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Feminism and animal rights

(97 Posts)
LostinaPaperCup Fri 29-Jun-12 11:26:11

I posted a bit about veganism in the diet thread, but it's not the place for it really. I wanted to start a discussion about why, as feminists, when we are in a position to choose not to contribute to the suffering of others, we don't always think of animals or wider environmental concerns.

I have an ongoing (peaceful) disagreement with a fellow sex-industry survivor. I believe that there are parallels to be found with the sex-industry and the meat/dairy industry, in that sentient beings are treated as highly profitable commodities. She says I'm being offensive by comparing women to animals.

I sort of am, but only in the sense that the way men treat women in the sex trade is similar to how people treat farm animals, and there's also a 'I wouldn't want my daughter to be in porn' v 'I wouldn't eat my pet' type logic going on.

What do you all think? Carol J Adams is probably the most famous feminist for this issue - she has written The Sexual Politics of Meat and The Pornography of Meat.

This is an interesting article as well, by Gary Francione: he compares the abolitionist approach v animal welfare with the abolitionist approach v harm reduction in the sex industry. Just to confuse everyone here, he differentiates between radical and postmodern feminism, and doesn't mention liberal feminism at all!

There are also other issues I'd like to discuss concerning the overbreeding of farm animals to the detriment of the poorest people, and the damage the meat/dairy industry does to the planet, but I think that's enough for now.

Hope this was coherent: I'm lying in bed with my laptop sideways (lazy).

FallenCaryatid Sun 01-Jul-12 16:37:07

One of the links between feminism and animal rights is that more women tend to be responsible for feeding their families and managing the budget for that.
Factory farming produces cheap food, more ethical methods put up the cost. So if you are on a very restricted income, can you afford to want free range, organic, and generally more ethical methods if that trebles the price of basic foodstuffs.
I have campaigned for animal rights and welfare for decades, but I have had conversations with women who have said they can't afford my delicate sensibilities.

iammovingsoon Sun 01-Jul-12 17:05:44

I don't buy that Fallen. I live on Income Support and eat solely organic food from independent shops. I've always had a low income, but shopped like this for the last 6.5 years. Money is an excuse (or used as a reason in ignorance that it can be done).

iammovingsoon Sun 01-Jul-12 17:07:28

If you mean that organic meat is expensive, yes. But AR dictates not eating animal products at all, not replacing factory farmed stuff with organic. Plant food is easy to buy cheaply.

FallenCaryatid Sun 01-Jul-12 17:31:31

I was thinking of when I lived in a very poor area of the NW, no one I knew bought FR eggs or organic vegetables and there were no local shops as such, just Aldi and Lidl and poundshops within walking distance.

LostinaPaperCup Sun 01-Jul-12 17:37:59

I don't think it pushes women to the back of the queue. I was a feminist long before I became vegan, and it was feminism that convinced me to do so: I didn't want to knowingly contribute to any exploitation, particularly when the mindset of using 'lesser' beings for pleasure and profit is upholding patriarchy and capitalism.

I'm not an animal rights activist. I don't eat them because I don't have to. (And I'm on benefits: it is a cheap way to eat.)

I use 'survivor' because we survived. Many literally do not.

PlentyOfPubeGardens Sun 01-Jul-12 17:40:48

Clearly I am missing the point because I can't understand why we are debating the merits of veganism on a feminism forum. It would be a bit like me going on an animal rights forum and telling everybody they should be campaigning for women's rights.

LostinaPaperCup Sun 01-Jul-12 17:41:57

Obviously women aren't eaten. But their bodies are used and 'consumed' without regard to their personhood.

Most people think their pets have personalities - because they do. We don't care about the individual personalities of those we eat though. Naming them is discouraged for that reason.

LostinaPaperCup Sun 01-Jul-12 17:44:05

Feminism is discussed on vegan boards a lot. How can you be a vegan and not a feminist? It doesn't work.

LostinaPaperCup Sun 01-Jul-12 17:46:53

I'm an eco feminist and a radical feminist, so obviously the animal concerns fall under the former umbrella.

Whatmeworry Sun 01-Jul-12 17:55:53

How can you be a vegan and not a feminist? It doesn't work

I can't believe that all female vegans identify as Feminists, nor that no men are vegans?

IMO Feminsm should not be drawn into the vegan or AR issues - they are very vehement minority interests that will alienate most women and produce massive own goals against Feminism's opponents for absolutely no benefit.

minipie Sun 01-Jul-12 18:01:04

For those of you that believe animals are equally important to humans:

Do you believe there should be a welfare system for animals? So, for example, should we provide food and water and build shelters for wild animals and birds? Should we spend as much on this as we do on the human welfare system?

If not, why not?

<bit of a tangent from the OP>

iammovingsoon Sun 01-Jul-12 18:27:22

"I was thinking of when I lived in a very poor area of the NW, no one I knew bought FR eggs or organic vegetables and there were no local shops as such, just Aldi and Lidl and poundshops within walking distance."

I'm moving to somewhere that meets this description soon, but I won't be increasing my income or changing my buying habits. I can get the bus to another shop, or get a box delivery online (obviously that wasn't possible 10 years ago, but then there were more local greengrocers/farm shops etc 10 years ago instead). Even if it's not logistically possible to buy organic from independent shops, one can get vegan food at any supermarket, so that's not hard.

minipie I read a good article which might partly answer your question. The point about valuing humans more because we are human, compared to not discriminating against non-human animals:

We have our own family living in our houses (because we value them most), I don't intend to take in random strangers off the street (although maybe I would if I had room and there was some scheme to do this safely). That doesn't mean I have to actively hurt those homeless people myself though - I can avoid doing anything to put/keep them on the streets in the first place, for example (by choosing carefully who I vote for). So I think there's a difference between actively helping others and passively not making their lives bad yourself. The former is nice to do if you can, the latter is morally essential IMO.

So I'd rather not put people in the situation of having to ask for help in the first place - we shouldn't need a welfare system (at least in its present form) in a real community (I'm not a stealth Tory btw!). As wild animals largely have their own (albeit diminished, which we do need to fix, as we broke it in the first place) communities, they can balance themselves. I wouldn't walk past an injured pigeon, just as I wouldn't with a human. But I also wouldn't go looking for animals to feed.

hermioneweasley Sun 01-Jul-12 18:30:08

Yes, I regard myself as superior to a sheep because I am smarter and have more potential, and a vastly greater emotional range and depth. To equate humans with dementia/learning difficulties etc with sheep is a pretty offensive way of trying to prove a point.

Anyhow, I am going to back away now because this always happens when I engage in feminism forums (fora?).

iammovingsoon Sun 01-Jul-12 18:33:08

Oh, and you can set up a buyer's co-op with most wholefood wholesalers, and order with some friends (minimum £150 worth of food for free delivery between you usually). Cheaper to buy a 25kg sack of rice at wholesale prices (even organic) than 25 packs of 1kg from a supermarket.

iammovingsoon Sun 01-Jul-12 18:39:12

Well then surely you must also regard yourself as superior to adults with e.g. severe autism (who may be less "smart" and have less potential [for what?] and a narrower emotional range)? Otherwise, your stated reasons for discriminating against sheep don't make sense (i.e. it's actually on the grounds of species, not intelligence etc).

It's offensive to you because you are coming from the position that humans are superior to sheep. It's not offensive to me to compare similar characteristics in different species because I don't hold sheep in such disdain. I.e. you see it as lowering disabled people to the level of sheep, whereas I am seeing it as raising sheep to the level of humans, at least in considering their inherent "worth".

iammovingsoon Sun 01-Jul-12 18:44:58

These are exactly the sort of arguments people have used throughout the ages against different groups of humans too, remember. Black people were said to be less intelligent and incapable of empathy and less sensitive to pain etc etc. Therefore it was OK to enslave them under the superior white people.

PlentyOfPubeGardens Sun 01-Jul-12 18:50:46

OK, ecofeminism. I'm interested. Do you have any links to introductory resources? I'm particularly interested in the ways in which it helps women. It's great to see different strands of feminism being posted here.

iammoving - Not sure that telling people what's morally essential is a great idea, we're all just muddling through.

I've never understood what vegans have against vegetables.

HerMajestyQueenHillyzabethII Sun 01-Jul-12 19:02:46

Surely the obvious difference is that whilst some women have no control whatsoever over being made to work in the sex industry, the vast majority do have at the very least a small element of choice and awareness, and for many it is completely a matter of choice and free will. With animals there is no choice, no free will whatsoever, they are bred to be used for the purpose of food. Their fate is sealed.

Do we have any evidence or figures to support 'a lot of women die over days/weeks in containers surrounded by their own shit'? what constitutes 'a lot'? Obviously even one is one too many but is it enough to be drawing this comparison? After all this happens to millions of animals every year.

SardineQueen Sun 01-Jul-12 19:08:38

The philosophical point about whether humans are "superior" to animals is interesting but I guess a different topic?

HMQ not all animals that we eat are bred for food - loads of animals do not have a "sealed fate" it is down to luck whether they get caught or not (and not just by people, but by other predators).

For plenty of babies their fate is sealed at birth. Whether they are the child of a prostitute born in a brothel in India, who will be introduced to the job when she is older. To a baby born in a remote part of China who is drowned at birth because she is female.

Certainly in some parts of the world women and girls and considered to be on a par with animals by the males who run the show. Ownership, beatings, being imprisoned, set to work, owner having power of life or death and so on.

HerMajestyQueenHillyzabethII Sun 01-Jul-12 19:16:18

Well yes but if the comparison drawn is one of trafficked women in trucks in their own shit then that only applies to animals farmed for food - not hunted game.

iammovingsoon Sun 01-Jul-12 19:40:33

PlentyOfPubeGardens The article I posted addresses the vegetables issue too. Although of course as the animals you eat themselves eat plants, and the conversion to meat/milk is inefficient, you're responsible for killing more plants if you aren't vegan smile

I didn't know saying "don't harm others" was considered morally controversial...

Whatmeworry Sun 01-Jul-12 19:52:09

So the argument essentially is that you can't be a Feminist if you are not Vegan, as you can't fight aganst exploitation of women without also having to fight against exploitation of animals, and exploitation of animals includes eating them?

PlentyOfPubeGardens Sun 01-Jul-12 19:53:49

and this to do with women because ...? confused

miloben Sun 01-Jul-12 19:56:06

I've been vegan since I was 12 (will be 39 in a few weeks). I knew very early on that I didn't want any animal to suffer or die in my name, not because I thought they were as important as people, but because they were living creatures, with feelings, and I couldn't bear to think of them suffering just to fill my stomach for a few minutes. It was that simple. Nothing could make me eat an animal product again, as I do believe the way they are treated is morally worng. Evil, even, as these animals have no voice. And I can't be part of that.

I sometimes wonder if people would be so ruthless to animals if they could speak. And that is why I am a feminist...I can't bear that girls and women suffer and most of them have no voice either. At least, not one that a lot of men listen to. My feelings about animal welfare and women's welfare/rights all come from the same place for me.

Ormiriathomimus Sun 01-Jul-12 20:05:35

Oooh lovely! I love a good argument about animals rights v human rights (of any flavour). I think I am a feminist. I also care about the way we treat the animals we use. They are not the same argument but they can provide useful extrapolations because they are a way of looking at the way society treats sentient beings as commodities. Beef cattle is food therefore it doesn't matter what it feels. Certain poor women are for sex, therefore it doesn;t matter what they feel. If you can distance yourself from the suffering of a sentient creature because it is only an X, it is easier to seperate yourself from the suffering of any given human because they are foreign/voiceless/powerless/not like us.

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