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Consuming Bodies: The Women We’re Leaving Behind

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August 2, 2013

India just banned the use/exploitation of dolphins as entertainment, as they are now considered “non-human persons”. Blackfish, a documentary about the psychological realities other animals face when confined in captivity, has just opened in theaters (at the distress of SeaWorld). Bird brain mapping has recently revealed that birds are “remarkably intelligent in a similar way to mammals such as humans and monkeys,” but ‘bird brain’ is still an insult. And the U.S. State Department and President Obama have decided to push ahead with building the Keystone XL Pipeline’s southern half amongst numerous questionable building practices, even though the previous Keystone I Pipeline has leaked fourteen different times. But isn’t this the Choice USA blog? What does this have to do with reproductive justice? Everything.

Having grown up with cats my whole life and having a vegetarian mother, I guess you could say I was predisposed: at age 10 I chose to become a vegetarian and at age 19 I chose to begin living a vegan lifestyle. Somewhere in between there I also became a sexual health peer educator and have dedicated all of my time and effort to the reproductive justice movement ever since— including my eating habits.

 I, like many of you, am pro-choice because I believe in each individual’s autonomy concerning their own body, lifestyle, and choices. I am pro-choice because I challenge any attempt to infringe on each individual’s freedom to control their own bodies and minds. I am pro-choice because it is not my place to coerce or use another being’s body as a means to any reproductive end she did not choose. And I am vegan for the exact same reasons.

I am vegan because I do not want to coerce or use another animal’s body as a means to a reproductive end that she did not choose herself. I am vegan because farmers have a place they forcibly impregnate female cows nicknamed, “the rape rack.” I am vegan because I do not want to use another being’s body as a means to “food” that I don’t need to survive; that kills my planet (my home); and exploits a disadvantaged labor force. I am vegan because I do not want clothing made of another being’s skin.* I am vegan because I see the brutality and violence that is wrought upon other animals mirrored in violence against women as it becomes normalized to objectify other beings into consumable by-products.

As Joel Salatin postured in Food, Inc.:

A culture that just views a pig as a pile of protoplasmic, inanimate structure to be manipulated by whatever creative design the human can foist on that critter will probably view individuals within its community and other cultures within the community of nations with the same type of distain and disrespect and controlling-type mentality.

No one is free until we are all free. As social justice activists, our conversations often center on how to make each of our movements more intersectional in order to succeed. Intersectional also means interconnected: without racial justice, we cannot achieve gender justice. Without gender justice, we cannot achieve class justice. So goes, we cannot have ability, sexuality, etc. justice without also environmental justice and animal liberation. When identity politics alienate us from each other, we are also severed from our ecological context, creating a false dichotomy of culture//nature. This only serves to veil reality: that we are intrinsically part of this world.

So we need to start acting like it. We must acknowledge the exploitation our diet brings to bear on other bodies: the bodies of non-union immigrant labor, the body of the earth, and the bodies of other animals. We need to take responsibility for our actions, including what’s on our plate.

This is a process. It is a process to understand the complex systems of power and oppression that structure our daily lives. It’s a process to decolonize your mind of culturally ingrained racism and fatphobia. Just as it’s a process to recognize the numerous ways we use and abuse other beings. Women are not incubators and other animals are not food sources.

In our ever-evolving effort to achieve social justice for all beings, I challenge you to examine your food choices as another means to that liberation. You can do this right now, today, as I did: after facing the horrors of the dairy industry, I went vegan overnight and never looked back. If that seems daunting, you could begin as my friend Leah did: by dedicating one day a week to eat vegan, and slowly increasing the number of days she was vegan each week. She and I actually have plans to do a weekend brunch at Sticky Fingers to celebrate her first full month as a vegan. The important take-away here is to actively examine why you may have eaten meat your whole life and if/why this should still have a place in your life. Just as we examine our own values and actions as it pertains to our vision of reproductive justice, so must we examine our values and perception of other species.

 

*Trigger warning: Intense violence upon another animal. While I do not believe in shock-and-awe campaigns, it is important to face the reality other beings are living, experiencing, and dying with because of our actions.


DakotaDakota David is the Field and Trainings Intern at Choice USA. She is in her last year studying Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies and Public Health at American University. She got her start in the reproductive justice movement in high school with Planned Parenthood of Maryland, and is currently co-director of AU Students for Choice, a member of the Visions in Feminism collective, and a Hotline Operator at the National Abortion Federation. She can usually be found drinking a cup of tea (or craft beer!), nomming on vegan treats, and watching The X-Files. Connect with me: LinkedIn @DakotaD

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3 Responses to “Consuming Bodies: The Women We’re Leaving Behind”

  1. Connie

    In respect to veganism, on principle alone, few can dispute your logic! But as you allude to, a lifetime of eating a certain way, can be difficult to change. Your stepwise plan for eating vegan one day a week is a helpful way to begin overcoming carnivorism. We live in a culture that is saturated with meat opportunities..and this is reinforced on a daily basis by ads, commercials, fast food availability, restaurants, and markets. We get few messages about the horrors of factory farming of animals, for instance. And, in the public health arena, we are only beginning to explore the health hazards of eating meat, inherent or induced.
    I’m looking forward to reading others’ comments on the subject and your future blogs.

  2. Amelia

    Your thoughtful commentary brings to mind the truth that all living beings are connected to each other. In order to make positive changes in the world, the conditions that all of us are faced with need to be considered.
    Often when we are first confronted with the truth about how animals are used for food production, we are shocked into feelings of helplessness–what can one person do to stop these terrible things? You have given us a roadmap to make positive changes that anyone can follow.
    If going vegan one day at week is too much, how about one meal? It is better for you, the animals, people around the world, and the Earth!

  3. Hasan

    So I am prepared to honor your bithadry wish, but I ask if you are OK with me keeping the cheese? I have been a vegetarian for over 8 months now (no fish, no chicken, no milk, no meat, no eggs) however the only thing I have kept was cheese. As a bithadry wish though I could probably give it up for a week Reply:August 19th, 2008 at 6:14 pmI’m glad to hear you’re already living with a diet that has eliminated all of those animal products. That’s wonderful. But, I’m gonna be a stickler about this and not allow any cheese for the week. I know cheese is a tough one to give up. The reason being that there are small amounts of addictive opiates in it. So, much like a drug, you can actually become addicted to cheese. Just hold strong and you can make it through. And even feel better in the process!