Veggie Shameless

veggiePride2Early on the morning of Saturday, 28 June 1969, vegetarians and vegans rioted following a police raid on the StoneSoup Inn in the Greenwich Village neighborhood of New York City. The StoneSoup Inn was a vegan restaurant which catered to an assortment of patrons, but which was popular with most people in the veggie community. The StoneSoup Inn riots are generally considered to be the beginning of the modern veggie movement, as it was the first time in modern history that a significant body of veggie people resisted arrest.

If that seems vaguely familiar yet wrong, it should. That paragraph was taken from the Pride parade wikipedia entry swapping references with “veggie” people and I’ll get to why in a minute here.

LGBT people have long suffered oppression and marginalization for being who they are. It was in fact a crime in the United States and just recently became decriminalized with 14 states finally being forced to do so in 2003 by a Supreme Court decision. Their struggle against heterosexism continues to this day as they are discriminated against and victims of violence to a degree I can only allude to in this post and which I will assume you must be familiar. My point is that it’s a serious social justice cause that continues to this day.

Animal rights activists often look to lessons of past social justice movement to inspire and inform their own movement. For actions that take a more direct route they sometimes suffer the consequences of incarceration or legislation intended to mitigate their efforts. To the extent of which they are persecuted or inhibited for acting on the behalf of an oppressed group is a good and worthy conversation to have. Still though each justice movement is unique and requires a sensitivity in handling as to not diminish or misconstrue their efforts and goals. For example, think, um …well, most of PETA’s campaigns.1 Informing is much different than appropriating the hard-earned virtue past movements paid through blood, sweat and tears.

When I was working with a local “veg” advocacy group we sometimes got questioned about our role marching in the annual Chicago Pride Parade. Some were worried about co-opting their cause for ours but we shrugged it off for the most part. Mercy For Animals now makes a stronger representation wearing their “No one is free while others are oppressed.” shirts while passing out Why Vegetarian brochures. They’re not the worst of it though I guess. Co-opting Pride seems pretty much par for the course, these days at least.

VEGGIE PRIDE
That’s nothing though compared to a new effort gaining popularity called Veggie Pride. Their mission states one of the reasons for their parade is

“to denounce the discrimination which they {vegetarians and vegans} suffer”

I’m finding it hard to believe that “vegephobia” exists at least enough to warrant a march. I think Vegans of Color found it hard to believe as well but one brave commenter attempted to make the case citing lack of dietary accommodation as a major reason.

“1. Can you go out to eat in any city in the US and be certain that the foods you are served, as well as the dining decor, is not made from animal products? When a food server served me shrimp, I had already eaten a portion before I discovered it. Why is it alright to do this to a vegan but not alright to do it to someone with an allergy or religious reason for eating differently than the majority?”

Maybe the vegans need to join a different parade:

It’s not like organizers are intentionally co-opting other social justice issues like same sex marriage right? Oh crap, waitaminute what’s this Veggie Pride wedding?! Aww c’mon now! Ok maybe that too is a naive stunt, but then they also use language like:

“I’m hoping that at this event people will see vegans and vegetarians come out of the shadows, once and for all.”2

Really?! Why not just go all the way and say “closets” instead of “shadows”? Oh no wait, they do:

With “Lesbian and Gay Pride” homosexuals were able to ‘come out of their closet‘, to announce in public that they weren’t embarrassed by their sexuality, and to denounce homophobia. Numerous vegetarians and vegans want to do the same thing with ‘vegephobia’. They want to be able to express their desire not to exploit animals.(emphasis mine)

And then they just come out and admit the appropriation:

The use of the term pride to defend the rights of vegetarians and vegans creates a parallel between the two demonstrations, which are similar in many ways.3

To so blatantly usurp a social justice movement like this is distasteful at best. The LGBT social movements have their own stories, heroes, victims and activists and they deserve to have those preserved and respected.

Ignorant of all that evidence to the contrary (granting the benefit of the doubt here), participants of veggie pride may see it as a celebration of…not eating animals, or something. It’s a beguiling idea to coalesce the factions of non-animal-eaters under one term. “Guys guys, let’s just all get along under one umbrella, imagine all we can accomplish together!“. But that too diminishes the goals, issues and members of these factions. Animal rights vegans may not give a shit about the $upreme Ma$ter Cha-Ching cultists marching alongside them. Rawfoodists leer at the Dr. Guruists, and breatharians say they’ll march but just pretend to. They try to use “veggie”, “veg*n” or just “veg” to avoid the politics of crossing borders but the act of not-eating-animals is just that, it’s no platform.

In my research for this article I only could find one dissenting piece. The extent to which appropriation of the LGBT social justice movement surprised even myself as I didn’t think it as intentional as discovered. This makes me wonder what’s going on here. Are people just not willing to speak up and stay complicit or are they being misled? When vegans and vegetarians wring their hands over Fur Free Friday marches invented by the animal rights movement for a particular cause yet happily bounce around a plagiarized pride march, what does that tell you? It tells me Veggie Pride is a ridiculous parody of a supposed ethical movement. Have they no shame?

Instead of “Veggie Pride” they should call it “Veggie Shameless”.

Further Reading:
Are vegetables straight? | Vegans of Color
What Does “Veggie Pride” Look Like? | Vegans of Color
International Vegan Rights Alliance
Respect of the rights of vegans and vegetarians
Vegephobia: Derogatory Discourses of Veganism and the Reproduction of Speciesism in UK National Newspapers | HumaneSpot.org

Citations:

2 comments to Veggie Shameless

  • Libby

    “…Still though each justice movement is unique and requires a sensitivity in handling as to not diminish or misconstrue their efforts and goals…Informing is much different than appropriating the hard-earned virtue past movements paid through blood, sweat and tears…”

    Likewise, note the way some anti-speciesists talk about how speciesism is to species as racism is to race, and species is totally arbitrary, and they want equal rights for all species the same way they want equal rights for all races, and livestock farming is to species as antebellum U.S. slavery was to race…

    …and stop there.

    As if there’s no more to equal rights than not being bought, sold, hunted, and eaten.

    When it comes to voting rights, criminal justice, desegregation of schools and hospitals, the Americans with Disabilities Act, etc. and animals…they’re silent.

    It’s like they’re telling us to go from treating animals like antebellum U.S. slavery treated African-Americans to treating animals like the Jim Crow laws treated African-Americans but calling the latter equal rights.

  • Comparing speciesism to race is not treading on other justice movements. It’s a valid comparison. Both species and race are inherent and used to justify oppression. The animal rights movement is not seeking the same rights as humans but similar protections.

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