No More Excuses: On Veganism, Colonialism, and Privilege
By Comrade Black
Originally posted to Profane Existence
I am not suggesting that everyone everywhere in the world should be vegan, especially not in the case of Indigenous peoples living traditionally with a diet that ‘includes’ sustenance hunting and direct relationship¹; but it really pisses me off when white folks (& other settlers²) use indigenous cultures and their traditions as a scapegoat excuse to continue eating factory farmed meat and cheese bought from a grocery store. Last I checked no traditional communities (Indigenous to Turtle Island or elsewhere) ever had factory farms as part of their traditional ways of life. Nor did they have ‘rape racks’ or ‘veal’ calves, which are both part and parcel of modern dairy farming.³ As ALF prisoner Walter Bond once said “most often the person making the argument isn’t as concerned with protecting the rights of tribal people as much as they are trying to equate Veganism with racism.”
Similarly I don’ t buy most of the arguments about dumpster-diving meat, cause when I dumpster there is far more than enough variety of stuff to be picky. In fact, when I am regularly hitting the bins I get far more privilege to be picky, it is when I am having to pay for foods at a store that I struggle cause I can often only afford the cheap crap. Just seems like another excuse to rationalize a behavior rather than change it. If you are rationalizing something, it usually means you know there is something wrong with what you are doing that you feel guilty about. If someone is poor enough they are getting food from the soup kitchens, or food banks, then I have no judgments; sometimes you need to take what you can get. I get that. We all do the best we can in the context we are living in.
If you don’t believe that animals are sentient, or just don’t believe in veganism, than that’s a different discussion. I would rather if people just said “I don’t believe in that” rather than making bullshit excuses. If you are gonna eat factory farmed animal flesh, cheese, eggs, etc, don’t try to find excuses or rationalize it. Either own up to the fact you are putting money into systems that are based on animal exploitation, or change your behavior if you are not ok with being part of that.
¹) I also am quite aware that there is far more to the relationship that many Indigenous cultures have to the animals they hunt as food and that many settlers never acknowledge the importance of giving thanks, or to the other spiritual elements. Often we hear from settlers how Indigenous people ‘use all the parts,’ which is often true, but from my limited understanding this was only one part of the acts of respect given in return for the animals life. Whether secular settlers, atheists, or others choose to acknowledged or dismiss the spiritual exchange and relationship that many Indigenous say is the most important part of that interaction, doesn’t change the fact that it is important.
²) Settler means people who are not Indigenous (originating from that piece of land or that place). The term Settler is used because there is many types of colonialism, and in the context of Turtle Island (which most settlers now call north America), the type of colonialism that primarily occurred was ‘settler colonialism’ meaning Europeans moved here to settle here. Nothing is completely dichotomous, there are people who don’t fit nicely into the Indigenous/Settler binary, such as Metis, or displaced people of Indigenous heritage, and of course decedents of the slave trade. None the less, many of us are settlers, and having a language to explain this can be useful, even if/when it is also problematic.
³) The dairy industry is far more exploitative than many people ever consider. Cattle are force impregnated often using a device referred to in industry lingo as a ‘rape rack.’ A Dairy cow will only produce milk for a period of time after calving (giving birth), so they keep the cows perpetually pregnant. Dairy cattle and beef cattle are different breeds, specifically bread for specific traits (such as producing more milk, or alliteratively the fat to muscle ratio in beef animals). Thus while the female dairy animals can look forward a life as pregnant milk machines, the males have little value because you only want 1 or 2 Bulls (adult males) per dairy heard (some farms don’t even keep bulls, preferring to buy sperm for mechanical insemination). So male calves from dairy breeds are sold to be used as veal calves, where they ore often locked into crates, or tethered in tiny shoots, to discourage the development of muscle. After a few weeks of force feeding, they are sent to slaughter. All this is to ensure the flesh will be ‘tender.