PODCAST: Should feminists be vegetarian?

The idea that feminists ‘should’ or ‘should not’ be anything is contentious. Of course when one says you ‘should’ be anything, we are bound to become defensive.

The idea that feminists ‘should’ be vegetarian, though, is, I’ve recently discovered, something of an issue. This issue is key for, but not limited to, ecofeminists. Sheila Jeffreys wrote:

“It is a joy to be in agreement about the need to abolish such practices of violence against women as prostitution and pornography, because such agreement is so rare in the malestream world. But this great feeling of sisterhood and togetherness was marred by disagreement over an issue that I consider to be of great importance, the eating of animals.”

I’m curious to know what thoughts feminists have on this debate. Until recently, it had never really occurred to me that feminists should or should not be vegetarian or vegan, simply because they were feminist. There are, of course, many good reasons not to eat meat, but the necessity that feminists, in particular, should take on speciesism as part of their fight, was new to me.

Interestingly, there are many who strongly believe that feminists who don’t include ‘speciesism’ in their anti-oppressive analysis, are hypocritical. I know many, many feminists who eat animal products (myself included) and while, certainly, I support veganism and am mostly vegetarian at this point, though am relatively disinterested when it comes to taking this on as an identity (I try to avoid meat if possible, which is most, but not all of the time and I don’t buy it at the grocery store or cook it at home, but I sure do eat a lot of cheese….), I wondered what kinds of arguments were being made around this issue.

I think, for the most part, feminists who do eat animal products are mostly unaware that an argument that says, yes, feminists should be vegan / vegetarian, even exists and meanwhile, there are feminist animal rights activists who say that feminists who eat meat are, in their silence, complicit in animal oppression.

In an effort to further explore these issues and debates, I interviewed Kathryn Paxton George, the author of   “Animal Vegetable or Woman: A Feminist Critique of Ethical Vegetarianism” and of an article entitled: “Should feminists be vegetarian?” and produced a show on the topic.

George found, in her research, “deep male biases of the traditional arguments for ethical vegetarianism” and makes the argument that there is a certain level of elitism behind the idea that women and feminists should be vegetarian.

On a personal level, it was my deep distaste for PETA, because of the ways in which they exploit and objectify women, as well as their generally useless promotion of “lifestyle activism,” best described by Joanne Costello, that brought me, unintentionally, into this debate. PETA, as part of their supposed campaign to “save the animals,” literally cuts women up into pieces of meat in their efforts to end animal suffering. It would appear that, while deeply concerned about the objectification of animals, they are totally ok with the oppression of women, perpetuating the global dehumanization of women by making them into sexualized objects for consumption. It was, in part, because I was so critical of PETA’s campaigns, that I was told it was “ironic” that I would be “frustrated with those who don’t seem ‘to get’ why” oppressing women in the name of environmentalism is unnecessary or contradictory, “given [my] seeming unwillingness to commit to more seriously opposing speciesism.”

Carol J Adams, the author of, among many other titles, “The Pornography of Meat” and “The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory,” certainly sees the connections between the way we cut animals up into body parts, turning them into objects for our consumption , and the way in which we cut women up into parts in order to treat them, not as whole human beings, but as sexualized bodies or body parts. I spoke with Carol J Adams, who is, obviously, very critical of PETA’s tactics,  about these connections back in August.

While I do, indeed, see these connections, I’m not sure that it is, actually, necessary for all feminists to actively oppose speciesism. Is it “ironic” that feminists are frustrated with PETA tactics if they aren’t also fighting animal oppression? Is it necessary that feminists take on speciesism as a cause?

Some think so.  Sheri Lucas is one of those who wrote a response to Kathryn Paxton George’s piece, defending the feminist-vegetarian connection. She wrote: “Despite the goal of ending all forms of oppression, most feminists do not include the oppression of nonhuman animals within their praxis.” She also said that this wasn’t due to lack of awareness.

Are feminists simply disinterested in including the “oppression of non-human animals” in their discourse? Should they be interested?

Lucas writes: “the question of whether feminists should be vegetarians is paramount, as the eating of flesh is considered the chief cause of oppression to nonhuman animals. It is the form of oppression that feminists are most apt to support and condone, especially in heavily industrialized countries.”

It’s one of the few things I don’t have an opinion on.  I am undecided. What are your thoughts? Are we hypocrites to criticize PETA’s sexist campaigns, while unfazed by our love of cheese?

Should feminists be vegan? Should they be vegetarian? Are feminists who don’t include speciesism in their practice hypocrites?

Listen to both of my interviews with Sheri Lucas and Kathryn Paxton George, below (apologies for the not-so-great audio in Lucas’ interview, due to bad cell phone reception):

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy

Meghan Murphy, founder and editor of Feminist Current, is a freelance writer and journalist. She completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog. Follow her @meghanemurphy

  • http://themainlander.com/ Nathan Crompton

    Thanks for the post. Carol J Adams’ book is now on my shelf, I think I agree with it but I haven’t read it yet. This column by Nina Power is a great one to add to the list. http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2010/sep/24/major-beef-for-feminists

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks for the link, Nathan!

  • petanipples

    What is so horrible about some appealing women in a PETA ad? It sure succeeded in its purpose, as you are talking about the campaigns and goals…

    • http://www.montrealcyclechic.com lagatta à montréal

      Why appealing young women? If it is horrible to cut sentient beings into “meat”, then it is just as horrible if the person is older or not conventionally attractive, and whatever their gender. These campaigns rely on sexist stereotypes that view “attractive” women as meat, and sex toys.

  • Mary Sunshine

    I’m a radical feminist, and certainly not vegetarian, although at one point I was vegetarian for 8 years. At this point I am thriving as a paleo on organic, locally grown, pastured beef, pork, lamb and eggs.

    The purpose of human female eating is to support her physical frame at optimum health levels. Ideological eating makes as much sense as ideological exercise habits, or ideological oral hygeine. As an article of radical feminism, human female health and well-being trump all other blandishments.

  • Ciara

    I don’t see why feminists should be vegetarian. Yes there are great reasons to be vegetarian but it’s not a feminist issue. We cannot equate animal suffering with human suffering no matter how appalling it is. Feminism is about the systematic oppression of people? I don’t like what happens to animals but it’s not a feminist issue. (imo obviously)

  • gun

    There is also “The Vegetarian Myth” by radical feminist Lierre Keith.

    • lizor

      A great book. I was going to post if no one else had.

  • diana

    Are you aware of Lierre Keith’s excellent analysis of all this, from a radical feminist perspective, in her awesome book, “The Vegetarian Myth”? Please, not all meat-eating feminists are unaware. Some of us, many of us, are completely aware, and conscientious — and purposeful meat-eaters. And radical feminist, too. Please be careful of what you support, because the consequences ensure, whether or not you’re aware of them.

    Are you aware, also, of the Indigenous peoples who lived sustainably within their landbases for tens of thousands of years, all eating meat and animal products? There’s just a tad chunk of racism in all this.

    And are you aware that the rise of agriculture signaled hierarchy and violence, since city-states (created by cereal grain storage which boosted populations hugely) required the importation of ‘resources.’ And if you can’t get them within, you fight for them outside ….

    • Meghan Murphy

      Hi Diana, Yes! I am aware of all of these issues and critiques. Thank you for bringing this up. I think an important challenge to the ‘feminists should be vegetarian argument’ is that, of course, many people have survived, healthfully and sustainably, via hunting and fishing for, as you say, thousands of years. At this year’s Women’s Worlds conference in Ottawa there was a presentation on the importance of the seal hunt to Inuit women. I’d love to hear more on this perspective.

      • http://www.montrealcyclechic.com lagatta à montréal

        A historical quibble, but they lived by GATHERING, hunting and fishing. Patriarchal historians tended to downplay the gathering and the huge role it played in the nutrition of so-called “primitive” peoples. (Remember that “primitive” initially meant “first”, and only later meant “backward”).

  • diana

    ensue, not ensure

  • Komal

    Great post. I am a vegetarian myself, but not for feminist reason. I don’t even think we should be asking the question: “should feminists be vegetarian?”, as I feel that is a judgmental way of framing the issue. Perhaps it would be better to just ask whether vegetarianism is ethically good, and whether feminism is ethically good, without asking whether one entails the other.

    This also comes down to how defining/important feminism is in one’s overall ethical orientation. Since feminism is not my ethical philosophy, but is the application of my ethical philosophy to certain issues (or a sub-theory within a broader ethical theory), I find it difficult to relate to feminists who derive their ethical positions on other issues from feminism, or who would even ask: “should feminists be vegetarian?”.

    And yeah, lifestyle activism and identities based on consumption: totally a white Western phenomenon, and relatively recent. In South Asia vegetarianism is just part of the cultural heritage, there is no lifestyle activism or identity based upon/associated with it.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I agree, Komal, that this question of whether feminists “should” or “should not” be vegetarian is problematic. What I suppose I wonder is whether or not people think it is problematic for feminists to consume meat and why or why not. I get the impression that some do, indeed, find it problematic. It isn’t necessarily the best way to start a dialogue about it in any case, if that is, indeed, the goal.

  • Komal

    What Kathryn Paxton George has presented is an entirely white-centric and Western-centric perspective. She refers to Eskimos and Indians from an external perspective, as in ‘over there they do/need to eat meat, but over here we do not’. A concrete example: “if we say, well, we’re more more moral, we’re more highly virtuous for not eating meat over here, that’s an elite point of view and I disagree.”

    Who is the ‘we’ in this? This statement is clearly aimed toward a white Western audience that potentially judges the diet of Others. Now it may be fine for her to come from a white North American perspective, and to speak primarily to others like her, provided that she at least mentions it, and realizes that her ideas are going to be received differently by those who aren’t part of her implicit intended audience. She should also consider the possibility that there are people who are part of both South Asian and American or Canadian culture. For us, the idea of ‘we’ (North Americans, implicitly white) judging ‘them’ (brown South Asians) involves a false duality. This judgment may not occur at all, because we may be the very South Asians who she claims are unhealthy because of our vegetarianism!

    The reason vegetarianism is so much more prevalent in South Asia than here (at least historically) is partly because of the spiritual disadvantages of eating meat, and the greater spirituality of South Asian culture compared to European and European-heritage cultures. Indian medicine (Ayurveda) has its own explanation behind the disadvantages of eating meat, which has nothing to do with morality. Vegetarianism has historically been approached from a moral, health and spiritual perspective, not merely a moral one. Not to imply some sort of cultural relativist approach to epistemology, but just to remind her that Western science is not the only way of knowing, and that the Western emphasis on ethical vegetarianism is something parochial, and is not necessarily shared by all cultures.

    • Komal

      Btw what I have presented is not a rebuttal of Kathryn Paxton George’s arguments, just an observation which is effecting how I relate to her ideas.

      Her point about the need for animal products is a good one. Making supplements more accessible for vegetarians/vegans who do not currently have access to them seems like a worthy course of action, for those who may be interested in activism in this area.

  • Deepika

    Sheri Lucas says: “Despite the goal of ending all forms of oppression, most feminists do not include the oppression of nonhuman animals within their praxis.”

    This is where I disagree with her. It’s not called “end-all-forms-of-oppression-everywhere-ism” – it’s called “feminism”. For a reason.

    If ending the oppression of women has other, beneficial side-effects (which it most definitely does!), then that’s great and it’s certainly an outcome to be welcomed and appreciated.

    But women come first. That’s just where I stand.

    There was an ad I saw in the UK some years ago, about ending cruelty to animals. It showed this poor, half-starved farmer in Pakistan hitting an equally bedraggled donkey with a stick. My flatmate was all “Oh the poor donkey!” and I got so burned up about it. What about the farmer? Oppressed by feudalism, by colonialism, by circumstance. Why does the animal suddenly take precedence just because some white people have decided they need a new cause to get excited about? Or does the man not matter because he’s poor/brown/Pakistani/uneducated etc.

    PETA does this same thing – of course your regular readers know that. Throw women under the bus for the sake of the almighty animal.

    I get that animal cruelty is bad, and should be stopped – but NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF WOMEN.

    Which is what Sheri Lucas is driving at. Limited time/resources/energy/what-have-you and I should think about horses instead of women? Don’t think so.

    • Komal

      ‘It’s not called “end-all-forms-of-oppression-everywhere-ism” – it’s called “feminism”. For a reason.’


    • Branjor

      They might have both been poor, half starved and bedraggled, but only one was hitting the other, and it wasn’t the donkey.

  • julia

    I’m a vegan, so I’m biased :)

    The most important thing for those who eat animals is not to pretend that chicken comes from a package. To be aware that there is slaughter in eating animals, even on the most ‘humane’ farms. I never wanted to think about this when I was a meat eater. And no one could have convinced me to give up meat by telling me about it. So I respect everywoman’s right to choose what she eats.

    • diana

      . Julia, I’m a meat-eater, and I guess I’m lots more biased than you are. :) I think it’s preposterous for meat-eaters to insist the killing of animals be done by others. I was raised on a farm, and knew early on that if I couldn’t do the actual slaughter, I shouldn’t be doing the eating. I also respect women’s right to make educated choices.

      It’s tough to get the full story out, all parts, because food is tremendously personal and political, identity-tied. Thus Lierre Keith’s careful work gets trashed as ‘just her experience.’ Actually it’s increasingly common for we ex-veg*ns to become diabetic. Lierre and I and a bunch of others I know share very similar experiences.

  • Hecuba

    The issue of PETA’S sustained and deliberate misogynistic exploitation of women in respect of its campaign against eating meat cannot be collapsed into the issue of vegetarian/meat eaters.

    The evidence concerning PETA’s women-hating campaign is demonstrated in the above photo wherein a naked woman’s body is divided into different parts of meat! Do PETA routinely show images of naked men wherein their body parts are divided into meat sections? No but PETA routinely sexually exploits women because PETA believes women are not human and hence ‘no human was harmed’ when they photograph naked women in cages. Not forgetting PETA have now created a porn website and I fail to see how promotion of filmed male sexual violence against women (pornography) has any relationship whatsoever with the issue of whether or not humans should eat meat.

    Male supremacy constantly seeks to keep women divided because these divisions ensure male supremacist system continues merrily to maintain male domination over all women.

    I believe eating meat is essential to maintain good health but at the same time I do not support cruelty against animals. We also need to bear in mind many males who commit violence against women and girls also inflict sadistic violence against animals. Until recently women who sought to escape their current/ex male partners’ violence were not able to take their pets with them. This caused much pain to these women because they knew their ex male partner would inflict violence on their pet in order to punish the woman and her children. Now it is being recognised that a woman’s pet(s) need to be cared for too.

    I do not oppose anyone who is a vegetarian but we must be careful not to focus too much on this issue at the expense of the primary one which is male domination over all women. Male control over women as we know cannot be maintained without the use of or threat of violence and given we are living in an increasingly militaristic world the callous sadistic cruelty men inflict on animals is increasing at a huge rate. After all if men believe women are not human why should these self same men believe an animal should be treated with compassion and respect.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Excellent points, Hecuba!

  • Omnia Vanitas

    Well you know how I feel. Vegan all the way!!!! 😀 😀 Animals are my friends and I don’t eat my friends. ^ ^

    • http://www.montrealcyclechic.com lagatta à montréal

      The only problem with that is that my best friend in the entire world is a very elderly, half-Siamese black tomcat (neutered). And he does eat meat and fish – he has to. When he was young, he brought me mice he had hunted and wanted to be praised.

      I try to eat as plant-based a diet as possible, but I have a hard time digesting legumes, and need protein.

      • Leo

        Awww. : ) Did he inherit the Siamese personality? My family have always kept them, they tend to be very extroverted (and noisy!) cats.

        Tofu, mushrooms and nuts for extra protein, maybe? Quinoa is Ok, too.

        I think it’s only appropriate to feed a carnivorous animal like a cat meat, certainly agreed there. Really disagree with and distrust the motives of some vegans who keep carnivorous animals and feed them a vegan diet, can’t understand why they’d insist on doing that, unlike humans the animals can’t choose a vegan diet and they’re not naturally omnivorous. There are herbivorous animals they could keep instead if they’re not comfortable feeding a pet on meat, rabbits, guinea pigs, degus, or my own choice, chinchillas. My chinchilla is my fluffy baby, heh, he’s the gentlest, most affectionate critter I’ve known.

        Vegetarian thinking of switching over to fully vegan here (I understand the pros and cons may be more complex than I’ve yet considered, so I’ll look into it), so was interested to see the article and comments, glad the new ones meant I saw it since I wasn’t reading Feminist Current when it was posted. I suppose I’ve come at this the other way around, in some ways – seeing that quite a few Radical Feminists seemed to be vegetarian and vegan really encouraged me to investigate further. I admit, I’ve previously just felt rather despairing about any kind of activism, because it just feels like humans in general have such capacity for empathy, yet will just tune it out like flipping a switch if it suits them – which applies to men conveniently choosing to ignore women’s oppression, obviously. So seeing that some feminists also included animals and speciesism in their analysis, when discussing forms of oppression, was very appealing, it just looked more comprehensive and consistent – and hopeful, really. Helped drag me out of a funk, seeing that, other women arguing for the kind of world I also had wanted to see. To me feminism is important as obviously a worthwhile endeavour in itself, but also in part because I can’t imagine that while men are still refusing to treat women decently, that humans in general will somehow manage to learn to treat non-human animals kindly. Feminism does still stand on its own, absolutely, and we can’t deal with everything at once, but it does seem to make sense that they could be seen as linked, as part of the work towards ending all oppression, and eliminating or at least aiming to reduce preventable suffering.

        I guess many radical feminists, even if not wishing to become vegetarian or vegan, might well still be able to agree that it would be desirable for animals to be treated more humanely? If that were the case, there’d at least be some common ground.

        Would be interested in more ecofeminist perspectives, anyway! : )

  • Omnia Vanitas

    Kieth is talking about her individual experience and projecting that out as a generalization. Her book is total BS as far as that goes. That’s like if I was diabetic so I told everyone they shouldn’t eat sugar.

  • http://paleosister.wordpress.com paleosister

    Another point to keep in mind is that not all women do well on veg. diets, no matter how hard they try. What do vegan advocates think people, including women, ate during the ice ages? Major thinkers such as Jared Diamond have said “agriculture is the biggest mistake humans ever made.” Not only did it put the planet on a course so that it may turn into venus, it also has caused a host of diseases not found in people per-agriculture. No wonder so many people have healed from their physical and mental disorders by adopting a paleo diet. One woman’s amazing story is below:


  • profeminist

    Women are socialized be on diets and to care about everyone other than themselves. Animal rights, eco-feminism and veg*n lifestylists merely exploit this to swell their ranks.

    And no one should be fooled by Lierre Keith and Jensen’s end:civ cult, primitivism is as anti-woman as the vegans and the anti-vaxers.

    • diana

      Good, then, that Lierre and Derrick aren’t primitivists (not all labels given by others truly fit). “Cult” is downright amusing. They are two of the most accessible and caring people on the planet. Smart? Yes. Dogmatic? Nope. So the resulting discussions with them aren’t lifestylism at all. They, like I (and innumerable others), have health consequences from civilized food, even civilized “good” food. Eat that which brings real health, share the information, and then work on dismantling industrial civilization while the planet still lives. Hardly secret stuff, and no kool-aid required. :)

    • Komal

      Yep, and primitivism is not only anti-woman: it is anti-human, anti-intellectual, anti-virtue… among other things.

  • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.com Boner Killer

    I am actually taking a women’s studies class next semester called “politics of food” – We have to read Carol’s book “sexual politics of meat”
    Like you, Meghan, I don’t really eat red meat – i rarely eat other meat, but i don’t identify as a “vegetarian” or anything. My main issue with a lot of animal rights activists, obviously PETA for many reasons, but also others who, too, believe to be feminists, and i know this is not all, but a few that I have met (and i realize this is only a FEW) is the issue of culture that goes overlooked. For example, on my campus we had a few male students (self-proclaimed feminists and snobby vegan) set up a animal rights – go vegan! table that they plastered with photos of clubbed baby seals in NFLD. I was really bothered because it appeared they only wanted people to become vegan, there was no in-between, no vegetarian option. They also didn’t think about the people of NFLD who have been hunting and fishing for hundreds of years and many, or the many indigenous communities in Canada that hunt their own meat but in a very humane and sustainable way – where all of the meat is shared in the community, nothing is wasted. I find a lot of times there is no open dialogue about this because it always goes back to “NO YOU NEED TO VEGAN!” I mean, I grew up in a small hunting community, but most of the hunters knew what they were doing – animals didn’t suffer and they obtained food that was not injected with hormones OR raised to be killed. The meat is ALL used – there’s no waste, no stain on the environment or nature. I think this notion of “speciesm” is important because it gets us looking at the intersections of how women and animals are treated, but it’s certainly not “the same.” I think the larger issue is capitalism and how we have gone about mass-producing our food at ANY cost – no matter how exploitative, abusive, disgusting or corrupt. This is a problem. When it comes to “YOU EAT MEAT! YOU AREN’T A FEMINIST!” I get annoyed because NOT ALL WOMEN have the same opportunities to eat free-range dairy or they may live in a culture/community that hunts food. I think all women’s experiences should be considered, particularly women and generally, people from other cultures and other communities that have different needs and different perspectives on sustainable food.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks for your comments, BK, I also am still unclear on how the veganism/ecofeminist/speciesism argument is applied to communities or people who hunt or fish sustainably or for whom meat is the primary food? As you say, there are many “indigenous communities in Canada that hunt their own meat but in a very humane and sustainable way” and there are others for whom a vegan diet isn’t accessible. Sheri Lucas felt that it wasn’t her place to say what others should or should not eat, but, as you know, I have been told that, as a feminist or even as a progressive, I should be addressing the issue of speciesism. It seems a little overwhelming to say the least, particularly when I’m not interested in taking a stand in this debate. I mean, it is a lot to address all at once….and I’m not convinced that some women don’t fare better when there is meat / animal products is part of their diet…

    • http://ewinsor.wordpress.com lizor

      Such important points here. While I do see the parallels between agricultural exploitation of animals and land (large-scale cultivation also impacts ecosystems and animal lives) and the oppression of women, I am concerned about a conflation of eating flesh and supporting agribusiness and petroleum-based transportation systems. To say that eating flesh is fundamentally anti-feminist condemns all northern people to a certain (degenerate) politics, unless they access food transported from the south, which requires a buy-in to global petroleum-driven capitalism.

      Any place that has had human inhabitants produces an annual nutritional cycle that can sustain human life. The closer to the poles you get, the more animal-based the diet. Appropo of your point about seal hunting, seal meat and fat have a unique nutritional configuration that is extremely healthy for humans. It is the only wild meat that can fully sustain you whereas something like caribou alone will lead to eventual malnutrition and ultimate starvation. That’s why so many northern aboriginal groups think of seal as medicine, why the animal is held in such high esteem in that culture. Seal is also the key component of the food chain that enabled habitation in the area called Newfoundland/Labrador/Quebec and parts of the maritimes. Without the spring arrival of seals, people, native or settler, would have starved.

      I also have concerns about conflating predation with oppression. To say that all predatory action (hunting) is oppression places animals in two moral categories, so that does not operate if we are serious about speciesism.

      For me the ethical ideal for food consumption is growing/foraging/hunting my own food and being part of a sharing community of people doing the same. Yes, it is an ideal and it is where I have arrived for the time being on my personal ethical journey. It is not a proscriptive for anyone else. But I would submit that starting with “Where am I? What does nutrition does this place produce? What do I know about what I am eating? Do I know the person who harvested/prepared/killed this food? How far has it travelled to get to me?” has been useful.

      Finally, here’s something that I think people who have not lived the experience of producing the food that they eat have a difficult time understanding: it is possible to care for and respect animals as our fellow species, as other animals that are part of a local-to-global ecosystem, and to also take their lives for our own consumption. To assume that the wolf disrespects the deer is anthropomorphism. Taking life, plant or animal, is a fact of life whether you do it yourself or someone does it for you and it does not necessitate contempt and violence. As I said above, Inuit and other northern people have been centrally dependent for millennia on taking the lives of seals and there is a deep love, respect and appreciation for seals that has evolved as a part of that predation.

  • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.com Boner Killer

    @ paleosister,

    yes, I know many women, including myself, live with anemia – so a diet like veganism would be impossible.

  • http://marginalnotes.typepad.com/pj/ Joanne Costello

    The idea that feminists should be vegetarian seems very simplistic to me. Shouldn’t we be more concerned with the work and living conditions of the temporary foreign workers picking our apples out in PEI? What about the destruction of subsistence agriculture and societies to grow bananas? Should we be concerned about the carbon footprint of meals that come from all corners of the world? I think food is a feminist issue but I believe that a socialist feminist perspective offers a much better understanding of how we can be conscious of our eating habits while appreciating the complexity of the issue. It also allows us to understand the limits on consumers.

  • http://www.lierrekeith.com Lierre

    @ profeminst,

    Wow, I have a cult? I’ll keep that in mind next time I need the bathtub cleaned.

    Joking aside, neither Derrick Jensen nor I identify as “primitivists.” Not sure where you’re getting your information, but it’s wrong. In fact, Derrick is right now writing a book critiquing so-called primitivism. The racism and misogyny keep me far, far away from that crew. I have never had anything to do with them and never have.

    What I know is that my planet is being murdered and I want to stop that murder before it’s too late. The IEA–not exactly a radical source–says we have at most five years left before climate change is irreversible. Otherwise, the end result will be a once-living planet turned to dead rock. Even the bacteria will be baked from the soil, or what’s left of the soil.

    I’m happy to send copies of my books to any radical feminist who’d like them (_The Vegetarian Myth_, or _Deep Green Resistance_). You can judge for yourselves whether I run a cult or have something of use to add to this rather desperate situation.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks for your comments, Lierre! I’m looking forward to learning more about your work. I’ve read several of Jensen’s books and enjoyed them all.

    • Komal

      Is there anything you value other than the environment? I’m just curious. It seems that you and Jensen care only about one thing, and are willing to sacrifice everything else for its sake.

      • Obvi

        Without the environment, there *is* nothing else.

        • Komal

          This is a fallacy, and a dangerous one too. As far as I know Lierre Keith and others like her have not given any account of value that justifies that the Earth has inherent value.

          I do not believe the Earth has inherent value. I would rather human beings live in a civilization, while trying to strive for greater perfection, and then the Earth die out after 5 years, than that human beings revert to an uncivilized way of being and the Earth live forever. I value humans more than the Earth. Merely pointing out our dependence upon the Earth in a physical sense says nothing whatsoever about humanity’s value relative to the Earth. We could be dependent upon something and still justifiably have dominion over it.

      • lizor

        @ Komal – what do you mean by “the environment”?

    • http://ewinsor.wordpress.com lizor

      @ Lierre Keith: You are amazing; a huge inspiration for me. I ordered and read your book shortly after it was printed and it was such a welcome articulation of what I was struggling to understand and to reckon: my feminist politics and the ethically sound, sustainable, respectful rural hunting/fishing culture that produced me. I do dream that someday in the future I might, directly or indirectly, assist in the great work that you and Derrick are leading through DGR.

      My deepest gratitude to you.

  • http://rmott62.wordpress Rebecca Mott

    For me the question is not whether feminists should non-meat eaters, more whether a small amount of vegetarians make the choice to guilt-trip feminists if they eat meat?
    I choose to eat meat, with full knowledge of what happens inside slaughterhouses and bad farming practices. I have killed animals to be eaten in the past, and I have witness the slaughtering of farm animals. I choose to eat mostly free-range, but cannot afford it the vast majority of the time.
    What upsets me intensely is when readers of my anti-sex trade work, make the choice to compare conditions of women and girls inside indoors prostitution with factory farming, usually with chickens. It upsets me that they do not see how insulting it is, and think it is a reasonable thing to say. They do see it does keep the prostituted as sub-humans.

  • http://www.lierrekeith.com Lierre

    Thanks, Meghan. Books are on the way.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks so much. Looking forward.

  • marv wheale

    I have one caveat to state before addressing the link between feminism and vegetarianism/veganism. Aboriginal people should not be challenged by animal activists about animal abuse in relation to hunting, trapping and fishing. White people, especially men have colonized aboriginal bodies, lands and cultures. Why should First Nations care what white people think when the former are still being held in bondage by a white male imperialist Canadian state. If any aboriginal people do question the killing of animals these queries have to be resolved within their own communities rather than across the racial divide between animal activists and First Nations. We must work in solidarity with First Peoples to have their self-determination and land claim rights realized then maybe we can discuss animal issues with them.

    I was an omivore for over forty years of my life. I farmed with my mother, father and brother and hunted with other men (women don’t usually carry a rifle) during many of those years. We often felt but didn’t bother analyzing that there was an uncanny contradiction between how we loved and treated dogs and cats and how we butchered and ate cows, pigs and chickens. We didn’t want to explore the double standard because we had vested interests in maintaining the status quo – survival being one of them, due to class inequality. I kept living in uneasy denial for many years until my life collided with feminism, not vegetarianism. Catharine Mackinnon made me face the social construct of male supremacy. This lead me back to thinking about the domination of animals by people but by men in particular (see the chapter, Of Mice and Men, in the book, Women’s Lives Under Men’s Laws). Then I stumbled upon Carol Adams, The Sexual Politics of Meat, which resonated with how I was feeling about animals all my life but had buried in my psyche. A. Breeze Harper’s, Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health and Society has also belatedly influenced me. I could no longer deny that men have dominion over life and death. Male rule not only structured gender relations, economic classes, heterosexism, racial inequality but speciesism as well (among other inequalities). Of course many women collude with men in sexism, white supremacy, homophobia, class hierarchy and animal subordination but they were and are not the primary creators of these sysems of power. Men are in charge of them. In terms of animals, men have greater power than women in constructing the industries of farming (ranching), slaughtering, animal flesh processing and packing, and retailing – all manifestations of male run capitalism and socialism. In truth, women do not exist for men, and animals are not here for human use. They should be able to live on their own account without male or human dominance. Why should anyone have to be manlike, affluentlike, whitelike, heterosexuallike, ablelike, slenderlike or humanlike to have equality? Fair standards of equality should be determined by all social groups in unison. I am dreaming I know.

    I guess many people believe I am misguided in my thinking but I hope you will not automatically dismiss feminist vegetarianism/veganism outright without further investigation. I would also like to turn Meghan’s question around: Should vegetarians/vegans be feminist? If both groups downplay or sidestep each other’s imperatives would feminism and veganism be mutually diminished? I invite everyone to persist in reading each other’s writings and keep the conversation alive. Thanks to Meghan for initiating it here.

    • Meghan Murphy

      Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences, Marv. I think the points you bring up around male domination of both women and animals are very valuable in this conversation.

  • Alissa

    I think everyone, feminists included, would be wise consider veganism as a way to embody their values of nonviolence, compassion & anti-oppression. We should all strive to live lives of integrity, according to our own deepest values — and never by someone else’s or by following “shoulds”.

    As for the male bias of veg ethics, Kathryn Paxton George did some research on her own (probably many years ago) to come to her conclusion that women have different dietary needs than men. Since then, it’s been proven that a balanced vegan diet is healthy and adequate for all stages of life, including pregnancy, infancy, childhood and beyond (as Sheri Lucas pointed out).

    If we can thrive on a vegan diet — why not eschew animal products and make an ethical stance not to contribute to unnecessary exploitation, suffering & murder? Why not say YES to our deepest values? Paxton George says that choosing between supplements and murdering animals is an ethical dilemma. My heart tells a different story. She also says that drinking mother’s milk isn’t vegan; that is false — it’s about consent. We can’t ask the animals their consent and thus — animal commodification is rape, slavery, stealing.

    One thought, perhaps feminists should first be asking themselves about eggs & dairy, before meat as those industries are explicitly based on the exploitation of the female reproductive system.

    I don’t think vegans are saying non-human animal’s suffering is any worse than a human female… or that veganism means that you don’t care about other injustices. Most of us just want to point out that they’re related and veganism is actually an EASY and rewarding journey that can be an important element of our other struggles.

    As Alice Walker has said, “The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for white, or women created for men.”

    2 collections of essays from many women who know a lot more about feminist struggles than I do:
    Animals and women: Feminist Theoretical Explorations
    Sister Species: Women, Animals and Social Justice

    • Obvi



      “Last week I went to hear Noam Chomsky in Oakland and on a table outside the theatre I found The Vegetarian Myth. I’ve been reading it for the past week. I think it is one of the most important books people, masses of them, can read, as we try with all our might, intelligence, skill, hope, dream and memory, to turn the disastrous course the planet is on. Or rather that we are on because of our abuse of the planet. It’s a wonderful book, full of thoughtful, soulful teachings, and appropriate rage. My admiration for Lierre’s sharing of life experience and knowledge is complete. Thank you.” —Alice Walker

      • Alissa

        I still stand by the idea that I quoted, regardless of who said it or what her other beliefs are. The fact that Walker said something else at one point doesn’t negate the rest of my argument.

  • Alissa

    Megan, you say, veganism “seems a little overwhelming to say the least, particularly when [you’re] not interested in taking a stand in this debate…. it is a lot to address all at once…”. I would like to point out that eating animal products is, in fact, taking a stand. There are no neutral actions.

    I agree, it is a lot to address all at once. The personal choice to be vegan isn’t about answering all the world’s ills; rather, it’s a lifestyle which embraces compassion and challenges a violent, oppressive culture.

    As for health, we are lucky enough to live in an abundant place. supplements are there for insurance purposes (I can’t speak for people who don’t have access to these but I know I do and I feel okay about buying them where I am right now!). The fact is way more women (and men) die of heart attacks, strokes & certain cancers… which are all linked to animal protein/cholesterol than die of deficiencies.

    • Meghan Murphy

      No, Alissa. I don’t think veganism is overwhelming. I think veganism is great for those who can live happily and healthfully on a vegan diet. Some people claim they cannot. And I’m not going to tell them that they are wrong. I don’t know enough about how bodies work and what nutrients they need to be able to make that kind of statement. What I meant was that the idea that every single progressive movement must also mention the oppression of animals, or speciesism, every time they mention marginalization or oppression in any context at all, is, overwhelming (and I think I’m being generous by saying ‘overwhelming’). So for example, that every time anyone uses the “99%” reference / image, they must include animals in that analysis or the idea that every time we talk about the oppression of women we must also talk about the oppression of animals, is ‘overwhelming’.

      And I disagree that every time a person eats cheese, or milk, or eggs, or even meat, they are taking a stand on anything. Sometimes people are hungry and need to eat food and sometimes there will be animal products in the food they are eating.

      • Alissa

        Okay, that makes sense. I’m not positing that the movements are the same but that they are similar. I think our strategies should strive to be radical, striking at the roots and, thus, becoming stronger. Maybe what both/all anti-oppression movements need is to harmonize. Each movement has it’s own core and unique struggle but when we join together it can “overwhelm” the system and create a critical mass. Call me a dreamer, I guess….

        Sometimes people are just focused on survival, I get that… and I don’t think any anti-speciesist in her right mind would judge or attack people who are just getting by. That is just a different matter. We, the privileged have the time to consider ethics and have the power to make choices that are positive for everyone. The love, it moves in waves.

  • http://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/ Bev Jo

    One of the worst things, for me to see, is how classism has been used to silence omnivores. I don’t know how anyone can say that most feminists don’t seem to have thought about the connection with animals and eating choices. I’ve been thinking about it since I was a teenager, over 40 years ago, and I’ve written about it as a Radical Lesbian Feminist for decades. Please, know that we are not stupid and uneducated (the most common put downs directed at us by vegans) and that we know exactly what we are doing.

    I co-wrote an article about the politics of eating twenty years ago and greatly appreciate Lierre’s beautiful book as an easy way to share information without having to re-explain it all hundreds of times. The criticisms I see of her book are so off and so insulting, and often from women who haven’t even bothered to read her, but have just lifted inaccurate quotes from misognist men who harass her (like the three anarchists who physically attacked her when she was reading at the Anarchist Book Fair.)

    I love animals. I am the person who waters and feeds the spiders in our house. I will grab wasps and bees with my bare hands to rescue them if someone is about to kill them. No, they don’t sting me and the spiders I pick up don’t bite me. I prefer many animals over humans.


    1. We all have to eat someone. I am an omnivore, like some of my most favorite animals. I have seen too many friends become seriously, permanently disabled and in constant pain from being longtime vegans and vegetarians. These were feminists who were extremely careful to eat nutritionally well. I have also seen too many suicides, and the effects of the vegan rage and depression Lierre writes about. The Paleosister blog has great info about all this too.

    My favorite animal species is also omnivore. They are very loving and compassionate, but when they see something live they can eat, they move fast. Live animals are clearly their favorite food. It’s about survival and nourishment. I have learned a lot from them.

    2. So I get organic free range meat and dairy and eggs, for the animals, for the environment, and for my health. Of course I’m against factory farming. (Usually, when I say I eat meat, the response is about how bad it is for my health because of hormones and antibiotics. Again, why do vegans keep talking to us like we are stupid?)

    3. I am very aware that plants feel and, I believe, think. Some even eat animals. Some trick animals for pollination. They just usually move more slowly than animals. So why would I choose to eat them over animals?

    4. This issue has caused more rifts and serious damage to our Feminist community internationally than any other issue I have known about. What I’ve seen is that some of the most privileged women use this issue to bully other feminists, to feel superior, and to attack those whose politics they disagree with, but which they can’t directly confront. This is the issue where their own privilege doesn’t get acknowledged, and the only issue where they can bully. I have been told I could not be a feminist or even a Lesbian if I eat meat. The cruelty I’ve seen among feminists has been heart-breaking and completely unnecessary. Ironically, many of the worst have gone back to eating meat.

    I have always refused to lie, like many I’ve seen who say they are vegetarian, but eat the animals men tell us feel less.

    5. If the right wing US government isn’t behind some of this, they may as well be, for all the destruction this issue has caused in radical movements. It’s bad enough that almost all girls and women are smaller and weaker than they would be otherwise from dieting. Being vegan and vegetarian has added to this tremendously. What a disaster for all females.

    6. Some of the vegan alternatives to meat products, such as using plastic instead of leather has terrible consequences because plastics are made from petrochemicals.

    7. Please be aware of the vegan favorite toxic “food” soy, of which the biggest producer is Monsanto. Soy (including organic) destroys the thyroid and causes cancer because it’s a xenoestrogen. Soy is a serious endocrine and hormone disruptor. Part of why women under 45 and some older have horrific PMS and fibroids and endometriosis and are extremely depressed and anxious (and one fourth are now on anti-depressants) is because of being raised with soy in formula and so many processed foods now. Many girls and women whose mothers used soy are like DES daughters.

    8. I have seen too many carivorous animals die too young and live in pain because their owners forced them to be vegan. So much for love of animals.

    9. I am very concerned about the deceitful propaganda in the mainstream and feminst media and also from doctors that tells everyone that being vegan is the healthiest. Recently, when a vegan feminist died, it was said she ate the healthiest, so how could she die?

    When I switched to eating the opposite of what doctors recommend — Paleo (like Atkins induction), with very few carbs and a lot of saturated fat (which is even more important than the meat), all of my heart symptoms (pain and arrhythmia) stopped.


    • Meghan Murphy

      Hi Bev,
      I hope you realize that, by saying that many feminists had never thought about speciesism before, it wasn’t an attempt to put down feminists or to assume that anyone is stupid and uneducated, but rather that *I* had never really thought much about this before. So, I suppose, I could be calling myself stupid and uneducated? But I’m not. I just was never really interested or engaged or really aware that there was a debate to had over whether or not feminists should be vegetarian/vegan.

      I’m glad to hear you’ve thought about this a lot. I haven’t. I think many feminists haven’t. I don’t think that’s because they/we are ‘stupid’ or ‘uneducated’, but rather because it never seemed relevant.

      And I’m not a vegan, as I’ve made clear, so I’m not sure why you would think that this was being used as a way to put down non-vegans?

      Regarding the rest of your comment, thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences.
      I am sad to hear that “This issue has caused more rifts and serious damage to our Feminist community internationally than any other issue I have known about. What I’ve seen is that some of the most privileged women use this issue to bully other feminists, to feel superior, and to attack those whose politics they disagree with, but which they can’t directly confront. This is the issue where their own privilege doesn’t get acknowledged, and the only issue where they can bully. I have been told I could not be a feminist or even a Lesbian if I eat meat. The cruelty I’ve seen among feminists has been heart-breaking and completely unnecessary. Ironically, many of the worst have gone back to eating meat.”

      I have to admit that, recently, upon having discovered these debates, I have experienced/witnessed some of this behaviour myself. I certainly don’t think we need to be attacking or judging one another based on our eating habits…Though I know some disagree.

  • Lierre Keith

    @ Komal

    “Is there anything you value other than the environment? I’m just curious. It seems that you and Jensen care only about one thing, and are willing to sacrifice everything else for its sake.”

    Are you kidding me? I’ve been a radical feminist for 30 years, done hundreds of anti-porn slideshows, testified before the state senate, done civil disobedience six times, lived at Greenham Common, written three feminist novels, put on countless feminist conferences, and am currently a founding board member of Stop Porn Culture. (stoppornculture.org). That’s not to mention the underground activities.

    No idea what else you could want from me.

    • Komal

      It’s not that I want anything from you, it’s just that you seem to value the Earth for its own sake, and do not seem to value other things that have value. Tell me if I am wrong.

      The problem I have with extreme environmentalism is that it denies the inherent value both of humanity and of such things as truth, beauty, arete, etc. This is implied when you advocate for an end to civilization for the sake of preserving the Earth. Civilization is a manifestation of human excellence, and opens up possibilities of intellectual and other kinds of attainment. Because these things have inherent value, it is not at all obvious that the fact* that the Earth is going to die out if civilization continues is a reason to end civilization. I’d rather live in a civilized society that is going to end soon, than live in an uncivilized society that will continue for any amount of time.

      * I do not necessarily accept this ‘fact’, but I won’t challenge it for now.

      • Komal

        * do not seem to value certain other things that have value.

  • http://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/ Bev Jo

    Hi Megan,

    I’m sorry if it seemed I was critical of you. I was responding to what has happened every time I say I’m an omnivore and talk about the dangers of being vegan and vegetarian: I’m lectured on how I need to educate myself, asked for my degrees, and told I’m “ignorant.”

    Among the feminists I know, this has been a volatile issue for 40 years.

    But I appreciate your bringing it up the way you have.


    • Meghan Murphy

      I see. I’m sorry to hear that Bev – and thanks for the clarification. I just wanted to make sure it was clear where I was coming from. Thanks again for sharing.

  • http://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/ Bev Jo


    You’ve said you’re not a feminist, so why are you even here? Can I ask if you’re a woman or a man?

    Your attack on Lierre is what is the dangerous post. You don’t care about other species or if the earth dies?

    “Greater perfection” of humans is not being so selfish that they exterminate all other life forms and this planet. “Reverting to an uncivilized way of being” to some of us means no more patriarchy, war, slavery, pollution, genocide, gynocide, etc. It means humans again living in harmony with nature, with far better health, larger brains, and spending very little time “working,” while having a lot of time for pleasure. Sounds like paradise to me. In fact, in Sumerian legend, repeated a thousand years later in “Genesis,” that is exactly what hunter/gatherer cultures were living, until the “fall,” which was the beginning of the end, with agriculture, “civilization,” war, the destruction of the forests, etc.

    Even if you want all other animals and plants dead on behalf of “human dominion,” humans can’t live with a destroyed earth.

    • Komal

      Actually I’ve said I AM a feminist. And I’m a woman, not that I need to explain myself to you.

      I know that humans cannot live with a destroyed Earth, but in the interest of keeping the Earth, civilization — which has value, in my opinion — cannot justifiably be ended. We are just going to have to agree to disagree on the value of civilization.

  • http://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/ Bev Jo

    Again, Komal, you do not sound like a woman, so why are you here? You really identify with patriarchal “civilization,” which to many of us means genocide, gynocide, war, and polluting everything imaginable. It takes slaves to make male-defined “civilization,” with only a very few rich men and their women benefiting. That’s the world you want?

    • Komal

      “Again, Komal, you do not sound like a woman, so why are you here?”

      What on Earth does that mean? What is ‘sounding like a woman’??

      • http://paleosister.wordpress.com paleosister

        I think it is like was said in the thread on prostitution: you write in an objective, non-emotional manner, which is more typical of men.

        We are in the middle of the biggest extinction ever to face the planet. If we let the world burn and continue polluting it in all the other ways that we are, not only will humans die out, but the precious non-human life may never exist on it again in all the time the Earth is around. I can’t do that to my fellow creatures without a fight; can you?

        • Komal

          No, I don’t want the Earth to burn, but I don’t think it will.

          In any event my original point was that I’d still rather have civilization and then an end to humanity, than the continued existence of humanity in uncivilized form. There is an assumption being made here (by almost everyone except me) that life (in the biological sense) is inherently worthwhile, and that although human beings matter, our mere existence matters more than the manner in which we exist. It’s like the idea that a short heroic life is better than a long, cowardly one. Merely being alive is only a means to an end. The end is manifesting excellence and gaining wisdom.

          I wish Lierre Keith and Derek Jensen had read some Nietzsche, and dealt with their existential anxiety before exposing the world to their misanthropic garbage.

  • http://www.danielmate.com Daniel Maté

    Hey Meghan — you know I’m a big fan so please take this tiny note with the smile with which it’s offered — it’s about your use of the word “literally”, as in:

    “PETA, as part of their supposed campaign to “save the animals,” literally cuts women up into pieces of meat in their efforts to end animal suffering.”

    PETA does not literally cut women up. PETA literally divides women’s bodies up with a marker, as in a diagram.

    It may seem like a tiny thing, but the minute the word “literally” makes an appearance, I think the rest of the sentence is subject to more careful scrutiny. It raises the bar for precision of language, because its implication is “I’m not exaggerating or speaking symbolically or figuratively here, so listen carefully to how I’m putting it.”

    Not trying to nitpick here, just watching your back — wouldn’t want to see you subject your important arguments to criticism or dismissal on the grounds that they rest upon unwarranted and uncareful hyperbole.


    • Meghan Murphy

      OMG DANIEL. You are LITERALLY killing me.

  • http://bonerkilling.blogspot.com Boner Killer

    Leave it up to the one male commentator to defend PETA’s blatantly sexist and misogynistic ads.

    • http://www.danielmate.com Daniel Maté

      Killer of Boners:

      In no way was I defending PETA’s blatantly sexist and misogynistic ads. (Why would I defend ads that are blatantly sexist and misogynistic, as these clearly are?) I was, somewhat playfully, pointing out the very minor point that Meghan used the word “literally” in an incorrect and perhaps ill-advised way — a way that opens her important arguments to unnecessary attack or undermining.

      -One Male Commentator

  • http://paleosister.wordpress.com paleosister

    Carol Adams suggests “vegan propaganda meals” where people are served vegan food without being told it’s vegan until afterwards. As a vegan and animal activist, I too thought this was an excellent idea. Now I know that I can easily tell what is and is not meat, not because of taste, but because one will make me feel better while the other will not.

    I sometimes still wish the vegans were right and that life did not involve killing. But I did not set up the planet this way. I know from bodily experience that life does involve death.

  • http://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/ Bev Jo

    Paleosister, you said that all so well. I see omnivores I know often being more respectful of other animals than many of the vegans. One vegan I know happily killed a spider in front of me. But we are the ones called names.

  • marv wheale

    I don’t believe in bullying feminists about veganism either. Just to put things into another perspective though vegetarians/vegans make up a tiny fraction of the North American population. They are overwhelmingly outnumbered and have virtually no power to change mainstream eating habits. Animal products permeate our patriarchal culture and are thrust into all our lives through advertising and social custom whether we want them or not. So you can imagine who feels intimidated, especially the nonhuman animals.

    An analogy would be how we pornstitution abolitionists feel as a minority in the world. Pornography is forced upon us everyday, everywhere. I feel bullyed too by the male system that insists I conform to its masculinities, but my sorrow is nothing in comparison to insufferable treatment women have to endure. So the torment against both exploited groups – animals and women – is structural and personal. It is pervasive to the point of being dictatorial. I would not choose to see either kind of oppression as acceptabe or inevitable. What distinguishes us from animals is primarily our capacity to use moral agency to advance social justice for all disenfranchised groups which in part means striving for the eradication of institutional dominance and subordination.

    I would also like to comment on some of the nutritional and ecological critques that have been made by using United Nations studies as well as national research projects. No time right now.

  • http://ferociousvegan ferocious vegan

    This is an interesting conversation, one that I really haven’t seen so out in the open before. First, I don’t think people are usually consistent, either in their actions or ideas (the vegan killing the spider, a feminist who eats meat and thereby participates in speciesism, the patriarchal communist, etc are all examples). It’s kinda unreasonable to expect people to be perfect models, though the should remain as ideals.

    That said, I don’t find comments like, “But I did not set up the planet this way,” as particularly helpful. Couldn’t the same exact thing be said about any number of problems (patriarchy, capitalism, imperialism, racism, the state, oppression in general)? It seems part of a narrow, self-defeating ideology, which strangely usually seems restricted o certain areas and not others.

  • http://ferociousvegan.wordpress.com ferocious vegan

    Shoot. I meant to add one more thing. I think the contention that “all human oppression” is based on oppression of animals is a pretty flimsy argument with even worse implications. If that is the case, the solution is moralism and voluntarism on the part of those who benefit through such human-animal oppression. Good luck with that. Rather, it seems more strategic to identify how various forms of human-human oppressions operate and under what system. In this regard, its more important for a feminist to be a Third Worldist or anti-racist than a vegetarian or vegan (though I obvious support the latter causes as well). In all, why can’t a person be a vegan, anti-imperialist feminist?

  • marv wheale

    Here are some national and international studies as well as basic information on the relationship between diet, health and the environment: http://www.wisegeek.com/has-it-been-proven-that-a-vegetarian-diet-is-really-healthier.htm http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetarianism http://umurj.org/Feature%20Articles/feature-article/62-vegetarianism-and-the-environment http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Veganism http://www.care2.com/causes/new-un-report-says-vegan-diet-vital-to-saving-fossil-fuels-the-environment.html

    Uncritically affirming the naturalness of eating animal flesh by humans overlooks the patriarchal cultural context where meat consumption occurs. It evades the long historical connection in the Western world with meat, class privilege and masculine identity. Men must have their sex and steak, in any order. It makes them feel manly to have power over each other, women and animals.

    There is also a radical difference betweeen human animals using other animals for food, clothing and experimentation (research), and the predatory practices among the other-than-human animals themselves. Only humans subject animals to a life of confinement and domination on farms for the provision of food and clothing. Research labs do it for medicinal purposes. Moreover only humans (predominantly men) invent and use implements to kill and dismember animals: guns, knives, hooks, traps, grinders and all-terrain vehicles to chase them down. I have used all these devices myself and they are not natural in comparison to how animals kill each other. They use their own claws, teeth and bodily strength to subdue their prey. The bottom line is we can destroy them because we have the power and see them as objects – “meat, dairy and egg machines”. It is an act of dominance and subjugation over defenselss beings, unfairly and unnaturally exacerbated by our use of technology in the killing process.

    Nothing is what it seems. I think that is the motto most equality-minded persons use when they look at the world.

  • Komal

    This discussion seems to be dying down, but I’d like to add a bit of insight from Indian philosophy and medicine here.

    One of the reasons I do not eat meat is because of the spiritual effects of eating meat. Lierre Keith et al. only address a Western moral approach to the issue of the consumption of meat, which focuses on material harms caused to other sentient beings and/or the environment. There are other approached, however, including ones which take the individual’s spiritual health into consideration.

    In Indian philosophy, there is a set of characteristics that can be predicated to various subjects, including types of food and types of people. These are tamas, rajas and sattva, which mean, respectively: dullness/inertia, energy/movement and purity/wisdom. When these terms are used to describe food, they refer to the qualities of the food itself as well as its effect on the person who consumes it. Rajasic food will make you feel more energetic, tamasic food will bring down your consciousness and promote laziness, etc.

    Sattvic food is clearly the most desirable, as it will help you on your own spiritual path. Meat is highly rajasic and tamasic, but not very sattvic. Thus, the observation of many meat-eaters that meat makes them feel more energetic makes perfect sense, and is consistent with Ayurveda. I have observed the same thing in eating meat. But I have also observed that it makes me feel more aggressive, and that it brings down my consciousness and does not help to promote a stoic and receptive state of mind. The one time I had meat after I had begun my spiritual path, I experienced it as seriously disruptive to my spiritual gains. I even fell ill within a couple of days, after not having gotten sick in about two years (this is without any flu shots, and with no visit to the doctor or hospital). There is a reason that vegetarianism is associated with spiritual practice: all the yogis, rishis and mystics of the past who advocated for vegetarianism were not all stupid or suicidal. Nor were they influenced by ‘corporate America’ or whatever, as this was before such a thing ever existed.

    The spiritual effects of meat do not just depend on its general constitution, however, but also on its particular source, including on the way the animal lived its life. Meat that comes from hunted animals is probably much better for one’s overall health, and will probably be less tamasic and karmically harmful. But it is still mainly rajasic (energetic) and tamasic, not sattvic. So if you’re interested in promoting your bodily strength and vitality but not as interested in overall spiritual growth (which is much more than merely bodily health), then it would be a good idea to eat meat, and even better if the animal was grass-fed, lived freely and in good conditions, and then was then killed in the most painless manner possible (preferably with love, blessing and consecration if possible).

    I, however, am interested in having predominantly sattvic food, which is necessarily vegetarian. And I would like the rajasic food that I eat to be as not-tamasic as possible :).

    Three additional notes before I end this comment:

    1. I do not accept Ayurveda wholesale, but do believe that food can be described in terms of the three gunas (qualities), among others ways. This is just one categorization scheme, or one discourse, among others: it refers to objective features of the food but is nevertheless not a full description.

    2. The following resources may be helpful:

    http://www.kheper.net/topics/Samkhya/gunas.htm (kheper.net is the best source out of all of these. Though this entry is less focused on food, so not as relevant to our discussion, it is nevertheless very well researched, as the site in general is)



    3. Note that dairy is considered sattvic on the Ayurvedic view, as is honey (though in the case of dairy, it depends partly on how the animal was treated). Contrast this with the vegan view, which would consider the consumption of dairy and honey immoral. This is a good example of a situation where a virtue ethical approach (one whose goal is the flourishing of the individual) conflicts with a moralistic, harm-based ethical approach. I find the former infinitely preferable to the latter. The ironic — and annoying — thing about Lierre Keith’s case against veganism is that she is arguing against people who are exemplars of the harm-based ethical approach, while coming at the issue from exactly the same approach taken to a ridiculous level. I see that whole ethical philosophy to be flawed, whether it leads one to support veganism or a paleo diet or whatever.

  • Komal

    Also, I find few things more irritating than when people exoticize other cultures. If anyone is referring to any other people as if they are perfect and wonderful — for example, if some white environmentalists are referring to ‘indigenous people’ as if they are the exemplars of awesome ‘sustainable’ living — then they are necessarily looking at the culture from an outsider’s perspective. People living within the culture will be too knowledgeable about their own culture to glorify it, as well as too familiar with it to experience it as novel and fascinating.

    This is particularly problematic when it is white people living in civilized societies talking about how we should be like the ‘natives’ or the ‘indigenous people’.

  • marv wheale

    Most traditional spiritualities are male concoctions whether they are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, etc. They teach that social hirearchy is divinely instituted or the result of selfish choices (sin). Humans on earth are at the top of the social ladder. According to many Buddhist and Hindu texts, humans accumulate bad karma through egotistical and immoral actions which causes them to lose their higher status and reincarnate in the next life to a lower level as a nonhuman animal. It is important in some sects to not eat animals as this too will bring bad karma and negatively impact one’s mental, physical and spiritual health. So asceticism and virtue are the motivations for abstaining from animal flesh. Consuming it will sully the spiritual and bodily lives of humans who give into temptations of the flesh. Animals are not valued in themselves, to be left unharassed as a fundamental right regardless of how people achieve inner transfiguration.

    Ascetics renounce sexual intercourse for similar reasons. Having sex with a woman is regarded as an act of self-gratification or lust which distracts the monk away from mystical pursuits. Celibacy or chastity demostrates self-mastery over animal-like passions. In this mindset the allurement of women and animals function as obstacles to be overcome in the quest to be one with the universe – egolessness

    All of this is a patriarchal delusion. Few spriitual philosophies teach that sexual, racial, class and human/nonhuman equality is enlightenment itself. They should. Purity of mind, heart and body is a bogus preoccupation invented by the male founders of religions and spiritual paths that fosters paternalism, “othering” and inequality. It is just another manifestation of how male power shapes our perceptions and behaviours.

  • Michaela

    I’m a relatively recent arrival to the veganism-feminism debate, but as I identify as a long-time feminist (and as a vegan for just a few short weeks), I do have some thoughts. After reading every comment in this thread, the issue to me seems to boil down to this: one person passing judgment on another person’s belief structure and/or perceived hypocrisy, as in, “You cannot really be ‘X’ if you don’t agree with (or repudiate) ‘Y’.”
    Basically, my belief is that while for me, the decision to become a vegan is intimately related to my personal politics, that fact does not give me the right to criticize another woman’s feminism for not incorporating veganism. Although I believe that animals exist for themselves and not for me to exploit them, regardless of how humanely they are killed and even if my body functions better on an animal-based diet, I recognize that this is only my belief. Although I can (and try) to actively promote my understanding of how these two topics interrelate, no one has the right to tell me that my feminism is faulty by declaring that I, as a woman, am elevating animal rights above my own rights (if, for example, within these next few months of my new vegan diet, my health takes a turn for the worse); likewise, no vegan has the right to decide that a fellow feminist is a hypocrite for making the personal, educated choice to subsist on a diet that includes animals and animal products.
    Granted, I am still a student, and my exposure to theory is not particularly strong, but isn’t feminism all about the empowerment of women as individuals who make and live by their own choices? Why is “should” a word that is being thrown around at all in a discussion of feminism?

  • Sharon Boast

    Like all abolitionist vegans, I am a radical feminist. Most of us commenting on this post live in the so called developed world and do not need to use animals for survival. What someone else needs to do in another part of the world is their story, but it is not your story and is a poor excuse for your personal exploitation of animals. As humans, we thrive on a balanced plant based diet. We do not live in caves, are not going through another ice age and do not belong to an indigenous group who rely on animals for our basic needs.

    We use animals for these reasons and these reasons alone: pleasure, tradition, habit and convenience. From a feminist prospective this should sound familiar. It is the female in animal agriculture that is the most systematically abused, because of her reproductive capabilities. Female animals are the most vulnerable and voiceless in our society. Why wouldn’t a feminist want to speak up for them and include them in their cause? Why do causes have to have limits? To say we are more important than animals is really no different than men saying they are more important than women. To say we need to carry on exploiting animals because of tradition is no different than those societies who inflict genital mutilation on their female children, is that not also in the name of tradition? Using animals as products is taking the food out of the mouths of starving people. We grow crops to feed animals and those crops could feed the world. Where is the logic in that and why would you as a feminist who believes in justice be part of it? Changing inequalities in this world starts with who or what is on your plate.

    There is a lot of talk about PETA on here. PETA is not the vegan movement, don’t let your judgement about the connection between veganism and feminism be clouded by the sexist actions of one corporate entity.

    Go vegan, for women, men, children, animals and your planet.

  • http://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/ Bev Jo

    The issue of what we eat has been one of the most destructive that I’ve seen in my 44 years of being a Radical Feminist. I have been threatened by “feminists” because I need to eat meat/saturated fat for my health. I have seen women suffer at events and conferences because they were not allowed to eat the low carb and high fat food they needed for adequate health.

    Always, there is that classist and often racist air of superiority from women who grew up with all the food choices they wanted, telling women with less privilege to stop eating what we know we need. Some of the womenbeing harassed were forced to see their fathers and brothers being fed the meat they were denied because it gave more strength and the males were more important.

    Now we have had generations of smaller, slighter, weaker women, many with metabolic syndrome, and too many dying of cancer. The patriarchs could not have invented a more destructive issue into our movement.

    Talking about crops being fed to animals is using misinformation to guilt trip women. No grains or other “crops” should ever be fed to grazing animals. They also can live and eat on land that is not possible to do agriculture on. Buffalo/bison fed millions of people for millennia in environments where the people did not cut down forests or contaminate groundwater with fertilizer and poisons, etc. The belief that agriculture is superior rather than a worldwide environmental devastation that has led to forests becoming deserts across the earth is typical of the misleading propaganda that aggressive vegans use against women. Using Female Genital Mutilation against omnivore women is equally offensive.

    As someone who loves and values all kinds of animals, I have been told I hate animals when I eat what many vegans feed their own pets (who are usually carnivorous, though some have starved their pets into horrible deaths.) I’ve also seen some of the same vegans thoughtlessly or with pleasure kill animals I love because they consider them “vermin.”

    Basically, I’ve seen an enormous amount of hypocrisy over this issue.

    Who tells us that plants don’t feel or feel less than animals? Plants create the oxygen for the earth and sustain all live. Some plants even eat animals. Sadly, everyone needs to eat someone else to live, but one large male animal can feed one woman for a year, as opposed to the multitudes of sentient plants she could eat instead.

    I appreciate Lierre Keith’s book, “The Vegetarian Myth: Food, Justice, and Sustainability,” because she describes how being a careful vegan for twenty years permanently destroyed her health, as well as explaining how being an ethical, careful omnivore is far less damaging to the earth and other species than eating only plants.

    Another issue for me is the number of longtime vegan friends I have who are permanently disabled, in chronic pain, depressed. There are also too many suicides and too many vegans dying of cancer. Only Lierre has talked about the effects of the “vegan rages” in feminist groups.

    When I switched to eating low carb and high organic saturated fats after having obeyed the doctors and many “alternative” health practitioners about eating carcinogenic and thyroid toxic soy and grains, etc., I felt an immediate change in my energy level and health. Worrying heart symptoms I’d had stopped. Don’t forget also that Monsanto is the biggest soy producer and is cutting down rain forest in the Amazon. But we are to once again obey the privileged in the vegan movement and forget our own knowledge.

    • Me

      I have the sense that plants may in many ways feel more acutely than animals do, and can be more sensitive to their environment. They, too, know where they want to grow and with whom. And as they live with their bodies to an extent in place–or moving to a different rhythm than most animals anyway–I would think they have very keen senses. They are constantly touching other plants with their leaves and roots, and soil life through their roots and so on. If I sat down out on pasture for a day, I’d be pretty damn sensitive myself, even an hour or so opens up the senses. Plant life is really amazing. They also have spirits, or at least they can come to your dreams individually too. I think most land life at least is ultimately eaten by plants and sprouts up as new plant life, so it’s all about good relationships.

      What has really troubled me have been friends who’ve decided to have children while essentially on a food deprivation diet. It’s very hard on the mother. Then the children turn out “difficult”, with digestive problems, lots of crying and dis-ease, and both parents already too stressed by malnutrition and poor mental coping ability to do anything about it, the mother especially. Exactly the same as with other mammals. When self-enforced slow starving and depression take hold over a few years, it can be very difficult to notice yourself how you change. Joylessness, except in short flashes of recognition of what used to be, is pretty much it. Add a pregnancy on top of that and that’s not good at all.

      Do you have any ideas how to communicate about that without further blaming the mother, and so that it doesn’t encourage an even stricter scrutiny of what they eat?

      • amongster

        it really bothers me when a well-planned vegan diet is described as a “food deprivation diet” while most omnivorous children are the ones who don’t get enough nutritons and who develop diseases. i know vegan parents with absolutely healthy and happy vegan children, so it is really just all about getting enough nutritions and not about the source of them.

        • Me

          I meant obvious food deprivation diets, which I would rather call just that: obvious in that the people aren’t doing well at all on them. I don’t insist on labeling them vegan or vegetarian, those friends of mine do. Just as obviously, vegetarian/vegan diets are not the only kind of food/nutrition deprivation diets there are, and taken in sheer numbers, are just a drop in the ocean of people who disregard what the production of the food they eat is doing to the land the food is extracted from as well as to their bodies. In any case, many vegans/vegetarians I know are particularly hard on themselves about what they eat. I wouldn’t care were they not my friends. To scrutinize everything you eat up to a point of spiritually destroying the nutrition in it, I don’t think I would call well-planned, though my friends would say they do plan carefully. I think rather they obsessively control and scrutinize what they eat, and wish to deny their bodily need for nutrition that does come at the expense of another’s death, and that’s a completely different mind set.

          Spirituality comes from acknowledging the reality that someone has to die so another can eat and serving it well in our lives, not from denying that reality, so I think for many people, veganism/vegetarianism is an attempt to feed a deep spiritual hunger without acknowledging its true nature, without really feeding it at all. Nutrition source is everything, literally, whether a plant or an animal. Those vegans/vegetarians who do acknowledge this and feed this, I think are more prone to feed their bodies well too.

          • amongster

            ok, thanks for clarifying. i am aware of the fact that there are people who develope an unhealthy relationship with food or you use the vegan lable as a disguise for their eating disorder. this, of course, has to be talked about and those people should get support.
            it is not a problem inherent to veganism though, which is what many anti-vegans make it look like while most people suffering from eating disorders (and other nutrition-related diseases) are omnivores.

            there are many different reasons why people chose a vegan diet (i don’t consider all of them vegans because veganism is not only a diet) and obviously not all of them are good.

            i am not a spiritual person and encourage others to base their decisions on scientific research and not on some belief system made up by some gurus.
            and while something has to die so i can live i rather choose living “things” who don’t suffer instead of living “beings” with a rich inner life. even if plants did suffer, you need far more plants if you have to feed the animals who you are going to eat. veganism needs less resources.

            i’ve been vegan for over ten years now and have never obsessed over counting calories and alike – at least not more as the average female who tries to live up to fucked up ideals.

            so, in the end it’s all about whether you think you should avoid inflicting suffering on sensitive beings or not. i do believe though and know how easy it can be for many of us.

    • amongster

      “Basically, I’ve seen an enormous amount of hypocrisy over this issue.”

      i have seen an enormous amount of hypocrisy over feminism as well, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a truth to feminism. liberal feminists are just as harmful to feminism as racist/classist/sexist vegans are harmful to veganism, you should not mistake the activists for the cause.

      as a vegan feminist myself i am highly aware of the problems in the “vegan movement” but i don’t see why veganism itself should be the problem. in fact it is pretty obvious – at least to anyone who doesn’t really believe that a population of seven billion people can live as hunters and gatheres again ( i love keith’s opinion on radical feminism but when it comes to veganism i have to strongly disagree) – that veganism can reduce environmental problems and benefit your health.
      i have almost only vegan friends who do just fine and actual scientific research also disagrees with your claims of veganism leading to disability, chronic pain and depression. actually the opposite seems to be the case. i only get depressed about the myths getting spread about veganism.

      “Who tells us that plants don’t feel or feel less than animals?”

      science tells us that: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/do-plants-think-daniel-chamovitz/

      (“Just as a plant can’t suffer subjective pain in the absence of a brain, I also don’t think that it thinks.”)

      also, you make it seem like vegans who eat soy were responsible for the cut down of the rain forrests which, of course, is utter bullshit. it is being fed to live stock and gets sold as oil which is obviously not only used by vegans. the soy i eat here in europe is also produced in europe. so please keep your lazy arguments.

      it’s great that you do well, but others do much better without animal products.

      • marv

        Amongster I am enormously grateful for what you stated. To think that cutting a head of lettuce off in the garden is similar to slicing an animal’s head off is preposterous. The belief is consequential to “plants feel” ideology.

        You may have heard of these links: http://veganfeministnetwork.com/ http://academicabolitionistvegan.blogspot.ca/ http://sistahvegan.com/ http://caroljadams.blogspot.ca/ http://radicalhubarchives.wordpress.com/2011/07/25/feminism-and-vegetarianism/

        As well Catharine Mackinnon has written a fascinating chapter entitled, Of Mice and Men, in her book, Women’s Lives, Men’s Laws, where she compares violence against women and animals: http://books.google.ca/books?id=N48y66ArkIcC&pg=PA91&lpg=PA91&dq=of+men+and+mice+by+catherine+mackinnon&source=bl&ots=CG7dkKvQUZ&sig=0nVuH8R1zooZte0_AmC2-_EpEQo&hl=en&sa=X&ei=rrPGU8TtMqS3igLv4oCoAQ&ved=0CC8Q6AEwAw#v=onepage&q=of%20men%20and%20mice%20by%20catherine%20mackinnon&f=false

        Always love your comments.

        • Me

          “To think that cutting a head of lettuce off in the garden is similar to slicing an animal’s head off is preposterous.”

          Not to start an argument about this, as I think there is room for differing perspectives, but for me the grief in cutting off a head of kale should appropriately start at the point of marveling the land as it grows in its wild state, as you’re planning to proceed to clear and hoe the land for cultivation, runs through weeding etc. I don’t make this as a philosophical or an academic argument, but as a concrete reflection of where I’ve felt the grief as well as the responsibility that’s involved in gardening to start. A similar argument can be made for raising domesticated animals, where the act of killing an animal is by far not representative of the griefs, joys and responsibilities in raising and living with them. In hunting, fishing and foraging for berries and mushrooms the sorrow is different as I think are my responsibilities, but I can’t say that they would be any less, especially considering how much more we humans should be giving, not taking. Again, not to argue what one should think of this, but rather how I go about valuing these relationships.

          • marv

            ” I don’t make this as a philosophical or an academic argument, but as a concrete reflection of where I’ve felt the grief as well as the responsibility that’s involved in gardening to start. A similar argument can be made for raising domesticated animals, where the act of killing an animal is by far not representative of the griefs, joys and responsibilities in raising and living with them. In hunting, fishing and foraging for berries and mushrooms the sorrow is different as I think are my responsibilities, but I can’t say that they would be any less, especially considering how much more we humans should be giving, not taking. Again, not to argue what one should think of this, but rather how I go about valuing these relationships.”

            Highly romantic feelings of nature, yet they form a philosophy nonetheless regardless of your interpretation as not one . The animals would beg to differ from your “valuing” of relationships with them. They swim away or fly off when approached by humans, scream when they are being killed, fight back and experience sentience like human animals. Claiming plants share this same kind of consciousness is plain flakiness.

            Look, few if any in this discussion field are against subsistence tribal people eating animals, or those who are honestly convinced they need meat to be healthy, or other folks who have no choice to avoid meat. Most people in Western societies do not require animal parts however. But let’s just be honest about the pain nonhuman animals have and the fact that they form families that are destroyed when we attack them rather than wax eloquent about how much we grieve about it.

            I farmed with my parents for many years (a small holding not a factory farm). I butchered, hunted and ate more animals than I can remember. I didn’t need to devour them because I had other healthy food options. Later in life I chose to stop consuming animal flesh, eggs and milk because I realized they have rights to bodily integrity and safety from humans – equality with human animals on other animals’ terms. Of course I admit this too is an interpretation, a value judgement. I don’t condemn anyone who disagrees with me but please cut the sentimental crap. Feeling sorry or guilty for killing animals makes no difference to them. Moreso, please read the essay by Catharine MacKinnon from my former post.

          • Me

            Thanks, I’ll read that MacKinnon essay.

            One thing I wanted to say is that I think you have it wrong that I’m approaching this from a romantic or sentimental place, and what I meant by grief doesn’t translate exactly into sorriness or guilt. I have experienced plants tense up when approached, I have heard them sometimes scream, I have been told to stop with my hoe at once by animals living in the land, as well as a tree branch hitting me in the face. I’m only recounting here some things I’ve obviously “heard”, not what I’ve read into nature (which I don’t think people should discount either). It does not make sense to me to disregard these voices and act as though I should decide some worth for them, instead of building relationships listening as best as I can.

            Because I can feel something almost screaming around clearcuts, feel intense grief, not always but when I’m “there” and not dulled to the pain, but tend to react to plowed fields with “oh, a field”, I think either I tune the fields out, or the spirits are just so far in hiding I can’t feel them. Recently when a neighbor put roundup down on a field I’d restarted as a pasture that had started thriving, then put it to grain, that was a different matter. I’d been there, knew that pasture and loved it, and I could see where it was hiding. It wasn’t all dead, it still cared, it was just hiding. And over the years it had had to do this so many times before, so it was really exemplary and brave I think. I don’t think this is sentimental in any way, just reality as I’ve experienced it. I could pity the field, pity myself or feel guilty instead of responsible for my decisions and my life and actively looking to do better, sure, I think that matters a lot.

            As far as destroying animals’ families when we kill them, I think that’s a really big deal.

          • Me

            A few pages of that MacKinnon essay were missing, but having read the rest, I guess I don’t understand why you bring this essay up?

            The concrete of it is that the way I can belong to the land here and actually enrich it by living is by living as a domestic myself, together with domestic animals as well as plants. I at least need the manure to garden, to not deplete the garden soil by domesticating it for crops. That is need and help number one. When I gardened without animals, my first thing to do was to locate and haul manure. The land (not talking about the garden) loves the animal impact and together we can return more than we take.

            Perennial grasses and human edible “weeds” survive midsummer hail storms, when it’s too wet or too dry, crops may not. If that is not a way of nature as well as climate change pushing my way of life in a certain direction, that direction being toward perennial grasses and “weeds” and away from grains and such for one, if that’s not nature telling me how to adapt to live here, I don’t know what is. I’m not by any stretch indigenous, but I’m sure trying to figure out what living indigenous to this place means.

            I don’t have the power to abolish property boundaries, much as I would love to herd the animals differently and bring them to where they could be helpful besides my side of the fence. Concretely, I do have power over their lives and deaths, to an extent, and only if I’m honest and willing to live with integrity, do they hold that same power over me. I would like to live that way. Neither of us have the power over this land, the earth, the waters. We can strive to belong here, that’s all. This is all exactly the same as with domesticated plants. I’m doing my best to stay true to this, and if I’m called elsewhere I’ll go, but I won’t flee to a different life for my own sake. I’m looking to learn and to commit myself. I’m willing to die here, for this relationship to the land, to give myself to the land. I’m willing to be as helpful and useful as I can. You can shrug this off as pretentious, I’ll go on with my life in a non-pretentious way. I’m not so cowardly to not speak a truth that I full well know to be so, I won’t deny a relationship that I have been entrusted with because it moved me and I therefore could be entrusted with it. I have been told not to flee.

            A part of the deal with the domestic animals is, I bring them over the winter, they keep living and enjoy their days, and I in turn eat some of them. The deal also goes that I bring offerings to our neighbors in the wild who give this all to us, some of our fruit here that they have helped grow, including meat, fat, lambs that die at or soon after birth and so on, and I invite them to make home here by us. I promise respects and thanks and my consideration in how I go about living here and helping them. I promise to take them seriously and to tie my faith with theirs. Thing is, they do come and they do appreciate what we do here. I now know that. I’m fucking scared my human neighbors will pay attention and kill them, whoever they are, like one of them did to that pasture who’d come forward. Lambing and calving in an early summer mist on that pasture I think was a great gift, going both ways. I try to talk to the humans about these wild neighbors in a language they might understand, as in I like this bunch and like to have them around, because they know how to behave, they know not to cross the line and so on. Because those humans just might respect that boundary and not wipe them off for being my “pets”, though I’m not disrespectful in speaking about them or call them pets or anything like that when I speak of them. I’m pretty sure the animals are not so dumb to not understand how humans noticing them and proceeding to wipe them out is what humans do, so I haven’t promised that kind of safety, nor that I would be able to stop an assault necessarily. Yet they do come, at least to say they noticed.

            As far as domesticated plants, I’m only starting my way into understanding those relationships, and didn’t want to write about them at least for now. How about you do? I’d really love to read it, completely honest here. I don’t understand how you would jump from this to a paternalistic, patronizing and solipsistic romanticization on my part, which seems to be a big part of what MacKinnon argues against. I’m also as open about the concrete power relations here as I can be, including what I take and if it’s balanced out by what I give and how. I’m trying to create a practice that makes me responsible to the land instead of the other way around. A kind of “culture” of my own is my method. I’m not sure what point you’re really trying to make?

          • marv

            You justify extinguishing some animals out of deep green communion with the land as long as you keep the relationships in harmony/balance. You do recognize the unequal power relations between them and us but your agreement doesn’t carry enough weight to be sincere. As a former farmer who used to think along your lines I have realized for years that taking animals’ lives is not warranted in an exchange for esteeming the land . It is also quite instructive that the domesticated animals we execute are almost always vegetarians/vegans. If you have to end their lives because of your poverty and illness that is a different matter and is ethical. Deep ecology is also too preoccupied with the whole biosphere to grant enough value to animals as individuals and persons in their own right – the crime of speciesism. The movement lacks a solid understanding of animals’ material conditions under androcentric human rule. Here is a genuine alternative: http://vine.bravebirds.org/

            If the domestication/privatization/ownership/use of animals is a political act which it is, to connect with them on a spiritual plane easily lends itself to downplaying their oppressive status, no matter what our noble intentions are. The domestication of women has been treated like this by men (and women). We may feel an inner oneness with animals but when we take their lives unnecessarily/necessarily we betray that connection. Community without a radical commitment to political equality is an obscene spiritual vision. It is very patronizing, paternalistic and patriarchal.

            To live in unity with others we must individually and collectively put to death the deeds and systems of inequality among us, not bring more death to the powerless. If we are forced to take animals’ lives it is not unethical but is still an obstruction to equality, solidarity and spirituality. It’s a grievous situation of being subjected to the futility of patriarchy. Sometimes I like to imagine (perhaps naively) that the whole of nature including ourselves is groaning in labour pains as we long for the liberation/redemption of oppressed bodies from bondage.

          • Me

            Are you serious? And you wish to portray my way of living in principled opposition to all this?

          • Me


            Hoping that you won’t take this as further arrogance on my part, I wanted to share parts of dreams I’ve seen, who I think make the points I’ve tried to make much better than I could. I’m not suggesting that you adopt these as your own answers, but that you consider them as answers I’ve been shown.

            In a dream from before, I follow a deer into the woods. As I follow that one, many more start to appear, and looking closely, I see them become wolves. They are all around me. One licks his nose and I know they are my friends. I leave to return from a place of dead animals with meat in a white plastic box and give the meat to them. They love it, and having finished, lick the sides of their mouths.

            In a dream from last night, which particularly answers this discussion for me, a neighbor has taken in several small horses. The horses are silvery and shiny, as if made of pearls, radiant pebbles or silvery scales that flash in shades of blue, purple and turquoise. The horses are beautiful and represent, well, some of the forces of life. The image, if you imagine it, speaks more than words can. The horses don’t have a mother. They are all mares, so they could reproduce. My neighbor is milking sheep to feed them, whose milk I think is the mares’ milk as well, so the mares could grow and become mothers. He has galvanized cattle panel on his farm, but not to hold animals, but to hold and feed hay.

            The same neighbor, a close neighbor living quite next to me, is somewhat an eccentric man outside of dreams, more of a hermit, not in an entirely positive way. Awake I don’t believe he and the neighbor in the dreams are one and the same, I wouldn’t talk to him about these dreams necessarily and haven’t, but there is a relationship, adjectives that apply. In dreams he’s appeared a different or a strange kind of person, but good-willed. He likes my dogs. His house has an atmosphere of the old, with old objects all around. He doesn’t want to throw anything away. In the house there is an old, closed wooden chest of secrets and treasure. In another dream his house stands upon a cliff. The side of that cliff is beautiful, moist and mossy and out of it flow fertile, life-giving waters, the waters underneath.

            Thank you.

          • marv

            An extremely stunning and moving narrative Me. You are a deeply loving person as indicated by your way of life. What I appreciate foremost about you is shedding manhood and embracing a sublime humanness. Much respect and appreciation.to you..

          • Me

            Glad you could imagine it and that it seems to have given you something like it gave me. I guess they knew it might 😉 I’ll take what you’ve said here as welcome reminders and a kind of front-loading to try to do better and see more clearly myself, so thank you for that.

            I was at first defensive and embarrassed by your compliment there, but I think I’m big enough to take it this once. After all, it isn’t about me, it’s even more about respecting something bigger.

        • amongster

          thanks marv! it was actually the book “the sexual politics of meat” by carol adams that made me think more about feminism years ago when i was just a vegan. some feminists become vegan thanks to her work and i became a feminist.

          that link to radicalhubarchives is new to me, so thanks for recommending. will check it out. i also haven’t read mackinnon’s book yet even though it’s on my reading list so it’s good to get reminded!

          hope that people will check out your other links as i can only recommend those as well.

          love your comments too!

  • http://bevjoradicallesbian.wordpress.com/ Bev Jo

    Another important aspect to the issue of what we eat is how many women are dying by depriving themselves of what they need to eat to survive?

    Hasn’t every woman here and every woman in the more privileged countries deprived themselves of food to fit some standard, usually standards that men promote for women but not themselves? Do those who push more food deprivation politics really want more women to limit what we eat? (I’ll never forget the local healthfood store that had two grotesque images painted on their windows — a huge muscled man, and a tiny, skinny woman.) Most women are not remotely reasonable about ever thinking they are thin enough.

    In my community, I know several women with osteoporosis who are extremely thin and are very proud of being thin and will not try to gain weight, although that is the best way to deal with preventing bones breaking.

    I also know several women who literally wasted away and could not eat because of cancer. Yet everyone is dieting on some level.

    I never met Marti Kheel, the famous feminist vegan, but I was harassed by her. A few years ago I was meeting another Radical Feminist omnivore friend for dinner who was friends with Marti. Marti gave her photos of tortured chicks with instructions to show me, as if I had not already been harassed by vegans for forty years. I asked if Marti was class-privileged since this reeked of classism and was told “extremely.” How dare someone with such privilege harass a working class Lesbian living in poverty about what I eat? Or anyone really.

  • Sagar

    I am feminist, male and support veganism. I am still relying on dairy products which I will be quitting soon. I support veganism because I think so feminism and veganism are on the same lines, they are talking the same thing. One is talking about objectification of women and another talking about objectification of animals.
    Apart from that I link veganism, feminism with spirituality ( this is my view point ).