Many feminist and feminist allies choose a vegan lifestyle on the basis that the meat, dairy and egg industry is one of the most extreme examples of sexism. The dairy industry is built upon the enslavement of sentient females and complete control of their reproductive systems including systematic insemination on what the dairy industry “lovingly” calls “The Rape-Rack” which immobilizes cows for this process. Angel Flinn writes about this in her article To Be Feminist is to Be Vegan, “Animals of both sexes suffer under institutionalized exploitation. However, the female of the species often experiences more prolonged abuse, including an ongoing cycle of forceful artificial insemination (mechanical or manual rape), physical abuse of her mammary glands, and invariably being separated from her young; all of these are emotionally brutal experiences for the female members of any species.” and continues by saying, “I often ponder in disbelief our culture’s uncivilized ways and what people choose to fund with their purchases. It’s hard to imagine a human being taking a crying baby from his mother shortly after birth to have his throat slit. However, this is the fate of calves born to cows used for dairy production. ‘Bobby calves,’ the unwanted male calves who are an unavoidable by-product of the dairy industry, are generally taken away soon after birth (both on organic and non-organic farms), and are frequently sold to be turned into ‘veal.’ In some countries, male calves are shot at birth.”59
“Honoring vegetarian consciousness integrated thought, belief, commitment and practice. It ignited a positive energy in me that is still pulsating. It has led me in directions I didn’t know I would go.
When we integrate something desired, like vegetarianism, yoga practice, meditation or ritual into our lives, we communicate with that part of the self that desires wholeness. In integrating, we create an internal shift. We open an innner door and reveal that there is more to the self than we had thought. We discover inner resources we didn’t know we had. It has been vegetarianism that taught me that. Through vegetarianism, I have learned how to listen to my body.
The outer world is often one of suffering, exploitation, and thoughtlessness. As an individual, that world alarms me. As an activist, I challenge it. As a vegetarian, I know that with each meal I reject that world, and instead create a sanctuary that supports my sense that the world can be otherwise – loving, thoughtful, and nonviolent.”61
Some may find associations with animal treatment & animal agriculture with sexism, racism or slavery offensive. Joaquin Phoenix sums up the intentionality between these systems of oppresion perfectly in the film Earthlings:
“Since we all inhabit the earth, all of us are considered earthlings. There is no sexism, no racism or speciesism in the term earthling. It encompasses each and every one of us: warm or cold blooded, mammal, vertebrate or invertebrate, bird, reptile, amphibian, fish, and human alike. Humans, therefore, being not the only species on the planet, share this world with millions of other living creatures, as we all evolve here together. However, it is the human earthling who tends to dominate the earth, often times treating other fellow earthlings and living beings as mere objects. This is what is meant by speciesism. By analogy with racism and sexism, the term “speciesism” is a prejudice or attitude of bias in favor of the interests of members of one’s own species and against those of members of other species.
If a being suffers there can be no moral justification for refusing to take that suffering into consideration. No matter what the nature of the being, the principle of equality requires that one’s suffering can be counted equally with the like suffering of any other being. Racists violate the principle of equality by giving greater right to the interests of members of their own race when their is a clash between their interests and the interests of those of another race. Sexists violate the principle of equality by favoring the interests of their own sex. Similarly, speciesists allow the interests of their own species to override the greater interests of members of other species.
In each case, the pattern is identical. Though among the members of the human family we recognize the moral imperative of respect (every human is a somebody, not a something), morally disrespectful treatment occurs when those who stand at the power end of a power relationship treat the less powerful as if they were mere objects. The rapist does this to the victim of rape. The child molester to the child molested. The master to the slave. In each and all such cases, humans who have power exploit those who lack it. Might the same be true of how humans treat other animals, or other earthlings? Undoubtedly there are differences, since humans and animals are not the same in all respects. But the question of sameness wears another face.
Granted, these animals do not have all the desires we humans have; granted, they do not comprehend everything we humans comprehend; nevertheless, we and they do have some of the same desires and do comprehend some of the same things. The desires for food and water, shelter and companionship, freedom of movement and avoidance of pain? These desires are shared by nonhuman animals and human beings. As for comprehension: like humans, many nonhuman animals understand the world in which they live and move. Otherwise, they could not survive. So beneath the many differences, there is sameness.
Like us, these animals embody the mystery and wonder of consciousness. Like us, they are not only in the world, they are aware of it. Like us they are the psychological centers of a life that is uniquely their own. In these fundamental respects humans stand “on all fours”, so to speak, with hogs and cows, chickens and turkeys. What these animals are due from us, how we morally ought to treat them, are questions whose answer begins with the recognition of our psychological kinship with them. Nobel Prize winner Isaac Bashevis Singer wrote in his bestselling novel Enemies, A Love Story’ the following:
“As often has Herman had witnessed the slaughter of animals and fish, he always had the same thought: in their behavior toward creatures, all men were Nazis. The smugness with which man could do with other species as he pleased exemplified the most extreme racist theories, the principle that might is right”.
The comparison here to the holocaust is both intentional and obvious: one group of living beings anguishes beneath the hands of another. Though some will argue the suffering of animals cannot possibly compare with that of former Jews or slaves, there is, in fact, a parallel. And for the prisoners and victims of this mass murder, their holocaust is far from over. In his book ‘The Outermost House’ author Henry Beston wrote:
“We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. Remote from universal nature, and living by complicated artifice, man in civilization surveys the creatures through the glass of his knowledge and sees thereby a feather magnified and the whole image in distortion. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err, and greatly err. For the animal shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren; they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of the earth”.”62