Can Feminism Exist without Veganism?

The content of today's post is perhaps slightly more serious and thought provoking than I'd usually write, even when I've discussed veganism in previous posts. But hey-ho, here we go. Every now and again I like to write something a little less "Mummy Blogger".

If you're already vegan then most of this post will sit comfortably with you. For non-vegan readers though, and specifically those who would self-identify as feminists, things might be about to get kind of awkward. Please accept that I never mean to offend anyone, I'm never abusive towards non-vegans collectively, though I may have aggressively negative reactions to non-vegan behaviour, like the torture of innocent animals for example, but this isn't just an opportunity to slag off the animal consuming minority!

I've long considered myself a feminist, and I surround myself with people whose values mirror and uphold my own feminist ideals. Feminism though, perhaps unlike veganism, can be a deeply personal and subjective way of understanding how we fit into the world that we live in.

 
 
When I talk about being a feminist, I speak from a point of view that believes that an individual should not be unfairly discriminated against based on their gender. This isn't about holding up women as being superior to their male peers, or exclusively celebrating female triumphs. I believe, as a feminist, that no man should be unfairly discriminated against because he is a man - but let's be open and honest, this happens less often, and on less crucial platforms, than discrimination against women.
 
As a feminist I believe, quite simply, that two individuals, one male and one female, who hold identical positions with the same employer, should be paid equally for their work. I believe that jobs should be awarded to the best candidate - regardless of whether they're male or female - and with that I object to the practice of employing women simply to fulfil a requirement to appear fair - when there are better qualified male applicants for the position.
 
I believe that a woman should be able to walk down the street alone, free from fear of being harassed, or made to feel in any way uncomfortable, because she is a woman - by being subjected to comments on her physical appearance for example, or by being asked to behave in a particular way.
 
I believe that my daughter should be given the same opportunities at school as my son - that she shouldn't be told that she can not play football, and that he shouldn't be told that he can not be a cheerleader, if those are interests that either possess.
 
I want all of my children, once they're legally old enough, to carry a condom in their pocket, regardless of their gender, and not for one to be seen a responsible as a result, and the other recklessly promiscuous.
 
I'm certainly not some crazy man hater who's going to bust you in the balls for holding a door open to me in a blatant demonstration of how weak and incapable I am of living independently - I shall say thank you, and I'd be just as likely to hold the door open for you too, whether you're a man or a woman. I just think women should have to work just as hard as men to get what they want, and that we should be in a position to celebrate our differences, whilst enjoying the same opportunities.
 
Nobody should be more likely to experience violence, exploitation, discrimination, bullying or isolation, because of their genitalia, or indeed the gender that they identify with. Nobody.
 
Now veganism runs a number of parallels with feminism as a social justice movement. Overwhelmingly, a majority of people have vegan values, even if they refuse to live by them. Just as many people would agree with me that it's fundamentally immoral to be violent towards somebody simply because they're female, so most would agree that it's fundamentally immoral to commit animal cruelty. 
 
Most people that I know are opposed to animal violence. I know a lot of non-vegans who actively campaign on social media against animal abusers for example, signing petitions for harsher sentences for those who harm innocent animals, brandishing such people "sick in the head" or "monsters", cases where dogs have been set on fire for example, or kittens murdered in microwave ovens.  
 
Most of those same people however turn a blind eye to the necessary violence towards the animals that they eat, or use in their every day lives, for their leather handbags or wool coats. The suffering of these animals is easily comparable to the dog set on fire, or the microwaved kitten, but is considered socially acceptable in comparison.
 
This is called cognitive dissonance and is characterised as:
 
the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, especially as relating to behavioural decisions and attitude change.
 
It's the same state of psychology that sees family take their young children to feed and snuggle newborn lambs at the farm, and then encourage their children to consume the muscles, body fat and tendons of those same animals once they're tortured and murdered in considerable numbers.
 
Thanks to cognitive dissonance, we can keep dogs as pets, showering them in love, affection and gifts - but we gladly eat the murdered corpses of pigs, who have a greater level of intelligence than dogs, and who have shown a similar ability to bond with and display loyalty towards human caregivers.
 
Cognitive dissonance is also at play in the contrasting attitudes and behaviours of non vegan feminists.
 
The treatment of animals within the agricultural industries, and the suffering, violence, exploitation and torture which is experienced as a result of gender, is overwhelming.
 
 Supporting the dairy industry, for example, is innately in opposition to feminist ideals.  Lactation is a uniquely female function, and therefore, these creatures are used by the dairy industry to make money - because they are female, and thus capable of a bodily function which we can use to make money from them.
 
A female cow is artificially inseminated against her will, forced into pregnancies after human "care providers" force their hands inside her anus and vagina in order to penetrate her with semen that they have forcibly collected from a bull. The amount of sexual/reproductive exploitation taking place without consent in those few actions is enough for us to recognise that these animals are suffering specifically for their gender. This is the sort of practice we would never ever accept in human realms.
 
Once the Mother carries and gives birth to her child, again, a uniquely female experience (excusing seahorses) she is separated from her child, forced into a further pregnancy before her body is recovered, and encouraged to continue producing milk for her stolen baby by intrusive machinery.
 
These practices reduce the cow's life span to about a quarter of what it should be. Regardless of whether cattle are grass fed, or even loved and adored by the humans that make money from them, it's an unavoidable truth that they are required to carry out female specific bodily functions for the gain of others, the cost of which is ultimately their own lives. This as well as a life time of mental anguish brought about by the constant loss of babies which they are bonded to due to hormonal surges in their bodies, like those experienced by human Mothers towards their newborn babies.
 
Eggs are another uniquely gender specific industry. Only female chickens (and ducks, geese, quail etc.) lay eggs. Regardless of whether chickens are factory farmed or live harmoniously in your back garden, the simply fact is that the use of chickens to provide eggs for human consumption relies on using someone's exclusively gender specific bodily function to benefit yourself. If the chicken was not female, she would not be capable of laying eggs, and therefore would not be "used" by her human captors to provide for them through the product of her gender.
 
If you keep chickens, you keep them because they're female, which is inherently not a feminist act.

As to whether all chickens suffer through egg production -this is fiercely debated, but why should it matter? The fact is that we take the animal for the sole reason that she is female, and we impose a particular lifestyle upon her as a result. Naturally, a hen would lay around 12 eggs in a year - but the production of eggs by those providing for human consumption is almost always much higher.  
 
Let us not forget the males in these industries though, because as I discussed at the beginning of this post, feminism for me is not about simply fighting female corners - it's about ensuring that nobody is treated with discrimination, violence or exploitation as a result of their gender.

So what of the male calves born into the dairy industry? Unable to perform the uniquely female function that makes money for their captors, they are separated from their Mothers and killed at a very early age for veal. Veal calves are killed after just days or weeks of life. Kept isolated and alone, they are forced into tiny crates to prevent them from moving, which would encourage the formation of muscle fibre, that would mean their meat would be less tender (and therefore less profitable). Tortured with fear and loneliness, it's obvious that veal calves suffer between birth and death, and we can be confident that their experience is uniquely assigned to them because they were born male.

Each of these tiny crates contains a newborn calf; scared, alone and calling for his Mum.
 
 
In the egg industry, chicks are sorted upon hatching, female chicks being kept alive as the next generation of egg layers, but males, being the "wrong gender" for the job, are either thrown alive into meat grinding machines, or simply thrown in their thousands into plastic bags to crush one another and suffocate to death.

The treatment of male infants within both dairy and egg industries as a result of their gender is an obvious feminist issue.

Of course I'm not suggesting that the efforts of prominent feminists to close the gaps between the sexes and secure fairer treatment for people of any gender are not entirely invalidated without veganism. The social media campaigns to end animal welfare travesties such as the dolphin cove slaughter in Taiji, Japan are still important, despite being predominantly supported by well meaning but hypocritical non-vegans, and so the feminist campaigns run by hypocritical non-vegans are equally useful.

However, it seems to me unacceptable that the feminist movement continues to observe complete cognitive dissonance and ignores the glaring feminist issues that exist for non-human animals, animals who, like those most vulnerable in human society, have no voice of their own.

 

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