”

I think there’s a clear difference between keeping and killing an animal that is otherwise free in order to eat, and forcibly inseminating animals/keeping them in horrifically overcrowded sheds/killing them for being the wrong sex or whatever. Whilst I do think the latter is morally abhorrent, I do not think the former is, and will make no apology for it.

Speaking of “tired, old arguments” I have to say that it certainly seems that you are using the old “You believe X (which I think is bad) so you MUST also believe Y (which everyone thinks is bad” argument in your comparisons between argument’s for meat eating and arguments for slavery and rape-porn.

“So? That’s irrelevant. There’s actually evidence to show that *cooking* food – of all types – is what helped our brains to grow, but that’s moot.”

This is very true, and I recommend people to look into this actually, it’s a very interesting read. In fact, there is plenty of evidence to show that the human digestion system can no longer sustain a body with raw food, we in fact NEED to cook food to survive now.

Amy Clare // Posted 31 March 2010 at 12:49 pm

@Mobot:

“Identifying myself primarily as a feminist and putting human rights first, I was appalled and disgusted by Peter Singer, and by PETA. I come from a family of disabled people. I work with disabled kids. I think that, despite being a hypothetical situation designed to promote a philosophical point, this idea of saving a healthy animal over a severely “mentally retarded” (his words I believe) child is both disgusting and philosophically flawed.”

I agree that his choice of words was bad (Animal Liberation was written in the 1970s, for context) but I don’t understand why you think his argument is flawed. He is not advocating taking rights away from severely mentally disabled people, but extending the rights we already give to these people, to non-humans.

His point was that human beings often cite intelligence as the reason why we are superior to non-humans, and therefore our lives should be favoured over theirs. Singer then made the point that some humans are not intelligent – in fact their intelligence could be compared to an animal such as a dog – and yet most people would still want to favour that human over a dog (in the burning building scenario for example). Therefore, the argument from intelligence is flawed, and what is really going on is speciesism.

You could only feel that his argument was ‘disgusting’ if you felt that non-humans are fundamentally ‘less than’ humans. Which is exactly the speciesist position that Singer was arguing against.

“But not *rights* as these are bound up with uniquely human social mores.”

What about humans who can’t understand the concept of ‘rights’, such as young infants, or severely mentally disabled people? Do we then decide not to give rights to them? Of course not.

“But humans organise ourselves differently to other animals through our capacity for complex language and our self-awareness/ability to think up abstract concepts like rights or veganism for that matter.”

So? Many species have rudimentary languages and societies, take primates for example. But as for abstract concepts – I agree that *some* humans can think abstractly but why does that mean we should make those beings who can’t suffer? I don’t get that at all.

“As a human, I can’t help feeling more of a direct connection and empathy for other humans. This takes priority over connections with other creatures in a way that, for me, feels almost instinctive. That is why people (and feminism) will always come first for me.”

You have empathy with humans and you call this ‘instinctive’, and yet if you know how pain feels you must surely be able to imagine how it feels not just for another human but for another species too? If I step on a dog’s paw by accident, and it squeals and jumps away, I know I have hurt it, and I can imagine the pain it would have to feel to give that reaction. In any case, your declaration that you only have empathy for humans is still not an argument to cause non-human animals to suffer. Non-humans will feel pain when they are hurt, whether you have empathy for that or not.

Moreover, empathy for non-humans does not take away from or diminish a person’s empathy for humans. It’s not an either/or situation, as I’ve said.

“And this whole PETA-esque likening of rape to eating meat is obviously going to be deemed insensitive on a feminist site – only those who share your philosophical/ontological perspective are going to find favour with that.”

When did I say I supported PETA? I can honestly say that my post came from my own brain, and was not influenced by them in any way. I take offence to the comparison, actually, because I abhor PETA’s sexist ad campaigns as do many vegans. If you’d actually read my post properly, plus the first comment that I made, you’d see that I don’t liken rape to eating meat. I can’t be bothered to explain myself again – go and read my first comment on this thread.

“Give everyone else a break for picking different battles.”

Sorry, what are you implying here? That I shouldn’t have written the post in the first place, or that when people criticise it I shouldn’t defend myself?

I trust that when you’re confronted with someone who thinks feminism isn’t a battle worth fighting, that you respect that view and never challenge it.

Funnily enough I don’t see veganism as a ‘battle’. I see it as a tasty, varied diet, which is easy to stick to, and doesn’t hurt non-human animals.

Amy Clare // Posted 31 March 2010 at 1:08 pm

@Jeff:

“I think there’s a clear difference between keeping and killing an animal that is otherwise free in order to eat, and forcibly inseminating animals/keeping them in horrifically overcrowded sheds/killing them for being the wrong sex or whatever. Whilst I do think the latter is morally abhorrent, I do not think the former is, and will make no apology for it.”

Your argument does not make sense. Non-humans who are killed for meat are slaughtered when they are only a fraction of the way into their natural life-span. When they are killed, they undoubtedly suffer both from the loss of their life, the fear they feel when they realise what’s going to happen, and the pain of being killed. As far as I’m concerned there is no part of that situation which is not morally abhorrent.

“Speaking of “tired, old arguments” I have to say that it certainly seems that you are using the old “You believe X (which I think is bad) so you MUST also believe Y (which everyone thinks is bad” argument in your comparisons between argument’s for meat eating and arguments for slavery and rape-porn.”

Sorry Jeff, no dice. I haven’t said *anywhere* in my post or in my comments that people who eat meat must think rape porn is okay, or must think slavery is okay. Regarding rape porn, I direct you to my first comment – you can meet up with Mobot there. Regarding slavery, you’re misunderstanding (perhaps deliberately?). My point is that the arguments used to justify slavery were often the same as those now used to justify meat eating (i.e. that it’s ‘natural’, that these beings we want to use are just ‘different’ from us, we have a right to ‘use’ them etc etc). If a person would reject those arguments in one situation (slavery) then it makes no sense to accept them in another situation (meat-eating). It’s a comparison which is intended to show the absurdity of some pro-meat arguments, not to paint all omnis as slavery-sympathisers. There’s a distinct difference, and I don’t believe it’s too subtle to grasp.

Jeff // Posted 31 March 2010 at 1:19 pm

“Your argument does not make sense. Non-humans who are killed for meat are slaughtered when they are only a fraction of the way into their natural life-span. When they are killed, they undoubtedly suffer both from the loss of their life, the fear they feel when they realise what’s going to happen, and the pain of being killed. As far as I’m concerned there is no part of that situation which is not morally abhorrent. ”

I think it makes perfect sense, you just don’t agree with it. As far as I’m concerned, there is a definitive difference between just killing an animal, and treating it poorly beforehand. Just as there would be a difference in killing a human, or kidnapping them, raping them and depriving them of light and food, before you killed them.

And yes, I understand that you consider it morally abhorrent to kill animals for food. I’m not objecting to that, just pointing out that I don’t.

As to the rape-porn/slavery thing, you misunderstand. I’m not saying that you are comparing them to meat-eating, I understand you are simply comparing the arguments omnivores use to justify their carnivorous practices to the arguments racists/rapists use. I am merely saying that I understand peoples objections, given the way you have phrased your arguments, and can see how they have misunderstood you. I did in fact say earlier in the post that I don’t think you were comparing them.

“If a person would reject those arguments in one situation (slavery) then it makes no sense to accept them in another situation (meat-eating). ”

The difference, as I’m sure you know, is that we’re talking about animals, and not humans. The reason people are fine with eating animals, is that they are not human, and so they do not consider them to have the same value and rights that a human has. That lesser value is the clinching argument in all of this.

saf // Posted 31 March 2010 at 1:19 pm

Firstly, excellent post and excellent responses Amy Clare. To FeminaErecta, if you care about the conditions and rights of workers, I don’t think the meat industry is the best horse to back! The work is poorly paid, often unsafe and the work takes a major emotional toll on workers. I don’t want to go off on a tangent, but in terms of the devastating environmental effects of the meat industry on the global environment, in terms of global warming, deforestation, effluent from farms etc, I think one can argue from a purely anthropocentric view for veganism (not that I necessarily would!)

By the way, I’d be interested to know how much this relates to the UK, but here‘s a really interesting demonstration from the US of “why does a salad cost more than a big mac?”

Coldneedles // Posted 31 March 2010 at 1:33 pm

Regarding Peter Singer and disabled people:

He is not advocating taking rights away from severely mentally disabled people, but extending the rights we already give to these people, to non-humans.

Maybe not in the specific case you are talking about, but overall I would not trust Peter Singer to give even basic consideration to disabled people’s rights.

Singer considers it morally acceptable to commit infanticide on disabled children and has also suggested that healthcare shold be rationed for disabled people based on ableist ideas about quality of life.

Obviously that’s not to criticise all animal right’s arguments- I’m just saying that invoking Peter Singer’s name is going to be very uncomfortable for many disabled people.

Magpie_Seven // Posted 31 March 2010 at 1:53 pm

This is a very interesting post and discussion- excellent points being raised here. One thing that keeps cropping up that I do agree with is that I definitely care more for my own species’ wellbeing than for the wellbeing of other species. I’m not sure this speciesism can be considered unethical or not, or desirable or not, because I don’t have the framework- but I’m certainly going to start developing one.

One thing that seems to be cropping up here is the idea of predation being “natural” butting heads with the idea that it is “unethical”. This fascinates me, and I’ve yet to untangle it for myself- but we do not judge animals that kill for food as unethical, even when those kills are performed in a fashion that must be extremely terrifying for the prey animal (constrictor snakes and big cats suffocating prey come to mind). The human body is set up to be able to process animal flesh. Do we, then, have a right to predate? If we do, to we have an ethical duty to predate with as little cruelty as possible? I think this is the line I am leaning towards; that we have a natural right to predate, but an ethical duty towards a lack of cruelty. But given the current farming system, finding non-cruel meat is extremely difficult, so becoming vegan seems necessary if our ethics are important to us. (it’s worth noting here that a hunter commited to as little cruelty as possible in their methods of hunting would be perfectly justified in adding that meat to their diet, in this analysis).

One other point- how do vegans on the board deal with medicines? Almost all have been thoroughly tested on animals, and I’m curious as to how much of an ethical dilemma this brings up.

(Final note- on board with the fact that bringing rape up when not discussing actual rape is extremely bad form. The analogy made sense but a better, non-triggering one could have been found.)

Pat // Posted 31 March 2010 at 1:59 pm

@Jeff: You say: “As far as I’m concerned, there is a definitive difference between just killing an animal, and treating it poorly beforehand. Just as there would be a difference in killing a human, or kidnapping them, raping them and depriving them of light and food, before you killed them.”

What is the pertinent difference between killing a human, and torturing them? Surely both are wrong?

From the point of view of an animal (viz. the amount of suffering that it causes), being artificially inseminated, being deprived of light, and having one’s throat slit are all quite unpleasant, I would imagine.

You go on: “The reason people are fine with eating animals, is that they are not human, and so they do not consider them to have the same value and rights that a human has. That lesser value is the clinching argument in all of this.”

But that is the whole point! Such values are socially constructs. Sexists attach lesser value to women, racists to people from other parts of the world, and speciesists to other species.

The question is why. To invoke the sanctity of human life above all other species requires justification, and none has been provided.

Kristel // Posted 31 March 2010 at 2:04 pm

So now we have yet another ism, species-ism. I can suggest another one. Specious-ism.

And interesting that even on a so-called feminist website people still blithely refer to the ‘mums’ buying the food in these evil supermarkets.

Amy Clare // Posted 31 March 2010 at 2:05 pm

@Jeff:

The reason I said your argument doesn’t make sense, is that you say you abhor suffering and yet you’re fine with killing, which involves a considerable element of suffering.

“Just as there would be a difference in killing a human, or kidnapping them, raping them and depriving them of light and food, before you killed them.”

And yet most people would consider *both* these crimes to be morally abhorrent.

“I am merely saying that I understand peoples objections, given the way you have phrased your arguments, and can see how they have misunderstood you.”

And yet many readers, as you can see from this thread, have perfectly understood my arguments – suggesting that there is no problem with my phrasing. A person could only ‘misunderstand’ if they didn’t read my post properly. I’ve already clarified myself, more than once, and I refuse to continue to write caveat after caveat making sure people know that I’m not making light of rape or slavery.

Funnily enough no-one seems to have any problem understanding my writing when I’m talking about subjects that aren’t controversial.

“The difference, as I’m sure you know, is that we’re talking about animals, and not humans. The reason people are fine with eating animals, is that they are not human, and so they do not consider them to have the same value and rights that a human has. That lesser value is the clinching argument in all of this.”

This is the very definition of speciesism. You can’t mount an argument against non-human rights by simply saying ‘animals are less than humans’. That is no different from saying ‘women are less than men’ as an argument against feminism. It’s meaningless. You’re simply repeating the dominant idea of the status quo, not giving any reasonable argument for WHY the status quo should be as it is.

Jeff // Posted 31 March 2010 at 2:28 pm

@ Pat,

“What is the pertinent difference between killing a human, and torturing them? Surely both are wrong?”

Certainly they’re both wrong, but I would certainly consider the latter to be “more” wrong than the former, wouldn’t you?

“But that is the whole point! Such values are socially constructs. Sexists attach lesser value to women, racists to people from other parts of the world, and speciesists to other species.”

Yes, that’s what I said. That’s the very basis of all “-ist” beliefs.

“The question is why. To invoke the sanctity of human life above all other species requires justification, and none has been provided.”

On the contrary, it has. The justification is that they are not human, and we are. This is why cannibalism is considered by most to be morally abhorrent even though it is functionally the same as eating any other animal. If you don’t consider that justification to be sufficient, then veganism is for you.

@ Amy Clare,

“The reason I said your argument doesn’t make sense, is that you say you abhor suffering and yet you’re fine with killing, which involves a considerable element of suffering. ”

Ah, I apologise, I misunderstood. Allow me to amend that then to be opposed to more suffering than the death of an animal would necessarily inflict, rather than opposed to total suffering, since death is obviously just that.

“And yet most people would consider *both* these crimes to be morally abhorrent.”

Very true, but as I said before most people would also consider one to be far worse than the other.

“A person could only ‘misunderstand’ if they didn’t read my post properly.”

I don’t think this is true, I think it would be very easy to misunderstand your post even after thorough reading, and I suspect that’s probably why many people did.

“This is the very definition of speciesism. You can’t mount an argument against non-human rights by simply saying ‘animals are less than humans’. That is no different from saying ‘women are less than men’ as an argument against feminism. It’s meaningless. You’re simply repeating the dominant idea of the status quo, not giving any reasonable argument for WHY the status quo should be as it is. ”

I’m not denying that I’m “Speciesist” here, and I did infact already say that the same ideas about values are being used to justify sexism. I’m not interested in giving an argument about WHY the status quo regarding meat-eating should be maintained, I’m just pointing out that the morality of this is subjective. It’s tied in with the value you assign to animals, and if that value is low enough then you aren’t going to consider it morally wrong to eat meat.

FeminaErecta // Posted 31 March 2010 at 2:30 pm

@angercanbepower

There can never be equality under a capitalist system. Don’t mistake my reluctance to call myself a vegan with inaction. I am not going to list every single cause I fight for because I don’t believe in playing for points, but I CAN call myself a marxist feminist because I try to live as anti a consumerist and anti- privilidge based lifestyle as I can. In this country a lot of our fruit and vegetables is grown and picked my people earning less than minimum wage, we have the choice to buy products grown in this country, in order to boycot regimes that exploit people abroad, we have the choice to not eat products derived from animals (except cigarettes which do not have ingredient listings, but you have the choice to be a smoker), we also have the choice to not use products that are harmful to the environment, but we are not given any choice in mainstream supermarkets, or even markets in general, to buy products that are grown by people who are exploited. I am very much in favour of a diet that does not include meat and dairy, I did this for several years, however, the term ‘vegan’ as one that means the person has made a concious choice to not abuse their human privalidge cannot be applied unless you know the origin of every item of food you eat, and the welfare of the people who grew it for you.

Amy Clare // Posted 31 March 2010 at 2:40 pm

@Magpie_Seven:

“we do not judge animals that kill for food as unethical, even when those kills are performed in a fashion that must be extremely terrifying for the prey animal”

This is because if said animals did not kill said prey they would themselves die of starvation. Not the same for most humans choosing to eat meat/dairy.

“The human body is set up to be able to process animal flesh. Do we, then, have a right to predate?”

The human body is set up to be able to inflict a lot of pain on other human beings, even to kill them. Do we then have a right to inflict pain on or kill other human beings?

Re: medicines. I believe I’ve referred to this issue in another comment somewhere in this thread.

“(Final note- on board with the fact that bringing rape up when not discussing actual rape is extremely bad form. The analogy made sense but a better, non-triggering one could have been found.)”

Yet again, please see my first comment. If I feel that an omni’s justification for eating meat reminds me of a man’s justification for why he watches rape porn, why can’t I say that? These things are equally upsetting for me, so I feel that the analogy is appropriate. And yes, I have been sexually assaulted, so the ‘trigger’ is there for me too. In fact that experience is partly why I feel empathy for these animals. I’m not advocating rape porn or even suggesting that all meat eaters like it or approve of it, I’m communicating what goes on in *my* mind when faced with certain pro-meat arguments.

And here I am again writing another caveat. I’m getting very tired of being attacked for this. Many commenters seem to feel that their feelings surrounding the mention of rape should be respected, but then wade in with attacks on non-humans declaring them resources to be used and so on, with no regard for my feelings as an anti-speciesist. Some of what has been written in these comments has been upsetting and offensive to me, but I have tried to remain calm and polite, and concentrate on the arguments, given that human privilege dictates that speciesist comments are allowed on this blog.

@Coldneedles:

http://www.princeton.edu/~psinger/faq.html

Amy Clare // Posted 31 March 2010 at 2:49 pm

@Jeff:

“I’m not interested in giving an argument about WHY the status quo regarding meat-eating should be maintained, I’m just pointing out that the morality of this is subjective. It’s tied in with the value you assign to animals, and if that value is low enough then you aren’t going to consider it morally wrong to eat meat.”

Well yes, and if the value you assign to women/POC/LGBTQI people/disabled people is low enough then blah blah blah. Funnily enough we do not accept the ‘subjectivity’ of morality when it comes to oppressed humans.

I don’t accept what you’re saying about my writing, either.

@everyone:

I feel this thread has descended into mud-slinging somewhat, and in any case I won’t be able to mod comments for the next few days, so comments are now closed. Thanks to everyone for your input.

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