Pro-Intersectional Advocacy: A call for unified justice

“A community needs to be all inclusive, or it is NOT a community. Be mindful of how your words and actions affect the more marginalized members of your community, and work to foster an environment that is safe(r) for them than the norm. Don't get defensive, get reflective.” –Sage, (2018)

VegFest Calgary has a pro-intersectional approach to activism and promotion of vegan values. The term “intersectionality” was first popularized by Kimberle Crenshaw in her article Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color (1989). In brief, Crenshaw argued that black women occupy a unique position of oppression because they experience both the oppressions of woman and they oppression of being black. Over time, the term “intersectionality” has come to mean much more- in a basic sense, it refers to the idea that oppression is not singular, but rather interconnected and related to large power structures (like government, the media, the prison-industrial complex, the animal-industrial complex, etc). Pro-intersectional VEGANISM (again, briefly) means recognizing the links between speciesism and human oppressions- basically, advocating for veganism without being discriminatory to humans.

As our team reflects a wider social community and is comprised of women, people of colour, and neurodiverse individuals, we are steadfast in our commitment to fighting for animal liberation without reproducing the harmful images, ideas, and messages that marginalize human animals.  We aim to help people understand that it is in the interest of nonhuman animals to build bridges with other communities, understand their struggles, be allies, and work collectively towards unified liberation. As McJetters (2018) succinctly explains, “if you don’t understand that oppressions are linked and entangled, then you don’t understand how oppression works.  And if you don’t understand how oppression works, you’re probably poorly equipped to fight it.”

The opening and closing quotes were taken from the Facebook statuses of two individuals that we recommend following:

Tim Sage

Christopher Sebastian McJetters

 

For additional insights over your quick scroll through Facebook, we recommend the following accounts (we expect this list to grow organically):

-A Privileged Vegan

-A Well-Fed World

-Black Vegans Rock (Aph Ko)

-Brenda Sanders

-Carol Adams

-Darren Chang

-Dr. Pamela Fergusson, Registered Dietitian

-Food Empowerment Project (Lauren Ornelas)

-Ginny Kisch Messina

-Laura Schleifer

-Lin Chi Pin

-Mothers Against Dairy

-Pattrice Jones

-Pax Ahimsa Gethen

-Raffy Ciavata (Collectively Free)

-Sistah Vegan Project (Dr. Breeze Harper)

-Zarna Joshi
 

If you’re interested in learning more, here are some resources we recommend:

YOUTUBE VIDEOS (type these into the search function and watch away):

-A. Breeze Harper

- Aph Ko Black Vegans Rock)

-A privileged vegan

-Brenda Sanders

-Christopher Sebastian McJetters

-Lauren Ornelas

-Lisa Kemmerer

-Margaret Robinson (feminist Natives do eat tofu)

-Pattrice Jones

-Pax Ahimsa Gethen

-TAVS/ Sarah K. Woodcock

-Vegfest UK

-Zarna Joshi
 

BOOKS

-Aphro-ism by Aph and Syl Ko (black feminism + veganism)

-Beasts of burden: Animal and disability liberation by Sanaura Taylor (disability + veganism)

-Dangerous Crossings by Claire Jean Kim (racism + speciesism)

-The Oxen at the Intersection by Pattrice Jones (effective activism + intersectional justice)

-The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol Adams (feminism + veganism)

-Sister Species by Lisa Kemmerer (feminism + veganism)

-Women, Destruction, and the Avant-garde by Kim Socha (feminism + veganism)

-The Sistah Vegan Anthology by A. Breeze Harper (black feminism + veganism)

-Veganism in an Oppressive World by Julia Feliz Bruek (racism + veganism)

4 Reasons why VegFest doesn’t use graphic images:

February 25, 2018 || Meneka Repka

As VegFest moves from a new local festival to a solid platform for real change in our city, we have given a great deal of thought to how we present veganism to our community. In our first year, we knew that using graphic or violent images of exploited animals did not fully mesh with the “flavour” of VegFest; something about these images at a fun outdoor festival just didn’t seem right.  Through a great deal of research and discussion, we have come to a better understanding of why these images aren’t an appropriate tool for our organization.

 

1.     ABLEISM: In our fight towards animal liberation, we want to ensure that we are also not oppressing our fellow humans.  After all, who wants to be a part of a movement that participates in the subjugation of another group? When we show people in public graphic images without knowing their individual backgrounds, we are assuming that everyone we encounter is equally positioned to view those images and still be okay afterwards. Unfortunately, there is no way to control a public audience to be only neurotypical, trauma-free adults.  Assuming that traumatizing people will lead to change is neither compassionate nor kind.

2.     SEXISM: Our attitudes about consent inform and shape our collective behaviours.  By ignoring consent in ANY circumstance, we are participating in rape culture, which operates in service to the patriarchy.  If we say “consent is not necessary here” then we justify a lack of consent in other situations too- we are saying that consent is not important and that only certain people get to decide when consent is necessary. Also (and this links to our next point), the non-human animals in these pictures can’t consent to how they are being represented in their own movement.  We (those of us in the human community) must remember that animal liberation is about non-humans, and that humans are part of the oppressing class. We benefit from speciesism even if we’re vegan. 

3.     SPECIESISM: If the only images we show of nonhumans are ones in which they are being brutalized, then we continue to participate in their objectification.   We further suppress them as agents of their own liberation by asking humans to pity them rather than understand their individual personhoods.  Additionally, as Callie Coker and Nichole Dinato point out in their podcast Vegan Warrior Princesses Attack, “[there is] no control with how the image is being consumed.  [We] can’t control if the person [viewing] is actually upset or if the person is enjoying it.  So now you’ve provided them with material for fetishization without the animal’s consent. Some people are just saying “meh” to a brutalized animal.  You’re using that life and it’s not even resonating- some people are consuming it in a pleasurable way.  That animal is being objectified by how you’re using the image.”

4.     POSITIVE CHANGE: We know with certainty that it is possible for people to take steps in the direction of veganism (and eventually fully transition) by only using positive depictions and conversations.  At VegFest, our goal is to focus more on the “pull” factors towards veganism rather than the “push” factors away from eating meat.  We’ve already made some great strides: Local restaurants are now putting permanent vegan options on their menus, we’ve put VegFest and veganism on the public radar through local news stations, and we’ve contributed to our local animal sanctuaries through our donations.  We also worked alongside CARE and CalgaryVegan to put on Calgary’s first ever fully vegan pancake breakfast (“Get Stacked”), showing the city how delicious veganism can be.  Our candlelight vigil to honour animals (“Get Lit”) also drew attention to non-human suffering through the food industry without a single graphic or violent depiction.  In this way, it is our hope that people will be attracted to the vegan lifestyle in a safe, compassionate, family-friendly, and positive setting.