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The Crime of Going Vegan: the Latest Attack on Angela Davis

Writing at RenewAmerica, Cliff Kinkaid takes Angela Davis to task for “going vegan” (“Black Power icon goes vegan to save animals,” September 21, 2016). Rather than actually consider the extreme torture and grizzly slaughter of animals perpetrated by humans, Kinkaid seems wedded to the standard tactics of other animal oppressors — basing his attack solely on innuendo, deflection, guilt by association, and flat out falsehoods.

The very title of the article implies that Davis’s veganism is some new whim she’s seized onto in order to gain relevance. In fact, Davis first alluded to her veganism as far back as 2012 in a speech at the Empowering Women of Color Conference, where she stated that animal liberation is inextricably interwoven with other anti-oppression movements. She simply doesn’t talk much about it, she said.

By implying that Davis has only recently “gone vegan,” Kinkaid uses the tried and true approach of distracting from the issue at hand — the plight of non-human animals, who die by the hundreds of billions each year thanks to uncontrollable human greed and bloodlust. Kinkaid’s smears don’t stop there. He goes on to list a litany of causes Davis is connected with: communism, Islam, Black Lives Matter, prison abolition, and anti-capitalism. He even goes so far as to call Davis PETA’s new poster-child; PETA, an organization he says “places the rights of animals above human needs,” a laughable claim to anyone remotely familiar with PETA. By spending most of his article tying Davis to movements and entities Kinkaid considers disreputable, Kinkaid hopes the reader’s takeaway about animal liberation and veganism will remain obscured and uninformed.

Kinkaid’s broadside against Davis really isn’t anything to write home about, though. His brand of obfuscation is yet one more contribution to a repugnant and repressive anti-animal worldview held by the masses. Kinkaid, however distasteful his Professional Patriot shtick, presents what’s basically the same smokescreen-as-justification that most readers of this article do themselves at the dinner table each night.

Kinkaid’s purposeful ignorance of the injustice done to animals — the routinized beating, knifing, raping, burning, boiling, skinning, electrocution and countless other modes of torture and dominance employed — is to be expected. Nobody should be surprised by a racist, climate denying, pro-war, Christian fundamentalist, covering up atrocities against animals. But for anarchists, libertarians, progressives and others of the Left, partaking in or making excuses for the unspeakable crimes committed against animals — who have an interest in their continued existence, their families, and their habitats — is utterly beyond the pale. For those who claim to be passionate about justice for all, while at the same time contributing to the mass slaughter of animals, shame on you. Rutgers law professor Gary Francione aptly labels this “moral schizophrenia.”

No doubt, many will characterize any vegan or animal advocacy as secular zealotry. While animal liberationists are at least tolerated by some on the Left, harsher treatment is reserved for vegans, despite their actions being a far more passive means of protest than outright liberation of confined animals. That is because causing friends, family, and other members of one’s community, to pause and consider, for the briefest moment, the gruesomeness that brings food to their table, is the ultimate spoiler. It is taboo — tantamount to putting a mirror in front of a person who must see their true self.

Would otherwise compassionate social justice activists minimize or mock the oppression of racial, sexual, ethnic or other minorities? Yet when a challenge to the barbarism of one’s dinner plate is put forth, defense by any means necessary is employed by both Right and Left. Says Davis: “The food we eat masks so much cruelty. The fact that we can sit down and eat a piece of chicken without thinking about the horrendous conditions under which chickens are industrially bred in this country is a sign of the dangers of capitalism, how capitalism has colonized our minds. The fact that we look no further than the commodity itself, the fact that we refuse to understand the relationships that underlie the commodities that we use on a daily basis…food is like that.”

Forget about Kinkaid and his ilk. They’re beyond reform. It’s time we on the Left stop patting ourselves on the back for yelling loudly about the injustice du jour with a mouth stuffed full of it.

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Chad Nelson is senior editor at the Center for a Stateless Society. He’s an attorney based out of Providence, Rhode Island and a Fellow at C4SS. He considers himself one of the world’s biggest Pearl Jam fans despite their blind obedience to the Obama administration. Follow him on Twitter @cnels43.

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