Our Animals, Ourselves
January 22, 2022 5:14 PM   Subscribe

Astra and Sunaura Taylor on veganism: When [Joaquin] Phoenix’s remarks entered our newsfeeds, we confess we cringed like countless others — but not because we thought his observations were hysterical or overwrought. We cringed because Phoenix violated an unstated precept we have spent decades trying our best to live by: to not be annoying vegans. By crashing a party of millions with talk of animal abuse, he did the very thing we have desperately attempted to avoid, albeit on a much humbler scale. While both of us have been public about our veganism, we have tried not to antagonize people lest we inadvertently hurt the cause. At countless social gatherings and restaurant outings people have asked us, “Do you mind if I eat this?” before chomping down on what was, until recently, someone else’s wing, leg, breast, or rump. Feeling it better to be disingenuous than discomfiting — lest we reinforce the stereotype that vegans are, in fact, insufferable and arrogant ascetics — we have always said no, choking back our honest thoughts to permit others to eat in peace.

Instead of being polite, Phoenix was an unabashed vegan killjoy, taking his audience on an uncomfortable journey not simply to the slaughterhouse, but to the insemination room. He was talking about milk and the reproductive and gendered violence it always entails. What made the speech so unsettling and memorable, in other words, was its latent feminist analysis. It was an analysis that spoke to the animal rights movement’s forgotten feminist roots, and — we hope — to its socialist-feminist future. We believe that the role of animal consumption has been misunderstood and that a feminist lens can help us place animal rights within a broad socialist critique of capitalism.
posted by jshttnbm (56 comments total) 51 users marked this as a favorite
This is excellent; thank you for posting it.
posted by buntastic at 5:17 PM on January 22, 2022 [3 favorites]

Rather, following Marx, we believe all creatures possess a species-being, one that capitalist modes of production alienate in various ways

For more on this, see my post, "Karl Marx, father of biology."
posted by No Robots at 5:36 PM on January 22, 2022 [1 favorite]

Unfortunately, it seems many socialists are not so different. Leftists rarely engage with the myriad problems of animal agriculture, and are often dismissive or contemptuous of those who do.

For so many, their cherished ethics end at their dinner plate.
posted by I will not be Heiled at 5:44 PM on January 22, 2022 [7 favorites]

super interesting. I'd love to hear feminists' and Marxists' thoughts on the article.
posted by sineater at 7:42 PM on January 22, 2022

From the essay:
As Iselin Gambert and Tobias Linné show in a study of the anti-vegetarian obsessions of the far right, these tropes build on the colonial, imperialist, and specifically anti-Asian racist legacies of yore, which held the “effeminate rice-eaters of India and China” in contempt. (In 1902, the American Federation of Labor published a report in support of the Chinese Exclusion Act entitled “Meat vs. Rice. American Manhood vs. Asiatic Coolieism. Which Shall Survive?”) 
posted by spamandkimchi at 7:47 PM on January 22, 2022 [8 favorites]

I appreciate their reminder that meat consumption has always been wrapped up in b.s. racist/sexist ideologies. I'll have to sit more and think about the reproductive labor of non-humans through a feminist analysis. I also am re-confronted with the horrific reality of milk production, from forced insemination to culled male calves.

And yes, there's some mental contortions I make re: reconciling the "vegetable-forward" cuisine of Korea* and my individual cultural/culinary allegiance (exhibit: username) to the canned meat product Spam. Yes, I told a friend, I know it's because of U.S. military imperialism but because of this I also have a decades-long affection for the Spam-loving parts of the Pacific Rim as my canned meat extended family.

*And don't let the galbi/all you can eat Korean bbq restaurants trick you into thinking that's a typical meal for Koreans/Korean diaspora. I read an article on how South Korea was one of the few countries in which the percentage of vegetable consumption stayed the same even through economic development and rising incomes. My favorite favorite restaurant in Seoul was the all vegan Sanchae, which had the best namul banchan - all sorts of wild greens and roots that I never find in other restaurants/Korean grocery stores.
posted by spamandkimchi at 8:07 PM on January 22, 2022 [18 favorites]

This is a great article. Thanks for posting.

I sometimes think of myself as a bit of a stealth vegan - I've been a vegan for four years, and some of my friends don't even know. So I can totally relate to not wanting to be the "obnoxious vegan," even though I've seen far more obnoxious carnivores online - anytime the NYT runs an article on vegans, there are a lot of them showing up in the comments section. These are also the people who think the word "bacon" is an argument. And once at a work dinner, as I was eating my vegan sorbet, the woman next to me started shoving the spoon with her ice cream at me and saying she could hear a cow crying. I also think that the authors are right that health is a "better" excuse for being vegan. I think some of my friends who do know are ok with it because I'm a cancer patient. But I'll also say that my first exploration of veganism was due to health concerns (high blood pressure), but as I read more, I became much more convinced by the animal-rights issue and would consider that my primary reason now. Concern for animals is what turned me from "mostly vegan" to "vegan." It became easier for me to acknowledge the suffering of animals when I wasn't eating them to begin with.

I was also glad that this article used as an example the film that showed a pig that lived what most people would consider a happy pig life until it's babies get taken away. People who respond to veganism by waxing eloquent about how they only eat grass-fed beef and happy animals from special farms don't acknowledge that those still involve a lot of misery and that there aren't separate happy slaughterhouses (I also wonder whether they really only eat meat from happy animals - do these people really never eat in restaurants?)

As far as this being a left versus right thing, one of the best books I know about animal rights, Dominion, is by a Christian conservative vegan who is a former speech writer for both George W. Bush and Sarah Palin. I would expect most vegans to be leftists, but that isn't always the case.
posted by FencingGal at 8:11 PM on January 22, 2022 [14 favorites]

I will take this opportunity to share the fact that Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein is vegan.
posted by brachiopod at 8:16 PM on January 22, 2022 [3 favorites]

This is such an excellent and comprehensive article. It is a hard read, but I hope people will read it. I found that after going vegan it was a *little* easier to learn more about the horrors, pain and suffering so unnecessarily visited upon gentle, intelligent animals. I did not know about the blood mares, how truly depraved and horrific. But just another chapter in the encyclopedia of animal abuses in the name of profit.

I still can’t bring myself to watch Dominion or some of the other documentaries, though I do follow Joey Carbstrong and Ed Winters on social media, and they lay a lot of truth out there. Sometimes with photos that fill me with despair. Because I have dogs. And I love my dogs. And cows are just big dogs - grass puppies, they call them at farm animal sanctuaries. And pigs are just as smart as dogs. They suffer and mourn and cry just like dogs. Just like us.

Ed Winters has a book coming out soon, This is Vegan Propaganda (and Other Lies the Meat Industry Tells You) that should be excellent. England has a large population of ethical vegans, and there have been some impressive billboards over there for his book, which I would never expect to see in the U.S.

The Keto diet and before that, the Atkins diet, is in some ways wrapped up this kind of machismo-meat eater aesthetic. I recommend the Maintenance Phase podcast episode about the Keto diet if you still believe that is somehow good for your health. But that is an enormous topic in itself.

I don’t announce that I’m vegan wherever I go. But I do gently suggest people cut out as much dairy as possible, whenever I think that may be well received. It has been linked to breast, prostate and colon cancer after all. It is full of mammalian estrogen, after all. In Japan where women consume very little dairy (and a lot of soy) many of the female reproductive problems that are so prevalent in the US are nearly nonexistent. I usually suggest someone just try no dairy for a month, as an experiment.

Well this is turning into a rant and straying from the article. Thank you for posting this article. I have wanted to post something about the ethical side of veganism but hadn’t found a thing I thought would work. I do know a lot of people are suffering these days and that big change is hard. Really hard. But you can start small, a few vegan days a week, for instance. Believe me, I once loved cheese as much as you do. Though, I fear most will skip this article unless they are already on board.
posted by Glinn at 8:54 PM on January 22, 2022 [11 favorites]

I will take this opportunity to share the fact that Doyle Wolfgang Von Frankenstein is vegan.
posted by brachiopod at 8:16 PM on January 22 [1 favorite +] [!]

cue... Tod Ingram

(this is an interesting article, thanks)
posted by From Bklyn at 11:52 PM on January 22, 2022 [1 favorite]

The reason I'm loathe to discuss meat eating with meat eaters comes down to my belief that change isn't generated by individual consumer choices, but rather by collective action, or at least by public policy choices. Also when you start focusing on individual choice you immediately hit the reality that some people have more choice than others. While I believe deeply in the possibilities of social and political change, and indeed focus my life around expanding those possibilities, I am at a loss for how to personally impact the meat industry. I know it's possible, but there are lots of fights to get involved in, and I can't be in them all.

I have been vegetarian (well, I eat fish) since 1988 or so, I avoid dairy and buy pasture raised eggs fwiw, but I have resigned myself that this is basically a spiritual choice for my self, not one that impacts the world at large. I am quite hesitant to click the link because the environmental harms and also suffering and cruelties of the meat industry are just not things I can impact, so focusing my attention on these issues will lead only to my sorrow.
posted by latkes at 1:11 AM on January 23, 2022 [22 favorites]

I appreciate their reminder that meat consumption has always been wrapped up in b.s. racist/sexist ideologies

This is absolutely untrue unless always means a very small portion of the cultures in a relatively small part of our history. The philosopher (and vegan) Justin E. H. Smith argues that one of the worst things we’ve done is desacralize animal slaughter, to hide it away and industrialize it and not grapple collectively and ritualistically with what it means to rely on the bodies of others for our own.
posted by congen at 4:22 AM on January 23, 2022 [22 favorites]

Absolutely fascinating article, I really enjoyed it. Thank you.
posted by tiny frying pan at 5:30 AM on January 23, 2022

This is a fantastic article, and I appreciate jshttnbm posting it. It's an amazing silencing act, that vegans can be seen as cringey sermonizers, when in fact the opposite is both true and impossible to ignore; every vegetarian and vegan has stories about just how pushy meat-eaters can be, once they're aware you don't eat meat. You don't have to give a sermon, you don't have to do anything--they're there, immediately, to explain to you that they don't eat that much meat, or how would they ever live without bacon haha, or what do you eat then just salad?, or a handful of other extraordinarily consistent and combative responses. Your mere existence as someone who doesn't eat the same food they do, causes a violent outcry. Even at family gatherings which should be about togetherness, we've begged, please don't bother making any food for us, we'll just bring something, to minimize the anger and tension that meat-eaters bring to the table. Or, better yet, we just won't show up.

As the article points out, there's this underlying theme to modern meat-eating--and this goes to congen's contrasting point above as well--that a culture really has a kind of limited tool-box for how it treats objects, animals, and people, and that often the same tools will be used for all three categories. Capitalism has its birth in the enclosure movement, explodes in the 'scientific' era of Taylorism/Fordism as both humans and animals are treated as processes to be optimized, and ossifies into our current world of surveillance and hidden processes, where we are simultaneously literally and figuratively outlawed from seeing how the sausage is made, for fear of uprisings of disgust.

You'll sometimes hear critics talk about how foolish it is to worry about animal rights, when there are human beings suffering under racism. But they've really missed the point. It's not that we should accord a cow the same rights as a human being--it's that we live under a system that treats both as commodities. And that is not at all metaphorical--the food industry is using very literal slavery, upheld by the Supreme Court.

In their recent Dawn of Everything, Davids Graeber and Wengrow distill a few fundamental freedoms that underlie human culture--or that are restrained and limited in human culture, and one of those is the freedom to leave. To pack your bags and get out, to try to find somewhere else more hospitable. The point of late capitalism is to remove that freedom--there is nowhere left to go. And one of the places this is hammered home the hardest is with food. Because the moment you start thinking of food as a moral issue, you realize just how bloody your hands are, no matter what you do. All your food--not merely meat and milk and eggs, all of it--is produced by this horrendous system that reduces land, crops, animals, humans, towns, governments--to commodities, on a scale that is inescapable. While I don't think it's healthy to live in horror 24/7--no use falling into utter despair--I think a little horror is absolutely appropriate when it comes to this issue. A little despair, as a treat.

We may view other cultures treating animals as sacred as distant enough from us, that it would be typical white western appropriation to try something like that. And the idea of giving animals the sort of legalistic rights citizens have, seems problematic too. But we should use our little bursts of horror, our moments of despair, as an impetus to try to think of some way we can come to an accommodation with the world around us, to be able to feed ourselves without destroying the world and all its goodness in the process. We have to eat! But we don't have to create the kind of grinding misery that universal commodification causes.
posted by mittens at 5:58 AM on January 23, 2022 [25 favorites]

(also, Gunda is a really really good movie and you should watch it!!!)
posted by mittens at 6:01 AM on January 23, 2022

It is amazing how much masculinity is tied into meat-eating. I celebrated 10 years of veganism in March 2021 and it's not been an easy road to hoe. Despite the plant based eating being more mainstream than ever (IMO), there is still so much mockery and gender based insults. Like, my husband is vegetarian, and when I tell people that no, my husband isn't vegan but veggie, it's all like, "Whoa, how can a man not want a steak/etc?"
posted by Kitteh at 6:06 AM on January 23, 2022 [5 favorites]

Thank you for posting this. I know it's long but I really recommend folks read it in full before bouncing off a couple quoted paragraphs here and there. It's probably addressing what you think it's not addressing.

I have been "mostly vegan" for almost two years now but lately, due mostly to depression and pandemic-induced internal struggles with all the chores related to feeding my household, have been making more and more exceptions. What used to be a once a month or less "treat" of some non-vegan cookies has become almost weekly ordering of pizza with cheese on it and non-vegan baked goods in the house almost constantly.

Another factor in the slide is not wanting to be the "annoying" person in social eating situations. Much like wanting to be the "cool girl" who doesn't ask too much of her emotionally stunted boyfriend, my tendency is to erode my own boundaries and comfort in the service of others' convenience. This constant urge to prove that I'm NOT an "annoying vegan."

My instinct is to avoid the depictions and pictures of the suffering that is inherent in producing animal products; I told myself and others that my "reason" for the diet shift was more about climate change and somewhat about health. I have a vegan friend who occasionally posts the disturbing pictures and links on her instagram stories and I never engage with them. I think that was protecting myself; maintaining that wall that capitalism and commodification of food puts up between the production of food and those of us selecting and eating it. Because it's fucking uncomfortable. It's hard to examine one's behavior and realize it has been found wanting. It's similar to how white people retreat into defensiveness and obstinance rather than introspection and self-evaluation when racist behaviors are called out.

I originally became vegetarian in college after reading the "logical" arguments of Peter Singer in an environmental ethics class. Remained so for 10 years, then reverted to being an omnivore for another decade or so, until 2 years ago. I appreciate this article for bringing up that a white man was never the first or even the most comprehensive ethicist when it comes to consumption and commodification of animals. Thanks again for sharing it.
posted by misskaz at 7:19 AM on January 23, 2022 [7 favorites]

What's been a real turn-off for me is that veganism, as a movement (as opposed to an individual choice) seems to focus on the horrors of the process, but then draw the conclusion that it's the product that should be shunned, rather than the process be improved.

If shoes are being made in sweatshops, with child or slave labor, if the factories are dangerous and injurious, societally we should demand better working conditions. Someone who tells us that wearing shoes is immoral is going to be laughed at.

There are going to be people who just believe that it is OK to eat an animal product. The focus should be on animal welfare, labor conditions, removing subsidies, and properly costing externalities (pollution, emissions).

The gross-out videos and photos are a dishonest emotional appeal; they more accurately represent the problems with capitalism than with animal consumption.
posted by explosion at 8:08 AM on January 23, 2022 [24 favorites]

The point is mass factory farming can't be improved. The violence and cruelty is baked in to the entire system.
posted by tiny frying pan at 8:13 AM on January 23, 2022 [6 favorites]

Really, explosion? Mainstream discourse about veganism seems to have endured a strong shift towards discussing environmental impact instead of animal rights, as if the latter movement was a thing of the past instead of a joint consideration.
posted by Selena777 at 8:15 AM on January 23, 2022 [1 favorite]

What's been a real turn-off for me is that veganism, as a movement (as opposed to an individual choice) seems to focus on the horrors of the process, but then draw the conclusion that it's the product that should be shunned, rather than the process be improved.
I think that vegans tend to focus on the process, rather than the underlying idea of animal ethics, because animal ethics is a harder sell. Most people would agree that cruelty to animals is bad, at least in the abstract. It takes a much bigger conceptual shift to agree that animals aren't things and shouldn't be exploited, even if there's no overt cruelty involved. And since it is, I would argue, impossible to create animal products at scale without being cruel to animals, it's not dishonest to focus on the cruelty.

A lot of vegans, like Astra and Sanaura Taylor, do talk about the underlying ethics of exploiting animals. But my guess is that vegans don't tend to lead with that, at least not for general audiences, because it's a lot easier to get people to pay attention to ideas that already fit with their cognitive framework than to really grapple with ideas that require them to rethink their most basic ideas about how the world works.
posted by ArbitraryAndCapricious at 8:27 AM on January 23, 2022 [5 favorites]

What's been a real turn-off for me is that veganism, as a movement (as opposed to an individual choice) seems to focus on the horrors of the process, but then draw the conclusion that it's the product that should be shunned, rather than the process be improved.

Until the process is improved, the product should be shunned. Who really believes that the process will be improved any time in the near future? We can't even agree to take care of people.

I'm a pescatarian because of the process. I was vegetarian for years because of the process, and my sense that I should be vegan is because of the process.
posted by Mavri at 9:04 AM on January 23, 2022 [6 favorites]

As someone who was partially culturally trained in the "dominant white masculinity" that the article talks about, the article is making me think about how important desensitization is in the whole process. As a man you're supposed to be "strong", not "weak", and to do that in the prescribed way you have to cut off your emotions and empathy. The maintenance of power requires disassociating from the feelings of those you have power over.
posted by clawsoon at 9:07 AM on January 23, 2022 [9 favorites]

(I say "partially" because one of my grandfathers was a Mennonite and the other one cried when his horses died and couldn't stand to be on the farm when chickens were slaughtered. So even though they were both part of the very-European-hegemonist colonization of Western Canada, they hadn't been completely trained in the program.)
posted by clawsoon at 10:05 AM on January 23, 2022

The point is mass factory farming can't be improved. The violence and cruelty is baked in to the entire system.

This is very profound, because the massive annual destruction of smaller vertebrates just to grow something like avocados is easily ignored because it doesn't fit a clean narrative. Then there is wild nature, predator and prey, starvation a natural control aspect. It can be disturbing to contemplate that violence is baked into the entire system and responsible farms compete at a disadvantage, and that even reverting land to a natural paradise is a gift to hunters and wolves. Yet humans are very clever with their resources, and can think of a way to improve anything we currently manage. There are some pitfalls to avoid however. For example, we shouldn't confuse industrial efficiency with saving the world, because that reasoning tends to lead to more humans. And we should not imagine that if we avoid eating a wild fish that it somehow stays there in place, because its status never changed as a common resource, and a factory ship can take it as animal feed or fertilizer.
posted by Brian B. at 10:39 AM on January 23, 2022 [4 favorites]

Well...no. There's a huge structural difference between the violence that occurs in nature and what mass factory farming does on the scale it does, and the article does a fantastic job of enumerating the ways it does so.

Yet humans are very clever with their resources, and can think of a way to improve anything we currently manage.

You're ignoring the point I was making - we cannot improve mass factory farming. It is designed from the bottom up for profit and the suffering of animals can not at all, nor ever will be, eliminated or even desired to be eliminated.

And we should not imagine that if we avoid eating a wild fish that it somehow stays there in place, because its status never changed as a common resource, and a factory ship can take it as animal feed or fertilizer.

This...I can't really parse, I'm sorry. This isn't about eating wild caught fish....are you saying a factory ship is less wasteful than eating wild? Puzzled.
posted by tiny frying pan at 10:53 AM on January 23, 2022 [5 favorites]

are you saying a factory ship is less wasteful than eating wild?

Factory ships are giant trawlers with nets that operate in all waters, for long stretches of time (because of giant freezers). They have been fought against by local fisherman everywhere, because they ruin the family way of doing it small scale, and they go wherever they please. Notably they are both communist and capitalist.
posted by Brian B. at 10:59 AM on January 23, 2022

I know what commercial fishing is...
posted by tiny frying pan at 11:11 AM on January 23, 2022

That's a fascinating and dense article. It reminded me of my own time as a vegan several years ago. I would read a lot of content like this to be motivated to remain a vegan in an enthusiastically non-vegetarian (let alone vegan) world.

This part really resonated with me because I spent most of my vegan days living by this rule: We cringed because Phoenix violated an unstated precept we have spent decades trying our best to live by: to not be annoying vegans.

Whenever I disclosed my dietary practice to new people, I made sure to let them know that I wasn't judging them for whatever they were eating. Of course, this seems to be kind of a universal fear when people learn that a friend or acquaintance follows some sort of strict diet, be it keto or Weight Watchers or whatever. The vegan case seems to elicit even more reaction because of the whole animal rights thing that is bound up within it - it's not "just another diet."
posted by theorique at 11:40 AM on January 23, 2022 [1 favorite]

The Sexual Politics of Meat is an absolutely brilliant analysis, and it makes me happy that people are still talking about it thirty years later.
posted by box at 11:46 AM on January 23, 2022 [1 favorite]

It's like saying you don't have to eliminate slavery, you just need to create laws that make it more humane. Like if you treated the slaves well, and paid them fairly, and allowed them to pursue other opportunities, then it will be okay. And you should quickly realize that if you remove all things that make slavery unethical, what you've done is ended slavery. It is defined by the exploitation, by the cruelty. You can be okay with using labor for profit, but the ways you get there aren't equivalent.

If you remove all the things that make factory farming cruel, it's no longer factory farming. The fundament of the process is treating animals as products. To be created and consumed efficiently and profitably. Even if you're morally okay with the idea of killing and eating animals for food, the ways you get there aren't equivalent.
posted by team lowkey at 12:43 PM on January 23, 2022 [4 favorites]

I was born vegetarian, then later added animal meat for health reasons (I was borderline anemic) and social reasons (not wanting to reject offers of food). One of the more annoying comments I'd get then was "You look like a vegetarian" (presumably because I shopped at thrift stores?) as though a choice rooted in environmental concerns was a style. Which of course is what I think a lot of Americans still think of it as - even I'm guilty of say, assuming very few 'rah-rah America' types would be vegetarian.

Perhaps because my reasons for not eating meat was environmental had little to do with animal rights (with the exception of pigs), I generally wish vegans/vegetarians who are keen to do outreach would be more open to diets low in meat vs. no meat. I realize this is true for some, but many still do seem to draw hard lines of "environmentalists are either vegans or hypocrites" and I bristle there. As someone who was vegetarian for 20ish years (and still regularly eats vegan meals), I appreciate meat-eaters can be judgey/pushy too, but I'm not convinced the problem is Americans eat meat, it's the quantity of meat. If we can't produce more sustainably/ethically at the current scale, then we need to lower the scale, but I'm not sure why the way to do that is to pressure people to stop eating meat entirely.
posted by coffeecat at 12:59 PM on January 23, 2022 [3 favorites]

I generally wish vegans/vegetarians who are keen to do outreach would be more open to diets low in meat vs. no meat.

There seems to be a lot of hype nowadays toward plant-based diets for health or environmental reasons (or partially - e.g. "Meatless Monday"). The same thing is true of such products as Beyond Meat or Impossible Meat. This appears to be an attempt to reach across to meat-eaters and deliver substitutes that are supposed to be like the real thing. Similarly, documentary movies like Forks Over Knives or The Game Changers have mainstreamed plant-based diets for a lot of people.
posted by theorique at 1:25 PM on January 23, 2022 [3 favorites]

For those who found this essay interesting, in addition to The Sexual Politics of Meat, I would also recommend The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery.

I'm not convinced the problem is Americans eat meat, it's the quantity of meat.

This would really depend on what your concerns are. If you don't think people should treat animals as objects that exist to be exploited and consumed, then eating meat is itself a problem. If you see it as a great moral wrong that animals that are as smart and endowed with feelings as your dog are killed as babies, then people eating meat is a problem. I recognize that Americans as a whole are not going to quit consuming meat, dairy, and eggs, but I still can't say it's not a problem that they eat those things. If you are primarily interested in environmental issues, then Americans eating less meat is a win. And I know it's a much more realistic goal (though there's a lot of corporate money fighting against it).

However, in my experience, there is now more of an effort among vegans and vegetarians to celebrate any gains we can get and to meet people where they are. Meatless Mondays, mentioned above, are a great example of that. I also see a lot more emphasis on serving people great vegan food to show it's not about deprivation. Before the pandemic, my primary "activism" was baking really great vegan treats to share at work.
posted by FencingGal at 1:42 PM on January 23, 2022 [9 favorites]

Not to derail, but can I say I appreciate you linking to a feminist publication because I have no idea where to read, let alone discuss, feminist thought anymore? Ever since the blogosphere died (along with the comment sections therein), I have no idea where to read people robustly discussing and arguing about this stuff. Here and... that's it. Reddit is a tirefire, so is Twitter. If anyone has recommendations, feel free to PM me.
posted by pelvicsorcery at 6:23 PM on January 23, 2022 [2 favorites]

I generally wish vegans/vegetarians who are keen to do outreach would be more open to diets low in meat vs. no meat

I agree with this (like FencingGal) because I just don't see the world becoming vegan, though I can imagine a world in which factory farms and all that go with those brutal and horrifying places, no longer exist. Any steps to cut down on the consumption of animals are welcome, any steps to reduce the suffering of animals are welcome - even if those animals are eventually killed. Much as I wish they weren't, and much as I know it's not necessary to eat meat. And I believe dairy farms are the worst, even moreso after reading this article. And dairy is freaking horrible for humans, if the pain and torment of helpless animals were not enough.

Though in truth, pigs probably have it the worst, and are probably the most intelligent of the farmed animals. I believe it was in the doc Forks Over Knives (or another doc) where they show sprawling pig farms literally spraying pig shit over poor black communities, fouling the land and water and causing all kinds of horrid health problems. Pigs are beaten, tortured and brutalized, often by overworked, angry and helpless immigrant workers who are themselves treated brutally. It's grotesque, the massive amount of suffering in the name of pork and profits.

Yes it's true militant vegans exist in the world, and I don't think they help the cause, though I understand where they are coming from. But I don't agree that militant vegans are worse than militant meat eaters, may of whom are white supremacists who think just as little of other races, and often women, as they do of animals. It's hilarious to them to harm animals for no reason. At least the militant vegans aims are to reduce suffering, while militant meat eaters seem to enjoy the suffering of others.
posted by Glinn at 8:41 PM on January 23, 2022 [1 favorite]

How do you recognize an anti-vegan? Don't worry, they'll tell you the joke, "How do you recognize a vegan? Don't worry, they'll tell you."
posted by Pyrogenesis at 10:32 PM on January 23, 2022 [6 favorites]

Thanks for all that nuance, plenty to think about. Simon Fairlie's Meat: a benign extravagance argues there is a place for animals in agricultural production . . . and that monoculture [of meat, wheat, corn, lentils, whatevs] is an environmental and ethical disaster. While big beef and dairy is in your face horrible, lots of less cuddly animals are killed with high-pesticide-high-fertiliser arable agriculture.

Eating less meat is a good thing and The Future. And if you wish to convert a certain cohort of backwards-looking people, it's handy to cite Thos. Jefferson on this "I have lived temperately, eating little animal food, & that, not as an aliment so much as a condiment for the vegetables, which constitute my principal diet."
posted by BobTheScientist at 1:15 AM on January 24, 2022 [4 favorites]

But I don't agree that militant vegans are worse than militant meat eaters, may of whom are white supremacists who think just as little of other races, and often women, as they do of animals.

I'm going to call this out as a bit of hyperbole. The most enthusiastic promoters of meat eating that I've ever seen are the promoters of the so-called "carnivore diet". They talk about ... eating meat and its effects on health. They don't tend to talk about race and certainly not in any kind of hierarchical or bigoted way. (I'm thinking specifically about medical doctors like Shawn Baker, Paul Saladino, and Georgia Ede, or researchers like Amber O'Hearn.)

No doubt most racists or white supremacists eat meat because most people eat meat (at least in the West). I doubt there's more correlation than that.
posted by theorique at 8:45 AM on January 24, 2022 [1 favorite]

It's surely not controversial to say that toxic masculinity, which enthusiastically endorses meat-eating and hating vegans, is also closely aligned with white supremacy.
posted by tiny frying pan at 8:54 AM on January 24, 2022 [3 favorites]

The most enthusiastic promoters of meat eating that I've ever seen are the promoters of the so-called "carnivore diet"

Sure, but I wasn't talking about "enthusiastic" promoters of meat eating. I was talking about the militant ones (in comparison with militant vegans).
posted by Glinn at 9:00 AM on January 24, 2022

I've had anemia once. It was caused by profuse menstruations, not by my meatless diet; once the problem had been resolved, my blood values returned to normal very rapidly. My doctor was amazed at how fast that went without eating any meat.

In other words, it's perfectly possible to not eat meat and not be anemic*. I'm saying this for the benefit of the meat eating folks in here, because the rest of us already knows.

*Just like it is possible to buy at thrift stores without looking the part.
posted by Too-Ticky at 11:10 AM on January 24, 2022 [5 favorites]

I'm probably splitting hairs here around the distinction of "enthusiastic" vs "militant"; however, I will say that Drs Saladino and Baker are as "militant" (pro-carnivore and anti-vegan) as you can get, while having nothing to do with any form of bigotry.

Generally the pro-meat activists have some overlap with whole-food vegans in terms of opposing factory farming and supporting regenerative and sustainable agriculture. The "big issue" (meat vs no meat) is a real divide, but there's a fair amount of common ground, and a common opponent in the processed food / monocrop / industrial agriculture world.
posted by theorique at 11:46 AM on January 24, 2022

Shawn Baker definitely engages in fat shaming, from a cursory look at his Instagram. The comments are sickening for many reasons - I don't even want to delve deeper.

The other guy, "Carnivore MD?" His followers seem worse.

Just wanting to spare anyone else from trying to grok these sources as not hateful.
posted by tiny frying pan at 12:04 PM on January 24, 2022 [4 favorites]

(And why do dietary choice statements have to include "ANTI-vegan"? Since people call themselves vegan, if you don't say "anti-vegan diet," instead, we're already off on a very antagonistic foot.)
posted by tiny frying pan at 12:07 PM on January 24, 2022 [2 favorites]

Because there do seem to be sort of deep links between carnivory-advocacy and the right, I think it's interesting to find Dr. Saladino advocating not only carnivory, but ivermectin usage and vaccine hesitation, and bitcoin.
posted by mittens at 12:17 PM on January 24, 2022 [3 favorites]

What do you call someone who finished last in their class at carnivore medical school?

Dr. Carnivore.
posted by box at 12:50 PM on January 24, 2022

Regarding the overlap between BTC and carnivore diets - I was reminded of this article with a funny title: Bitcoin's Carnivore Cult Is Both Stupid and Correct.
posted by theorique at 1:17 PM on January 24, 2022

Neither veganism nor anti-veganism are diets. One is an ideological posturing that has broad implications on ones lifestyle, diet among them, and one is an incessant backlash irrevocably rooted in associating caring about literally anything with being feminine and that being the worst thing anyone can choose to be.

And all the "I'm just asking questions" whataboutism in this thread isn't far removed from all that. Any issue you want to come up with is less of a problem in a system supporting vegan diets. We would be using LESS land and water for crops and ferrying LESS grain across continents, to start.

If meat production is not eliminated but reduced to what is sustainable, the output will be so low that only rich people will have access. What does that tell you?
posted by seraphine at 2:34 AM on January 25, 2022 [6 favorites]

Neither veganism nor anti-veganism are diets.

That's a good point. Diet is one of the factors involved in veganism, but not the only one. The OP makes this eminently clear. People who are focused exclusively on the nutrition aspects of things often miss this. In my own experience, I found it very useful to leverage the non-nutritional aspects (environmental, animal rights, etc) in order to remain motivated to continue pursuing a vegan diet.

In contrast to veganism, influencers online who promote carnivore (or carnivore-adjacent) diets tend to be more focused on the nutritional or health aspects of the diet, strictly as a diet. And while a carnivore diet is not precisely anti-veganism, you do see some of these influencers leveraging cultural suspicion or hostility toward vegans in their messaging. (The vegan is sadly often the whipping-boy and the butt of the joke in macho American culture among other places.)

On the vegan side, one can also see the distinction between the "vegan lifestyle" or "vegan ideology" and the "plant-based diet". Philosophical veganism is the subject of the OP, a truly comprehensive philosophy focusing primarily on animal rights, and allowing other consequences to arise from that focus.

On the other hand, the increasingly popular "plant-based diet" is the eating plan separated from the broader philosophy. People promote it as a way to be healthier or more environmentally friendly, with animal welfare treated as a pleasant side effect rather than the main focus. I suspect that a lot of the recent hype focuses more on the plant-based diet because it's an easier thing to promote. There are a lot more products to sell, and its easier to persuade people to try out faux-chicken nuggets than to persuade them to reorient their worldview around a radical interpretation of animal rights.
posted by theorique at 1:40 PM on January 25, 2022 [2 favorites]

Conservation of one thing does not automatically conserve another thing. We could eliminate meat only to see pasture and range land turn into personal golf courses and exclusive flying car estates. Or, the land and water turn into waste dumps and fracking fluid as the population doubles. A milestone in meat consumption would be a special tax per pound, to reduce demand, then use the targeted funds for best practices, buyouts, natural restoration, meat alternatives and other subsidized reforms.
posted by Brian B. at 3:26 PM on January 25, 2022 [1 favorite]

Conservation of one thing does not automatically conserve another thing.

Still zero idea over here of how this relates to the article.

One of my favorite parts of the article:

Socialist feminism, we argue, offers a valuable — and thus far underutilized — framework for understanding the cruel and destructive nature of animal industries. Only by broadening a socialist feminist analysis beyond the human can we fully grasp the depth of capitalism’s dependence upon the enclosure, control, and privatization of life’s regenerative capacities — and grasp why conservatives, and the alt right in particular, see vegans as such an existential threat. “Milk” is both a noun — “an opaque white fluid rich in fat and protein, secreted by female mammals for the nourishment of their young,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary — and a verb that means to exploit for profit. Coercing and commodifying the reproduction of human and non-human animals is how capitalism reproduces itself.

I plan to read this all again very soon. A lot to think about - the whole thing is so well written and unique in its analysis - or at least the concepts are to me. Thank you again for posting it, jshttnbm.
posted by tiny frying pan at 4:14 PM on January 25, 2022 [3 favorites]

Still zero idea over here of how this relates to the article.

Relates to a few comments above.
posted by Brian B. at 4:17 PM on January 25, 2022

We could eliminate meat only to see pasture and range land turn into personal golf courses and exclusive flying car estates.

Well, you've stated the hypothesis. Only thing left for it is to run the experiment and find out! Let's science, everybody!
posted by multics at 7:54 PM on January 25, 2022 [2 favorites]

I feel like most people who follow a diet - literally any diet - risk finding themselves the target of unwelcome attention. Everyone is so insecure about what they eat that learning about someone else's choices can *feel* like a judgment, and boom there you go, conflict begun.

I guess the thing with ideological veganism is that it actually is a judgment against people who are perceived as tolerating immoral cruelty for the sake of their own benefit.

We all have all kinds of moral judgements and have to exercise discretion about when and how to discuss them. For example, I almost never get into my full gamut of feelings about parents who move to "good" school districts for the benefit of their personal children. I try to find what to sympathize with and connect to and remind myself of all the ways that I am complicit in perpetuating oppression, including eating meat, for example, and having an iPhone. But I'm glad that some people are willing to be more obnoxious about it in the forums of their choosing.
posted by Salamandrous at 3:15 PM on February 8, 2022

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