Feminism & Veganism: They Belong Together
Guest Post by Tracy Alexandra McDonnell
The bond between a mother and her children is often described as one of nature’s most powerful forces. Indeed, it is often described as “sacred.” Mothers of all species will not hesitate to defend their offspring, even when faced with seemingly insurmountable odds and frequently to the point of death.
I experienced the fierce intensity of this a few years ago while on a walk with my dog, Nikki. Although we didn’t realize it initially, the path on which we were walking passed near where a mother cat and several very young kittens were sitting under some shrubbery. When we were no less than 15 feet away, at the very instant the mother cat saw us, she ran at seemingly warp speed, directly toward Nikki, and leapt upon her in a ferocious attack, hissing, spitting and snarling. It was necessary for me to physically, and with considerable difficulty, separate the two of them, resulting in a number of deep scratches on my arms. Then, after a moment or two, as Nikki and I attempted to walk in the opposite direction, the mother cat came back a second time, no less fierce than before. Throughout it all, Nikki appeared too surprised, if not shocked, to even fight back.
Reflecting upon it later, I found it quite remarkable that this small creature, a fraction of Nikki’s size, would indeed seem to have been prepared to fight to the death in order to protect her babies. In fact, the mere possibility of a threat against them was in itself a catalyst for an expression of maternal instinct that was both powerfully proactive and absolutely unwavering. The mother cat’s almost unbelievable courage and the fundamentally primal nature of her bond with her offspring could not have been more clear.
One of the most profitable and powerful industries in our world today, the dairy industry, entails, at its very core, the deliberate severing of this mother-child bond, in addition to a number of other horrifyingly violent practices. In this hideous scenario, the mothers are not permitted to nurture their babies, and the babies are effectively orphaned, virtually as soon as they are born. Indeed, the entire reproductive process of the sensitive, fully sentient beings involved is methodically commodified for human profit, such that the torture undergone by both mothers and their offspring is clearly psychological and emotional as well as physical. All for a substance that is not only unnecessary for optimal human health but is actually harmful to human health.
Despite all this, I continue to encounter many self-described feminists who support this nightmarish industry without an apparent second thought. Occasionally they may attempt to justify their participation by saying that they only buy “organic” milk or that they only support small “family” farms, but this makes absolutely no sense, since there is no dairy operation that does not engage in these brutal practices. Moreover, once their period of servitude is over and they are deemed no longer profitable, both mothers and their offspring are all sent to the slaughterhouse.
Prof. Gary Francione has stated that “if you consume dairy and consider yourself a feminist, you need to explain to me how feminism can be consistent with forced and repeated impregnation, separating mothers and babies almost immediately after birth, killing the male babies, and subjecting the female babies to the horrors their mothers suffered.”
The sad truth is that there can be no satisfactory explanation for supporting such horrific, unjust practices. Like sexism, racism, classism and all other forms of wrongful discrimination, there is simply no justification for it.
It seems abundantly clear that any feminism worthy of the name must reject this self-serving exploitation, this crass commodification. Any feminism worthy of the name must recognize that practices which cause deliberate harm to mothers and their babies are never acceptable, never justifiable, whether those mothers and babies are human or nonhuman. Any feminism worthy of the name must embrace veganism as a fundamental component of our fight against unfair discrimination and gratuitous violence. Any feminism worthy of the name must be absolutely clear that, at a most fundamental level, feminism and veganism are a supremely logical fit; indeed, like mothers and those babies who they instinctively, intuitively love, nurture and seek to protect, they simply belong together.