The importance of women in the vegan movement
The social structure that has been in place throughout the ages, in the West as well as the East, has conditioned and defined women’s role in society. With no way to overcome the system of oppression, which was sometimes veiled and quite clear at others, a stereotypical sociocultural relation was imposed and has remained crystalized for centuries. Gender equality rights weren’t to be updated along with the chronological and social evolution of the communities.
The feminine, in whichever body it can be identified in, has always been the object of a struggle. Women have had, and still do to this day, to fight against discrimination and to strengthen the acknowledgement of their rights which, up until the nineteenth century, was generically conditioned to domestic labour, a monastic life or to parties within a household setting.
From the 20th century on, with the rise of vegan activism in the mid 1940’s, the already existing fight for rights joined forces with other types of liberation movements. The importance of women activists in the vegan movement is highlighted by personalities who played fundamental roles in the dissemination of Animal Rights.
Vegan women activists have become an inspiration for this movement which is, after all, intersectional. Veganism from a feminist standpoint has the freedom for the oppressed bodies of non-human and human animals as a basis. It aims to develop a more fair society: horizontal, egalitarian, ecological and with rights to land and a clean diet.
These precepts are often explained by activist and american scholar Angela Davis, who establishes a connection between Human Rights and Animal Rights. She is currently one of the most important personalities when it comes to explaining the intersectionality in veganism. Davis is also an emeritus teacher in the University of California, Santa Cruz.
“Most people don’t think about the fact they’re eating animals. When they’re eating a steak or eating chicken, most people don’t think about the tremendous suffering that those animals endure simply to become food products to be consumed by human beings”, Davis said in 2012, during an interview with Grace Lee Boggs.
One of the most famous and important actresses of her generation, at age 39, Brigitte Bardot began a new life as an Animal Rights activist. In 1973 when she was at the peak of her career, having acted in dozens of films, Bardot announced her retirement from the silver screen.
In an interview for the british newspaper The Guardian in July 2015, she said that when she found out the truth about animal exploitation, she realized that it would be obvious, and even imperative to end her career. In 1986, she auctioned off her goods to create the Fondation Brigitte Bardot for the well being and protection of animals.
To the Daily Mail she said: “I’ve rescued stray dogs and cats my whole life, but when I started the foundation, my intention was already to do so much more than that. My goal is to protect every wild or and domestic animal in France and abroad. I started small. I had to learn all about animal protection, the laws, the organization of charity institutions, management and health and safety obligations.”
At only 18 years old, activist Greta Thunberg has already been elected as a youth model by the animal rights organization PETA and Person of the Year by Time magazine. Famous around the globe for her climate activism, Greta is also a vegan and began protesting on her own in August 2018 outside of the Swedish parliament, where she demanded practical action in response to climate change.
Since then, she has motivated millions of children from several different countries to join her in the School Strike for Climate. In a strong, blunt speech in the UN Climate Action Committee in New York in 2019, she said: “You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words” – “People are suffering. People are dying; entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction and all you can talk about is money and fairytales and economic growth. How dare you?”
With great representation to the progression of animal liberation, Ingrid Newkirk is the president of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), the biggest Animal Rights organization in the world. Ingrid says she strongly believes animals shouldn’t be used for food, turned into clothes, experimented on or used for human entertainment. In her new book, “Animalkind”, she explores the ways in which humans can better demonstrate their compassion for other species.
“The goal of this movement [animal rights] is to make people acknowledge that, the same way animals aren’t hamburgers, they are handbags wither”, she wrote for PETA in 2016. “They are not test tubes with whiskers, they aren’t cheap alarms to avoid robbery, they are accessories, they aren’t pests. They are individuals and we must protect all of them.”
Currently hosting a vegetarian cooking show called “New Day, New Chef”, on Amazon Prime, the former CNN news anchor and best-selling author Jane Velez-Mitchell is the founder of Jane UnChained News, a social media news channel that produces original content about animal rights activism and veganism. Jane has received several awards, including four Genesis Awards from the Humane Society in the United States for her coverage of animal issues.
In a 2018 Animal Rights conference she has said: “Your phone is your best tool. You have an entire network, a TV studio, satellites, all of that in your back pocket or your purse. Use it for the animals.” “
The Animal Rights organization Mercy for Animals also has a female president. With almost 20 years of leadership experience working in the animal protection movement, Leag Garcés wrote the book “Grilled: turning adversaries into allies to change the chicken industry”. It is in some parts a memoir and in others an account of her experiences from her work in the industry.
Melanie Joy, a social psychologist has said: “Grilled is absorbing, intriguing and moving. It will open your eyes and hearts to the animals’ situation within the american food system.”
Carol J. Adams
A woman who has been changing the way thousands of people see the world is the american feminist author and Animal Rights advocate, Carol J. Adams, with her famous and necessary book, “The sexual politics of meat: a feminist-vegetarian critical theory”. The book contains plenty of solid and consistent arguments, explains the close relation between male dominance, cultural violence against women and the act of eating meat. A must-read to reflect upon the relations between men, women and animals in the fight for and oppression free world. “Meat is a social construct made to seem natural and inevitable.”
Actress and stylist Rooney Mara is an Animal Rights activist. In 2019, the joined Animal Equality during the secret investigation of two factory farms, from which the footage obtained was released in an exposition called “With My Own Eyes”.
She said of the occasion: “Even though I’ve seen many of these kinds of documentaries, I”d also like to see for myself and I hope to do something that can impact people to change their minds as well.”
Rooney often participates in demonstrations in favor of Animal Rights with her partner, the actor Joaquin Phoenix.
In this journey towards a more compassionate world defended by women, the animal cause gains strength in different spheres of society, through the political, literary and artistic fields.
It’s noteworthy how plurally veganism is treated and approached, because that opens doors to questions so dormant in the cultural context we are living in and attempts to stop the discompass between all living beings and Nature.
As with the amazing women being highlighted today, there are still dozens of others in social media profiles exposing the terrible mistreatment of animals, as well as dozens of anonymous protectors who rescue stray animals and accomplish exceptional work..
This 8th of March, Women’s International Day, we honor the importance of all women in the vegan movement.
So there you have it!
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