Today is International Women’s Day. The perfect day to talk about feminism and to explore feminism at it’s core, instead as just a logo on a t-shirt or backpack.
I am hearing the words ‘I’m a feminist’ more and more lately. You see self-proclaimed feminists on sociall media, on t shirts, hats, even tattoos. But what is feminism, and surly it’s more than a t-shirt slogan…
When we think of the word we surly apply it to women’s rights, LGBTQ, or other civil gender issues. And while it’s true that these absolutely overlap feminism, women’s rights issues cover a far smaller area of the big picture; and many associate it to only cover human female issues.
While feminism generally concerns itself with femaleness, femininity, and the female aspect of things, contemporary feminism in the western world tends to focus on female empowerment, a stance of peace, respect, and equality that cuts through boundaries of ethnicity, nationality, race, and species.
So logically, feminism and eating meat exist on opposite ideological ends. No wait. Seriously, before you bite my head off, just sit back and read. Take it in. Reserve your judgement.
Just stop to think what feminism really means; femaleness, empowerment, a stance of peace,
respect, and equality. We’ve seen a huge movement of women standing up for a women’s right to not be sexually assaulted, exploited or harassed in the #MeToo movement. It’s disgusting that in 2018 sexual violence is as prevalent as it is. It’s in the workplace, in colleges and universities, in doctor’s offices, in factory farms and slaughterhouses. Yes, you read that right.
With the advent of such undercover movements as those carried out by Mercy for Animals many of us have become witnesses the most abhorrent abuses behind closed factory farm and slaughter house doors like this story featured in Rolling Stone Magazine. And with the worst cruelties, including animal beatings and rape by humans, we as a public have been witness to the legal and everyday exploitation of animals deemed as non individuals in our ‘food’ system.
The rearing of farm animals today is dominated by industrialized facilities and confined animal feeding operations, or CAFO’s, often referred to as ‘factory farms’. These ‘farms’ maximize profits by treating animals as production units, as inanimate objects, possessions. Raised by the thousands at a single location, animals can hardly move let alone behave in any normal capacity. Most of our meat, dairy and eggs come from these facilities.
Female animals have it the worst. Here are a few examples of normal legal practices against female sentient animals on these farms in both Canada and the United States;
Four or more egg-laying hens are packed into a battery cage, a wire enclosure so small that none can spread her wings. Being held in such close confines, the hens peck at each other’s feathers and bodies. In order to protect their 'product', hens have their beaks clipped which is painful (sometimes they are cut so short that they are unable to eat) as well as have their toenails pulled out.
Sows are continuously impregnated and spend each of their pregnancies (aka most of their lives) confined to a gestation crate - a metal enclosure that is scarcely wider and longer than the sow herself. Unable to even turn around, sows develop abnormal behaviors, and suffer leg problems and skin lesions, let alone the mental trauma these highly intelligent animals must endure.
Growing pigs are confined to slatted, bare, concrete floors. Stressed by crowding and boredom, they frequently resort to biting and inflicting wounds upon their pen mates. In order to protect their ‘product’ piglets routinely have their tails cut off, their teeth pulled out and are castrated all without anesthetic. Piglets deemed to sick to be profitable are smashed against a concrete floor or wall to kill them. This is a legal and normal industry practice.
In factory dairies, cows spend their entire lives confined to concrete. To boost production, some cows are injected with the growth hormone rBGH, leading to lameness and mastitis, a painful infection of the udder. Once they give birth their babies are taken away, sometimes before the mother even has a chance to lick off the afterbirth. They endure this over and over again until they, oftentimes, cannot even stand, at which time they are considered a downed cow, worthless.
So at least as a women, let alone a feminist, I must ask, what about #SheToo? To eat meat is to essentially hijack the female reproductive system for the sake of our gluttony pleasure. Face it, this day and age we do not need to eat meat to survive or to thrive. In fact, quite the contrary, science continues to prove that meat is killing us.
I think most of us agree that a women should be able to make decisions about their bodies. But female nonhuman animals have absolutely no reproductive rights. They are raped for profit (yes I said it) over and over again, with no thought given to the fact that she is a sentient being; to behave as if the body of another being is nothing more than a biological food factory is surely not very feminist. Although you may not personally be putting the female cow on the rape rack, or the sow in a gestation crate, with every dollar spent in the meat and dairy department you are paying someone else to do it for you.
I often ask my self how in this day and age, with such an educated population, do we have so many omnivore ‘feminists’? Is it that they don’t know? Is it possible they don’t care? Can they not see the irony? Maybe they just want the t-shirt? Doesn't seem very feminist to me.
To many of us, it’s so black and white. And speaking about white… what about milk? When it comes right down to it, milk is the breast milk of another species. It is meant to nourish her calf. So how can it be justified to unnaturally impregnate a mother and take her baby away after birth so that humans can take the breast milk? That baby, if female, goes back into dairy slavery, and if male is discarded or becomes a veal calf, destined to spend it’s short, miserable life in a veal hutch. For so many human mothers breastfeeding is a natural, cherished activity. Something that so many women look forward to and strive to be able to do. So what about the non human mother? #SheToo loves her babies. #SheToo is a sentient being. #SheToo feels fear and pain and heartache. #SheToo longs for freedom and to nurture her baby. #SheToo has been denied these very basic rights.
So let’s just be clear. Human females are consistently objectified in a way that is very similar to the way non-human animals are objectified. Have you ever herd the term ‘she’s a good looking piece of meat?’ Gross right? But you have to admit, it’s very similar in that both women and animals are positioned as objects rather than subjects. Women generally as sexual objects and animals as edible objects.
When I look at this logically, when a person eats meat or animal by-products they are contributing to a system which positions non-human animals as lesser than humans, which is the same system and by the same logic positions women as lesser than men. It could also be argued that oppressing female animals by virtue of their femaleness, seems at least comparable to the way women in society are oppressed by their status as women. We are female. They are female. We are sentient beings. They are sentient beings. We fight against oppression in many ways, including keeping our reproductive rights and protection against sexual violence. The difference is that these animals cannot fight for their rights. So in a movement that empowers #MeToo, we should certainly give merit to #SheToo.
To sum it up in one sentence; a person could absolutely be a women’s rights advocate, which is important and necessary … but he or she who contributes to animal suffering, particularly by eating their flesh or byproducts, is not a feminist.
They just bought the t shirt.
Samantha Ray is a thinker, a doer, and a social activist. Not afraid to speak her mind, she often brings tough issues to the surface in the hopes of enticing people to start conversations and to think outside the box of societal norms.
In the video below Carla from Happy Tails Farm Sanctuary discusses some important points about the animal agro business and hows speciesism plays a huge role in our society today.