The Scavenger: Addressing racism and classism in animal rights activism

via Racialicious.

We’ve heard a lot about sexism in the animal rights movement, particulary in regard to PETA advertisements.  Stephanie Lai wrote a great piece for The Scavenger which takes a closer look at racism and classism in animal rights activism.

Historically, in Western animal rights activism, it’s been considered a very white, middle-class movement. There’s an assumption of a certain level of education, and of physical ability.

People who don’t fall in to this image have felt unwelcome or alienated from animal rights because of this. A failure to take into account intersections can also be very disempowering for the marginalised group/s.

Traditionally it has been ‘How do we get X minority group to come to us?’ which ignores the reality that often these groups are already part of animal rights activsm, or doing their own thing, and the mainstream just hasn’t noticed them.

Or the approaches taken have ignored the reality of what’s going on, and so have squandered an opportunity to get a certain group on board.

A lot of intersectionality issues have been ignored or dismissed by western animal rights activists because “We don’t have time for that” or “It’s not about the animals.” The term I use for that is ‘single issue vegan,’ and it’s not a nice term.

Being single issue is giving preference to a political party based on their animal rights promises and ignoring their history of environmental and racial issues, never mind their history of breaking promises.

Being single issue is buying the cheap cotton jumper from some shop, without considering its environmental impact and their abuse of labour and sweatshop laws.

Being single issue is choosing something vegan with no consideration for whether it’s heavily processed and packaged, and what that means.

The reason why I talk about intersectionality in animal rights is because I have often felt alienated from it.

I am bisexual and ethnically Chinese, and I grew up economically not that well-off (though I am now a middle-class hipster).

I come to animal rights from environmentalism.

All of these things intersect for me, because what it means is that I deviate from the “norm” within animal rights. In animal rights, and also within veganism, terms that are frequently used, as they are in many movements, are things like ‘normal,’ and ‘exotic,’ and I’m usually positioned outside of these terms.

This has always been really alienating for me, because things that I think of as normal or everyday are actually considered odd, especially within vegan circles.

BI just wanted to flag this, because this is what intersectionality is about in animal rights: it’s about making sure that we’re not excluding, ignoring or dismissing people. And it can be about harnessing potential.

Read Stephanie Lai’s full post at TheScavenger.net.

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