I have written 2 blog posts about my Veganism so far my vegan journey and coping with sadness. Since writing those I’d say my thoughts on the subject of Veganism have changed a little, expanded to care more about human animals too, especially those who are exploited in the animal meat, dairy and egg industries as well as those affected the most by climate change which is often the global south and black indigenous people of colour (BIPOC). I first began learning about these truths regarding Veganism, climate change and racism as the media attention greatly increased around the black lives matter movement following the death of George Floyd this year. As I came face to face with my own white privilege I saw how this is prevalent within my Veganism as well as every other part of my life. This led me to vegan and environmentalist black activists who taught me about the intersectional nature of race, speciesism, class, ableism, sexuality, gender and more.
Veganism is the morally driven practise of reducing animal cruelty where possible. I don’t buy or eat animal meat, any foods containing cows milk, eggs, fish or honey. I don’t buy leather, wool and buy toiletries and household products labelled as both vegan and cruelty free. I also am considerate of where my plant based foods such as soy, almonds, cashews, chocolate, coconuts and avocados are coming from and whether humans and animals are being oppressed in the supply chain despite there being no animal products in the food. This list is not exhaustive and my Veganism extends to other areas in my life where my purchasing decisions may affect the rights of wild animals and the environment too. I realise this may all sound quite complex if you are not vegan or if you are beginning your transition to a vegan diet. Rest assured this was all a gradual process for me too and I didn’t flip the switch from being an animal meat eater to being a more ethical vegan overnight. My best advice would be to just keep open to learning, follow those who practise consistent anti oppression by reading their books, online articles, social media or you tube, however you best absorb information and pay them for their work if you can (I have shared links below to those who have helped me).
Recently I am learning more about how food choices relating to animal agriculture and climate change can negatively impact the most oppressed in our society, all too often BIPOC. It is widely known that animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of climate change. The vast amount of land needed for grazing animals and for growing animal feed markedly increases greenhouse gases, uses incredible amounts of water and destroys immense areas of the amazon rainforest through deforestation. The effects of climate change are felt foremost by the global south and BIPOC (The international organisation for migration projects that between 25 million and 1.5 billion people will have to leave their homes by 2050).
BIPOC are more at risk of living in lower income areas and food apartheids which also tend to be the ones closest to factory farms and are therefore affected most by the toxic run off from these farms which seeps into their water systems and is sprayed into the air locals breathe. Slaughter house workers are more likely to be black. The risk of physical injury through the repetitive cutting every few seconds, the recent high rates of covid in these places of work, and the alarming rates of ptsd due to the constant violence they are subjected to is part of environmental racism. It is interesting to note that in the US the largest growing group of people going vegan are black people. Which leads us to our beliefs that Veganism is a white thing. When I imagine a vegan I imagine a white yoga loving, middle upper class, slim, straight, cis gender woman and I don’t think I’m alone in this. This can make mainstream Veganism inaccessible to black people through our leaving out of black voices where we need them the most. I often hear an argument from white animal meat eaters that indigenous communities eat animal meat and therefore Veganism is classist. This argument is flawed for many reasons and lies in the white privilege of us being ignorant to the fact that many indigenous cultures have practised plant based diets, non violence to animals and a symbiotic relationship with nature for generations. Veganism is not a white idea. Whilst there are complex socio-economic layers that may make animal meat part of the diets of some of the poorest in our world, ask yourself if you are that person and whether you have the privilege to reduce your harm towards humans and animals through your food and lifestyle choices.
And if my terrible writing isn’t enough to convince you of the intersectional nature of racism and speciesism, amongst others then please head to this you tube talk by Christopher Sebastian (White Meat: How Did Animal Exploitation Become a Signifier for White National Identity and How Do We Fight It?) which discusses the whitified nature of pushing animal flesh and secretions upon society for the white mans gain whilst simultaneously oppressing BIPOC, animals and the environment.
Whilst for me just learning about animal cruelty in farming was enough to draw out my empathy and make initial changes to my diet and lifestyle (and while we’re here, just because the farm you get your milk from doesn’t take calves away from their mother for months rather than hours – female cows would naturally stay with their mothers for life.. and just because a farm allows a cow to live for longer and be grass fed before she makes her terrifying journey to the slaughterhouse and ultimately her death doesn’t make your meat/dairy ethical) these layers of intersectionality deepen the discussion and help us understand that you can’t successfully fight speciesism without fighting racism. And that by amplifying the voices of BIPOC in mainstream Veganism by sharing their work and paying them for it then we help animals, people and the planet. We are stronger together in the fight against white patriarchal oppression as anything that fuels separation will harm us all.
below are the people that I am learning from in my ongoing learning of a consistent anti oppression approach to collective liberation:
https://www.instagram.com/xeviemuir/ (patreon in her profile for racism, Veganism and domestic violence)
Aphro – ism – Essays on Pop culture, feminism and black Veganism https://aphro-ism.com
Evie Muir on intersectionality: https://www.brightzine.co/news/2020/6/2/lets-talk-about-intersectionality
Leah Thomas on why every environmentalist should be anti racist: https://www.vogue.com/article/why-every-environmentalist-should-be-anti-racist
Dr Ayana Elizabeth johnson on we can’t solve the climate crisis unless black lives matter: https://time.com/5864705/climate-change-black-lives-matter/
UN report – preventing the next pandemic (it’s long but fascinating) https://wedocs.unep.org/bitstream/handle/20.500.11822/32316/ZP.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y
Nutrition and more https://www.vegansociety.com
Thanks for reading, Marie .