When I was younger, I knew about vegetarianism but not so much about veganism. When I first heard of it, ignorantly, I wondered: ‘What do you even eat, then?’ Back then, I could understand why people would choose not to eat meat but not how they could also stop eating other animal-based products because I was unaware of the cruelty of the livestock-industry as a whole and of the great amount of plant-based alternatives. I thought, ‘Well if you don’t eat meat, animals do not die for your sake’.
Unbeknownst to 10-year old me, this is not true. If you consume egg- and milk-based products, animals still die for your consumption and spend a life of misery before being slaughtered. However, back then, I was not able to draw this logical conclusion. About ten years later, when I stopped eating meat, I finally realised that veganism is the only real option if you do not want animals to suffer for your consumption, so I gradually reduced the amount of ‘animal-products’ I ate in order to transition to a vegan diet.
I feel like many people who adopt a vegetarian diet for moral reasons do so based on the logic that I summarised above. Therefore, in today’s post I would like to discuss vegetarianism and veganism and distinguish between them. I am not going to do this on the basic level of ‘vegetarian – no meat’ and ‘vegan – no animal-based products’ but on a deeper, more nuanced level. Today, I am going to address the moral implications of an omnivorous diet (eating animal- and plant-based products), a vegetarian diet and of a vegan diet and explain why veganism is the only option if you want to boycott animal-based products for moral reasons.
Since I have already addressed the environmental profits of veganism in an old post, I am going to focus on the moral aspects in today’s post. If you are interested in the former, check it out: https://sovlpvnk.com/2020/06/13/for-the-future-2-veganism-the-possibly-easiest-form-of-political-participation/
Disclaimer: To me, this is honestly a given but I would like to emphasise it nonetheless: I am talking about this topic from a privileged position and I do not expect people in LDCs or indigenous peoples who have to rely on hunting or disabled people to go vegan, since that is an entirely different situation. However, if you live in an industrialised country and are physically and financially capable of it, veganism is a great means of daily participation and of using your privilege for something greater.
1. The Morals of Meat-Eating
As its name implies, on an omnivorous diet, you theoretically eat everything, vegetables, fruits, animals and their products. Morally, this diet is the worst of the aforementioned three options.
All animal-based products come at the cost of animals’s suffering and lives. Obviously, if you eat meat, that animal is killed in order to produce meat. It does not matter whether or not it is ‘bio’ or ‘sustainable’ meat (the latter does not exist). There is no humane way of killing and the animals suffer nonetheless, since the conditions in allegedly ‘animal friendly’ branches of the industry are just as bad as in other branches and in the end, the animals die anyway. In both branches, animals are mistreated and profit is put over their welfare, which makes sense, since the profit is based on their deaths.
The following examples should give you some perspective: In US factory farming, ‘Up to 10 hens are packed together in one wire cage roughly the size of a file drawer’ (ASPCA). Under these conditions, they can show ‘abnormal pecking behavior and cannibalism’, hence to avoid this, their beaks are often mutilated (ASPCA). Additionally, in cages, they are unable to sit or lay down or follow other natural behaviours such as dust-bathing, which is detrimental to their quality of life (humanesociety).
Similarly, pigs who are intelligent animals, may start to bite other animals’s tails out of boredom, which is avoided by severing them (humanesociety). Since male pigs may develop a stench called boar taint that some people dislike in their meat, they can be castrated to avoid this (Keenan). In Germany, this does not require any sedation and it is going to remain legal until the end of this year according to the BMEL, the German Federal Ministry of Nutrition and Agriculture (verbraucherzentrale). The aforementioned examples are only a few that showcase the inherent cruelty of the livestock industry.
As you can tell, that industry does not care about the well-being and appropriate conditions for the animals and they are merely degraded to a product and used for profit. The term ‘factory farming’ illustrates this by itself: the animals are reduced to a good that is produced in masses like in a factory and to that industry, they are merely replaceable means of profit.
The life cycle of pigs highlights this further. If pigs get to live a normal life, they can live up to 15 years but in that industry, they are slaughtered when they are about six months old (PETA). Their ‘living conditions’ before this are already inappropriate but when they are transported to the slaughter house, things get worse, as they are shoved into trucks and transported under miserable conditions. Many of them can even die on the way there, for example by suffocation if they fall and get buried under the other animals or by heart attacks resulting from the stress connected to this (PETA). This does not even include the mistreatment they experience at the hands of their butchers, which can be seen in lots of videos online, hence I am not going to include any footage of this here. These are not a couple of foul apples and animals are constantly abused in the food industry. Bio meat does not change anything about this.
Considering all of this, it is not surprising that humans are also just another means of profit to this industry that puts profit over the well-being of living things. This becomes quite clear if you consider the working conditions in various production sites. There were several big scandals in Germany since waves of covid-19 infections spread from slaughter houses because of the bad working conditions in them and the conditions that guest workers employed there had to live under. For several years, these issues have been a concern. Among others, one of the biggest German providers of meat, Tönnies was affected by this and the spike of infections resulted in a local lockdown of the area affected by this (Ziady, RND). Not only does the industry mistreat animals but it also exploits humans for the sake of profit.
Another aspect that touches on both, the moral and environmental consequences of meat consumption, is the destruction of the environment caused by the livestock industry.
Not only is meat-eating immoral because of the violence towards the animals that are bred and killed for it, but it also contributes to the destruction of rain forests, causing even more suffering and deaths that also affect us humans.
At the moment, this impacts us blatantly in form of covid-19, which originated from the human invasion into natural habitats that is in big parts tied to the livestock industry and deforestation connected to it. According to the National Geographic, ‘Deforestation is leading to more infectious diseases in humans’ (Zimmer). And ‘According to Andy McDonald, a disease ecologist at the Earth Research Institute of the University of California, Santa Barbara. “It’s a numbers game: The more we degrade and clear forest habitats, the more likely it is that we’re going to find ourselves in these situations where epidemics of infectious diseases occur.” (cited by Zimmer). As illustrated in my earlier post and the paragraphs above, the livestock industry and the feed industry connected to it massively contribute to deforestation and thus to the spread of infectious diseases, such as Covid-19. For more than half a year, we have all seen the consequences of this first hand. The pandemic is another consequence of the irresponsible animal-industry.
Whenever you choose to eat animal-based products, it is like you pull the trigger of a gun that you hold to a living thing’s head. What may only be a meal for you and only saturates you for a short amount of time is the end of an entire existence and a life of exploitation for the animals whose products you consume. If you buy products based on exploitation, you support an industry that kills living things. Paying someone else to kill something does not take away from your responsibility for their death because it is your money that makes this industry profitable. I would like you to ask your self: ‘Is that really worth it?’, especially since we live in a time, in which we have lots of alternatives that are available to the broad masses. Additionally, if we know that the consumption of animal products contributes to the destruction of our planet and the suffering of other humans and the consequences of all this are tangible, why should we still support an industry like this?
2. The Moral Failure of Vegetarianism
Since I have discussed the moral aspects of meat eating, in this chapter, I am going to present you a very short history of vegetarianism and break down why the logic of moral vegetarianism is lack luster.
Already in ancient Greece, there were advocates of vegetarianism like Pythagoras, who refused to eat meat, since he thought that all living things had souls (Butler, 2018). Later in history, vegetarianism was still largely present even if it was not always a voluntary decision. In medieval times, for instance, meat was reserved for richer parts of society who could afford it, while poorer castes like farmers could not afford to buy meat that easily. As a consequence, they had to live on mostly vegetarian diets (Adams, 48).
Vegetarianism as a moral movement became relevant in the 18th and 19th century, when the Vegetarian Society was founded in England in the mid-1800s (Butler). Some notable vegetarians from around that time and the following century were Mary Shelley, the author of the first science fiction novel Frankenstein, as well as other great writers and public figures such as George Bernard Shaw (Butler, 2018).
Based on this short historic overview, what are the problems of morally motivated vegetarianism? Well, back then, it was a viable option to avoid the death of animals, since there was no factory farming and only meat led to the deaths of animals, however, nowadays a vegetarian diet is completely inconsequential, both when it comes to the moral and the environmental aspects. If you decide not to eat meat for the sake of the animals but still consume dairy products, animals still die for your consumption, since they are bred and killed in masses in the modern farming industry. Even if you choose not to eat meat, animals die for your consumption if you eat milk-based products or eggs.
As widely established by now, male chickens are not profitable for the industry, hence they are thrown into a grinder and turned into a chicken nuggets and similar products with which that industry can make money. These chickens, which are living things, are merely an ‘unnecessary byproduct’ to the egg industry so they are killed shortly after birth, since they cannot lay eggs. Solely boycotting meat does not prevent this from happening, since this happens in the EGG industry (ASPCA).
What about the cows? Before answering this question, I would like you to ask yourselves a question: When do women lactate? ONLY if they’re pregnant and only for a certain amount of time after giving birth. The same applies to cows and other mammals. The logical consequence and reality in the food industry is the following: cows are constantly impregnated by force in order to assure that they produce milk. When they give birth to their calves, they are taken from them to prevent them from drinking the milk, just so the customers can buy it (University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna).
In order to assure that the cows keep on producing milk, they are constantly impregnated and robbed of their children, which is just cruel. Cows have social structures and even best friends. Apart from that, mammals nurture their children and have a maternal instinct. Just imagine the trauma the abduction of calves causes for their mothers and vice versa. Imagine, you are forcibly impregnating a woman and taking away her children just to do this again and again for the sake of profit. Don’t like the idea? Well go vegan, otherwise your consumption contributes to this happening to other living things on a daily basis.
As a fun fact: no other mammal consumes milk when they are adults, except for humans. On top of that, normally, no other species consumes the milk of another one, apart from humans. -Milk is not natural, let alone necessary and based on that, it is not surprising to see its impact on the human body in forms of heart diseases among others (Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine). Additionally, you can see how milk affects other animals, for instance cats who are mostly lactose intolerant and can get diarrhea from it because the enzyme necessary to digest lactose is only present in kittens until a certain age (Prestige Animal Hospital). Cow milk is for the calves and not for adult animals of different species.
Vegetarianism acknowledges that meat-eating is immoral but nowadays, in times of the livestock industry and mass production, in which masses of animals are killed for profit, vegetarianism is not a viable option if you don’t want animals to suffer. The notion that ‘vegetarianism saves the animals’ is antiquated and does not apply to our time. I don’t want to be condescending but nowadays, moral vegetarianism is largely based on double standards and it does not really have an impact, since vegetarians merely boycott one of many products that contribute to the destruction of earth and those that inhabit it. Morally, vegetarianism fails to realise that cows and chickens are still killed in the respective industries and not eating meat for moral reasons while still eating eggs and milk is rather inconsequential.
From an environmental perspective, vegetarianism is better than doing nothing and just eating whatever you want without consideration of the consequences. Despite that, from this perspective too, it is rather questionable. If you do not buy meat but milk, eggs and everything based on these products, you still support the industry and the destruction it causes to our planet. Just not buying one of many products is really inconsequential, especially considering the long-lasting impact of the milk industry, let alone the feed industry, on the climate and environment. By doing so, you still support the branch of the industry that does most harm to the environment, i.e. the milk industry and the consumption of resources and deforestation as well as environmental pollution that it brings with it. This also leads to suffering of other humans, which also renders vegetarianism morally questionable from an environmental perspective.
If you are serious about doing something against climate change, for the environment and animals, veganism is the only viable option from both, a moral and environmental perspective. To sum things up: vegetarianism is a step in the right direction but the optimal thing to do would be going vegetarian to transition to a vegan lifestyle.
3. Veganism and Intersectionality: How Opposition to Speciesism helps us Combat Racism, Sexism and Ableism
WithxWar are a vegan straight edge band who take position against the aforementioned forms of discrimination among others. ‘For the abolition of racism, colorism, sexism, transphobia & homophobia! […] In opposition of the destruction of Earth and those that inhabit it (animals & humans the same)!’. Advocating for animal rights is just a logical extension of social justice.
While someone on a plant-based diet might not even know about speciesism, this concept is an important aspect in animal rights activism. In order to illustrate how speciesism and various forms of human discrimination intersect, I am going to explain the concept of speciesism.
There are various definitions of the term, which was originally coined by psychiatrist Richard Ryder. The Collins dictionary defines it as a belief of superiority over other animals that assumes non-human animals can be used for human profit without considering the suffering this causes them (Collins Dictionary). This definition suits the one by dictionary.com, according to which, speciesism describes ‘discrimination in favour of one species’ (Dictionary). However the latter highlights more clearly that speciesism is used to justify the exploitation of animals by humans (Dictionary). If you cut things short, speciesism is discrimination based on an alleged superiority of humans over other animals.
This concept is often met with criticism and a lack of understanding, since people oftentimes assume that this humanises animals and takes away from other forms of discrimination, such as racism but that is not the case. Speciesism is not supposed to put the suffering of non-human animals and POC or other marginalised groups of people in a relation but it is a label for an ideology that is very real and that has implications for several other forms of discrimination as you will see in this chapter.
By acknowledging the prejudice we humans have towards non-human animals, we can analyse other forms of discrimination more closely with regards to their interrelation, for instance of speciesism and racism, speciesism and ableism and speciesism and sexism. Speaking of speciesism then, adds to the dialogue and enables us to consider a nuance that is oftentimes excluded from analyses, as seen in analyses of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, which often fail to include Shelley’s depiction of vegetarianism in this piece. This concept can be used to describe some further nuances of various forms of discriminat. Additionally, the ideology of speciesism seems to serve as a basis for discrimination against certain groups of people as well. I am going to illustrate this using examples from intersectional anti-speciesist literature.
There is no clean-cut definition of anti-speciesism, hence I am going to use the term throughout this term paper to refer to movements opposing the ideology of speciesism.
I know that this concept may seem farfetched but I think it can really inform one’s perspective on how hierarchies are constructed, hence I find it really interesting. As you will see in the following chapters, there are plenty of ways to apply this theory in the real world.
The Relation of Speciesism and Racism
Carol J. Adams touches on both, the relation of speciesism, sexism and racism in The Sexual Politics of Meat. This adds an interesting perspective to the topic and illustrates the potential that the consideration of speciesism has for discourses about discrimination. In this sub chapter, I am going to focus on the connection between speciesism and racism and in the chapters after that, I am going to focus on the interrelation of sexism and speciesism and of ableism and speciesism respectively.
Adams explains that the consumption of meat and the ideology attached to it helped to establish and maintain a racist system that is beneficial to white people.
‘I mean racism as the requirement that power arrangements and customs that favor white people prevail, and that the acculturation of people of color to this standard includes the imposition of white habits of meat eating’ (Adams, 53).
Essentially, she explores how white people used meat consumption as a narrative to create racist class systems and justify their violence towards POC, particularly in colonialism.
In doing so, she distinguishes between some key beliefs. The first is the belief that meat provides power, hence in the eye of colonisers, white people should have access to meat and POC should not (Adams, 53). White supremacists in the 19th century thought that higher (white) classes needed meat to develop their brains and that lower classes, people of colour, did not, justifying racism in the process, as you will see in the following paragraph (Adams, 53).
This illustrates how meat served as a means to construct classes and hierarchies that were based on race. Meat was deemed necessary for the higher, white classes and ‘too good’ for POC. Based on evolutionary theory, humans were regarded above animals and thus as capable of eating them, whereas based on the aforementioned assumption, POC were depicted as inferior and dehumanised. Since white people prevented POC from eating meat and realised that they could live without it, they interpreted this in a way that maintained their dominance with the following implication: ‘white people are superior and developed further, hence they need meat, whereas POC are inferior, as they don’t need meat and thus must be related more closely to animals’ (Adams, 54).
In colonialism, this division of the world into supreme meat eaters and inferior plant-eaters functioned as a justification of oppression (Adams, 54). As examples of this, Adam names ‘The rice-eating Hindoo and Chinese and the potato-eating Irish peasant are kept in subjection by the well-fed English’ (Adams, 54). Similarly, canibalism was used as a narrative when indigenous people were brandmarked as ‘cannibals’. Based on that, the cruelty of the colonisers towards them was justified (Adams, 55).
However, Adams debunks these narratives. The narratives of ‘savages’ and ‘cannibals’ were obviously wrong and just a way to justify violence against them and to portray the European invaders as morally superior.
‘The eyewitnesses fail to describe just how they were able to escape the fate of consumption they report witnessing. Nor do they explain how the language barrier was overcome, enabling them to report verbatim conversations with “savages.” In addition, their reports fail to maintain internal consistency’ (Adams, 55).
Finally, Adams concludes that the idea of meat as a superior protein source perpetuates the aforementioned racist and colonialist narratives of meat eating.
‘Racism is perpetuated each time meat is thought to be the best protein source. The emphasis on the nutritional strengths of animal protein distorts the dietary history of most cultures in which complete protein dishes were made of vegetables and grains. Information about these dishes is overwhelmed by an ongoing cultural and political commitment to meat eating’ (Adams, 55).
This may seem farfetched, but in the statement above, Adams illustrates again how meat-eating was used as a narrative by colonialists to justify the occupation of foreign countries and to enforce their world views there. Assuming that the consumption of meat asserts dominance is a continuation of the aforementioned racist narratives, thus by acknowledging speciesism, we can better take position against racism.
Speciesism served as a basis to justify and perpetuate racism, as it was used by colonists to dehumanise POC and justify violence against them. Additionally, it helped white people to construct class systems favouring them over POC. However, it did not only help to create racist class structures but it also contributed to other forms of discrimination as you will see in the next chapters.
The Relation of Speciesism and Sexism
Adams addresses the construction of class through meat eating in The Sexual Politics of Meat. Not only does this concern one’s skin colour but also one’s sex. According to her, ‘Dietary habits proclaim class distinctions, but they proclaim patriarchal distinctions as well’ (Adams, 48). She claims that meat consumption was considered a mostly male attribute and names several examples of this:
‘Worldwide this patriarchal custom is found. In Asia, some cultures forbid women from consuming fish, seafood, chicken, duck, and eggs. In equatorial Africa, the prohibition of chicken to women is common’ (Adams, 50).
Based on this, Adams notes that vegetables are often depicted as food that is better suited for women and less so for men (Adams, 51). I have experienced this phenomenon too because in various media and in real life, I have often seen men taking pride in eating meat because ‘it is a masculine thing to do’. This idea was prevalent throughout history, as shown by Adams, and still exists to this day, which proves how strongly ingrained it is into our mindsets. We are raised to think that meat is a more desirable food for men and those who do not eat meat are portrayed as feminine.
‘Men who become vegetarians challenge an essential part of the masculine role. They are opting for women’s food. How dare they? Refusing meat means a man is eﬀeminate, a “sissy,” a “fruit.” Indeed, in 1836, the response to the vegetarian regimen of that day, known as Grahamism, charged that “Emasculation is the first fruit of Grahamism. Men who choose not to eat meat repudiate one of their masculine to privileges” ‘(Adams, 63).
This sheds light at the patriarchal mindset at the time and further illustrates the connection of meat eating and masculinity, which existed then and prevails to this day. It appears that throughout history, meat consumption was associated more strongly with masculinity, enforcing patriarchy.
Through a concept that she calls the ‘absent referent’ , Adams illustrates the connection of sexism and speciesism. She uses this concept to promote an intersectional approach to feminism. If you cut things short, the absent referent is a placeholder for a marginalised group that is replaced in the use of language. This contributes to their marginalisation. For example if a rape victim explains that ‘she felt like a piece of meat’, that conveys her feeling of being degraded to an inanimate object, similar to a slaughtered animal that is reduced to meat. The absent referents in these examples are the woman and animals, which are both replaced by meat. They serve as a means to maintain hierarchies in society, in this case sexism and speciesism, which strip them of their respective value.
‘Consumption is the fulﬁllment of oppression, the annihilation of will, of separate identity. So too with language: a subject [in this case a woman] ﬁrst is viewed, or objectiﬁed, through metaphor. [her claiming to feel like a piece of meat] Through fragmentation the object is severed from its ontological meaning. Finally, consumed, it exists only through what it represents’ (explanations added, Adams, 73).
According to Adams, both, women and animals are degraded to objects by use of language and in everyday life. For that reason, it is easy to recognise similarities between the fetishisation of women as sex objects and of animals as meat. Both are fetishised and turned into consumable objects, which maintains the patriarchy and speciesism as it takes away from their value as living things.
The author names the following as an intersection between feminism and anti-speciesism / veganism: people criticising the status quo are muted and considered dreamers or snowflakes because people do not want them to challenge this status quo. This applies to feminists and vegans. Feminists stand up to patriarchy and vegans to speciesism. Thus, both challenge the status quo in which women and animals are oppressed and as a result, they are both discredited by those who favor the status quo and this oppression (Adams, 109). Adams uses Mary Shelley’s novel Frankenstein to illustrate their connection with its portrayal of vegetarianism and feminism:
‘The Creature embodies both vegetarian and feminist meaning. While the women in Frankenstein enact Mary Shelley’s subversion of sentimentalism by fulﬁlling feminine roles and dying as a result, and the men represent inﬂexible masculine roles, it is the New Being who represents the complete critique of the present order which Shelley attempted’ (Adams, 159).
Essentially, vegans and back in Shelley’s time, vegetarians, pose a challenge to the sexist status quo and Frankenstein’s creature is vegetarian and feminist. Thus, they are rejected by those who want to maintain this status quo, which is one of the key points of the novel. The creature, a male, is different, so the people are scared of him and reject him, which sends them on a downwards spiral. This is essentially speciesism, since the other characters consider him a monster just based on their perception of him as something that is not human. As Adams states above, this is a parallel to vegetarianism and feminism too, since even nowadays, vegans and feminists face rejection by sexists, omnivores and conservatives. On a side note: Frankenstein was released in the early 19th century, yet it has progressive themes, such as these. It still blows my mind.
Sexism and speciesism are connected because both, women and animals are degraded and depicted as something of lesser value by advocates of patriarchy. Our use of language reflects this: while comparisons of women to animals tend to dehumanise them, comparisons of males to animals often transfer good properties of animals, like strength, to men. A woman could be considered a ‘bitch’ or a ‘cow’ in German, while tough men are sometimes said to be ‘strong as an ox’. This does not only apply to one language but several ones, which again implies that there is indeed a connection between sexism and speciesism that was ingrained into the minds of peoples of different languages and cultures. Like racism, sexism seems to be partly based on speciesism, which serves as a basis for its perpetuation. Therefore, Adams hopes for an intersectional approach to feminism that considers the role of speciesism in the construction of patriarchy.
This illustrates the profits of talking about speciesism: it can add more nuances to discourse about several forms of human discrimination. Among others, racism and sexism can intersect with speciesism and the latter seems to be used as a basis to maintain the former. The same applies to ableism and speciesism, as you will see in the next chapter.
The Relation of Speciesism and Ableism
In ‘Beasts of Burden: Disability and Animal Liberation’, Sunaura Taylor comments on the relation of speciesism and forms of human discrimination the following way:
‘Systems of species classification have relied heavily on hierarchies that have placed humans above animals, and these hierarchies have always been entangled with constructions of human difference'(Taylor).
This illustrates that hierarchies and discrimination based on them are construed by humans. Not only do humans put themselves above non-human animals but they also apply this hierarchy to other humans, such as POC, women and disabled people in order to dehumanise them, which Taylor states above. She reiterates this in the following lines and highlights that forms of human discrimination are tied to the discrimination of animals:
‘it’s important to emphasize that histories of dehumanization invariably exposed Western understandings, assumptions, and bigotry; understandings that were bound up with racism, ableism, and prejudice toward animals’ (Taylor).
Speciesism can be used to dehumanise marginalised groups of people and further contribute to their marginalisation. It can serve as a means for those in favour of the status quo to maintain it. As you could see in the preceding chapters, it helped to construe racism and sexism and the same applies to ableism.
For these reasons, Taylor is an advocate for an intersectional approach that pays attention to the interrelation of speciesism and other forms of discrimination, which I hope to provide in this chapter. Additionally, Taylor was affected by ableism herself, which makes her positions on this topic all the more interesting, as this informs her perspective. I definitely recommend her work!
Throughout her work, Taylor illustrates human double standards when it comes to animals. On one hand, we assign them with human qualities and give them credit for human-like behaviour, for instance by humanising our pets or admiring apes that seem to be grieving for their dead child. On the other hand, vegans are often criticised by the same people who would do the aforementioned things for ‘humanising animals’ and giving them too much significance (Taylor). Additionally, humans use animals for their entertainment, for instance in zoos. This also also applies human qualities (entertainment) to animals and serves as another example of our double standards towards them, as non-vegans obviously humanise animals themselves. – They just tend to get upset when they are confronted with their double standards.
While illustrating these double standards, Taylor draws from her personal experiences and illustrates how disabled people are dehumanised and given animalistic properties.
‘the ways we lack control when our bodies relieve themselves at inappropriate times, the way we transgress social etiquette by “eating like dogs,” the way we fail to stand erect on two feet—all of these things have been used to confirm disability’s perception as an “unruly,” “beastly,” and “animal-like” state of being. Animals make powerful insults precisely because we have imagined them as devoid of subjective and emotional lives that would obligate us to have responsibilities toward them’ (Taylor).
According to Taylor, the livestock industry robs animals of their value as living things, which in turn helps to construe speciesist and ableist language in form of dehumanisation of disabled people as you can see in the examples above. Humans rob other animals of their worth and thus, the dehumanisation of marginalised people is even more degrading, since they are equated with animals that are considered as objects.
Additionally, animals are bred for the best results in the industry, i.e.: the more milk and eggs, the better. As a result, they develop disabilities. Pigs can develop heart conditions, since they are unable to move and are fed to gain more and more fat, while cows often have problems with their udders resulting from the unnatural strain on them. Similarly, chickens are mutilated as stated before and they lay much more eggs than they would in nature, which is detrimental to their health (PETA, Albert Schweitzer Stiftung, ASPCA).
At what I consider the climax of ‘Beasts of Burden’, Taylor elaborates on Erevelle’s thought that we foster disability through the destruction that the animal industry brings with it. While doing so, she touches on several other forms of repression. Based on that, she raises the following question:
‘How can acquiring a disability be celebrated . . . if it is acquired under the oppressive conditions of poverty, economic exploitation, police brutality, neocolonial violence, and lack of access to adequate healthcare and education? Erevelles’s question is vital to conversations about environmental destruction and agricultural practices, because industrial farming and the toxicity it unleashes in our communities are leading causes of illnesses, disabilities, and health concerns, which are more likely to impact low-income individuals—who, as we have seen, are already at increased risk of acquiring an illness or disability’ (Taylor).
This section emphasises the fatal consequences of the aforementioned industry on our planet and everyone who inhabits it. Not only is speciesism used to justify all of this and to dehumanise marginalised groups of people, but it is also responsible for increasing health issues, such as disabilities and plagues like covid-19, which will grow worse with the increasingly strong consequences of climate change. The livestock industry could be considered a manufacture of disability, since it leads to various diseases that can potentially lead to disability. Not only are the animals bred to function and suffer from painful conditions and disablities, but the industry also destroys the environment and does harm to humans, leading to more cases of disabilities in humans. This is human-made and a result of speciesism and the industry justified by it.
Why bother about Veganism? And What can We learn by dealing with Speciesism?!
There is no such thing as ‘ethical’ animal-based products. They are all products of exploitation and killing. A vegetarian diet is better than an omnivorous one but it is morally questionable nonetheless because it still contributes to the exploitation of animals and the destruction of the environment. Unsurprisingly, an industry of exploitation does not care about the well-being of humans either, hence in consideration of the aforementioned aspects, veganism is the only truly moral diet.
Speciesism as an ideology helps to construe racism, sexism and various other forms of marginalisation, exploitation and hierarchies, while a vegan mindset opposes these ideas, calling them into question. Implicitly, this is also the reason why lots of people strongly oppose veganism and depict its advocates as intolerant: in reality, it is not the vegans who are intolerant but rather the people who do not like the idea that someone questions the status quo. By not adhering to this status quo, vegans confront them with their immoral behaviour to which toxic omnivores tend to respond with abuse and false accusations, such as ‘vegans humanise animals’ or ‘veganism takes away from other social justice movements’.
You could consider speciesism the prime example of the normalisation of an objectively immoral and cruel status quo, which is maintained by those who profit from said status quo, i.e. the livestock industry, its lobbyists and supporters in policy, as well as everyone who supports them with their consumption and does not want to acknowledge the immorality of their behaviour.
You can oppose this on a daily basis, just by going vegan and taking position, so why don’t you try it?
I have already written several post about this topic, which will be helpful if you want to go vegan and need some motivation and tips. Additionally, there are plenty of sources online and nowadays a vegan diet is easier than ever. At the same time, veganism is one of the simplest forms of participation as I’ve discussed in the post linked in the introduction.
If this post makes you reconsider your stance on the topic, please consider going vegan and give it a shot. This is about the survival of our and all other species on this planet. Climate change worsens continually and day by day, we have less time to limit the damage.
In general, please align your actions with your morals and try to do something about the things that are wrong in this world. We need to be aware of the consequences of our actions and even everyday life choices like our diet can have big consequences, as they can help to maintain the status quo or work against it. As the effects of climate change become more and more clear, it also becomes blatant that we need a change. Through our consumption, we can promote this change on a daily basis, so please use this chance.
Something that I cannot bear to hear any longer, is people claiming that “nothing matters and that things are going down hill anyway” justifying stagnancy in the process but if you maintain that view, nothing is going to change. Accordingly, being inactive because it allegedly doesn’t make a difference is not an option and I would like to ask people with this kind of mindset to do some research and rethink their ethics because that mentality does not lead us anywhere. *clears throat* looking at you centrists and conservatives
Veganism by itself is not going to save the world but it is a simple adjustment to one’s every day life that most people can use to promote a change, at some point hopefully a systemic change. As stated earlier, veganism does not replace other forms of action and should be regarded as an addition to them. At the same time, it should not contribute to the exploitation of humans either, as it is unfortunately the case with trend fruits like avocados but with palm oil too. Please be wary of your consumption and consider a vegan diet that does not rely on the exploitation of animals or humans.
As always thank you for reading and until next time.
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