See, as I explained, one of the main reasons that I think about veg*nism is because of my experiences with and love and knowledge of people who work in the poultry processing industry. It is an industry that I think is cruel to the plant workers who are overwhelmingly black, Latin@, and Southeast Asian, cruel to the rural, mostly white farmers who have very few guarantees, and cruel to the chickens, as well. So, I think I've constructed veg*nism as a panacea in my mind, an act, a way of living, that would allow me to withdraw in some way, from the cruel way in which meat is made.
And that construction has been thoroughly challenged as I tried to answer BfP's not-so-simple question, "Is a vegan lifestyle really a “cruelty free” lifestyle?" How could I overlook the stories that she tells of her father, who picked strawberries, and "worked on his hands and knees for hours and hours, days and days, weeks and weeks at a time?" Of Maria Vasquez Jimenez? Of the cherry pickers I recently posted about? Of my own grandmother who picked cotton, purple hull peas, and other crops until she simply couldn't?
And at the same time I was thinking about BfP's question, I was reading Joan's comment, especially these parts:
I feel like greed is what is hurting the people and the animals in the processing plants.And that is the heart of my concern, the way food, all food, is brought to our tables, the unbelievable sacrifices that are demanded.
That's a simplistic and obvious statement I know. I mean that I don't think it is inherently immoral to eat meat. I know it is possible to eat meat without torturing animals and slow-killing people to do it.
Given that right now, the way most all meat comes to be meat is via torture of animals and torture of the people who work in processing plants, I see this incarnation of meat-eating as obviously corrupt.
I want to know how to shift the focus and the solutions to: it is unacceptable to treat people these ways. It is unnecessary to treat animals this way, on top of the unaaceptability. We don't actually all have to stop eating meat - we have to stop harming people and torturing animals as a means of producing meat.
So that I must acknowledge, even if I choose to give up meat, that is not the end of my obligation. From PICO:
Own the debt. It's not just about changing diets. It's about changing industries, wages, working conditions, immigration paths, global trade treaties, and stepping out of the hierarchical, patriarchal way of looking at women and people of color and animals and Earth and, yes, even plants. It's about a whole-life stance, not about what goes on the plate.These are all goals I care about, of course, but I have never thought of them in this context. Well, I have in a way, but not as fully as I am now.
BfP has a follow-up to her follow up (:-p) with links to people who are thinking about the issues she has brought up. I have been enthralled by following this conversation and how these questions hit people so personally. I am not done myself; this is, as PICO labeled it, another fucking growth opportunity.
A few links:
Grad School Mommy
Your Daughter Is Obsessed with Meat and Produce
Three Rivers Fog