I have been struggling lately with the controversy and pain surrounding the comparisons between speciesism and other -isms (mainly racism and sexism) as well as agri-business and genocide and the holocaust. I have heard a few opinions from PoC who are on both sides of the…
okay, i really hesitated to weigh in on this because i’ve done it before, but i’m going to do it anyways.
drawing comparisons between the mistreatment of animals and the injustices done to humans by each other can be done WITHOUT comparing animal suffering to human atrocities like the holocaust, genocide, or human slavery.
the only reason why people within the vegan movement struggle to make these comparisons in an anti-oppressive way is because they throw nuance and complexity under the bus and instead opting for an argument built primarily on pathos.
the fact of the matter is, there is a link between the way animals are treated and the way humans are treated. the link isn’t as reductionist as “slavery” or “imprisonment”, but the way in which animals and people are constantly “in service”, to paraphrase bell hooks, to a system that continually seeks to disfranchise them. think about the way in which this country’s agribusiness utilized undocumented immigrants to keep the cost of produce low. we wont give undocumented citizens who work our produce fields complete citizenship status because we are more concerned with being able to keep the prices of peaches below a dollar per pound. at the same time we don’t enforce or create stronger human rights protections for those undocumented workers because the united states is too busy pretending it is the beacon of democratic light amongst the nations. thus, the undocumented workers who play a huge role in the vitality of our country’s agri-business are left in a position of service where they are constantly working for a system which will extend no legal protections to them and constantly threatens their vitality to live here if discontent with their current situations.
the same can be said of those of farmers not working for GMO companies and people within the meat packing industry. there are a myriad of human and workers rights related violations those people face every day. yet again our country is too busy ignoring the injustice while trying to maintain a low cost on food. thus those people are left in a position to fend for themselves while working for a system that wont recognize their humanity long enough to protect them.
so yes, there are comparisons between the ways in which animals and humans are systemically mistreated that don’t draw on the painful episodes of the past.
and honestly, any vegan of colour who would readily compare the suffering of animals to human atrocities such as slavery or the holocaust lacks a serious understanding of not only those historical events but the ways in which anti-oppression and more importantly anti-racist veganism needs to draw its strength from a narrative that doesn’t co-opt and diminish human suffering. and vegans need to stop saying “by not using examples such as the holocaust you are prioritizing the suffering of humans over the suffering of animals” when its really about allowing those who have survived the holocaust and slavery and other genocides autonomy over their own narratives, trauma and oppression to draw those comparisons for themselves if they so choose. don’t strip humans of the ability to speak for themselves in an attempt to save the “voiceless” animals.
and this is coming from a jewish studies major who is a vegan of colour and has done field research on the holocaust as part of my research.