Why I Am A Pro-Intersectional Vegan: An Essay

I don’t know how long this will take, but I’m going to explain why I am a vegan who subscribes to intersectionality, or intersectional theory.

I’ll start with slaughterhouse workers, as they are closest to the action, as it were, and they are among the most abused workers in the industrialized world. Eric Schlosser describes the conditions in slaughterhouses, and the abuses the workers endure, in his book, Fast Food Nation; among those conditions are injuries–for which the workers can be dismissed–and sexual harassment of female workers. So why do people work in slaughterhouses? I’ll go out on a limb and guess these folks have little to no other options: many are undocumented workers, chiefly from Mexico, and thus will no doubt take whatever jobs they’re offered, while doing whatever they can to avoid being deported, often failing miserably; they’re not qualified, for whatever reason, for any other jobs; they live in areas where, in terms of gainful employment, the slaughterhouse is the only game in town, and, short of, say, being lucky enough to be athletically gifted enough to gain a scholarship from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (which, I know, comes with its own problems), or to be in a similar situation, they have no way of getting out of town. I’d like to add that not everyone likes their jobs, but take them because they need the money and they don’t have a lot of, if any, other options, and I’m willing to bet slaughterhouse employees are in the same boat. Yes, animals’ lives matter, but so do the lives and circumstances of people employed in slaughterhouses.

In a similar situation are people who work on farms. Think you’re on the right side of the gods simply because you eat a plant-based diet? Think again. Who picked those fruits, vegetables, nuts, etc.? The truth is, a lot of farm workers are exploited–forced to work long hours (often under a hot sun and other inclement weather conditions) for little pay, quite a few farm workers are children and youth, and so many of them (in the United States, anyway) are undocumented workers. I know farming is important to feed a civilized society, but all agricultural workers need to be treated fairly. Much like slaughterhouse workers, harbouring the attitude that what happens to these people, including the undocumented workers, is of no consequence serves everyone poorly.

Continuing on the subject of people living in poverty, the vast majority of people can’t afford to buy foods deemed ‘vegan,’ including a lot of fruits and vegetables, mostly because they have neither the money nor the time to make frequent trips to the grocery store, the farmers’ market, or wherever else food is sold. That’s why, in the industrialized world, products like Kraft Dinner are so popular among poor families: you can buy packages of the stuff on the cheap, they’re easy to prepare, and they have relatively long shelf lives, meaning you can keep it in your cupboard, pantry, fridge, or freezer for weeks or even months at a time and it won’t go bad, unlike fresh fruits and vegetables. Also, poor families are headed by parents–one or two–who work, and at two or more jobs, so they don’t have time to buy healthy food or cook healthy meals, nor to teach their kids to do so. Ergo, it’s not really fair to have a go at poor people for not eating healthy, never mind not going vegan. In this scenario, I feel we need to have realistic expectations, while trying not to subject people to the bigotry of low expectations.

As for why so many poor people settle for the jobs they do: It all comes down to the ruling class adopting the attitude of “doing what’s best for business.” And apparently “what’s best for business” includes keeping as many people as possible poor and ignorant–so they will, among other things, take shit jobs and do as they’re told–and viewing Planet Earth and all of its creatures and resources as mere commodities.

I recognize how white cis heterosexual adult males–preferably of means–and their views and desires have been privileged and legitimized over millennia, while everyone else and their views and desires have been minimized and even dismissed. The world we live in now–continued resource extraction, pipelines, bank bailouts, members of ‘C’ suites earning six figures a year while fighting tooth and nail to keep the minimum wage from going up (generalization–yes, I know), wars, continuing oppression of class, racial, and sexual minorities–is a continuation of the privileging and legitimizing of upper-class white cis heterosexual male views and desires.

I also realize religious ideology has influence on society’s attitudes towards women, people of colour, LGBTQ folk, disabled people, intersex people, nonhuman animals, and the environment, confusing ‘dominion’ with ‘domination.’ Christianity, for instance, was for millennia used as a tool of imperialism, colonialism, and social control. And in areas of the world where Islam is large and in charge, this religious ideology dictates politics and society as well as personal spaces.

Subscribing to intersectional theory prevents me from thinking simplistically about issues such as veganism, and why we all, to one degree or another, participate in a system ruled by free-market fundamentalism. I feel looking at issues through a single lens means you see them simplistically, and, in most cases, ultimately end up passing judgment on people whose lives you know nothing about. For me, subscribing to intersectional theory helps me to apply Spinoza’s dictum to everyone, and the situations they’re in.

I realize the thoughts in this essay are by no means complete, but I am merely trying to explain why I subscribe to intersectional theory.

Backlash, Version…?

Within the last two or three years, I’ve noticed people fighting back against advances in rights for women, people of colour, poor people, veganism, and other progressions in society. The way I see it, these people fall into at least two groups: those with privilege–eg. the manosphere and so-called ‘race realists’–who don’t want to give it up, and thus want to uphold the status quo and even turn back the clock; and those who side with them because they don’t want to suffer the same sorts of abuse as feminists, vegans, or anyone else who champions social progress, of any kind. Either way, this anti-progress attitude aims to stop social progress, simply because a number of people with one form or another of privilege have decided they don’t want to share, or to treat people who aren’t exactly like them like they matter.

In this backlash, the term ‘social justice warrior’ is thrown around as a blanket insult towards anyone who indicates they care about the world we live in, and our fellow creatures of all species, sexes, sexual orientations, ethnicities, gender identities, creeds, and so on, as are the terms ‘white knight’ and ‘mangina,’ which alerts me to the manosphere’s need to make up its collective mind about how its members view non-manosphere males. (Also, those terms are misandrist, as they state men don’t really care about the world or anyone who isn’t exactly like them, and those who actually do aren’t really men. In short, these terms are products of biological determinism.)

I acknowledge that those who give themselves the labels ‘vegan,’ ‘feminist,’ ‘anti-imperialist,’ and other labels associated with social progress of any kind say stupid things, and take things too far, but those participating in the backlash against social progress who deal with these folks use the same brush to paint everyone else, including more rational people, who give themselves labels associated with any kind of social progress, simply because a few people with privilege have an ‘I don’t wanna share’ attitude. I realize it’s human nature to generalize, but it’s important to know when doing so can do damage, particularly in the area of poisoning the well. This goes for everyone, whatever label(s) we give ourselves.

I’m a vegan, a feminist, I care about the environment, LGBTQ rights, and racial and ethnic equality, and I don’t care what anyone believes as long as it doesn’t negatively impact society. But I understand the importance of making sure one has one’s facts, and has them straight, before speaking, if one doesn’t want to make an ass of oneself. I understand misandry is a form of sexism and misanthropy is a form of speciesism (humans are animals–religious zealots and ‘spiritual’ types, get over it). No doubt there are others like me. Ergo, those who participate in the current backlash against social progress use the lunatic fringe of all social-progress movements to strawman, and poison the well against, the more rational among us–and we do exist.

Non- and anti-vegans, those who call themselves ‘men’s rights activists (MRAs),’ ‘race realists,’ etc., benefit from the status quo, and don’t want to see anything change as a result, apparently not realizing the status quo hurts them, too. I understand a lot of these folks operate out of ignorance, apparently having dealt only with the crackpots among those who disagree with them, and blind even to the ways they benefit from the status quo, never mind how it hurts them. The way I see it, only a tiny portion of the above entities want the status quo to stay as it is because of the ‘I don’t wanna share’ mindset. I’m guessing they can’t see how they themselves can benefit from social progress.

I know it shouldn’t shock me there are still people, in this day and age, who are afraid of change–of any kind. Afraid to let go of whatever privilege they have, perhaps because they don’t think they’re important without it. It doesn’t help there are those willing to deliberately misrepresent ideas, such as feminism, veganism, the struggle for racial and ethnic equality, and rights for LGBTQ folk and others who have never had a lot of power in society, and are willing to use the lunatic fringe of movements for social progress in their misrepresentations. I, for one, hope the numbers of the people afraid of change, and who actively fight against it, will peter out as time goes by, but all those of us who want change can do until then is educate people, and fight the status quo.