Our animals, us - Lux Magazine (2023)

During the Oscar 2020, Joaquin Phoenix made an unusual speech when receiving the Oscar for Best Actor. Dressed in the requisite tux, he expressed his gratitude and praised the competition before launching into an internet-cracking monologue. During the allotted three minutes, Phoenix spoke about the world's problems. Environmental protection, anti-racism, indigenous rights, gender equality, queer liberation and animal rights are not isolated campaigns, Phoenix stressed, but changing aspects of a common movement. All are part of "the struggle against the belief that one nation, people, race, gender or species has the right to dominate, control, use and exploit others with impunity".

Social justice was having a moment in Hollywood, and the above line drew applause from audiences eager to hint at its enlightenment. The rest of the speech wasn't received as positively, especially when Phoenix explained exactly what kind of connections he had in mind. "We go to nature and plunder it for its resources," Phoenix said in his serious, hesitant style. His next statement was the one that sent the room on edge: "We feel justified in artificially inseminating a cow and when she gives birth we steal her baby, even though her screams of fear are unmistakable. And then we'll take the milk destined for her calf." and we’ll put it in our coffee and cereal.” Phoenix's accusation about the beloved breakfast items was met with stunned silence, however the media couldn't resist: "Joaquin Phoenix's heart is in the right place but that speech was a mess," read one.ViewTitular.Voxhe called it a "sprawling sociopolitical epic".united states todayHe explained his comments as "emotional, empowering and crazy".

If there's one thing that unites people across the political spectrum, it's their dislike of animal rights activists and "crazy" vegans. At a 2019 press conference, Utah Republican Representative Rob Bishop denounced the Green New Deal while taking a theatrical bite of a cheeseburger: “If this passes, it will be banned. I couldn't eat anything like that anymore." In response, GND supporters stumbled across the country insisting that wasn't the case and reaffirming the sacred status of red meat.

Conservatives fear a society that really values ​​and decommodifies (non-fetal) life, which is why they promote an image of carnivorous masculinity. Unfortunately, many socialists don't seem to be all that different. Leftists rarely care about the myriad problems of animal husbandry and often despise or disdain those who do. In this, their views are quite conventional. A recent episode of the popular left-wing podcast Citations Needed began examining depictions of vegetarian characters in popular culture, and the result was not flattering: Often portrayed by women, they tend to be intolerable.

These gender stereotypes will come as no surprise to readers of Carol Adam's 1990 book.The sexual politics of meat, which interweaves accounts of 19th-century radicalism and 20th-century studies of marketing techniques in a seminal work of "vegetarian feminist critical theory" (after reading Adams, you'll never hear a woman say she feels treated like a "piece of meat." "Likewise.) Today, we are often told that the animal rights movement emerged in the 1970s under the leadership of white philosopher Peter Singer. In fact, many non-Western cultures and religions shun animal products for millennia. As activist and author Aph Ko said in a recent interview, "The power of white supremacy is that we imagine white people invented everything. Of course, white people didn't invent veganism." In the English-speaking world, many abolitionists, suffragists and peace activists championed vegetarianism and made connections between movements and causes long before Singer (or Phoenix, for that matter) entered the market. scene, including courageous abolitionists Sarah and Angelina Grimke, who rejected meat in part because they thought it would hasten the "emancipation of women from kitchen work". Singer circumvented these intellectual forerunners by separating their supposedly rational arguments from all the emotional, defense-invoking arguments that preceded them. In the 1800s, there was even a diagnosis, zoophilic psychosis, for the condition of excessive obsession with animals, which women were thought to suffer disproportionately.

When Phoenix's comments hit our newsfeeds, we'll confess we winced like so many others, but not because we thought his comments were hysterical or over the top. We shudder because Phoenix has broken an unspoken commandment we've spent decades doing our best to live by: Don't bother vegans. By crashing a million dollar party talking about animal cruelty, he was doing exactly what we were desperately trying to avoid, albeit on a much more modest scale. While we've both spoken publicly about our veganism, we try not to upset people, lest we inadvertently harm the cause. At countless social gatherings and restaurant trips, people ask us, "Do you mind if I eat this?" before munching on what until recently was someone else's wing, leg, chest or buttocks. Feeling that it's better to be disingenuous than incredible to avoid reinforcing the stereotype that vegans are in fact intolerable and arrogant ascetics, we've always said no and hushed up our honest thoughts so that others can eat in peace.

Rather than being polite, Phoenix was an unabashed vegan killjoy, taking his audience on an uncomfortable ride not only to the slaughterhouse, but to the insemination room as well. He spoke about milk and the reproductive and gender violence it often involves. In other words, what made the speech so moving and memorable was its latent feminist analysis. It was an analysis that spoke to the forgotten feminist roots of the animal rights movement and, we hope, its socialist-feminist future. We believe that the role of animal consumption has been misunderstood and that a feminist perspective can help us place animal rights within a broader socialist critique of capitalism.

Our animals, us - Lux Magazine (1)

Capitalism turns bodies into machines. Like their predecessors on the first production lines, today's workers are forced to behave like robots, whether packing shipments in Amazon warehouses or driving for UPS or Uber. This process of mechanization and standardization affects not only the bodies of human workers, but also unpaid women, as well as cows, chickens and pigs. If the sadistic capitalists of the world could exert control over the tiny movements of a human stacking boxes, imagine the control that could be exerted over a creature with no rights that just wants to graze in peace.

Silvia Federici's 2004 feminist classic,Caliban and the Witch: Woman, Body and Primitive Aggregation, makes this fundamental dynamic visible. Her history of the enclosure movement emphasizes its gendered dimensions and describes the process by which capitalism slowly transformed each woman into a "machine for producing new workers". Privatization of land by the rich meant denying peasants what had long been the norm: communal rights of access to fields and forests for subsistence. Unable to pay the exorbitant rents demanded by landlords, people left the country in search of paid work. Family relationships were restructured to meet the changing needs of capital, with upper-class men as wage earners and other low-ranking family members as dependents. Women who resisted their increasing submission and enslavement were punished with organized sexual violence, tortured as heretics and witches, and relegated to greater surveillance and regulation of their sexual and reproductive choices. In other words, the fencing movement was not just about controlling the land, but about controlling bodies and their ability to regenerate, a process that we argue extends to non-human animals.

Consider a pig.

You can see up close the central importance of reproduction to life on the farmGunda, a documentary from acclaimed Russian director Viktor Kossakovsky and executive producer of Phoenix, due for release in early 2021. (They got in touch after the actor's Oscar speech.) Filmed in black and white, with no narration or soundtrack, the film is practical and observational. The opening scene shows a sow, Gunda, giving birth to a litter of piglets in a straw-filled barn. We watch their growth while briefly meeting other creatures on the farm: a herd of cows that like to graze, a flock of chickens that explore the farm. We watch Gunda taking care of her children and we see how much effort and patience it takes to care for and raise them. She hugs, sniffs and nurses her puppies and they grow stronger and more playful. In the end, the inevitable happens. A truck arrives and their babies, placed in a box, suddenly disappear. We don't see the people or what happens to the piglets. Instead, we spend the rest of the movie with Gunda struggling to come to terms with her loss. As he walks around the enclosure, looking around little by little, we see an animal that has had something that never belonged to it. She is property and so are her descendants. Nothing was given or taken, only owned and sold.

They sell us a sanitized, idealized picture of country life. As with human labour, the reproductive dimensions of meat, milk and egg production are often overlooked.

Objectively speaking, Gunda has a good life for a pig, although the film shows that this is not saying much. The vast majority of sows, or sows whose only job in life is to constantly raise new pigs, live in a space no bigger than a refrigerator, which is even more concerning considering that some industry pigs easily weigh over 500 pounds. A sow spends most of her pregnancy in a gestation pen that is too small to take more than a few steps. She is then transferred to a whelping cage, which is rather sadistically praised by the industry for its "comfort". — A lactating sow in a farrowing pen may only stand or lie down with teats protruding into a separate area where her piglets are kept. After five weeks, when the pups are taken from her without further ado, she is artificially inseminated and the cycle begins again. Along with any emotional stress you will no doubt experience, you will experience constant urinary and vaginal infections, increased susceptibility to illness (hence antibiotics in your diet), and physical impairments due to inactivity. In other words, a sow lives in a kind of crippling dystopia of reproductive violence in which her ability to grow and feed her young is reduced to mechanical processes and pure profit margins.

This process is officially known as livestock production. “Consolidation and ever-tightening margins have led the meat industry to discover new efficiencies and untapped profits in bodies of cattle,” write Gabriel N. Rosenberg and Jan Dutkiewicz in a 2020 essay for thenew republic. Artificial insemination was a crucial advance and was widely used after World War II to improve the productivity of dairy cattle. Today, thousands of low-income workers spend their days forcing objects into female genitals to make them pregnant; in cattle, the process involves technicians inserting an arm into a cow's anus to manually flatten the cattle's neck before inserting what is known as a pin gun. The practice allows farmers to "ensure that animals reproduce according to the market clock and not the biological clock," explain Rosenberg and Dutkiewicz. The birth is initiated so that the animals give birth during normal working hours, literally working around the clock. Under the asset system, the heating cycles of entire animal houses can be synchronized in a standardized process that provides standardized results.

Alex Blanchette's comprehensive and harrowing ethnographic study of modern industrial agriculture,Porkopolis: American Animality, Standardized Living, and the Factory Farmdocuments the human labor that mass artificial insemination requires, including the "mimic replacement of wild boar presence and behavior". Managers call this process "stimulation"; Some books on pig production refer to the intensive human-animal contact required in factory farming as "cutting". At theThe sexual politics of meatCarol Adams is dismissive of euphemisms and calls these types of encounters "rape".

Our animals, us - Lux Magazine (2)

Blanchette also examines the industry's reliance on a pharmaceutical compound known as Pregnant Mare Serum Gonadotropin (PMSG), "an essential adjunct in the artificial insemination of pigs on North American factory farms." The companies house privately owned South American forests with thousands of semi-wild horses known as blood mares, an inexpensive way to keep them that doesn't require feeding or veterinary care. “In these blood and wood plantations, there are only three direct stages of human intervention: insemination, weekly blood collection in the first months of pregnancy, and abortion,” writes Blanchette. Long brown hoses make the skinny horses bleed, a process Blanchette reports only 70 percent survive, after which they are "taken back to the woods to start the cycle over again". A serum made from their processed blood, injected into the sows' necks, eliminates a handful of what the pork industry calls "non-productive days" and speeds up gestation, allowing humans to get to work mimicking wild boar and rape at strictly controlled times.

The fancy term "animal husbandry" is surprisingly appropriate when recognizing the sexual, reproductive and economic exploitation that animals must endure. Eventually, marriage emerged as a patriarchal system and a way of transferring property: land, livestock, wealth and women. A "husband" was a "lord" who had the right to do as he pleased with his property, a power dynamic that still exists when a husband's mates and property are discordant creatures. Yet somehow consumers of all political persuasions still believe that animals "give us" meat, milk and eggs and that the relationship between pet and farmer is natural and can be justified when based on affection. and love.

Emotional attachment narratives are central to our myths about our consumption of animal products, as well as our myths about marriage and the home. Well-being stories told to children and recorded by countless adults indicate that animals instinctively and painlessly donate meat, milk and eggs to farmers in exchange for care and protection, giving the appearance of a fair exchange. While there is no doubt that farmers care for and even love their animals, love is not an apolitical sentiment, especially when the loved one is a commodity. As political theorist Claire Jean Kim aptly noted, “When it comes to animals, it's all too easy for us to confuse what makes us feel good emotionally”—or, we might add, what benefits us financially—with honor or action. like you. with their “needs, desires and interests”.

As Federici once told us, his academic work grew out of his activism, theory follows practice. In the 1970s, around the time Peter Singer was developing his theories on animal rights, Federici was part of a movement called Wages for Housework in New York City. In fact, they were an international alliance of feminists who, in various ways, demanded compensation for their housework. Philosophically, they tried to extend classical Marxism by showing the centrality of gendered work in capitalism, particularly reproductive work and also nursing work, which is often not valued or paid. The Marxist focus on wage labor, they emphasized, ignores all forms of wage labor that keep our society and economy going. Yes, the worker earns a salary and then buys goods. But who gives birth and cares for the worker bee? Who cooks the basics? As the Wages for Housework movement revealed, women and wives have long gone uncompensated because female nature meant selfless devotion to raising other people, they supposedly worked for love.

Likewise, we are selling a sanitized, idealized image of farm life. As with human labour, the reproductive dimensions of meat, milk and egg production are often ignored, probably because the agony these animals endure belies the idyllic and serene image that comforts consumers.

But let's face it. You don't always get fresh meat, milk or eggs without constantly hatching new animals. There are more than 20 billion cows, pigs, sheep and chickens in the world today, and they all came from an egg or a vagina. The importance of female reproductive cycles to this never-ending supply chain of living things is perhaps most evident in the egg and dairy industries. Although commercial packaging suggests otherwise, eggs and milk are not simply products, they are key components of a reproductive process that creates life, or what Adams called "feminized protein". Egg production, of course, depends on birds with ovaries. And female cows do not suckle spontaneously: for a cow to produce milk, babies must be born. When cows can no longer give birth or, in the case of hens, lay a profitable number of eggs per day, they are killed. This is true whether it's the most "humanely" managed small farm or a huge industrial facility that houses hundreds of thousands of animals.

When a typical dairy cow is shipped to slaughter in this country, she produces an average of 7.5 gallons of milk a day, about 2.5 times what she would have produced 50 years ago. This milk is sucked from the nipples by machines, not your baby, who only needs a fraction of the amount. A dairy cow produces so much milk that it is likely limping due to a bone disease. It is also very likely that she is living with bouts of mastitis, an infection that everyone who has breastfed knows has unique terrors.

Our animals, us - Lux Magazine (3)

Shortly after they see the light of day, all animals are treated based on gender. In hatcheries, chicks are picked by the thousands by workers who are most vulnerable to repetitive strain injuries. Valued for the eggs they produce during their reproductive cycle, females are sent to a laying facility to spend their short, ailing lives in a space smaller than a laptop screen. Males, on the other hand, are simply considered waste and promptly disposed of via methods such as suffocation, electrocution, or maceration (placed in a large grinder). For cows, the inconvenience of giving birth to male babies led to the rise of the veal industry, a way for producers to capitalize on an endless supply of worthless animal calves.

What would it mean to respect and honor animals, as Kim asks us to do? While socialist feminists campaign for wages for housework, we are obviously not arguing that animals should be seen as workers, earning wages and benefits like their human counterparts. There's no way to make up for Gunda or the cow whose "fear screams" we've learned not to hear. Rather, we believe, following Marx, that all creatures possess a generic essence that capitalist modes of production alienate in various ways. In the first place, respect for the cow, sow or chicken species would require the design of a legal and economic system that recognizes it as a living being and not as a thing.

“Leite” is both a noun and a verb meaning to exploit for profit.

We argue that socialist feminism provides a valuable and hitherto underused framework for understanding the cruel and destructive nature of the animal industry. Only when we extend a socialist feminist analysis beyond the human can we fully understand the depth of capitalism's dependence on the containment, control, and privatization of life's regenerative abilities, and why conservatives, and particularly the alt-right, see vegans as human beings. existential humans. element. Threat. "Milk" is a noun: "an opaque white liquid, rich in fats and proteins, secreted by female mammals to feed their young," according to theOxford English Dictionary– and a verb meaning to exploit for profit. Capitalism reproduces by forcing and commodifying the reproduction of humans and non-human animals. As Federici explained: “The capitalist class always needs a population without rights, in the colonies, in the kitchen, on the plantation” and, as these examples show, on the farm and in the slaughterhouse.

As socialist feminists like Federici have shown, capitalism has evolved by encouraging and forcing women to accept their role as selfless caregivers as natural, inevitable, and eternal. Over the centuries, people have risen up and demanded different choices and expectations for those who are called women: little more than a lifetime of harnesses, diapers and sex on demand. Women have insisted on controlling how and whether we choose to participate in sex, pregnancy, abortion, childbirth and breastfeeding. However, capitalism has tempted us to lower the expectations we have of those around us. A socialist-feminist perspective asks us to ask ourselves how it is that we came to see the violent mechanization and lucrative control of the uteri, breasts and reproductive capacity of other animals, and the vast inequality and devastation it enables, as part of the course

Our animals, us - Lux Magazine (4)

In February 2017, the Twitter hashtag #MilkTwitter went viral following an incident known as the "milk party" in which a group of men arrived at an anti-Trump art installation, many of them shirtless, carrying cartons of milk. and shouting racial slurs. . . At least one uttered the phrase “Down with the vegan agenda!” while insisting that he and his friends are not "sissy". Soon, supporters began bringing milk cartons to Trump rallies, and milk bottle emojis were added to Twitter profiles. The "soy boy" slur became a popular slur aimed at men whose perceived weakness boiled down to a penchant for plant-based drinks. As Iselin Gambert and Tobias Linné show in a study of far-right anti-vegetarian obsessions, these tropes draw on the colonial, imperialist, and especially racist anti-Asian legacies of a bygone era, preserved by “effeminate rice-eating Indians and Chinese". .” In contempt. (In 1902, the American Federation of Labor published a report in support of the Chinese Exclusion Act entitled "Beef Versus Rice. American Manhood Versus Asiatic Coldness. Which Will Survive?")

Despite its image as the quintessential American beverage, milk's ubiquity is not the result of a venerable cultural tradition or a deep biological need. Humans do not need to nurse from human or bovine breasts beyond infancy. Rather, the dominance of milk is the result of post-World War II industrial policies designed to encourage farmers to increase production so that long-lived processed dairy products could be shipped overseas to feed soldiers. School children were unconsciously forced to drink milk to build up demand and then maintain it, saving farmers from having to restructure their operations. Unsubstantiated marketing campaigns defended milk as essential for health, sometimes using racist and derogatory imagery. ("The short stature of the Japanese, their bow legs, their often poor eyesight are attributed to inadequate nutrition, especially a lack of milk!"). In reality, milk is not particularly rich in nutrients, including calcium, and most people cannot digest it properly. It is estimated that over 65 percent of the world is lactose intolerant; in some countries, the number reaches 100%. Most people stop producing lactase, the enzyme needed to digest milk, after weaning. Somehow the alt-right has turned the fact that many white adults have baby stomach chemistry, thanks to a genetic mutation, into a symbol of racial superiority and hypermasculinity.

Given the centrality of the mammary glands in our scientific self-understanding, this is perhaps not all that surprising. In 1758, Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus introduced the wordmammalsin zoological taxonomy, a term literally meaning "from the chest". With that, Linné broke with a 2,000-year-old tradition and relinquished Aristotle's canonical word.Quadrupedia, and even more radically by including humans in the category along with other animals. However, as historian of science Londa Schiebinger has suggested, man entered the animal family only through a gendered and, at the time, deeply racialized body part. As Schiebinger points out, milk-producing sinuses are functional in only half of the animals in this group, and other, possibly more universal, distinctions could have been highlighted (we might as well have located them).pilosa, the furry ones, orwith Aurecav, those with hollow ears.)

The breast held a special political and social power and, more importantly, it was already understood as an animal for its ability to produce milk and feed the young. In other words, it was a body part that could acceptably connect humans to animals while maintaining male supremacy. Men's bodies were not explicitly linked to animals; Instead, they say their brains are different from those of our species. (Linnaeus's term for our own species was Homo sapiens, "man of reason.") As Schiebinger points out, the term mammal also cannot be understood without a broader understanding of the fears of women seeking full citizenship and power outside the home. , which shaped the political and economic dynamics of society at the time. Mammal reminded all women of their rightful place in nature and society: as parents of babies.

Mammal reminded all women of their rightful place in nature and society: as parents of babies.

Thus, the term mammal can be seen as a reminder of a capitalist, patriarchal, racist, and speciesist hierarchy that places white masculinity above all else, the same subtexts that saturate the milk that rights so proudly drink. But as socialist feminists, we can also hear a call for camaraderie in the term. Other species not only deserve our compassion because they are suffering, but also our solidarity because they too are being exploited and disadvantaged. Our status as mammals can remind us of our shared animality and the fact that our economy depends on milking humans and countless other species for everything they have.

Ultimately, as the example of the far right shows, speciesism harms people because it inevitably permeates our relationships with others and justifies oppression and exploitation (just as racism has been shown to have devastating and even fatal consequences for whites or the general public). . how misogyny harms men). According to political theorist Will Kymlika, at least 10 peer-reviewed sociological and psychological studies show that belief in the hierarchy of species "is consistently associated with increasing dehumanization of disadvantaged or marginalized human groups". This realization is directly reflected in the repulsive antics of the milk festival, but it is also manifest in the everyday practices of factory farming and the ruthless treatment of humans. Poor black, brown, immigrant and disabled communities are disproportionately exposed to the negative health effects of meat production and the sector's notorious labor abuse. While the trauma inflicted on humans and animals by these industries is not the same, they are interconnected. We are all trapped in the same racist, sexist, colonial and ecologically disastrous capitalist system.

Noted black liberation activist and author Angela Davis made a similar point last year. “The prioritization of humans also leads to narrow definitions of who counts as human, and the brutalization of animals is related to the brutalization of human-animals,” Davis said, making clear that her veganism has a feminist reach and is expansive and transformative. anti racist. , anti-prison, anti-capitalism and radical-democratic. "If we are to join the ongoing struggles for freedom and democracy, we must recognize that the problems are growing," he continued. I am not suggesting that the course of history is automatic. But we have seen a growing understanding of the nature of democracy. And I don't see how we can exclude our fellow nonhumans with whom we share this planet." Davis predicted that the issue of interspecies solidarity "will be a very important battleground for the foreseeable future".

Our animals, us - Lux Magazine (5)

A growing body of scholarship examining the complex entanglements of human hierarchies based on race, gender, and disability with the degradation of animals reinforces Davis's radical view. According to Syl Ko, who has written with her sister Aph Ko about the intersections of anti-Blackness and speciesism, Western conceptions of humans and animals are "racial terms," ​​ideas that have been shaped by racial hierarchy for more than five years. . centuries. Oppressed people have long been compared to animals, in contrast to a privileged and idealized image of white manhood that is championed as the height of humanity. In the words of Claire Jean Kim, "Race was articulated in part as a metric of animality, a classification system that classifies human bodies according to how animalistic they are and how human they are not, with all the consequences that follow. that entails." . As Aph Ko suggested in a recent interview, then, recognizing the hierarchy of species does not mean adding a whole new oppression to an already long litany of social inequalities, but rather recognizing how human categories of difference have been shaped by notions of animality, especially through of a degraded and denigrated animality. Because of this tangled history, the co-sisters argue, animal rights activists would do well to make racial justice central to their work and vice versa, a perspective they call "black veganism." It's an ethos that stands in stark contrast to the misogynistic, milk-drinking ideology of white supremacists.

The liberation of man and animal are linked; the brutalization of all beings is connected with it.

Human liberation and animal liberation are thus united; the brutalization of all beings, as Davis proclaimed, is linked to it. Just as we urge the left to widen their circle of concern, animal rights activists must adopt a broad analysis that understands the context of seemingly disparate issues, from the severe mistreatment of the often immigrant agricultural workers who grow our food, to even the problem of this country. racist criminal punishment system that imprisons millions of people to the obscene concentration of wealth and power that our imperial economy allows. While we believe that eating more vegetables is essential to reducing suffering and mitigating the worst effects of the weather, we also know that just changing what's on our plates isn't enough, which is why veganism is never just about food. . The big companies are happy to sell us organic, new and improved veggie burgers and fancy nut milks, along with the traditional body-based varieties, as long as they pay meager wages, control the supply chains, own the intellectual property and can harvest The Benefits. We need more than just vegan products to consume; we need a paradigm shift.

Some on the left like to quote Percy Shelley's poem The Mask of Anarchy.

Rise like lions after sleeping

in invincible numbers,

Shake your chains like a rope

that fell on you in a dream -

You are many, they are few.

It should be remembered that Shelley's "many," like a surprising number of radical romantics and utopian socialists, expressed concern about contained animals. Shelley wrote two influential essays denouncing carnivores, beginning with A Vindication of Natural Diet, published in 1813, followed shortly thereafter by On the Vegetable System of Diet (the word "vegetarian" was not used until two decades later in relief). Although the arguments are based on ancient Greek and Hindu sources, the title of the first treatise is remarkably reminiscent of the famous one.A claim for women's rights, written by feminist Mary Wollstonecraft, mother of Percy's partner, author Mary Shelley, who had similar views (the protagonist of his beloved novelFrankensteinrefuses to eat meat). Both Shelleys understood that eating meat was associated with a power structure that caused immense and avoidable pain. Meat production, noted Percy Shelley, contributes to mismanagement of natural resources, food shortages (since grain that could be used to feed humans goes to animals), and economic inequality.

Indeed, the hunger for animal products and the greed for profit have been intertwined since the dawn of capitalism. In the 16th century, it was the growing wool trade that fueled the enclosure movement. Before the patrician elite filled the land with cattle and began producing meat on a large scale, they turned farmland into pasture for sheep. As the 16th-century philosopher Sir Thomas Moore put it: “Sheep, naturally tame and easy to keep in order, may now be called cannibals, dehumanizing not only villages but cities as well.”

Very soon goats, pigs and cattle began to devour and surround the so-called "new world". At theCreatures of Empire: How Pets Changed America, Virginia Anderson reveals how colonists deliberately recruited the creatures they called cattle to the cause of colonial expansion and capitalist confinement and transported them across the Atlantic to "civilize" the continent. Imported animals were pawns in the imperialist takeover and destruction of homes and ways of life. The settlers established a land tenure system that privileged the movement of their animals and grazing rights over indigenous land claims and hunting rights. Beef has become an icon of American culture and an instrument of manifest destiny, with beleaguered communities resettled on reservations and buffalo hunted to extinction to make way for cattle. (Animal domestication was also the original source of widespread zoonotic diseases in Europe that devastated indigenous populations without immunity.)

Our animals, us - Lux Magazine (6)

"The view of nature that grew up under the domination of private property and money is a real contempt for nature and a practical desolation of nature," Marx asserted in 1843. Next, we quote appreciatively Thomas Müntzer, the radical German minister of the XVI: "All creatures have become property, the fish in the water, the birds in the air, the plants on the earth, all living beings must also become free." Of course, Marx was not a supporter of animal rights. His most famous descriptions of what communism might look like (one could “hunt in the morning, fish in the afternoon, raise cattle in the evening, criticize after dinner”) hardly describe a vegan paradise. With the surprising exception of Cuba, they really were. We also believe the same is true for humans under an anthropocentric and speciesist approach.

Two centuries after Shelley wrote his missives, the case for abstention is even more compelling. Along with agriculture, livestock and forage, livestock now consume 40% of the world's living space. Industrial agriculture is not only a major contributor to deforestation and climate change (a recent study predicts that the greenhouse gas emissions of the largest meat and dairy companies will soon overtake those of the largest oil companies), but also in puts you at greater risk of future pandemics. , as crowded factory farms breed new zoonoses and antibiotic-resistant bacteria, including pathogens that may one day make Covid-19 look like the common cold. (In April, two months after the Phoenix speech, theLos Angeles TimesThe theater critic issued a scathing reassessment of his comments: while his "cow rant... made many in the jewelry audience squirm in embarrassment", it seems "not so crazy in our coronavirus times".) animals are therefore on the rise with 150 species disappearing daily, the main drivers of mass extinctions, while humans and livestock now account for over 96% of Earth's mammalian biomass. The replacement of wild creatures with billions of genetically similar beings radically diminishes biodiversity, while increasing our epidemiological vulnerability to increase corporate results. The care and fate of pets is inseparable from the survival of wild animals and ourselves.

These are pressing questions that should concern all leftists, especially those who identify as socialists and feminists. And yet, while one in 20 Americans is a vegetarian and many vegans support Bernie Sanders (though they sometimes protest his meat eating), the organized left is lagging behind on this issue. Socialists, who are quick to question private property, rarely question animal ownership or call attention to the destructive consequences of the animal industry. Today, liberals and progressives are pushing harder to end factory farming, as with a recent bill sponsored by Elizabeth Warren, Cory Booker, and Sanders that would phase out large-scale factory farming by 2040. We think leftists should join in. The fight. Dividing Big Meat and Big Milk, although ideally we'd like to see the left lead the charge to abolish the sectors. These corporate giants concentrate wealth and intensify ecological and biological destruction, absorbing government subsidies while publicizing their products with disinformation and promoting the image that abundant animal products are synonymous with the bourgeois lifestyle, a mythology they avidly export to emerging countries. markets around the world. As our feminist ancestors taught us, the personal is always political. Nobody chooses to eat meat in a vacuum, especially in a world where livestock is a $2 trillion global business and one of the most subsidized and high-end industries in existence.

Unfortunately, the mainstream animal rights movement has helped to isolate the cause from other leftist social justice movements. The elevation of prominent speakers, PETA's often offensive antics, and Peter Singer's controversial and flawed utilitarian logic have all contributed to this problem.

A focus on personal health can also become a political misjudgment. Reflecting on the immense success ofThe forestIn his novel exposing the horrors of the meatpacking industry, socialist writer Upton Sinclair commented, "I aimed for the heart of the public and accidentally hit them in the stomach." the physical benefits of vegetarianism, hoping that targeting the stomach might provide a mind-opening diversion. By offering a literal carrot (ideally organic and attractive spiral) instead of a stick to convert people to a plant-based diet, reformers hoping to inspire interspecies solidarity have simply appealed to people's vanity, hardly a stable basis for a strong or lasting political movement. This tactic has also contributed to the image of veganism as the domain of privileged whites who no longer face serious threats to their survival. (In fact, the vast majority of the world's vegetarians are not white, and in North America, white people are less likely to be vegetarian than other groups.)Sistah Vegan: Black women talk about food, identity, health and society, popular vegan books and magazines feature relentlessly racist, heteronormative, empowering accounts of what an ethical eater should be like. A vegan, in the parlance of the hit diet book series, has to be a "skinny bitch": white, rich, and skinny. Veganism's association with beauty and wellness has also tarnished its reputation, reinforcing the notion that what we eat is simply a matter of personal preference. Going vegan is seen as another consumer lifestyle offered in a crowded market.

However, the fact that some vegans can be annoying, wrong or worse is no reason for the left to reject animal liberation or give some of the world's largest corporations a free pass. (If getting angry were the litmus test for leftists, we'd have a small group.) In addition to relentlessly criticizing and opposing offensive business practices, we believe that feminists and anti-capitalists have a duty to ask an even deeper question. : What justifies our species' right to commodify and dispossess other sentient beings? What gives our species the right to violently exploit another animal's sexual and reproductive abilities in the service of capital?

Our animals, us - Lux Magazine (7)

In an 1875 letter, Friedrich Engels reflected that the struggle of the working class could be facilitated by an expanded concept of solidarity. It could “grow so large that it embraces all of humanity and opposes the rest of the world as a sympathetic brotherhood: the world of minerals, plants and animals”. Today, many on the left remain committed to the idea of ​​dominating nature in the name of social progress. You would do well to reflect on the colonial mentality from which this destructive antagonism grew. Indigenous societies and political philosophies have long taken a different approach: land is not an exhaustive resource, but something people are a part of and relate to. In many native communities, local ecologies and species are seen as nations with rights for which humans have responsibilities. While indigenous worldviews and Western vegan precepts can sometimes be in tension, both challenge the notion that nature and animals are mere property and therefore can be powerful allies against factory farming. The anthropocentric attempts to conquer the earth led us to a climate emergency, the sixth extinction, increasing the concentration of wealth and putting everyone at risk of new virulent pandemics. There is no way we can be solidary with the world if we still want to exist in it.

Like Carol Adams, we see veganism as “an act of imagination,” a beginning, not an end in itself. It is an emerging category, a recognition of values ​​that cannot be fully manifested in the world as it currently exists. Refusing to consume animal products is not an act of denial, but a proactive commitment to work for a more emancipatory, egalitarian and environmentally sustainable society. This process of structural transformation can be promoted by a change in self-image. Identifying with other creatures, recognizing Gunda and his piggies as fellow creatures rather than commodities, while acknowledging our myriad differences, is a way of challenging capitalism's perennial policy of divide and conquer.

Astra Taylor is a filmmaker, writer and political organizer. She is the director of several documentaries, includingWhat is democracy?and your latest book isReshaping the world: essays, reflections, rebellions.

Sunaura Taylor is an artist, writer, and assistant professor in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy, and Management at the University of California, Berkeley. She is the author ofBeasts of Burden: Deliverance from Animals and Disabilities(The New Press, 2017).

Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Tyson Zemlak

Last Updated: 01/23/2023

Views: 5943

Rating: 4.2 / 5 (63 voted)

Reviews: 86% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Tyson Zemlak

Birthday: 1992-03-17

Address: Apt. 662 96191 Quigley Dam, Kubview, MA 42013

Phone: +441678032891

Job: Community-Services Orchestrator

Hobby: Coffee roasting, Calligraphy, Metalworking, Fashion, Vehicle restoration, Shopping, Photography

Introduction: My name is Tyson Zemlak, I am a excited, light, sparkling, super, open, fair, magnificent person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.