Why are White Vegans SHOOK When You Talk About White Supremacy and Capitalism? (btw they should be)

The animalization of blackness is nothing new. Authors Che Gossett and Aph Ko explore it in their respective works.

A few weeks ago, I was privileged to have been interviewed by Marla Rose in the Vegan Rock Star feature on her site Vegan Feminist Agitator. In response to one of her questions I gave the following answer:

“Animal exploitation is the bedrock of imperialist white supremacist capitalist cis-heteropatriarchy. You want to abolish oppression, you gotta include other species.”

Apparently that phrase is a trigger for a lot of white readers, including this one:FullSizeRender (2)

My question is—what is it about acknowledging the role of white supremacy in animal exploitation that strikes discomfort and (in some cases) outright rage in those white vegans? The history of white supremacy and western imperialism is the history of animal oppression. The shared traumas of black bodies and animal bodies make our liberation inseparable. Let’s examine the above comment in parts.

“Animal exploitation is the result of speciesism.”

Yeah but…nobody ever denied that. However, speciesism is also entangled with so much more. It’s the love affair with the prison industrial complex and a fetish for wrongful incarceration. It’s coupled with male domination and gendered violence. It’s encroachment on the lands of native lives and colonization of them. All these things have overlap between oppressed human communities and those of other species. A failure to see that is unsophisticated at best and willfully ignorant at worst.

“All ethnicities and cultures are complicit in the exploitation of nonhuman animals.”

All women are complicit in the exploitation of nonhuman animals too. Does that then mean women cannot examine speciesism through a feminist lens and the influence that patriarchal domination and toxic masculinity have on animal oppression? If so, then ecofeminist Carol Adams will be disappointed to hear that her seminal work The Sexual Politics of Meat has been rendered obsolete!

“Declaring that animal exploitation is endemic to whites absolves non-whites of any responsibility.”

This person is arguing a point that was never made. No one said it was endemic to whites. Nor did anyone absolve black and brown people of complicity. We can observe speciesism and how it is exacerbated by white supremacist institutions at the same time. But ignoring the role white supremacy plays in perpetuating animal oppression creates an incomplete picture of it. The industrial revolution was, for example, a critical moment in history for animals. Without the western industrialization of animal agriculture, we would not be exploiting them on so grand a scale. Without aggressive campaigns of advertising, our consumption of animal bodies would not have skyrocketed throughout the 20th and 21st centuries. Even the rising consumption of animal bodies in China is linked to the emergence of the Chinese middle class as they mimic specifically western habits of consumption. And don’t forget that milk is (unsurprisingly?) regarded as a symbol of white supremacy.

“Speciesism doe not only flourish under capitalism, it is sanctioned by any other method of organizing the economy. Marxists or socialists, for example, have long considered nonhuman animals to [be] undeserving of moral consideration.”

Showcasing the spoils of colonization in zoos is a leftover relic of imperialism; Ota Benga in the Bronx Zoo c. 1906.

I’m not sure what the purpose is for this statement. Is the author trying to justify late capitalism by pointing out that other economic systems exploit animals too? I mean, we know that no social system is perfect. But it’s specifically capitalism that doesn’t just have an underclass that is exploited, it demands an underclass to intentionally exploit. The acquisition of wealth is the driving force of capitalism. And the monetization/commodification of individuals of ALL species is key.

Besides, it’s time we look outside of what western imperialism has taught us are the ONLY social systems worth examining. Many cultures exist outside western imperialist constructs and hold rich histories of valuing community. Does it mean that they are free from using animal bodies? No. But we should recognize the world of difference between what someone may do as an act of survival and our own callous western consumption that masks the enslavement of all species communities. And frankly, greater access to necessary resources incentivizes people to avoid violence; therefore, moving to a resource-based economy would minimize such instances.

Acts of genocide were committed against buffalo in order to starve out American Indians and further colonize the US in the mid-1870s; pictured above, two white men posed with thousands of buffalo skulls.

Furthermore, it’s inaccurate to state unequivocally that socialism sanctions speciesism. Emerging research indicates that socialist and direct democrat theory were at least in part based on human observations of animal societies. Laura Schleifer offers more insight on that in her presentation at VegFestUK 2017 in Brighton, and she recommends the Peter Kropotkin classic Mutual Aid and The Ecology of Freedom by Murray Bookchin for additional reading.

Make no mistake. Critique of capitalism, and particularly late capitalism, should not just be included in our animal liberation framework, it should be central to it. How do we propose to remove animals from the chain of exploitation without abolishing exploitation itself? To preserve the structure but remove animals from the bottom of it suggests that there’s nothing wrong with hierarchical oppression.

And deconstructing hierarchical oppression frankly scares a lot of white people, even vegan ones. Because if there’s no longer a hierarchy, whiteness can no longer be at the top of it.  And that’s going to trigger an awful lot of white fragility.

If white allies mean to engage speciesism critically, they need to acknowledge the historical and current role of white supremacy in animal oppression. And if they don’t, do they really want to engage speciesism…or are they just hobbyists who think animals are nice?


4 thoughts on “Why are White Vegans SHOOK When You Talk About White Supremacy and Capitalism? (btw they should be)”

  1. Please, get your comments right.
    The foto of the three women pouling a plough are three french women during WWI. In former rural europ it was not uncommon that people (women in particular, even children) pulled a plough instead of animals due to the fact that a horse was something of the rich.

    And please stop pointing fingers to whites, men, europeans, chinees, etc. etc. This is not helping, it is even counterproductive.
    Every single person, no matter what nationality, gender, skincolour, ethnicity, political believe, religion etc., who consumes animal products in any way is the cause of animal exploitation.

    I am always baffled by people, who are fighting against discrimination of any kind, who then themselves start discriminating and blaming ” A group” of “Others”.

    btw the last sentences in this blog is very abusive,even very abusive, to white vegans who are fighting 10, 20, 30, 40 years and more for animal liberation. Don’t forget veganism started in the white UK. 😉

    1. Where’s Waldo? Unfortunately, on this page.

      I’m one of the white vegans you refer to who have been fighting for animal liberation for decades. As one of this group, I request that if you are not going to do effective campaigning, that you get the f*ck out of the way of those who are—because we constantly have to clean up your mess.

      If your goal is to turn everyone who is not a cis, white male away from anti-speciesism, well congratulations—you are succeeding, so keep on that path.

      If not, then it is long past time for you to read what NON-white-male vegans have to say about their experiences with mainstream veganism. And do yourself a favor and read the most original writing on animal oppression and ways to end it—which writing comes from said non-white male vegans, such as Christopher Sebastian.

      So much of our activist time is spent urging potential vegans to judge veganism (and anti-speciesism) on its inherent merits, and not to judge it by the offensive speech and actions of its worst advocates.

      The practice of veganism was not invented in England in 1944. Non-white cultures have practiced it for thousands of years before Donald Watson coined the term. But, then again, I would expect cultural appropriation from someone who used the term, god help me, “Chinee.”

      You know what I am “baffled” about? People who claim to want animal liberation, but do everything to ensure that it never happens.

  2. So I was looking into plant based food delivery services. SAKARA and a few others come up. Interestingly this article came to mind. I understand the cost of preparation and delivery requirements are high but I still wonder if these companies are purposely keeping these prices high in order to maintain an “exclusive” status…

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