Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Yes, All Farmed Animals

For the past few weeks, awareness about the mind-numbing pervasiveness of harassment, misogyny and violence females face has been heightened in the wake of the horrific May 23 murders in Santa Barbara committed by Elliot Rodger, a young man who blamed his actions on what he considered years of unjust rejection by women. Angry at the women he thought were his birthright, envious of the men he believed unfairly received sexual gratification, he went on a terrifying, bloody spree that quickly claimed six lives in addition to his own.

In the aftermath of the violence, some very important, very painful personal stories have emerged from the shadows and come to the forefront. The meteoric rise of the hashtag #YesAllWomen on social media came in response to the #NotAllMen hashtag, which was revived after the murders, apparently by some of the same men’s rights proponents with whom Rodger was ideologically aligned. Like most defensive reactions, the NotAllMen response, intentionally or unintentionally, nearly derailed the opportunity for honest communication, almost diverting it away from the vast diversity of women who were talking about the chillingly ordinary belittlement, misogyny and violence they have experienced simply for being female. Not all men are rapists, not all men are violent, not all men are murderers. Of course. Yet all girls and all women have experienced incidents of injustice, discrimination, harassment, threats and violence simply because they are female. Shouldn’t women be allowed to bear witness to their own experiences without needing to tend to someone else’s thin skin by specifying the obvious: not all men? YesAllWomen is a bracing and vital declaration about the sheer ubiquity of sexism, both mundane and extreme, that females across the globe face. It is so pervasive, it is just life. By removing the veil of ignorance and blinders, we have an opportunity to learn, change and evolve beyond our limited worldview.

What I am about to say is not intended to detract from or minimize the #YesAllWomen movement, which I fully support and think is both very valid and long overdue. As a vegan and a feminist, my intention is to describe how the same icy, indifferent and belittling voice of privileged power is also woven through the heightened defensiveness we hear when the subjugation of other animals, especially the animals people eat, is pointed out.  

Like everyday misogyny but far more entrenched and extreme, our tyranny over other animals most often hides in plain sight. When speaking about the culture of violence perpetrated against other animals, we often hear a defensive chorus of the same rhetorical nature: Not all animals. Not all meat-eaters. Not all farmers. Not all farms. Yet all animals are considered property, and all farmed animals are exploited and slaughtered because we believe that we have more of a right to their products and their flesh than they have a right to their own lives. On the continuum of care, a tiny percentage of animals are allowed the semblance of a decent life, but this is far outweighed by the sheer number who are not and, ultimately, they are all considered ours to do what we please with in the end. We make the decisions if they should reproduce or not, if they should live and when they should die. From the tiny fraction of animals that slick marketing campaigns would have us believe are coddled on idyllic farms until they happen to naturally die of old age to the billions upon billions who suffer through lives of unimaginable brutality, all farmed animals are brought into existence and taken from it based on our desires.

In other words, #YesAllFarmedAnimals. As with the #YesAllWomen response to a culture of pervasive misogyny, if we stop protecting our fragile egos, we will see what is hidden in plain sight: an unjust, unchallenged and often unspoken supremacy bias of anthropocentrism that impairs our awareness regarding all other species. Specifically regarding the animals people eat, please consider that while there are rare exceptions in terms of overall quality of life:

* All are treated as property whether we see it directly or not. 

* All are born and killed for our purposes whether we see it directly or not. 

* Simply because we have the prerogative of not seeing or noticing, it does not mean that violence has not occurred, even under our very noses. 

* The attitude of human exceptionalism pervades and threatens to derail honest dialogue and growth. 

Can we be honest enough to acknowledge this? Can we be humble enough to admit that at this time in history, when it is easier than ever to live without exploiting and killing other sentient beings, that it is immoral to kill them?

The #NotAllMen reaction serves as a reminder that there is not much that upsets people in a position of status more than not having everything centered around and catered to them and their desires. In the reaction to what is plainly obvious about the practice of eating other animals, we see a similar defensiveness, born of the same kind of entitlement and privilege, even more starkly. 

Trying to redirect candid discourse about the experience of misogyny is dismissive, reactive, reductive and self-centered. Steering honest conversations about our treatment of animals back to one’s own hurt pride or ego is similarly dismissive, reactive, reductive and self-centered. They are harmed and killed for us and it is needless. 

Yes, all farmed animals.


  1. Thankful for this. Intersectionality. Deep ecology.

    Hey, just so you know, I'm launching a radical vegan ecofeminist zine this summer - you must, MUST contribute.

    Call for submissions forthcoming.


  2. Beautifully said. thank you Marla!

  3. Thank you, J.J.! I will, WILL contribute. :D

  4. Thank you for making the connections between speciesism and misogyny so well, Marla. Another brilliant essay.

  5. Still making the old excuses? The bottom line is that ALL milk, egg, and meat consumption inevitably entails the deliberate confinement, enforced breeding, denial of right to roam, family life, ability to choose of fellow beings. I used to care for ex battery hens and know how many people use this as their excuse to eat the eggs of those poor creatures. Even if you don't pay the f(h)armer for these birds you are still perpetuating the system which exploits them. No level of animal use or exploitation is free from control (disguised as safety, care, and yes even rescue).
    Excusitarian non vegan rescuers I am calling you out here: you will bristle, plump yourself up and protest loudly, but until you are out of the system you won't appreciate how its all connected. We need to step clear and free from it all before our awareness fully opens. Factory farms, and cage manufacturers are very happy indeed to be providing the source of your self righteous little hobby, which is legitimising the ongoing enslavement that is the animal holocaust. It hurts to realise this. I was a passionate horse lover and tried every way I could to continue exploiting my beloved horses, such as natural horsemanship, bitless, shoeless, loose rein equine-guided trekking, open access shelters etc etc. Eventually my conscience rang too shrilly to be ignored, and I gave it all away to the kindest, least exploitative friend I knew. Animals deserve better than this, they want their authentic lives back, and genuine freedom. Now I use all that freed up energy to campaign for those still suffering.
    Just because humans have deliberately bred creatures seemingly incapable of surviving away from our "care" cannot justify what is happening to the ones already here. Put yourself in their position.........if the cages / corrals were opened they'd run away, and you would too. This is part of the difference between all the welfarist arguments and abolitionism. All animal use has to end, and those remaining in the system provided space as free from intervention and confinement as possible, until their natural deaths. It is a huge responsibility, but humanity totally owes it for all the centuries of enslavement and war upon animals for which we are to blame.

  6. YES!!!!

    Absolutely awesome post Marla, thank you!! xoxo


  7. YES!!!!

    Absolutely awesome post Marla, thank you!! xoxo


  8. Just have to say that we have farm animals because we farm them. They have a life because their life benefits us. If everyone stopped eating meat these animals have no habitat. Look at what happened to hunting dogs when they introduced a ban on fox hunting- they we're put to sleep. I disagree with intensive farming of animals-no one wants to see animals kept in these conditions, and therefore I make the choice to buy my beef from a friend who works in a slaughterhouse so I know as a fact that these animals had a good quality life, and probably a far better one than if they were "wild" which is a cruel thing to do to animals that have been bred for domestic purposes. We have created sub species of sheep cow and pigs that once past eating age develop serious health issues and are completely dependent on us for life and that cannot be undone.

  9. Anonymous, what do you expect to be told by a slaughterhouse worker for goodness sake?! Also, check your facts,as in UK foxhounds and hunt kennels are thriving since the hunting ban because whole new groups of people who felt they could not ethically go hunting can now have the experience. Its called drag hunting, following a deliberately marked trail.
    Factory farmed animals have zero life of any quality whatsover, and pastured animals only live a few weeks or months of what could have been 15 years for pigs and sheep and 25 years for cattle. None of them have the space to roam freely, select mates or stay with family. The males are all castrated except for a few who are masturbated for their sperm endlessly, with which the females are all raped. Please don't try denying the truth that their lives are miserable and unnatural and their deaths are bloody and violent.
    Also it is very destructive to the environment, the way they are fed on grains grown in places where irreplaceable rainforests were cut down and indigenous humans lost their homes. The amount of water, fuel and resources required to transport, render, refrigerate and market the resulting meat, and to dispose of the blood and offal, is massive. Not to mention the methane from billions of burping farting cows, and the effluent runoff and dying oceans from the pollution.
    At least you admit that the current species deliberately bred to grow fastest and maximise profit results in serious health issues should they live more than a few months, but this is reason to cease breeding any more, surely, and not as justification for continuing the
    abusive practise?


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