Pre-VEGAN Fragility and Dietary Racism

“Nothing is as powerful as an idea whose time has come”

— Victor Hugo

We define VEGAN as “Vitally Engaged Guardians of Animals and Nature” and VEGANism as a way of living in which we seek to never intentionally hurt animals unnecessarily, but care for them and Nature instead. By that definition, most of us are already VEGAN in our hearts. However, we live in a society where what we say and what we do are not always in alignment, because we have been systematically deceiving ourselves regarding the necessity of consuming animal products.

Pre-VEGAN fragility is the idea that “pre-VEGANs,” i.e., people choosing to consume animal products, are perpetuating social injustice by being too fragile to examine their self-deception openly and honestly. Most pre-VEGANs live an insular experience, being rarely ever challenged on their consumer choices. They get very agitated with even a mention of the “VEGAN” word in their presence and shut down, thereby perpetuating systemic social injustices of all kinds, including dietary racism.

Dietary racism[1] is the concept that was first introduced by Dr. Milton Mills to describe the systemic racism that is prevalent in our institutional dietary recommendations. The normalization of animal foods through these recommendations selectively disadvantage People Of Color (POC) who are genetically pre-disposed to fare worse when consuming these unhealthy foods.

In what follows, we will establish that choosing to consume meat, dairy and other animal products is a colonialist, racist, ableist, sexist and speciesist (crass) act. Therefore, animal agriculture is truly institutionalized social injustice[2].

Animal agriculture is the leading cause of deforestation. Whenever we cut down forests, we are displacing indigenous people, essentially telling them that their civilization is inferior to ours and must make way for our global industrial civilization.

This is Colonialism 101.

Today, factory farms and slaughterhouses are located where POC live so that the animal waste, diseases and pandemics affect them the most. Even though most POC are lactose intolerant, our dietary guidelines promote the daily consumption of dairy products, thereby inhibiting learning abilities and physical health for POC. Furthermore, POC tend to live in food deserts where fresh fruits and vegetables are unavailable making it difficult for them to maintain good health.

This is Racism 101.

Slaughterhouse work is performed mostly by POC and it results in some of the highest levels of workplace injury and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). The slaughterhouse owners then discard the disabled workers with impunity.

This is Ableism 101.

Animal agriculture requires the outright abuse of the feminine by impregnating animals at will with artificial devices. How can we expect workers who are forced to routinely abuse the female animal then go home and behave honorably with their female human relatives?

This is Sexism 101.

Finally, it is self-evident that animal agriculture would not exist if we consider other species to have moral worth.

This is Speciesism 101.

In addition, animal agriculture is the foundation of our current system of normalized violence. Without it, our economic system of artificial scarcities would crumble. The following story best illustrates this point.

Imagine a single mother’s family with 8 children, 4 boys and 4 girls. The mother makes enough food for the children, leaves it in the fridge and entrusts her eldest son to take care of his siblings while she goes to work each day. Every night, when she returns from work, the food is gone but her youngest daughter is still hungry and therefore, she makes more food the next day. This goes on for a while until the mother is now making 46 plates of food every day to feed her 8 children.

Each day, the eldest brother takes 40 plates of food and makes one sister feed them to farmed animals. He then instructs another sister to extract food from these farmed animals and she returns with just one plate of meat, dairy, fish and eggs. Then the eldest brother announces to his siblings that only 7 plates of food are available while there are 8 mouths to feed and therefore, they all need to work for him so that he can determine who gets to eat and who doesn’t. He institutes a monetary system using pieces of paper with pictures of dead ancestors on them to determine who deserves what share of the food and water within the family.

He makes one brother build fast cars and another create shiny objects for his entertainment. He makes the third brother mine the fossil fuels and raw materials needed for creating fast cars and shiny objects. He employs one sister to sew fancy clothes for him to wear.

Finally, he tells his youngest sister that he has nothing for her to do and since she is jobless, she won’t be eating much food either. He keeps this exploitative family dynamics going for a while using divide-and-conquer techniques, pitting sibling against sibling based on the color of their skin or their religious and gender identities. However, despite all serving his every whim, the eldest brother himself isn’t very happy either.

He had been lying to his siblings that they must strive to eat animal foods because such foods are the only source of protein and calcium, important nutrients for their wellbeing. He had also been arguing that if the family stopped eating animal foods, the two sisters who work on feeding and milking the animals would become jobless and starve like their youngest sister. Such lies and specious arguments were now catching up to him.

The sister who sews his clothes had turned VEGAN and she had become living proof that the family could not only live, but actually thrive on a whole-foods plant-based VEGAN diet. In contrast, the eldest brother, who had been consuming the lion’s share of animal foods, is now overweight, sick and miserable, popping anti-depressants just to make it through each day. Therefore, they all began to see through the lies that had been keeping them working frenziedly to feed the insatiable desires of their eldest brother. They realize that the color of their skin or their gender identity doesn’t make them inferior, as they had been told. Indeed, they are all created equal and entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, just like the enslaved animals that had been exploited terribly in their midst.

Matters came to a pass when a viral infection shuts down the economic activities in the family and the eldest brother begins throwing away plates of food because his siblings are no longer able to work on his behalf and therefore don’t possess those pieces of paper with pictures of dead ancestors on them.

The other children get together and imagine a different way of living in which everyone’s needs are met and even the eldest brother would get healthy again. They repudiate the exploitation of animals and resolve to share the abundance of food that their mother had been making each day so that no one goes hungry. They resolve to clean up the mess that they had made during the process of building fast cars, shiny objects and fancy clothes. They resolve to regenerate the forests that they had destroyed for the production of animal foods. As a result of making all these changes, the family heals together and lives happily ever after.

Both for this imagined family of 8 and for our global human family of 8 billion, animal agriculture is the foundation of the system of artificial scarcities and the normalized violence that ensues. To overcome this system, we need to cut through the tissue of lies that hold it together. There is no need to eat animal foods and indeed, animal foods are actually “low quality” foods damaging to our health, the environment and the animals themselves. Concludes Dr. Sofia Ochoa[3], MD, citing numerous peer-reviewed scientific sources,

“Plant foods are the real “high quality” foods that we should be eating for optimal health.”

It is unnecessary to use animals for medical experimentation, product testing, clothing or entertainment either. In this COVID-19 era, there have been numerous articles in the mainstream media pointing out the immorality of animal agriculture. For example, Isaac Bailey wrote in an opinion piece[4] in response to the outrageous Presidential executive order[5] decreeing slaughterhouses to be “critical infrastructure,”

“Few of us protested or got the absurdity, the immorality, of telling fellow human beings to risk sacrificing themselves so the rest of us can keep eating burgers.”

Matthew Scully, the former speechwriter to President George W. Bush, wrote in the National Review[6],

“(Animal Agriculture is) a business whose ruthlessness to animals, utter indifference to workers, destructiveness to the environment, and manifold harm to human health combine to qualify it as perhaps the least essential industry in America, and among the most amoral.”

The contrast between Matthew Scully’s characterization of this industry as “least essential” and the Trump administration’s characterization as “critical infrastructure” couldn’t be starker. The former is the perspective of a courageous writer who’s telling the truth about the industry, while the latter is the marketing perspective of the Executive Branch of the United States Government, perpetrating systemic injustice as it sacrifices workers, especially POC, on the altar of economic growth and corporate profits.

Therefore, it is time to abandon animal agriculture and the system of normalized violence that stems from it. It is time to build a new system of normal nonviolence on a foundation of healthy, immune-boosting whole plant foods. It is time to build a completely VEGAN world.

The COVID-19 pandemic has provided the perfect opportunity to create this VEGAN world. The pandemic has eliminated over 40 million jobs in the United States and hundreds of millions of jobs elsewhere. Thousands of small businesses and restaurants are going bankrupt while the mega corporations are raking in billions as those who still have jobs that can be performed online, shop from their homes. The officially richest man in the world, Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, is about to become the first known Trillionaire on the planet. Thus, the rich get a whole lot richer, while the poor and the middle class get squeezed endlessly. Finally, the despicable murder of George Floyd has woken the public to the pervasive injustices in the system.

But we won’t get anywhere if we don’t talk about this openly and honestly. It does not have to be this way.

Imagine a world in which everyone belongs and knows that they are treated fairly as equals.

Imagine a world in which hunger and poverty are non-existent and good physical, mental and spiritual health is normal.

Imagine a world in which animals are treated with love and kindness and live free of human exploitation.

Imagine a world in which the Earth’s climate is under control, the forests are lush and humans are fulfilling a vital ecosystems role as the caretaker species of the planet.

Imagine a world in which we educate our children to be Vitally Engaged Guardians of Animals And Nature (VEGAN).

And imagine this VEGAN world comes to fruition by 2026!

Now, stop just imagining. Please join us and let us get it done.

References:

[1] Patricia Bertron, Neal Barnard and Milton Mills, “Racial Bias in Federal Nutrition Policy, Part 1: The Public Health Implications of Variations in Lactase Persistence,” Journal of the National Medical Association, Vol 91, No 3, pp. 151-157, 1999.

[2] Climate Healers, “Birthing a Post Pandemic Vegan World,” https://www.climatehealers.org/vegan-world-white-paper, 2020

[3] Dr. Sofia Pineda Ochoa, MD, “7 Ways Animal Protein is Damaging Your Health,” https://www.forksoverknives.com/wellness/animalproteindangers/#gs.7eal94 , Dec 31, 2016.

[4] Isaac Bailey, “Why I Can Live Without Eating Meat in the Pandemic,” CNN Opinion, https://www.cnn.com/2020/05/03/opinions/meat-processing-plant-donald-trump-bailey/index.html May 3, 2020.

[5] Executive Order #13917, “Delegating Authority Under the Defense Production Act With Respect to Food Supply Chain Resources During the National Emergency Caused by the Outbreak of COVID-19,” https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/05/01/2020-09536/delegating-authority-under-the-defense-production-act-with-respect-to-food-supply-chain-resources, April 28, 2020.

[6] Matthew Scully, “The Human Cost of ‘Culling’ Livestock and ‘Depopulating’ Farms,” National Review, https://www.nationalreview.com/2020/05/coronavirus-pandemic-human-cost-of-culling-livestock-depopulating-farms/, May 7, 2020.

Sailesh Rao, Ph.D., is a writer, Human Earth Animal Liberation (HEAL) activist, the Executive Director of Climate Healers, a non-profit dedicated towards healing the Earth’s climate, husband, dad and since 2010, a star struck grandfather. In 2016, he promised his granddaughter, Kimaya, that the world would be largely VEGAN by the time she turns 16, in 2026, so that people will stop eating her relatives, the animals. He has faith that humanity will transform to keep his unbreakable pinky promise to Kimaya, not just for ethical reasons, but also out of sheer ecological necessity. For more, please see https://www.climatehealers.org/sailesh-rao

 

A Banquet of Consequences
Sailesh Rao
srao@climatehealers.org
1 Comment
  • Zoe Zuniga
    Posted at 17:05h, 10 June Reply

    Brilliantly written. Yes this is all related, until we stop treating the most defensless creatures with cruelty and resolve the basic underpinning of modern colonial society we will never resolve police brutality and social injustice.

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