Veganism has a serious race problem

by Claire L. Heuchan 

Veganism has a serious race problem. Type ‘vegan’ into Google and you won’t need to scroll through many pages to see what I mean. The routine comparisons of animal abuse to the enslavement of Black people shows exactly how little value white members of the vegan community, generally considered a liberal breed, place on Black life. This racism, so casually delivered, is designed to add shock value – to trigger a dietary epiphany. In reality, the only message these campaign materials send to Black people is this: veganism isn’t for you. A quick search of ‘vegan’ images reveals rows of white people gagged, chained, and shackled in order to make a statement. On Pinterest, perky white girl after perky white girl brandishes a poster conflating veganism with anti-racist politics. Vegan activists take to Twitter, questioning whether Black lives – Black, human lives – are as significant as the lives of cows and chickens. A white vegan activist took #AllLivesMatter to an entirely new level.

veganaccount

And from the @veganoso account

Material designed to provoke a white audience is also liable to alienate a Black audience. By using slavery as a tool to promote vegan values, vegan activists make clear that vegan spaces are frequently racist spaces. As is often the case in predominantly white spaces where racism goes unchecked, there is little room for people of colour. This marginalisation results in the perception that veganism is a movement by and for white people, which certainly isn’t the case.

Activist Aph Koh recently compiled a list of 100 Black Vegans ranging from Leona Lewis to Angela Davis, and has followed up with a new project designed to highlight the achievements of Black vegans. The site is called Black Vegans Rock and, as the name suggests, aims to generate positive representation for Black vegans by drawing attention to their success. This project provides valuable networking opportunities to Black members of the vegan community whilst showcasing their skills and accomplishments.

With Black Vegans Rock, Aph Koh has the objective of challenging the misconceptions surrounding Blackness and veganism alike:

“Collective organization is key to improving Black visibility. Coming together in a system that seeks to fragment us and make us de-value all things Black, makes our unity that much stronger. We are such a diverse group of people and highlighting that diversity sparks new imaginations. I think Black creativity, imagination, and collective activism has Afrofuturistic sensibilities in the sense that we’re constantly inventing and re-inventing ourselves and our social worlds.”

Black Vegans Rock puts vanilla veganism firmly to one side. Although the site doesn’t officially launch until next month, the Facebook page has already gained well over a thousand likes, indicating a strong demand for pro-Black vegan space. The potential of this site is refreshing when Black experience is regularly placed on a par with animals as a provocation. Establishing platforms built around the Black gaze has significantly altered representation within the digital sphere. Bringing Black vegans to the foreground offers the possibility of reform that goes deeper than PETA periodically including a brown face in their promotional images.

With its founder based in Florida, Black Vegans Rock has an undeniably American slant. However, the site is open to contributions from around the world, fully intended as a “global project”. Aph Koh is quick to acknowledge that “America isn’t the only space where ground-breaking Black consciousness work is taking place.” How Black Vegans Rock will develop in the UK remains to be seen.

vegans 4.50.14 PM(1)Despite a consistent and ongoing history of community-based political action in Britain, the popular narrative of Black activism can often prove Americentric. Pioneering figures like Olive Morris are quietly forgotten whilst bell hooks, born in the same year, is a name on the tip of every activist’s tongue. And yet, when people of colour are constantly marginalised within the dominant culture, it is impossible to resent those receiving their due recognition. The only solution is for us to take up more space. No matter how the geographical dynamic unfolds within the project, Aph Koh has created that space. That she embraces the plurality of Black experience indicates a promising start for Black Vegans Rock. As Aph Koh observes, it is through the self-definition that “we become our own conceptual architects, which is necessary for liberation.”

Increasing Black visibility brings us one step closer to a fully inclusive vegan movement, one in which vegan ceases to be synonymous with white. Increasing Black visibility creates the possibility of a vegan movement in which there is more concern about how to address racist thought and behaviour than which Instagram filter works best with a kale smoothie. Until Black veganism is normalised, the humanity of Black vegans fully recognised, the movement cannot truly claim to care about quality of life. I hope that Black Vegans Rock will be a step towards that cultural shift.

Black Vegans Rock will launch in January 2016.

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Claire Heuchan is a Black radical feminist from Scotland. She graduated in Politics and Journalism from the University of Stirling, where she is presently working towards an MLitt in Gender Studies. Both professionally and personally, Claire is committed to mapping the intersection between race and sex. Claire is a volunteer with Glasgow Women’s Library and blogs as Sister Outrider. Tweet her @ClaireShrugged

 

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Categories: Claire Heuchan, Racism

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64 replies

  1. Thank you (white) vegan community, this comment section has been instructive and illustrated exactly why the article needed to be written. Closing it now, as the moderator having to read and approve comments ranging from the obtuse to the downright racist has taken its toll.(Didn’t approve those with expletives, started to get repetitive) You haven’t covered yourselves in glory but wishing you a great Christmas anyway!

    Liked by 4 people

  2. Same shit as usually. Black people call out racism, white people double down and accuse the black people of being the really bad ones. It’s like Lewis Law on racism…
    You know, here’s the ultimate argument why you shouldn’t use US chattel slavery/racism as a talking point when discussing veganism: you have been told it is hurtful and alienating. You can perfectly well make your point in favour of veganism/against animal consumption without refering to slavery. Surely if it is wrong to use animal products in any way shap or form the arguments relating to animals and animal suffering should be enough.
    To use a similar discourse as an example; white pro choicers often make the same mistake and compare forced continuation of pregnancy/forced birth to slavery. And it’s wrong to do so. I can argue why denying people abortions is wrong by framing it around the people who want abortions without appropriating the struggles of black people.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. I’m sorry, but the impression I got from reading between the lines was, well, whining. The fact that those tactics alienate black people says more about (american) black people and the PR people’s neglect toward trends within the (american) black communities.

    The treatment of animals is often paralleled to the holocaust. I agree with it and am still vegan & Jewish. If you count the millennia the Hebrew people have been persecuted, the 6 million people mentally and physically tortured up to years before they were shoved in a freaking oven and the fact that people still go around making offensive jokes, I should have more cause to be offended. But I am not. Not a chance, because It’s The Truth. What happened in WWII was an injustice (“wrong” religion), what happened to black people was an injustice (“wrong” color) and what is happening to farmed animals is an injustice (“wrong” species). I became vegan, because it’s just plain wrong what is happening. You don’t have to see it. People didn’t have to see what happened during WWII or to black people back in the day and the reason why action was finally taken, wasn’t because people cared, it was because of political interests. There is a reason why things go on for so long, but it doesn’t mean you have to be a part of it.

    “Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing.” – John Stuart Mill.

    (To many of the answers) Just because some vegan doesn’t agree with the treatment of animals, your political views or what the best movie of 2015 is, doesn’t mean that an injustice isn’t taking place or that it’s right to let it go on. Are people so weak that they can’t see right from wrong, because of other people? It’s being caught up in the semantics and losing sight of the big important picture. Hate me all you want, but it still won’t make what is happening right.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. These privileged comments only serve to reinforce the author’s point. Many are actually stooping to defend the appropriation of black struggles by a group that is for the most part white. This is an insidious form of racism. If a friend comes to you and tells you they’ve been beaten by their significant other, and you then say “oh I know what you mean- yesterday someone called me sweetheart at work,” then go on to speak over them and ignore their feelings and use the story if their experience to promote your agenda on social media, you’re not a very good friend, are you?

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Some vegans (incl. Prof. Melanie Joy, which founded the carnism theory) compare industrial lifestock farming with concentration camps, which imo is a terrible comparison that relativizes the holocaust. For me, there is a difference between humans and animals, even though I know that animals are capable of suffering, pain and feelings that resemble ours, but humans are capable of much more complex stages of suffering. Yes, I am a speciesist, since a human life counts more for me than an animal life. However I do want to avoid animal suffering. But first: human suffering. There is so much that has to be done. We should fight racism, war and exploitation.

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    • what’s interesting about this is that animal farming and slaughterhouses were used as a model for concentration camps and many nazis in charge of these camps were animal farmers and were chosen for the purpose of being able to treat nonhuman animals badly and thus treat jews, queers, disabled folks, people of color, and so on the same way. The invention of factory slaughter operations led to the model of concentration camps. Hitler also was very fond of United States growing eugenics movement (yes, everyone who thinks the US were heroes in wwII wake up) which also started with farming and became applicable to humans with the exploitation and farming of nonhuman animals. This ability to control nonhuman animals for “desirable” traits for exploitation is part of what fed nazis using the same logic in their fascist regime against “undesireable” people and to commit genocide. This is all from Eternal Treblinka which is a book written by a Jewish guy who fled during wwII.

      I think we need to talk more about how these things are connected rather than saying they are the same- which is what most animal rights people are doing plastering horrific photos of human oppression next to that of other animals. Animal farming is not the same as concentration camps obviously. One is for production and exploitation, the other is for exploitation to a means of genocide. And there are many other big differences. The point that can be very carefully made is that the two of them come from similar roots and needed each other to exist the way they did. But, it has to be done while actually giving a shit about both sides, and most vegans making these comparisons are tokenizing the Holocaust of ww2 for vegan arguments.

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  6. What drivel……you could not make it up…..
    Some of the vegans I have met are as intolerant as racists……
    Please try and keep up the standard…
    No,I don’t eat red meat and I don’t agree with factory farming either….
    How about an article on feeding the poor/ malnourished some decent food….
    I hear fried crickets are good and cheap.

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    • I agree that it’s all over the shop but not for the reasons you mention : anecdotes about vegans you’ve met says little, you eat chicken and fish (I presume) which is were the big numbers are in factory farming , and you don’t see the connection between meat and people not getting enough to eat. The problem with this is that it sees racism and prejudice where there is none. The comparison between slavery and specisism is valid because, as the opponents of both have pointed out, they rest upon the same principles. History beats sociology.

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  7. I totally agree with this! Thanks for writing it.

    Some vegans, and mainstream veganism, have serious issues. I’m fat, and encounter an INCREDIBLE amount of fat-hatred and stigma in vegan circles. It’s difficult for folks who want to go vegan and also find community but who don’t fit the stereotypical mold.

    SIDE NOTE: Google searches yielded very different results for me. Mostly logos and yummy food. Just FYI.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I’m admit that one of those white vegans who used to not get it. Especially in my first couple years of veganism. And I’m sure I still don’t get many things.

    I am queer, trans, poor, disabled, and highly sensitive. I see myself in others’ shoes all of the time so when I learned about animal exploitation, after a short spurt of denial, I couldn’t understand why anyone else couldn’t get it. Even folks of oppressed groups. Even though groups I am part of have been demeaned through being compared to other animals. I knew that the insult was because other animals were also so exploited and devalued.

    After being called out enough times by people of color that I knew personally or read elsewhere, I understood both that all animal comparisons and devaluations are not the same. All oppression is not the same. Everyone hurts differently. And, comparisons of people to nonhuman animals harmed people of color. I won’t reiterate all of the reasons why as some of then are already in this article, the comments, and elsewhere.

    It doesn’t matter if all humans are animals or if it shouldn’t be insulting to be compared to an animal. It is because of both the exploitation of nonhuman animals and the continued exploitation of people of color. Both are ongoing and both must be fought in tandem rather than separately or at odds with one another.

    White people defending these comparisons- is making these comparisons honestly more important to you than the harm these comparisons cause? If so, that is racist. It is racist to place activating centuries of harm for an argument about veganism. It is racist to assume your feelings about racism trump those of people of color who face it every day. And it is racist to tokenize the struggles of black folks then simultaneously refuse to listen to black people about their harm and history.

    The exploitation of nonhuman animals stands on its own as horrific enough to be opposed. We do not need to make harmful comparisons that minimize the existing struggles of marginalized people. They are not over. White vegans need to stop acting like slavery is a thing that was and animal cruelty is a thing that is. Read the New Jim Crow for starters.

    We are all connected. And that means not harming each other to further the cause of only one group.

    Liked by 5 people

  9. As a white person who has experienced gender based violence, I look into the eye of a suffering animal and immediately recognise that same gut wrenching terror, confusion and pain.

    Obviously this is about racism, but all inequality is linked. Recognising the suffering of beings beyond our species, does not take away from recognising the suffering and inequality that happens within our species.

    When people suffer because of inequality, it is not because they shouldn’t be treated like ‘animals’. It is because they are beautiful, innocent people whose lives are precious. No life should be made not worth living. No one should have to deal with inequality.

    I work with young children and I see how at first their little hearts go out to each other and to animals equally.

    Let our original kindness live in us.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I think I would be more willing to trust a person who completely abhorred torture, rape, murder, long term confinement, abduction of young, than a person who thought these things are fine, dependant on the species.

    Whether you like it or not, as the rising ape…all humans are animals. We evolved to be our species very recently and we feel in the exact same way that other animals do. There is nothing that exists in us that doesn’t in the rest. We use and create tools, it dosent make us better. In fact, if we all died in one day, every other species would benefit. So, we aren’t being as harmonious as we could be.

    Get off your high horse, set it free and go and love the world and all things in it. It’s easy if you try. ❤️

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re still going to use black struggle as a comparison to the torture of the meat, dairy and wool industry? Because what it sounds like is that whiteness is being very nicely absolved of the continued pain and discrimination that it has caused to black people for centuries. But ALL races treat animals like shit and that’s a bigger deal, right. Great deflection for violent whiteness.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Thanks for writing this article. I haven’t ever hung around the vegan movement much, and always stayed away from the activism side of things, so I had no idea this was happening. I’m so sorry there are people doing these horrible things, and I’ll call them out if I see it happening. It’s appalling.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. If the comparison bothers you, that means you believe in human supremacy over all other animals. Which means you’re a speciesist. Which has no place in veganism. Anyone who is offended by this comparison is offended at someone suggesting that animals receive the same consideration as all other humans. We know damn well that human slavery is wrong, we know damn well that the Holocaust was wrong. And for EXACTLY the same reasons, enslaving and oppressing animals is wrong. The same rationalizations people used to justify enslaving black people are the same rationalizations we use to justify what we do to animals today (happy cows/”Sambos,” the happy slaves, to name just one of these absurd justifications and how we use the same one to justify the animal holocaust). This comparison has been one of the strongest points I make in my activism, and it has converted COUNTLESS people of all races. The root of all oppression is the belief that others are inferior to you and not worthy of the same basic respect as you. And that’s fucking bullshit.

    It’s not racist to bring up one form of oppression which most people know is wrong, to help explain why another form of oppression is wrong as well, since too few people actually give a shit about this latter form of oppression (and even fewer, as evidenced by this post, actually recognize it as oppression at all, clearly).

    Slavery and oppression are wrong because both human and non-human animals are sentient, unique individuals who think, feel, have their own personalities, and they all deserve respect. Slavery and oppression are wrong NO MATTER the skin, gender, sexual orientation, or SPECIES of the victim. NOBODY should be victimized.

    Human privilege is the most disgusting of all. No matter how oppressed a human can be because of their skin color or some other ridiculous characteristic over which they have no control, their oppression is not so widespread, pervasive, and normalized that one can walk to the nearest store right now and buy somebody’s neatly-packaged, mutilated body parts, menstrual periods, and interspecies breastmilk, and pay for the industry that brutalized them just to be able to feast upon their flesh and products of their misery and suffering. It’s been so normalized, in fact, that people are brainwashed and supremacist enough to actually be offended by the comparison of these animals’ struggles to struggles that humans have endured in the past or still endure today. People experience oppression because of their skin color, gender, sexual orientation, and species, but they do NOT experience it because of their species membership. Non-human animals – some more than others – have an execution date before they are even born. They are born just to die, just because they are pigs, chickens, cows, etc.

    To be offended by this comparison is one thing – and your speciesism is abhorrent enough as it is. But to actually actively try to silence activism that is logically and ethically consistent to fit your own speciesist, human-supremacist agenda is fucking absurd and harmful to this movement.

    “If you want to know where you would have stood on slavery before the Civil War, don’t look at where you stand on slavery today. Look where you stand on animal rights.” – Captain Paul Watson

    Liked by 1 person

    • Amy, first off, vegan 10 years here, animal lib activist even longer, and a white person (and queer and disabled and poor and many other things).

      Second, every one of these comparisons white vegans make to other oppressions almost always are flawed in two ways.

      1. They assume the human oppression is over. The effects of American slavery, genocide, misogyny, and many other things vegans compare nonhuman animal exploitation to are still felt every day by people. It’s not like Oh, that’s over, now let’s fight for animals!

      2. They tokenize the human struggle to bring attention to the struggle against animal exploitation, without actually giving a shit about the human struggle moreso than it fits the argument for veganism that day.

      If vegans were all amazing social justice advocates from diverse backgrounds, these comparisons would be fine. And I do think it is ok for vegans of color to discuss slavery comparisons. But that is for THEM to have in their communities. Not everything is for white people. There are white people who have talked about animal lib in conjunction with human liberation (pattrice jones, carol adams, jason hribal) and they do not do so by saying oppressions are the same. They talk about how they are CONNECTED. There is a big difference.

      As a vegan and a social justice advocate I often find myself torn because I absolutely believe in animal liberation, I believe nonhuman animals are just as important as humans, but I don’t believe in shitting on humans of marginalized groups and misrepresenting, silencing, or erasing their struggles is an ok way to do it.

      I suggest you reread this article. There are many things you say that are already addressed.

      Liked by 6 people

        • I’ve read the dreaded comparison (and eternal treblinka and oxen at the intersection and the sexual politics of meat) and what is very different about these books and the image above and blogs like yours is that they talk about connections between struggles abd how one struggle feeds the other. Spiegel even says in her book that it is fucked up to compare human and animal oppression without doing so with care. The image above is not doing so with any knowledge or care nor are most comparisons. There is a difference between connection (the ways we harm animals are used as a model for how we harm humans and one exacerbates the other) and comparison (human and other animal exploitation is the same). You continue to spout the latter.

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          • Thank you, I will think about that, because indeed what I meant was “the ways we harm animals are used as a model for how we harm humans and one exacerbates the other” – and if that is expressed badly I thank you for pointing it out.

            Which image above do you refer to please? I’m not quite sure – is it the hanging pig? I agree, that image is a specious connection. We don’t even do that to pigs.

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            • Yes, the image of the pig and the person hanging. And you’re right, we don’t lynch and hang pigs. But we do beat, forcefully impregnate, kidnap, slaughter, experiment upon, and do many other horrific things to pigs. Those things stand on their own as horrible without needing to tokenize and invoke other people’s struggles. I also think it’s not for me as a white person to make those comparisons. Thank you for being receptive.

              Liked by 1 person

              • Yes I agree, that image is stupid and I’ve never, ever used it. I used images that showed the similarities that were glaring, which I suppose we all realise here.

                I just think we’ve been here before, and I wish people would see it. We are doing something so awful but it’s not true that ‘those things stand on their own’ in the sense that they make people realise how bad things are. That is why I thought it was important to show them that we are repeating history, or rather we are still doing something we think (as a species I suppose (very simply)) we have stopped doing. Humans think it’s all over, we have evolved and it’s all fine now, slavery is illegal yay, so you see, I want to show them that they are mistaken, we are still exploiting living beings, but no one seems to care because they are animals. And that leads me into the comparison again – so they are ‘not like us’, they ‘aren’t as intelligent’, they ‘don’t matter’ – we are doing it all again!! But yes, it’s not exactly the same obviously, … wait, I don’t know why now…. it’s the baselines I was comparing – exactly what I’ve put here – but then people read into it ‘you’re comparing black people and farm animals’ O.o that oversimplifies it.

                But obviously you know there are better ways of putting it, so that is what I have to take on board, and think about.

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                • Also many folks argue that american slavery has simply been replaced by the american prison system. If you’re interested, The New Jim Crow is an accessible book about it. A milestone like slavery ending does not mean oppression against black people has ended. Just as if animal farming ended today, rampant speciesism And animal abuse world still exist. And that’s why people get so angry when it is suggested that animals are “next” when humans are still suffering alongside them.

                  Trust me, I feel the absolute despair that comes with knowing the truths of animal suffering. I’ve had them suffer and die in my own hands after rescue from cruelty. But there are many humans suffering as well. And it’s ok for people to pick one thing to focus onas long as it doesn’t sacrifice other things to “win.”

                  Liked by 1 person

                • Well obviously my rushed writing has let me down. Because I know full well that ” A milestone like slavery ending does not mean oppression against black people has ended.” And like I said, I will think about all this as it has been enlightening. I doing myself a disservice not getting my point across. Even if/when it becomes illegal to do what we’re doing to other animals, it will still happen!

                  The prison industrial complex is also sickening. I would love for people to wake up with regards to animals, so I could go back to thinking more about such things. But yes, I have picked this issue to focus on, and I will continue with it until it ends because animals are so very helpless, not even having the ability to speak and such.

                  I hadn’t thought directly about the PIC ‘replacing slavery’ but I find that very interesting and I think that is true. I will read that book! Thanks.

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  13. This article felt a bit flat to me. I WANTED to see a good argument in it. Perhaps I’m dumb and racist (surely) but I don’t see how veganism depends on black slavery as a main example. Slavery is slavery, and animals are surely more than enslaved when their lives consist of being fattened up and slaughtered. Slaughterhouses are also likened to the holocaust, a holocaust that continues to this day. Slavery for black people has largely ended, but we’ve been enslaving animals for much longer than that (entangled in the very odd phrase husbandry), for thousands of years.

    To me the article seemed like a hook to get to the core issue: that there’s a black vegan group forming and establishing a web presence, which is great.

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    • I have had a plant-based diet and been a passionate advocate for animal rights for over 20 years, and I feel the “vegan movement” has some serious racism and classicism problems to work through if they want to cease alienating people like myself – who to the outside world appears pretty much a vegan but will never take that label because of the afore mentioned issues. The next vegan who wants to compare black people to farm animals needs a serious history lesson if they don’t know why that is extremely triggering to many people of colour, and that is NOT appropriate if you want to have a conversation about this. Yes, PC comes to the table. Learn some history, read some Joy DeGruy if you feel really confused about this. Of course I speak for myself but I’m not alone so during your outreach let that sit in the back of your mind for when you are trying to bring all people to the table.

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      • It does not compare black people to farm animals – that is a gross misunderstanding of the comparison, and one I cannot believe people insist on making.

        It compares one example of slavery to another. It really is not difficult, jeez.

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        • And I ask again – if the animals we keep imprisoned in gestation crates, milking palours, veal crates, then sell to be slaughtered so we can utilise every part of their bodies for someone else’s pleasure are not enslaved…

          …then what are they?

          ….free?

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    • Well obviously my rushed writing has let me down. Because I know full well that ” A milestone like slavery ending does not mean oppression against black people has ended.” And like I said, I will think about all this as it has been enlightening. I doing myself a disservice not getting my point across. Even if/when it becomes illegal to do what we’re doing to other animals, it will still happen!

      The prison industrial complex is also sickening. I would love for people to wake up with regards to animals, so I could go back to thinking more about such things. But yes, I have picked this issue to focus on, and I will continue with it until it ends because animals are so very helpless, not even having the ability to speak and such.

      I hadn’t thought directly about the PIC ‘replacing slavery’ but I find that very interesting and I think that is true. I will read that book! Thanks.

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  14. As a vegan who follows a lot of vegan media I must admit that I have never seen this particular comparison. On the other hand I did years ago see PETA compare the death of chickens to the Holocaust. I felt this was at the very least an alienating and counter productive way to educate people. I do believe that the lives of all sentient beings deserve to be freed from suffering and this is a goal to strive for. Veganism moves us toward that goal.

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    • I see a lot of this type of comparison in vegan media but then I am black so this sticks out to me. Or it could just be the media that I come across. I find it alienating and offensive. The conversation is better had with out comparing African-Americans to farm animals out of the gate. It’s not about whether you think animal lives are equal to human lives or not. It’s about being aware of actually quite recent history that makes those comparisons triggering and prone to shutting down conversation.

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      • I fully agree – comparing African Americans or any other race or group of people to farm animals is wrong.

        When I recently saw the movie “Twelve Years a Slave”, I cried a few times and was shocked at what I saw.

        One example – Just the idea that people (slavers) would construct a boat that is meant to transport human slaves (just like they would transport farm animals), a boat fitted with chains and handcuffs custom-built to confine humans with no method of escape until they were transported to the place where they would then be sold to other humans – the simple idea that this would be seen as “right” and accepted by a part of the population struck me as fundamentally wrong.

        At the same time, as a vegan I also could not help but realize that while now, in 2015, every other thinking human would instinctively see why this was terribly wrong, I think that most non-vegans would not see much wrong with this situation, as long as nonhuman animals are concerned.

        True, there might be many compassionate omnivores who think that chaining a farm animal in its paddock is cruel, and that they should be confined in another way, that is less brutal or harmful. But the underlying understanding that some animals do not matter morally (“They are only animals”) and thus can be brought into the world, bought, sold, fattened, killed (hopefully in a non-cruel way) and then consumed is still what most people think today as perfectly logical.

        Yes, animals are not humans. They can not reason or express themselves like other humans can. But they share the same capability to suffer, and most vegans think that it is wrong to inflict suffering on them or to simply “use” them for our benefit.

        I hope that in 2115, future generations of humans will look back on non-vegan humans in 2015 much in the same way that we now look back on Southern plantation owners in 1815 and find it hard to understand how they could believe that “Black” (or red, yellow or brown) people are so different from “White” that they did not count morally and could be used to their benefit.

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  15. I agree there are some important differences between human and non-human slavery… and there are some important similarities.

    Similarities

    Both are/were a socially accepted, but objective moral wrong.
    Both were legally sanctioned and practiced unashamedly by advocates.
    Both involved chains, whips, beatings, degrading treatment, sexual violation, genital mutilation, separation of mother and child with devastating emotional tolls etc. etc.

    Transport methods on slave ships/trucks range(d) in severity from tight packing to loose packing, and methods were discussed in terms of damage done to stock rather than damage done to sentient, feeling beings.

    Both commodified and exploited sentient beings on the basis that they did not matter, weren’t worthy of consideration, or simply “weren’t like us”.
    Similar tools of the trade: note this nursing ring – a ring placed on a calf’s nose which prevents suckling (so humans can have the milk), often they have spikes which actually cause the mother pain when the infant tries to suckle, thus causing her to kick her infant away – I can think of few things as sad as this.

    Differences

    One is now widely condemned as a terrible, ridiculous, shameful part of human history, while one continues to this day.
    One has a victim toll of 15 million in total (legally) over a four hundred year period, one has a victim toll of 56 billion (land animals only) every year… and counting.
    For me, those last two are the most important similarities and differences between the two situations. They are also the reason I will not simply “shut up and eat my lettuce”, and they are the reason I will not waver when someone “loudly eats a chicken’s leg in front of my face, making the most disgusting carnivorous noises possible”.

    Because this has happened before, and it can happen again. We can end the legal ratification of the exploitation of a group of sentient beings based on the erroneous basis that they are not worthy of consideration. Again; human or no; both cower before violence, both flinch at the whips, both bite at the chains. If you are one of those people who thinks it offensive to compare the two situations, I beg you, tell me why?

    For apart from the species, what exactly is the difference?

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  16. The author of this piece makes the common error that the comparison of human and nonhuman slavery devalues black people, which reveals her own speciesism — which ironically is the same as racism. The comparison does not devalue black people because animal rights activists do not view other animals as inferiors, and they recognize that humans are animals of a kind. We are all the same species. The real problem here is human superiorism, not racism. The comparison is meant to show how the two types of violence are similar and to make a moral case for ending all violence to all sentient beings. So the author has fallen into a typical mental trap that is easily exposed. Her speciesism makes her think it’s racist to compare, when in fact speciesism is the true racism; logically the two forms of discrimination are identical, except in one the oppression is based on species and in the other it is base on perceived “race” (of course, biologically, there is no such thing as race; it is a social construct). So in fact the author is being racist. I explore this in this slideshow. http://animalrightsacademy.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/Comparingracismandspeciesism.pdf Also, the author self-identifies as a feminist but can’t see that discrimination against other animals is tied to patriarchy? She needs to read The Dreaded Comparison by Marjorie Speigel and The Sexual Politics of Meat by feminist Carol J. Adams. There are many black vegans, btw, and they do make the comparison. It is only an ethical blind spot by the author that prevents her from doing so: she clearly sees other animals as inferior, which contributes to oppression.

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    • YES! Thank you for saying it. Wholeheartedly agreed. I was thinking of bringing up BOTH of those books as well. The mere fact that the author has the audacity to be offended by the comparison reveals their own speciesism and human supremacy, which are just as abhorrent as racism, sexism, and other forms of prejudice and oppression. Completely logically inconsistent.

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  17. I know this refers only to pre-civil war slavery, the slave trade as we know it historically.

    How about that? Actively ignoring other victims of slavery? Who are the most prominent victims of slavery in today’s world? I would posit it is Eastern European women being used as sex slaves, more than likely not doors from your own home.

    Now if you talk about black slavery, am I to assume you are trivialising other forms of CURRENT human slavery?

    Why would I assume such a thing? I’m not an idiot, I know you can care about and recognise multiple issues at once.

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  18. The comment on there from Vegan Revolution I do not agree with. The jump from #blacklivesmatter to ‘so chickens and cows don’t’ is as specious as the claim the blog post is making. I think that comment is ridiculous, and to base this post off that comment is just as ridiculous.

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  19. Human slavery was the socially accepted exploitation of a group of sentient beings, justified by the idea that they are ‘not like us.’

    Animal agriculture is the socially accepted exploitation of a group of sentient beings, justified by the idea that they are ‘not like us.’

    They are not “similar”, they are exactly the same.

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    • Why is it so important to you to tell black people the kind of feelings they are allowed to have about their and their ancestors experiences with racism? Why are these comparisons so important to you when you know they are harmful and hurt black folks? And even if you didn’t care about humans, why do you not care that your comparisons are alienating most people from seeing animal rights as valid, therefore harming animals?

      Seriously, you are elevating feeling right over the welfare of both black folks and nonhuman animals. Notice that the only people who agree with you are your white vegan echochamber. We’re already 1% of the population and even a smaller percentage actually agrees with your ignorant comparisons.

      Also, I read some of your blog posts. The fact that you think black folks and queer folks are widely accepted by society and animals are not is so ridiculously sheltered. I say this as a long time vegan and a queer person. Slavery went on for hundreds of years and has only been over a fraction of that, segregation even less, person systems, police brutality and profiling, poverty, and so on are still ongoing. And you dare to say society agrees that “all lives matter”? Yeah, insomuch as “all lives matter” is something shitty white people say to silence the black lives matter movements.

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        • You didn’t answer my questions. And yes you did say that. From your blog:

          “The difference is that no one who considers themselves enlightened is contributing to the suffering or oppression of homosexuals or black people.

          The difference is that wider society agrees with me when I say “all lives matter” with regards to ethnic origin, and that “all love is equal” with regards to gender and sex.”

          Those of us who actually live these oppressions completely dismiss everything you say if you actually believe this. Even in polls on liberal news sites around half of people find queers gross and black folks criminal. Even “enlightened” people are racist and homophobic and misogynistic all the time. I assume you’re either new to activism or are very very sheltered.

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          • I hadn’t actually seen people saying this “all lives matter” in response to the #blacklivesmatter campaign until very recently – so I certainly didn’t mean it like that in that context. I think saying that in relation to that campaign is ridiculous.

            The reason I thought the comparison is important is because I hoped it would help people see that we have been here before; it’s not okay what we are doing and it never was and never will be. Perhaps it was a desperate attempt to end this horror, because it upsets me so, so much, and I can’t see what people don’t get – we shouldn’t be doing this, but no one seems to see that, so we use comparisons like the holocaust and human slavery to show them.

            But yes, you are right; I am sheltered. I do know how bad things are, especially in the US, for minority races, and it’s not that bad here, but obviously I don’t experience that myself, And while I can know that about myself, it’s not the same as going through it. it must be awful. I’m still amazed at how black people are treated by the police in the US, and yeah, it was so recent that slavery was made illegal, and obviously there is more residue than is plain to see.

            It seems I have not got my point across very well, so I can’t argue with you on that. I will have to think about this more, and do more reading. Thanks.

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            • Dang. Thank you for listening. This is a rare thing for someone to grasp this this fast. You are on your way to making better arguments for nonhuman animals and humans. Thank you for being receptive.

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            • And fwiw I have made some of the same mistakes out of a desperation to stop the atrocities happening to nonhuman animals. We all hav learning to do. I’m still learning every day.

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  20. Type ‘vegan’ into Google and you’ll see what I mean.

    I don’t see what you mean…

    And if I scroll down about two pages (past all the logos and slogans), I can see Mike Tyson, Bryant Terry and Patrik Baboumian:

    Forgive me if I’m missing something.

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  21. I don’t feel I put my point across very well earlier as I was in a rush and just blurted out my annoyance at this article so :- What I found when i read it was – what a shame the author felt she had to be negative about Veganism and its portrayal in order to promote a positive aspect – that of a black Vegan’s group. I am very wary of writings that begin with a negative. Rather i would have preferred to have seen someone promoting the positiveness of Veganism but then relating the problems black people, indeed any peoples, find within the movement thus leading to why a black peoples vegan group is a good thing. Instead she has segregated Vegans into black and white by using a miniscule amount of imagery that is out there on the subject rather than what Veganism primarily stands for – compassion for all animals (simply put) and that within that stance it naturally follows compassion to all. I am interested to know if she herself is Vegan. If so then at least her research comes from personal experience rather than a few images and at least will have some substance. I suspect though she eats meat and thus is another way to jumping on the bandwagon of slagging off vegans – unless they are black Vegans of course.

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    • I understand your frustration, as I share it with you, too. However, veganism is at the moment very much rejected by the majority, and we are undeniably in the minority position (a negatively-perceived one, too), so it’s entirely understandable for people to be negatively biased against us. What we can do best is to explain our position the best and most respectful we can, and we can only hope if our message is taken seriously and is thought of, to a degree. Some people may, others may simply dismiss us, and we can’t control that. What we do have control over is how our message is sent, not how it is received.

      Black Vegans Rock, the project mentioned in the article, is created by the women from http://aphro-ism.com/. They write about feminism, racism, and veganism as well, where they do acknowledge the link between racism and speciesism. I just discovered them thanks to another person on Facebook. Come check them out! They have a lot of interesting observations that is worth considering.

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  22. As a Vegan I find this article quite offensive and totally denigrates the Vegan ethos. To say that imagery used to promote Veganism is racist seems ludicrous to me as imagery used covers many aspects – but mainly images of the suffering of animals in industry. Yes of course the suffering of animals is related to the past sufferings of peoples – predominantly I have noticed it more likely to be related to the holocaust rather than racism towards blacks. In fact one particular article I read was from a Jewish member of Animal Liberation who related the similarities to the holocaust based on his own experiences (Alex Hershaft) Its like trying to make a problem when it doesn’t exist. All it does is attack Vegans and white Vegans at that. I’m curious to know whether the author is Vegan or not and why she can’t use her intelligence to deal with some real issues that exist on the racism – there’s plenty about. As for saying that using this imagery degrades black people to be as low as animals – animals are lovely (simply put) not low, not more unworthy, no less sentient. We are all sentient animals. Why on earth make these barriers.

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    • I believe the problem the author is trying to get at is that it seems, to black people observing from the outside, that vegans are considering black people to be “as worthy as animals”. And from the tone of people like VeganRevolution, as put above, that can be interpreted as dismissive of fights against racism.

      Speciesism/carnism is currently the dominant mindset of the world today, and it is understandable that people find it offensive being compared to animals. It is our job, as vegan activists, to point out the parallels between all variants of discrimination in as respectful a manner as possible. The comparison is being misinterpreted as degrading black people while the intention is to elevate and give voice to animals, and violent language will only reinforce the former and give people more reason to dismiss the latter, and only drive further division between the fights against racism and speciesism. We vegans encourage a compassionate world, and we need to apply that compassion in our outreach as well.

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  23. I agree that the majority face of the movement is at the moment white. The comparison between slavery and animal exploitation, when put in the dismissive tone made by @VeganRevolution, is insulting to black people, because it seems like white vegans are dismissing their fight, degrading black people and considering them “like animals.”

    I find VeganRevolution’s statement to be disrespectful to black people, but I would hope that you reconsider the example you gave from @veganoso, and consider the possibility of the comparison being not as much as degrading black people “down” to the “level of animals”, so to speak, but being more about suggesting that animals, sentient beings who can and do suffer, are capable of emotions, joy and distress just like humans can. It’s more about elevating animals up to be of equal moral worth as humans, because we can all suffer, regardless of capability of intelligence.

    I think when vegans are relating to other social justice movements, (except for disrespectful, violent individuals like VeganRevolution, as you pointed out) we are not doing them in the mindset of degrading nonwhite people, but are trying to point out that discrimination, in all its variants, share a common thread, that is treating another sentient being as somehow being less worthy because of their certain characteristic, be it their sex, their skin color, their sexual orientation, and in the case of speciesism, their species. I am Asian, I am gay, and when I see these comparisons, the minorities I belong to helped me make the connection to speciesism.

    I would like to apologize that the comparison has offended black people, as I am not living in Western countries and does not have the direct experience of being discriminated against on the basis of my skin color. There is, however, another person I would like you to consider.

    Dr. Alex Hershaft is a Holocaust survivor, and is the founder of Farm Animal Rights Movement (farmusa.org). He is the one who compares his experience to the plight of farm animals, and because of what was done to him, he did not want that to be done on other innocent beings. You can read more of his own words here, http://blog.farmusa.org/for-the-animals-all-men-are-nazis/, or watch a speech of his here, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=18mZrDujOm0, where he relates his experience at Warsaw and the story of his fight for animals.

    I think this is what vegans mean when the comparisons are made.The intention was not to degrade, but to elevate and give voice for the neglected and voiceless victims, and to call out to people who have been discriminated against to stand up for others who are also being discriminated, and this call happens to be for beings who are not humans.

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  24. This is great. Pointed out many serious issues with vegan promotion methods. It’s maddening that someone would jump to use imagery of real violence against us as a means to an end but remain silent at the ongoing mistreatment of our bodies today. Great article!

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