Prevalent Perceptions on Animal Rights, and on Vegetarians & Vegans

I am not good with ultimatums. I once told myself, If anyone is anti-choice, I can’t be friends with him/her. But then I met someone anti-choice, and dammit I had to like her. She was kind and sweet and fascinated with astronomy. (Also I am convinced that in the future she will change her mind.) Granted, she wasn’t the “women who have abortions are the spawn of the devil!” type–she was sort of the quiet, well-I-would-still-keep-the-kid type. (And yes, I told her that was not her decision for another woman. She was like “Yeah… I know… but yeah.”)

Anyway, that didn’t work out: we’re still friends.

But that doesn’t mean that there isn’t a line… somewhere. If anyone makes a rape joke, for instance, I’m dropping xir in a second if xe doesn’t learn to shut up, at least around me. And I have. Good riddance, because after a while it is really bad for my emotional health.

Lately, I’ve been feeling something similar when it comes to attitudes toward animal rights. I’m not talking about the “PETA is so hypocritical!” people–God knows I’ve criticized them myself, and for good reason. Nor am I talking about, “I can’t be vegan because I can’t afford it; why do vegans insist on forcing this on me without acknowledging we don’t all have that kind of class privilege?” because I have seen this happen, where a vegan will guilt-trip someone who isn’t, and it is an understandable sentiment to be irritated and pissed off. Most people can’t afford to be vegetarian/vegan and eat healthy.

Being a vegetarian, I don’t eat healthy. (This may also have to do with the fact that I’m a university student.) I can’t afford to eat healthy. I can’t afford organic, and I’m always drinking water so I don’t have to pay for food. Often, I forget to eat altogether because I much rather read or daydream and I’m so sucked in I don’t even realize I’m hungry. Whether I am putting my health in jeopardy is debatable. But that is my decision. I don’t believe I’m at any more risk than the average college student, and as far as I’m concerned meat is only good for protein and doesn’t make as huge a difference as everyone claims. This may or may not come back to kick my ass when I’m in my 40s.

In fact, part of the reason I understand the frustrations of omnivores whom vegans have attempted to violently convert through guilt-tripping involves more than class privilege. It unfortunately also involves a lot of health-policing, and I wouldn’t dream of doing that to people in the first place, but I especially wouldn’t because so many people have done it to me. “What are you, 93 pounds? How strong are you? You need to eat some good saucy meat.”

No, I don’t, thanks. And your tone is slightly creepy.

Sound criticisms are not bad for my emotional health. If these are your complaints, I am not talking about you; in fact I’m behind you one hundred percent.

Here is what I can’t tolerate:

Why is it that when a vegetarian/vegan does something like this it’s always representative? I don’t even talk about how I’m a vegetarian unless the subject comes up first–people generally don’t find out until we eat together, and still those who do eat meat go out of their way to eat it in front me, make jokes about animal rights (let’s give cows the vote hahaahaha!), and are able to do this with great convenience because they have the privilege of every restaurant catering to their demands.

But I was never all like, “OMG YOU MEAT EATERS ARE FUCKING DOUCHEBAGS! And I know this because this one time, I met one who was a douchebag.”

The most epic of times happened when a guy showed me a video of what appeared to be a male duck holding onto the feathers of a female duck with his beak and forcing her to stay there and have sex with him while she was clearly trying to escape, and the ass was like, “Arrest him for rape!”

Mocking the animal rights movement and rape victims at the same time. You’re still not funny.

I am serious when I say that it gets to the point when it’s a form of harassment. In real life, that is. When some weirdo follows you around with a plate and chanting, “Tasty tasty dead animals!” it is harassment. This triggers me. It evokes real pain. On the Internet it’s completely unavoidable and you just have to stop reading. After I left the last two paragraphs of this entry in the comment section on Feministe, there were people making jokes about how owning pets is slavery.

I’ve never heard a vegan say this. Ever. And I have to see my way out after that, because I am thinking of the terrible conditions in which farm animals are tortured and mutilated and you are comparing it to owning pets. You are deliberately distorting what I am arguing for to belittle the horrors of torture and mutilation for your own amusement.

Worse than that, is when people assert animals have no rights, and they are completely serious. The first person I heard say this was my high school economics instructor, who was a pretty decent guy except for the fact that he was an economics instructor. According to him animals are not bound by the social contract of civilization, and therefore are not entitled to rights. I also had a biology instructor who said God put animals here for our use, so that we can experiment on them. I’ve come across people who believe animals don’t consent (Dogs who think their opinions matter become dangerous!) and that they are incapable of feeling love or shame.

If has the ability to feel pain, it has rights.

I don’t know how this can be any clearer. Animals have rights based on experiences of pain. If it can be tortured, it has the right to not be tortured. Especially when the torture is entirely unnecessary and exists solely to feed sleazy corporate appetites. It’s astounding that there are people who don’t understand this. And if it needs to be explained to them, they probably never will.

I am not good with ultimatums. But if anyone persists with, “We have the right to do what we want because we’re smarter and LOL duck rape” I won’t put up with it.

17 thoughts on “Prevalent Perceptions on Animal Rights, and on Vegetarians & Vegans

  1. There are things I agree with and disagree with in this post. Most of it I don't feel strongly enough to get into.But I agree that meat-eaters are, as a rule, more obnoxious than vegetarians/vegans. (I'm a meat-eater myself, not that that has much to do with it.) The "self-righteous vegan" stereotype is severely overblown, and it's just one of the many justifications meat-eaters use for looking down on veg*ns. The truth is, people who unthinkingly conform to social norms are VERY antagonistic to those who don't. So even though meat-eaters are by far a majority, and their right to eat meat is in no way threatened, they'll lash out at veg*ns. As in virtually every aspect of life, those who don't conform to social norms are punished for it by those who do.

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  2. What Triplanetary said! Also, the whole self-righteous image gets thrown around way too much. With animals rights, and with environmentalism. I've heard people say that they support gay people but not the self-righteous ones who "throw it in your face" and that they feel sorry for women, but not feminists. So, in other words, they feel sorry for women until women speak out.(Discalimer: I am not comparing being vegan to being gay. People actually oppress gay people; people just poke at vegans.)

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  3. Animals have rights based on experiences of pain.When people hear "animal rights" they tend to have the absurd idea that we want to apply human rights to animals.No, we want to apply animal rights to animals.Animal rights hasn't really taken off in the mainstream feminist movement. It's perceived as more of an "on the side" thing. Neither has environmentalism, but vegans face a weird sense of hostility from feminists that environmentalists don't.Triplanetary, I am curious about what you disagree with, and I love your name.

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  4. And what's my height?Health policing is rarely about health. It's strangers who know nothing about you or your lifestyle playing doctor. In my case, health policing is less about health and more about trying to get me to eat meat. For fat people, it is less about health and more about trying to get them to lose weight. "You should really get surgery because I care about you and I don't want you to have a stroke… so I am advocating letting someone insert things into you even though you're perfectly happy."Oh, I see, because you care about me. Right.

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  5. I am not comparing being vegan to being gay. People actually oppress gay people; people just poke at vegans.Vegans aren't oppressed. ANIMALS are oppressed. And that's why it's triggering when people joke about this. Making fun of vegans? Harmless. Making fun of animal cruelty, like in every one of Nahida's examples? Not acceptable.

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  6. I'm going to disagree with the meat-eater's being more obnoxious bit (Nahida, you knew this was coming!). Ordinarily, sure, I'd take the side of the non-normative majority, but this just in, vegans are not an oppressed minority. With a few exceptions, they're almost by definition privileged–very few people in the world can afford to turn down food without a violent health or strong religious objection, and you'll find that people who do live in places where they benefit from the exploitation of other cultures.You know, like Americans. Or for that matter Canadians.I agree with people who want to improve the living conditions of animals; I even agree individual choices make an impact. This is why I cut beef (and have almost cut pork) out of my diet since 2007 (although my priorities tend toward environmental, and not individual animal impacts). The way to do this, though, is not to shame, police, or attack the eating habits of other people, which is something *every* vegan of my acquaintance has done, and a number of vegetarians. Obviously that doesn't mean I think every vegan is like this, but from my lived experience that's pretty statistically significant.Additionally, almost every single one of those vegans I know for a fact is in a higher socio-economic strata than me, and none of them have any sensory sensitivities with regard to food either (yes, I'm aware avoiding foods for sensory reactions is also privileged–it still doesn't mean the food choices others make will be identical to the ones I can make).I do care about animal conditions. I like to buy, for example, free range chicken and cage free eggs, but I can rarely afford to do so–but a lot of vegans will claim moral superiority because of this despite their disposable grocery income being markedly better. And this isn't even taking into account that until recently I lived in a grocery ghetto and I didn't even have *access* to those foods.Kind of a long comment, and I don't really disagree with anything Nahida said. I just get really tired of everyone rushing to the defense of a group that, by and large, uses dietary preferences as a way of exercising class superiority and moral purity. Yeah, no.

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  7. Also, Luke. One of my friends has Crohn's disease. She was always pretty petite but since December when she got really sick and was diagnosed, she's gotten pretty dramatically thinner. She also doesn't eat a lot now because from what I've inferred she has trouble digesting much.Under other circumstances, with someone I knew a little better, or was a little closer to in age, I might try to intervene if I thought she had an eating disorder and it was endangering her. I would never presume to body police a stranger, even if I did think she was anorexic, for this very reason. I've never felt the need to comment on her weight, but how many assholes do you think have suggested to her what she really needs is a milkshake? Pretty sure at least a few!

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  8. Well, I never said I thought they were more obnoxious (or oppressed…God, no)–just that I've met omnivores who are equally tiresome and I don't assume omnivores in general are this way because of the few who are louder as opposed to the rest of the planet who are like, "OMG Vegans are so self-righteous!" And then they make jokes of animal cruelty…

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  9. Ok, I just wrote a incredibly long comment, which I'm not going to post. I'll just say this: I've yet to meet a poor or working class vegan, and I've yet to meet any vegans (and precious-few non-vegan/vegetarians) that are working to break down the capitalist system that forces working-class people into making some terrible choices regarding the food they eat.I'm sick of people – vegan/vegetarian and non – who insult, dehumanize, guilt-trip, and health-police each other (and believe me, I've gotten health-policed by people from both groups). People on all sides of the issue need to respect the bodily autonomy of every person, not just that of the people who eat the same foods one eats.

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  10. I agree that meat-eaters can be just as "holier than thou" as vegans and vegetarians.(am I the only one, who sees similarities between people feeling justified that "their way" of eating is "the only way", and religious beliefs?).Personally, I'm a meat-eater, but I care deeply about animal rights. I'm a meat-eater, because I believe genetically, we are meant to eat meat, and it is healthier for us. (And I've read many many many articles and books both pro and con, have friends who are vegans (raw-vegans even) and subscribe to several blogs, so it's an informed decision). But I DO care about animal rights. I DO think it makes a difference how the animal lives and dies. I don't have the finances to always let it shine through, but I do my best for it to show in most of my purchases. (All the minced beef I buy, for example, is organic and grass-fed). I NEVER buy eggs that are not at least free-range, and then only if the store doesn't have any organic eggs left. But I do realize, that even as a student, I am still much more privileged than most of the people in the world, and I cannot fault anyone, who struggles to feed themselves and their family, for the quality of food they eat. But it is an incredibly important issue, and something I don't think enough is being done about.The "cheap" meals in the US, are cheap only because they're heavily subsidized by the state (for example, the farmers who grow the corn, only get half of the pay from the buyers, the rest is subsidized by the US government). The prize is not the $1 for a burger, but also what that meal cost the environment, the animals, and what it'll cost you down the line in sickness. But most people don't see that. They only see the price here and now, and yes, it is cheaper than eating food that is good for you, the planet, the animals and your health.

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  11. Btw, as for your friend who is semi-anti-abortion. That's me, to even less degree. I'm completely pro-choice. But I couldn't ever have an abortion. But that is MY choice. And I have no right to make that choice on behalf of another woman.

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  12. I'm Muslim and vegetarian too :) I love your blog!I care very deeply for animals and jokes about animal cruelty are unacceptable to me. Unfortunately, my brother is the "for every animal you don't eat, I eat three" type, so that is pretty annoying.

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