Sunday, June 15, 2008

Veg*nism--A Quick Revisit

Over at Joan Kelly's, on her post about BfP's wonderful, thought-provoking follow up to a post I wrote about my thoughts about veg*nism for me, I commented that BfP makes lights go off in my head. Not a particularly prosaic phrase (and it might be a mixed metaphor), but how else to describe the fact that, after reading her post and Joan's comments, I was lying in my bed and had a moment of realization that made me roll over and jot things down on the notebook I keep under my pillow.

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.

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.
And that is the heart of my concern, the way food, all food, is brought to our tables, the unbelievable sacrifices that are demanded.

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:

Wild Chihuahuas
Grad School Mommy
Joan Kelly
Your Daughter Is Obsessed with Meat and Produce
Three Rivers Fog


Anonymous said...

i loved that post of bfp's, b/c i have often thought that certain people who love and preach veg* etc seem to care about the animals only, and not the people, and that there is human suffering in our current way of producing food. and joan makes a great point about greed. thank you for your thought as well!

btw, ot: i know comments are off on her site now, but there is a log in link on the side. does that mean there is still some way of talking with her? do you know?

elle said...

I saw that, too, but the only way I know is via e-mail.

changeseeker said...

Wow!! This is so deep I'm going to have think about it for a while. And the ripples just keep forming. All the way to poor health care for poor people and the irresponsibile use of incarceration, particularly of people of color, and even war. Whew! Um....thanks?

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the link and the discussion, Elle. Obviously I did not come up with the greed-thoughts on my own, but it definitely is something that has stuck in my craw for a while now, the way I'm just supposed to go "well okay then!" in response to the argument "but that would cut into profits and we know *that's* not going to be allowed!" Yes, I know CEO's aren't going to read our posts and go - oh shit, take some off my salary so we can be kinder to people and animals, I had no idea... That doesn't make it right *or* a given, and I get aggravated that even some people on the "cruelty-free" side of things don't question that.

PICO said...

I want to say how important this conversation is for me, and thank you all for making me think outside the ruts. I'm so glad to know you're there, all of you. I feel honored to be included in the conversation and look forward to many more.

whatsername said...

This has been a truly thought provoking back and forth. I myself have come to my own conclusions around vegan/vegetarianism, but I was very focused on the food. Never even took the production into account.

Revelations and ruminations from one southern sistorian...