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Archive for February, 2011

Gets Their Savage On: The Vegetarian Myth, Part I

Chapter one, Why This Book? starts with a lie.

Unfortunately, I’m not joking.

I was a vegan for almost twenty years.

Keith uses a “different” definition of veganism than most vegans do. In her own words in radio interviews, she repeatedly binged on eggs and dairy “every chance she could get.” (Binged. A very eating-disordered word. Remember that, because it’ll come up later.) In the interviews, she recounts how just about every week, she would wake up after bingeing and swear she wouldn’t do it again.

Can you be a vegan for twenty years if you’re eating eggs and dairy about once a week?

The answer, for those of you too stupid to know better, is no. You cannot be a vegan while consuming animal products. Vegan police alert: the time you get to say you were vegan starts from the last time you deliberately ate animal products. Veganism is not a matter of “really really wanting to be vegan”; it’s a matter of action, and absolute action at that. If you deliberately consume animal products regularly—even once a year—you are not vegan. That is the fucking definition of veganism: a willing abstinence from the use of all avoidable animal products. Eggs and dairy are definitely avoidable.

So first off, Lierre Keith lied to start off this book. She wasn’t a vegan; she was a vegetarian, and there’s a reason that most reasonable vegans regard vegetarians with a sort of resigned disgust. They’re half-assed. Lierre Keith proves that rule: she’s so half-assed that she thinks regular consumption of animal products (but rilly rilly wanting not to!) makes her vegan.

The next few sentences don’t help much, either. Immediately, Keith begins small, subtle slander against vegans, coding them as naive, idealistic, and pathetic:

I know the reasons that compelled me to choose an extreme diet and they are honorable, ennobling even. Reasons like justice, compassion, a desperate and all-encompassing longing to set the world right.

She’s setting vegans up as idealistic, childish megalomaniacs. I don’t know a single vegan who thinks they’re going to save the world by being vegan—but quite a few of them believe that veganism is a necessary step towards making the world a better and less fucked-up place.

So this is opinion one: Keith has othered vegans. She doesn’t see them as people; she sees them as pathetically ridiculous and pitiful. That is not a tone you want to take with me. It also shows that, if anything, she never understood veganism in the first place: veganism is not an exercise in heroism, and no social justice movement can be. Maybe fror her it was different; then again, maybe that’s why she ended up utterly failing at veganism and remained a self-torturing vegetarian for twenty years.

So she waxes poetic on how she wanted to be a hero, which is understandable, but doesn’t exactly position vegans as naive—it positions her as naive. Then we get to this, and I find it an ominous sentence because of what these things have always meant to me:

And I want eating—the first nurturance—to be an act that sustains instead of kills.

Oh, goddammit.

Death is not wrong. It is not even slightly wrong. It’s neutral. The circumstances of death are what matter. If my veganism is committed to preventing atrocity, it’s done on the basis that I want as little to do with fucking torture and rape as possible in a fucked-up system. And hey, given that I’m not just dandy with using animals as property, I’m succeeding better at that than carnists are!

This book is written to further those passions, that hunger. It is not an attempt to mock the concept of animal rights or to sneer at the people who want a gentler world. [SR emph.]

Bite my violent, red-in-tooth-and-claw primitivist ass.

And those longings—for compassion, for sustainability, for an equitable distribution of resources—are not served the the philosophy or practice of vegetarianism. We have been led astray. The vegetarian Pied Pipers have the best of intentions.

im in ur potlukz feadin ur chillrenz!!!1

Okay, seriously? As someone who has a passion for political writing, I gotta say: that phrase completely misses the mark. “The vegetarian Pied Pipers” doesn’t come off as oogedy-boogedy; it comes off as laughable. Like, for real? I get this mental image of myself in a freaking Peter Pan outfit blowing on a pair of pipes and prancing and I cannot stop laughing.

Pele’s sweet potatoes. This book might be more fun than I thought.

Further down page 2 is this:

But the first mistake is in assuming that factory farming—a practice that is barely fifty years old—is the only way to raise animals. Their calculations on energy used, calories consumed, humans unfed, are all based on the notion that animals eat grain.

Well, I don’t know a whole lot of long-term vegans that think factory farming is the only way to farm animals; you have to be deliberately shielding yourself from reality to do that. And it’s also a vital misconception that vegans constantly have to batter against, thanks to PETA and other soft-in-the-head welfarists: farming that is not factory farming is not “kinder” to animals. It is not “more humane.” Many a lookatmegan has been seduced by the suicidal grin of Happy Meat.

Keith doesn’t do herself any favors by assuming vegans are as ignorant as she was; you go up against a well-prepared enemy or your argument’s not worth jack shit. This is one reason I dislike using red herrings and strawmen—it’s more satisfying and more real to take down one of their actual arguments. I mean, if you actually care about being right instead of just feeling like you are.

The Permavegan did a good debunking of Keith’s assertion that vegan opinion leaders are ignorant of other methods of animal farming. Adam Merberg over at Say what, Michael Pollan? linked in the sidebar also critiques the mathematical problems with a “sustainable” grain-based and “non-grain based” animal farm. Several other people have noted that Keith isn’t really familiar with any vegans, like, at all—or at least, that’s my conclusion; one thing that definitely made me think she’s just a bit disconnected from the reality of actual vegans is that she insisted, in her interviews, that all vegans eat beef once a week.

One of the ways you can tell your argument is worthless is that you have to call people who effectively disprove your thesis liars. Apparently, both me and Aslan are sleepwalking up to a 24/7 grocery store once a night, getting beef, eating it, and returning home, undressing, re-dressing, and laying down in bed. Without disturbing the cats. Hokay. If your argument rests on the idea that I—and all other vegans—are freaking pathological liars, you may have some problems there, cap’n.

You can feed grain to animals, but it is not the diet for which they were designed. Grain didn’t exist until humans domesticated animal grasses, at most 12,000 years ago, while aurochs, the wild progenitors of the domestic cow, were around for two million years before that.

Keith makes a really bad assumption here and I need to point it out: not all animals are like. You can feed grain to animals—it just depends on what animals they are. This seems awful nitpicky, but Keith has, to my mind, been doing an unnecessary amount of generalization.

Ruminants and grazing animals have, in fact, been eating grain for their entire evolutionary span. They were not the same types of grain, and they were not domesticated; but that doesn’t mean that they weren’t eating the seeds of seed grasses along with the grass. Grain has existed for fucking millions of years… domesticated grain has not, but grains are in themselves incredibly vivacious producers; that’s one of the reasons humans singled them out for intensive reproduction (aka “farming”) in the first place.

I’m unsure if Keith understands these nuances because her self-description so far has suggested her worldview is not very complex.

For most of human history, browsers and grazers haven’t been in competition with humans.

Yes. I barely see them as being in competition with humans now, except when humans make a point of putting their interests above the grazers’.

They ate what we couldn’t eat—cellulose—and turned it into what we could—protein and fat.

No.

Again, the situation is far more complex than how Keith is presenting it. Cellulose is a part of all plants; it’s basically the cell walls of a plant. We can’t digest cellulose and use it as energy, but we can use cellulose in other ways.

Here’s a famous form of cellulose: fiber. Fiber is vital to human health, the lack of which has a long list of straight-up proven health consequences (IBS, colon and prostate cancer, constipation), particularly soluble fiber. It is a magic sponge that keeps your insides clean.

Furthermore, while we can digest protein and fat, that’s not very surprising: every animal in the entire world can digest protein and fat. These nutrients are necessary for survival regardless of species, though some (like humans) need a little less of it (or really, much much less). Even now, humans feed farmed animals like sheep and cows fish meal, although the practice of feeding bovines to bovines or sheep to sheep have largely stopped after the CJD/mad cow problem in the late ’90s and early ’00s.

Simply because humans can digest these things doesn’t mean they should in such large amounts. Cows can live off of animal flesh. The question is, what diet results in the optimum physical and mental health?

Keith goes on for several more sentences about how ruminants shouldn’t eat grains, and again, I partially agree—but I won’t jump on it, because it seems that my default definition of “grain” is the scientific definition (a seed from a certain plant type), while hers is the colloquial definition. No problem there.

However:

We are urban industrialists, and we don’t know the origins of our food. This includes vegetarians, despite their claims to the truth.

1. Using a “royal we” when asserting stupidity is not, as Keith seems to think, sympathetic. It is insulting.

2. Any vegan (or halfassitarian, I guess) who disagrees with her is either lying or ignorant. Only the great Lierre Keith has the real truth!

Nice.

And Aslan, who is Latin@, wants to say this: “Hey, man. I know where my fucking food comes from. I talk to the illegal Mexican who picks it everyday.”

The truth is that agriculture is the most destructive thing humans have done to the planet, and more of the same won’t save us. The truth is that agriculture requires the wholesale destruction of entire ecosystems.

Finally, something that I can agree with her on—sort of. There are a lot of absolutely Earth-devastating things humans have come up with, but yeah, agriculture is definitely up there. I view it as more of an “original sin” than the most horrible thing—agriculture was what allowed the human species to spread far out of their native territory without having the actual process of evolution to make sure we could survive without it, leading to the colonization of the entire fucking planet and yeah, what she said.

I take a thin line on tools, because in general it is a very bad idea (evolutionarily) for your genetics to try to account for them. Weapons and houses are not evolutionary strategies; they are ticking time bombs. If you find yourself in an area where you need tools to survive, you’re not supposed to be there; the instant you lose that tool or the ability to use it, you’re absolutely fucked. And furthermore, the things that are natural for you to eat will not require weapons and tools from you—everything that comes naturally with a healthy body of your species will allow you to obtain it.

I do expect this to be a sticking point. Keith doesn’t strike me as particularly primitivist. (Despite what I was promised. :\)

The truth is also that life isn’t possible without death, that no matter what you eat, someone has to die to feed you.

Why hello there, simplistic worldview! How you doin’?

Again, the concept of life requiring death isn’t a problem for me. I’m a primitivist; I know better. Death is not only an integral and necessary part of life, it is one of the underlying threads in my belief that nature is, if not benevolent, definitely not malicious. In natural habitats, without technological or human interference, suffering is generally short, whether emotional or physical. A depressed animal may be easy prey, but it might also just fall over dead—that’s been known to happen with people who have poor emotional health: they just die. Death does not always happen this way; I’m not stupid. But it happens too often for me to believe that death is wrong.

The un-nuanced and rigid belief sets Keith has laid out so far in this book worry me—and I’m only on the third page! The interlocking processes, beautifully and exponentially complicated, of life and death are not a cause-and-effect as Keith seems to imply here. She naturalizes the reality and consequences of human supremecism into an accusation, suggesting that the unjustifiable violation of agriculture is something that happens no matter what. And it’s just not.

She misses the choice and the violence. More than one cow was tortured and killed at the end of their usefulness for cheese, not because it was inevitable but because some human chose to treat them as property. An orange tree grows from soil made by the fully decomposed material of plants and animals, but provided it isn’t manured orchard, it is not the same thing.

It is not: someone had to die for this. It is: someone did die.

This distinction is not unimportant.

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Don’t Believe Everything Anything You Read (from Lierre Keith)

There are some pretty serious misconceptions surrounding Lierre Keith. One of these most egregious inaccuracies is unfortunately perpetuated by Keith herself: that she was vegan.

Not unless you believe that you can eat animal products every week or so and still be “vegan” for twenty years.

Durianrider says it much better than I could. The quotes come from interviews Lierre Keith has done, which can be downloaded over here.

The fact that Lierre Keith continues insisting she was vegan for twenty years cements the fact that she doesn’t know anything about veganism at all, and has never bothered to find out. So a reminder and a warning to anyone who would suggest you take Keith seriously on her claims: she wasn’t vegan. She can’t be an ex-vegan; it is a logical impossibility. I don’t believe people who tell me they’re vegetarian “between meals” any more than this.

Again. Lierre Keith was never vegan. She’s said so herself, though not in as many words. Given this atrocious lie, however, I’m also going to assert that Lierre Keith can’t be trusted on anything either because of malice or (far more likely) deliberate ignorance. Citations are a must because she clearly has no idea what she’s fighting against, and even less interest in looking for information that would reveal she’s wrong.

Are we all clear? Got it? Not vegan?

Okay. Let the games begin.

Introduction to the Savaging of “The Vegetarian Myth”

Having finally downloaded it via Torrent, I’ve decided to do a takedown of Lierre Keith’s The Vegetarian Myth ’04 Extended Discussion-style. For those of you unfamiliar with this method, basically what I’m going to do is take it (largely) line-by-line/page-by-page instead of making general overview points, like Myths About the Vegetarian Myth (also on my sidebar); I want mine to be more in the style of Slacktivist’s Left Behind review series.

However, the first thing to do is state the premise of the book, which is that Keith believes that eating an animal-product-heavy, post-agricultural diet is healthier for humans than a vegan diet. I don’t expect to take much issue with any anti-agricultural points—I am a primitivist, after all, and technology/civilization include agriculture and weaponry—but I am going to heavily include the rights/social justice aspects in this since, obviously, they can’t be disconnected.

Keith draws heavily from the notoriously racist Weston A. Price foundation and in fact, without their writings, this book would not exist. The WAPF is named after a dentist in the early 20th century named, obviously enough, Weston A. Price: he also had no connection with the WAPF, since he died 50 years before Susan Fallon started the Weston A. Price Foundation.

Price’s work, actually, doesn’t really support Fallon’s conclusions. He found, reasonably enough, that people eating their native diets (non-processed and actually pretty plant-based) had excellent dentition with very little tooth decay and various other things. When introduced to refined flours, oils, white sugar, canned foods, etc. they lost that and their dentition wasn’t so awesome anymore. I have absolutely zero qualms with this, since any decent vegan diet will steer clear of these things for the most part, and again wish to point out that most indigenous peoples not living in desertlike regions (whether sandy or frozen) eat quite a bit more plant products (especially fresh fruits) than the WAPF is willing to give them credit for. Weston A. Price also praised the similar health of indigenous humans eating ovo-vegetarian, lacto-vegetarian and pescatarian (but otherwise utterly plant-based) diets.

Please stop rubbing Dr. Price’s name in the dirt by assuming he has an actual connection to Susan Fallon and the WAPF; he’s an innocent victim of this bullcrap. (Well, as innocent as you can be if you’re dead, anyway.)

I have taken it upon myself to build a list of links and resources about protein, fat, and the WAPF:

Link Library
A Brief History of Protein: Passion, Social Bigotry, Rats and Enlightenment is a newsletter article by John McDougall, M.D., who is not vegan and possibly not even vegetarian. [Note: the WAPF claims that they promote a high-fat diet rather than a high-protein diet. I do not believe this is completely possible without agriculture, which I will discuss later. However, this is an important article on the protein requirement misconceptions and realities, and I include it for that reason alone.]

Do Ex-Vegans’ Stories Make the Case Against Vegan Diets? by Ginny Messina, R.D.

A Critique of The Myths of Vegetarianism by Stephen Byrnes by Andrew (“The Myths of Vegetarianism” is a WAPF piece.)

Weston A. Price Foundation: Stupid Traditions from Dr. Joel Fuhrman who is, again, not vegan. A good list of links.

The Pitfalls of the Dr. Weston A. Price Diet from Leisa.

Reflections on the Weston A. Price Foundation by John Robbins.

And there are some blogs here worth checking out:
The Permavegan
Myths About The Vegetarian Myth
Say what, Michael Pollan?

Where Savage Rabbit Comes From

I’ve been vegan for several years—hell if I know how long; I don’t keep datebooks of this shit. Nevertheless, my life has been pretty… well, anti-vegan before I executed the one-fingered salute to the beliefs that had played an enormous part in fucking me over. I went vegan one day after about a six-month stint of vegetarianism in which I kept asking myself, “But that doesn’t make sense, does it?” re: cheese and eggs. In the last few weeks before I finally made the jump, I felt as though I’d always been progressing towards this. Veganism as an event in my life can’t be expressed in the words available in English, so I won’t try.

I’m sure that in some ways my veganism is almost miraculous to most anti-vegans and wannabegans: “the switch” was effortless. I was eating like this a day or week before, then I started eating like this and I never batted an eyelash about it. Utterly drama-free; I’ve seen carnists always make a bigger deal of going vegan than the vegans do.

I still feel better than when I was still embroiled in carnism. Lighter, more energetic, you know the shtick. Yeah. Sorry. No boo-hooing here; veganism has helped a lot of my complications, not exacerbated or caused them. I suffer from an eating disorder that I got when I was young and pregan; still working on that, but it’s not debilitating anymore.

My eventual goal is high-carbohydrate raw veganism, or more commonly known as “fruitarianism.” I’ve done it before for a few weeks at a time, but abuse and capitalism interfered. I feel best that way since my anxiety, anger issues, etc. basically vanish when I am eating that way—provided I get at least 1,800 (and preferably 2,000) calories a day. It has taught me the overwhelming importance of calories: that starving yourself, regardless of how “healthfully” you’re doing it, will fuck you up mentally.

Aslan has been vegan literally zeir entire life. Zie had a deadly dairy allergy as a baby, and because zeir mother refused to stop eating dairy even though it threatened zeir life, zie had to be raised on formula. However, because of some additional complications (preemie), zie was put on an experimental drug and had to be fed a formula specifically devoid of B6, vitamin A and vitamin D.

Zie was also raised vegan by zeir older brother who, for reasons that won’t be mentioned here, ended up being the “default parent” for zem (in addition to just a better one) along with zeir cousin Robin, who’d been a raw foodist since the eighties. However, their mother’s abuse forced Aslan to take to the streets of Denver at the age of eight. Zie continued living vegan while a homeless youth and a fighter. For those reasons, Aslan is one of my favorite trump cards, especially on the B12 front: zie has never had any kind of intake that would be considered “stable,” much less “adequate” by the medical establishment. And yet, zie’s not dead.

That’s a reasonable short summary of where we come from. Aslan will be commenting occasionally on the lines I’m debunking as well; stay tuned.

I Ain’t Dumb II: Accents as Racial Discrimination Justifications

Re-reading my I Ain’t Dumb: Language Fluency and Perceptions of Intelligence post previously, I was inevitably reminded of the race and class issues on the same subject. You can see why: one of the stereotypes of Black people, historically—it was used as a justification for slavery—has been that they aren’t intelligent because they don’t talk right. Nevermind that it was the best that kidnapped Africans could do under the circumstances and it actually ended up being perfectly adequate—it was taken as something inevitable.

Slaves couldn’t speak right because they were too stupid to talk “proper English,” regardless of their native tongue, regardless of the fact that they were deliberately manipulated to be that way—given a chance to decide between whether it was biological or cultural, white people chose to believe that it was biological, because it shored up the power structure. And if it hadn’t been speech, it would have been something else—said kidnapped Africans being hard workers was used to justify their lack of intelligence, as was the fact that most Africans weren’t Christian. It would have been something, but because it was so obvious, the fact that they couldn’t talk right became the figurehead for everything that was stupid and ignorant and uncultured about African-descent people.

And it still exists, too, though now it’s oftened defined by negative space—an African-descent person who speaks with a middle- or upper-class accent is “articulate,” and “well-spoken,” even when there’s virtually no difference in wording.

The tradition has been faithfully upheld, too. I’m sure you can come up with examples just off the top of your head, and so can I—when the Chinese were shipped and kidnapped to be used in U.S. labor, the heavy Chinese accent was taken as evidence that they were extremely stupid, albeit cunning and manipulative. Irish and Italian immigrants, often used the same way, were seen as stupid for the same reasons: they couldn’t speak English fluently. The Polish were stupid, too—good for nothing more than manual labor. The Russians were stupid, enormous behemoths, and thugs on top of that. Blind people are stupid, as are deaf people and those with speech disorders. Et cetera.

Some are even less concrete than that—floating ideas, representations of the preality—an animated cartoon of a Native American, raising his hand and saying, “How.” Speedy Gonzales. Sven and Olga jokes. Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Tonto (“stupid” in Spanish), who was cowardly, too.

Face it: Western society is all kinds of hung up on how you talk.

And a lot of that has driven the anti-Hispanic sentiment lately. How likely would it be that “LEARN ENGLISH, MORANS” would exist if Mexicans were portrayed as speaking midwestern English? And how much of the resentment aimed towards Mexicans is based on the idea that they speak broken, unaccented English?

Given how much and they don’t even speak English! is used as a constant refrain in anti-Hispanic rhetoric and opinions, I’m gonna bet that language bias is a huge, enormous part of that. Having the right accent decides so much of your worthiness and value in a community that if you don’t have it, you’ll be looked at with suspicion and wariness a priori—as a likely thief, lazy sonuva, con artist and general good-for-nothing.

And look at that list: how many of those stereotypes do we regularly apply to Mexicans? I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to shift uncomfortably while a neighbor starts ranting about those thieving Mexicans will steal everything you have because they’re too lazy to work for a living—lol—and try not to interrupt with, “Um, my grandfather was full-blooded Mexican. My dad’s an ex-patriot. My brother’s visibly Hispanic. I have a Hispanic last name. You’re talking about me and my family when you say those things.”

Actually, my roommate, who’s half-Hispanic and passes depending on who’s looking at zem, has done that. Zie even used to have the stereotypical “Hispanic” accent, because zie grew up in the inner city in a largely Mexican and Latin@ area—but zie was moved by family out into the suburbs and had to adapt out of that accent to pass. I’m sure you’ve already realized the response zie’s gotten: “Well, you don’t sound like them.”

… Accents are a class and racial cipher key in modern-day U.S. to determine how worthy the person is of being around you, and being in the U.S. at all.

In Defense of the Rights of Brutes

It still shocks me when a carnist tells me that “carnism” isn’t a real thing, but veganism is—like I’ve stepped into an alternate, topsy turvy universe. If someone told you that “sexist” wasn’t a real word or term, I bet you’d be pretty shocked too. Seriously, what rock has this person been living under?

As a vegan, I see and experience the reality of a society completely obsessed with carnism every damn day. It’s everywhere: nine out of ten food products are made from the forced labor of farmed animals. The forced labor itself is hidden, invisible: you can’t apply those words to non-human animals. You can’t say they’re oppressed. People even like to pretend that saying non-human animals are oppressed is actually oppressive to humans—like pointing out that it’s an ideology itself takes away from justice for oppressed humans. As if helping one set of people achieve liberation would ever harm another.

Carnism is the name of an ideology. That ideology states that non-human animals are less worthy of consideration than human animals, and that because they are less worthy, they are property.

Imprisoning, breeding, milking and killing non-human animals for something we can get, or believe we can get (in the case of strength and mental health) is carnism in action. It is the system that carnism, as an ideology, upholds—that even if animals matter, they don’t matter so much that we should actually, you know, stop using them as property.

Those of you who are hip to property status analysis will be able to see the catch in that—no amount of welfarism matters if you are property, because if you are property, there is no violation that cannot be justified; and if you are not, then no one would dare violate you.

If you are, right now, saying to yourself, “I’m not a carnist!” and you’re not vegan, yes, you are a carnist. That is what the word means: that you are willing to use animals as property. If you are not vegan, you are using animals as property—thus, carnist by definition. And if you are not willing to be called a carnist—what? it’s only a few letters away from con carne—then go vegan.

All of the -ism words were made up out of whole cloth at one point in time. They were created to describe a concept, an ideology, that was dominant and thus invisible, because to get people to recognize an ideology you have to name it. Sexism was named because feminism would have been flailing in the dark without it: all social justice movements begin as ridiculous until they name the oppression they fight against. Without being named, those paradigms remain invisible and thus invulnerable, because it’s just normal, it just is. Oppressive power structures that are not named remain unscathed because they are unseen.

The ease with which carnists take for granted their carnism and the blind urgency with which they passive-aggressively attack vegans even for existing—cue umpeenth repetition of, “Oh, I could never do that,” or “I’d just die without [dairy product],” just because you awkwardly refused the damn cheese tray—is in itself indicative of privilege. It’s fine if you freaks want to name yourselves; you’re different. We’re normal. We don’t need a word.

And personally, I think carnism as a word describing power has an advantage over most other -isms: it describes actions as well as thoughts, as well as an embedded status quo. Vegans can be carnists: all they have to do is still believe that animals are property, and that veganism is a “personal choice”—that humans are the only ones that matter. But all non-vegans are carnists. A (vegans) may also be C (carnists), but all B (non-vegans) are C (carnists).

That recognition—that the obsessive consumption of animal products happens, that it exists, and that it only happens at the expense of all non-human animals—is a necessary process, because consuming animal products is otherwise normalized into invisibility. It is also something I wish the feminist and anti-racist movements had—the description of a behavior.

But the extent of the oppression of non-human animals, while monstrous, is also relatively simple on the surface because non-human animals largely do not participate in humans’ everyday lives. It’s very difficult to argue that using animals as products—making them into products—for consumption is not treating animals as property, because that is the definition of property status. It’s telling that the argument becomes significantly more complicated when you involve companion animals: we want to believe that our friends, our family, the people we love want to be with us to, and that they derive joy from us as much as we do from them. But that desire to see ourselves as good for them too is belied in the fact that companion animals are acceptable sacrifices for junk science, breeding, and profits—ultimately, the fact that humans’ interactions with them are still about humans’ comfort, convenience, entertainment and profit proves their property status, too.

Animals don’t participate. Women do. Nonwhite people do. And as much as participation in your own oppression doesn’t mean that you’re not oppressed, it does make it more convoluted. When you have been taught all your life to relish being treated as a valuable piece of property—as women are with cultural tropes of marriage and sexual attraction—you aren’t nearly as able to see that you’re still property. When you’ve been taught all your life to feel triumphant about being promoted in a system where you and everyone like you are still just fucking monetary values—as nonwhites are with capitalism—you’re not able to see just how much the whole system fucks you over. And the more you believe your oppressor when he says that you do have a chance at his approval and the power that entails, the less willing you are to fight the fact that you have to get down on your knees and remember to swallow at all.

The fact that you have to suck dick at all is normalized to the point where it isn’t really there anymore. By contrast, the fact that most animals never have to suck dick doesn’t seem bad at all, provided you’re ignorant of their lived reality enough to trivialize the constant soul-destroying torture simply because no one ever expected them to like it. No one ever expected Black slaves to like it, either, or women with marriage; that your consent is not valued is in itself sign of oppression.

Treating anyone who experiences their life that way is wrong. Not because they look enough like you or are “intelligent” enough, but because they experience what you’re doing to them. That is the baseline—I do not demand literacy tests and poll taxes before you get to claim you deserve rights. And the fact that you do for those you want to be able to use as property, but not the ones you have no interest in, is telling. And unacceptable. Very unacceptable.

Men fucking wrote satirical articles about how animals deserve rights too so they could mock women and nonwhites. It isn’t so fucking funny now, you fucking assholes—you fucking carnists.

Oppression is not acceptable, no matter who it is or what their genetic code looks like. Veganism is a way to emphasize that point, as is feminism, anti-racism, anti-capitalism and open support of unschooling—it’s baseline. Not being an oppressive douche is baseline. Not perpetuating someone’s property status is baseline. Changing your behavior so you do not perpetuate property status or oppression is baseline, not for being a good person, but just for not being a bad person.

And no matter what excuses you give for continuing it, you will still be a carnist, and it will still be fucked up that you think that’s okay.

Veganism isn’t extreme: it’s baseline.

Carnival of Male Privilege #2: Counter-Accusations

Today’s topic is: Counter-Accusations

Scene: As with last week’s edition, we’ll use our characters Vince (a man) and Marisa (a woman). Both are white. They enjoy a platonic friendship that largely revolves around talking politics and enjoying each other’s company—let’s say they’re into progressive politics right now. However, Marisa is becoming increasingly uncomfortable with Vince’s company because of his habit of using sexist comments to deride female politicians he disagrees with.

So she brings it up with him, telling him that making sexist remarks isn’t okay no matter even if it’s directed at an “acceptable” target.

What Vince does in response is berate her. He tells her that it’s racist to defend these women because the group they’re politically affiliated with has a history of working against racial equality and that Marisa, as someone who believes in anti-racist politics, should know better.

Effect: Shaming, Silencing.

Method:

– Marisa has been positioned by Vince as the oppressor—by claiming that her criticism of him amounts to bigotry itself, because he was making sexist comments about racist women.

– Marisa has also been mortified; maybe publicly, maybe just in front of Vince—but the trick is that she still gives a damn about what Vince thinks of her, even though male privilege makes him essentially immune to really, seriously caring about what she thinks of him. Gathering the courage to confront Vince has backfired in a humiliating way, and Marisa has been emotionally incapacitated with confusion, shock and shame from being misunderstood so badly.

– Vince normalized and invisibilized sexist comments as not real oppression because they’re only important outside of the context of racism. Racism is a real concern, but sexism is only if his target didn’t do something to “deserve” it.

– He also perpetuated a form of rape culture—that some women “ask for it” or otherwise do something to deserve gendered oppression, with racism as the justification. That is, if a woman is racist or oppressive in a way displeasing to men, she deserves whatever slurs and gendered violence come her way.

– Marisa’s concerns have been more than just invalidated—they’ve been vilified by the claim that her motives are not just impure, but outright bigoted. This is also underscored by the unspoken threat that if she continues pressing the issue, Vince will determine that she is racist.

Discussion: Vince believes that when women violate a standard of “ethics” he may or may not live up to himself, his own motives in degrading them become unassailable. Even though he wouldn’t ever use racist stereotypes or suggestions to degrade a Black man who disagreed with him, a white woman is fair game. Marisa’s challenged his power and ability to engage in misogyny against what he sees as an “acceptable target,” so he’s come up with what is essentially a completely irrelevant argument—Marisa wasn’t saying those women were right; she was saying Vince was wrong for saying that kind of shit. The accusation of racism is a shield—putting the burden for action and reflection back on her so that he can retain the privilege of not having to think seriously about the fact that he is privileged, and changing his behavior to suit.

That is to say, he’s willing to use his supposed antiracism to “cover his dick” so he can appear to be speaking for magnanimous or altruistic reasons—he’s fighting for racial equality, bitch!—when really he’s just defending his privilege. They’re nothing more than tokens for him—Get Out Of Privilege Free tokens, interchangeable and useful only insofar as they allow him to continue behaving like a douche. If Marisa had been talking about veganism, Vince would have just as shamelessly brought up the Inuit to call her racist with—not because he actually values the Inuit (because if he valued indigenous peoples, why would he bring them up and ignore the many hundreds of other native peoples who do not live the way they do?), but because they justify him continuing to do whatever the fuck he wants.

Marisa has no way out of the minefield except to admit that she was wrong—and that Vince was right, which was the plan all along. If she argues, she’ll only solidify his concept of her as racist, and he will be viewed as reliable for any of their mutual friends that he decides to spout off to, whereas the opposite would not be true. If Marisa said that Vince was racist instead, the response would be, “No—he’s just not that kind of guy.”

So, Marisa’s fucked. Again. Sorry, Marisa.

Subsets: Well You Just Don’t Like [insert] People; You’re Such A Bitch, Can’t You See He’s Suffering?; We Have More Important Things To Worry About; Why Don’t You Do Something For This Acceptable Group Instead; NO U.

What You Should Say So You Don’t Ask Me, “Well, What Do You Want Me To Say (You Unreasonable Bitch)?”: Try, “Okay. I didn’t know it could be interpreted that way. What have I been saying?”

News: Starvation or Jail

A few days ago, it was reported by the BBC that a homeless man was jailed in Belfast, Northern Ireland for begging. He couldn’t pay a fine of £80, so they jailed him.

The district judge refused to give him a conditional discharge saying he had two other begging convictions and that it was clear they had not deterred him.

Look. I don’t know what things are like in Belfast for the homeless, but I am pretty hip to the fact that if a country or city’s priorities are geared towards making the homeless unseen by the housed rather than actually, you know, helping them maintain a lifestyle that is healthy, sanitary and safe, there’s probably not that many options for the homeless other than begging. For all that people like to point to homeless shelters, they’re not an option for many because of the waiting lists, lack of food/enough food/necessary food (for example, Aslan couldn’t go to shelters for food because it was all infested with dairy, to which zie is deadly allergic), an almost total absence of dignity and safety.

Very few people who recommend shelters know, or are willing to consider, the fact that you’re more at risk for rape and theft from the shelter staff than from the other shelter-ees. I’m not even touching the Mission belief that the homeless are homeless because they’re not Christians or not good enough Christians, and that making someopne who is starving and/or freezing to death listen to a sermon before they “deserve” to not starve and/or freeze is just. UnChristian and unacceptable by any decent standard (i.e. non-Randian) of ethics. And even now, we’re assuming he was able to get access to a shelter or Mission in the first place…

You know, I think there might be a reason that he wasn’t deterred by his convictions, and it’s something you’re fucking evil for faulting someone for: he valued his literal physical survival over the law.

So do I. When the law pits itself against your basic well-being, safety and survival, the law is wrong. End of.

Most people who haven’t been homeless do not understand that concept—that the law cannot physically be followed in many circumstances: in Colorado, U.S., it is actually illegal to sleep anywhere that is not a “private” residence. If you cannot pay for a motel/hotel or camping space, if you do not have a house, if someone with those things does not give you permission to sleep there, you are actually breaking the law. You can’t even sleep in a car you own. The U.S. is more concerned with keeping the homeless out of sight than with anything else, to the point that they are willing to put into place a rule that would violate the Geneva convention on torture if it were inflicted on POWs.

I’ve been there. Let me tell you something: sleep is more important than anything except water. In the hierarchy of basic needs, “sleep” and “water” are at the bottom; then “warmth” and “sanitation”; then “food” and “safety.” No number of laws can deter you from needing these, but it doesn’t seem to stop humans from trying. Like if you really were a good person, you’d find a way to do everything legally, including suddenly becoming magically successful at capitalism (because it’s your choice, after all!).

Uh, no. This is Human Rights 101: capitalism and the comfort of the privileged do not ever negate or come before any human’s survival, and capitalist infrastructure (stores) has no right to prevent humans from ensuring their survival, even if it comes at the cost of a store’s profits. If you think that a store’s “right” to profits comes before a human’s actual right to food and not starving, then congratulations—you don’t even believe in the most basic of human rights. Go to the corner and fucking check yourself.

What they’ve done to this man is criminal. That unnamed judge should be locked up.

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