Animal Liberation Is A Feminist Issue

Justice should not be so fragile a commodity that it cannot be extended beyond the species barrier of Homo sapiens. I have faith that those humans who have been exploited can empathize with and help non-humans who have been exploited.” – Carol J. Adams, “The Sexual Politics of Meat“.

It doesn’t matter where you are geographically, socially or economically, if you are born or identify as female, there is no doubt that there will be a point in your life where you will be subjected to exploitation, oppression, objectification, and/or subjugation. While most women have come to accept this as ‘normal’ or ‘natural’, some of us have opened our minds to the reason behind this: a dominant patriarchal culture. A culture that plays on the idea that power has to be exercised over the physically weak. While it’s amazing that we fight for the ones who bear the brunt of this while ourselves strongly refusing to be a part of this dominant culture, let’s not forget that our lifestyle choices play a part of this culture too, and the reason we do not recognize it is because of the same reason most women do not recognize oppression done to them: we’ve been conditioned to think of it as ‘normal’ or ‘natural’ or more specifically ‘just food’. Did that jerk you up a bit? Hope it did.

From phrases like ‘that sexy thing’ to ‘what a fine piece of ass’, women have been reduced to mere props that are pleasurable objects for men, instead of sentient beings who have feelings of our own. We aren’t the only ones this is done to though. This extends to non-human animals.

Hens, pigs, cows, buffaloes, and calves are reduced to nothing but ‘chicken wings’, pork, bacon, beef, steak, and veal, respectively, instead of viewing them for who they are – sentient individuals who feel pain and suffer just like any of us does. Objectification allows the oppressor to view someone as an object and violate them. Just the way that rape culture denies a woman the freedom to say “no” while treating her as a mere sex object, butchering an animal transforms a sentient being into a dead object. In the words of Aph Ko, co-author of “Aphro-ism: Essays on Pop Culture, Feminism, and Black Veganism from Two Sisters” and founder of Black Vegans Rock, “The objectification of animals has been so successful that they are entirely stripped of their subjectivity: they exist for us.”

While women are treated as mere baby making machines or cooks or maids, non-human animals are treated as nothing but egg dispensing machines and milk generating machines. Female chicks have the ends of their beaks burned off so that they won’t peck each other, and are crammed with others into a cage not bigger that the surface area of an iPad. They spend 2 years of their life there, constantly injected by antibiotics and hormones, and are made to produce 200-350 eggs per year when in the wild they would only produce 15-20 per year causing severe damage to their reproductive organs. If they do not die of infections or exhaustion in the span of these 2 years, they are sent away for slaughter once they stop producing eggs. In the dairy industry, cows and buffaloes are artificially impregnated because a female mammal can only produce milk for her young one. This includes a person forcing their arm up her rectum to feel and stabilize her uterus, then with the other hand, inserting a catheter with bull sperm up her vagina. Something like this being done to a human is considered nothing short of sexual abuse and violence, yet when done to an animal is approved on the grounds of ‘a booming dairy industry’. The calf if male is sent for slaughter while females are roped back into the dairy industry, never to see their mothers again. Metal instruments are attached to the mother’s breasts to suck the milk out. Within four years, the cow or buffalo is sent away for slaughter (if not in places where slaughter is illegal, then elsewhere) because after the continuous cycle of impregnation, separation, hormonal injections, she is too spent to produce milk and rendered ‘useless to the dairy industry’ (India is one of the largest exporters of beef which comes from the animals raised for dairy). Makes us reconsider our current thought process that cows are treated better than women in India, doesn’t it?

Objectification facilitates fragmentation of a woman’s body into just ‘breasts’, ‘ass’, ‘thighs’, viewing them as a mere part for the whole. This phenomenon extends to non-humans too where a being is brutally reduced to nothing but a ‘pork chop’, ‘rib’, ‘wing’, ‘leg’, the animal as a whole completely forgotten in the process of being viewed as a consumable. The being in flesh absent when we consume their parts literally just the way a woman is absent figuratively while her parts are visually and literally devoured. As feminists, when we consume animal products, we are silently and unknowingly approving the dominant patriarchal culture to continue their ongoing emasculation of other beings just the way they would to a woman.

Source: Flickr

From smiling cows on dairy commercials to happy hens on broiler chicken brands, the ones on the receiving end of violence have been portrayed as happy to fulfill the duties of their perceived functions. The false notion that it’s okay to exercise control over them due to the mere distinction of them being from a different species stems from the same mindset that drives the repression of women on account of them being from a different gender. The personal meaning that meat holds to us which is that of being nothing but ‘food’ overshadows its social meaning, which is that meat and other animal products are nothing but a symbol of the patriarchal control of animals.

Animal liberation is a feminist issue. Align your principles with your actions. It’s easy to do that because all you have to do is change what’s on your plate to completely plant based, say no to clothing and accessories that come from animal use and abuse. Speciesism (the discrimination on the basis of species) is very similar to sexism. Educate yourself on it today.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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