Woke–Except For My Beef Bowl

It is amazing how many Woke people are not vegan. Their anti-racism, anti-white supremacy, anti-homophobia, anti-transphobia and anti-Asian discrimination credentials are impeccable…and then they reach for their Thai chicken or beef bowl. What?

Doesn’t speciesism–believing that humans rule over other species and have the right to use them however they wish–showcase the nexus of all power relationships–exploitation and opportunism? Isn’t “I think you would make a nice meal so I am killing you” the ultimate inequity?

Animal agriculture’s carbon footprint and farmland misuse, its worker and animal abuse, its economic absurdity and human health consequences should make it the first step on a Woke journey. Certainly early Woke leaders like Alice Walker and Angela Davis embrace it.

Cesar Chavez said “I became a vegetarian after realizing that animals feel afraid, cold, hungry and unhappy like we do. I feel very deeply about vegetarianism and the animal kingdom. It was my dog Boycott who led me to question the right of humans to eat other sentient beings.”

I agree with Chavez, Davis and Walker. But because veganism requires a real change in lifestyle and mindful discipline three times a day too many will not make the commitment and do not even want to see it as an extension of their politics.

Veganism especially does not lend itself to identity politics.

Identity politics have emboldened activists to yell “racist” or “transphobe” when they perceive microagression in a person, group or institution. Yet in the entire history of Woke politics has anyone yelled “speciesist” when someone tucks into a shrimp stir-fry?

Probably not! But vegans ask what gives humans the right to not only breed and eat shrimp but remove their eyes to facilitate better breeding–which few realize is done? How many homes with signs on the lawn that say “Hate Has No Home Here” have an embarrassment of meat, poultry, shrimp, eggs and dairy products in their refrigerator? Doesn’t “no hate” include animals?

If non-vegans want to defend these food choices with an “it’s a tradition” argument, what is more traditional than racism and crimes again weaker peoples? Human exploitation has always been defended as “God’s will,” “nature’s way” and tradition.

And there is another ethical question. Why should it be racist to name countries that indulge in wildlife breeding and wet markets, whaling, bullfights, cockfights et cetera but not speciesist of those countries when they engage in such cruelty which somehow cannot be called out? If humans who are defended against racism are allowed to do whatever they want to animals isn’t that just saying–again!–that humans are more important than animals?

Currently, there is an aggressive whisper campaign funded by ranchers and Big Meat to cast meat substitutes (including slaughter-free, cultured meat) as “fake meat.” The implication of this marketing is there is no moral argument involved or no taken animal life in the eating decision; we are entitled to take animal life because meat substitutes are just not “the same.”

Yet is this entitlement any different than that of an admitted child molester who once told a magazine that sex with legal age people was just “not the same” as with children? In one case a child’s life is likely ruined; in another a death occurs and in both cases the wants of a more powerful, entitled person prevail because that person believes something less destructive is just not “the same.”

Thanks to undercover investigations, no one today can claim they don’t know about sow gestation crates, veal huts, downer cattle, male chicks ground alive, chickens boiled alive and other practices of modern animal agriculture. Moreover, a cornucopia of meat substitutes exists that make the “real thing” unnecessary.

Anyone who is Woke because of their stand on racism, white supremacy, anti-immigrationism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Asianism, ageism, climate change and more needs to do soul searching if there is meat on their plate. Silence may be compliance but when it comes to animal abuse, biting is also compliance.

Martha Rosenberg is an investigative health reporter. She is the author of  Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health (Prometheus).