“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.
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.