Celebrities, Cows, and Connecting Oppressions

Joaquin Phoenix shines a spotlight on connections that marginalized vegans have been making for decades.

Pax Ahimsa Gethen
Feb 11 · 3 min read

Last night at the Academy Awards, best actor winner Joaquin Phoenix used his acceptance speech to call attention to oppression of the marginalized, stating “whether we’re talking about gender inequality or racism or queer rights or indigenous rights or animal rights, we’re talking about the fight against injustice”. He called attention to the plight of dairy cows in particular, lamenting that “We feel entitled to artificially inseminate a cow and steal her baby, even though her cries of anguish are unmistakeable.”

I was glad to see Phoenix — who was raised along with his siblings as an ethical vegan since early childhood — use his time in the international spotlight to focus on the ethical problems with dairy rather than animal flesh. Many ovo-lacto vegetarians are unaware that dairy production results in just as much suffering and death to our bovine friends as raising them for their flesh, if not more so, even on so-called “humane” farms.

Many dairy consumers do not realize that cows do not produce milk unless they are pregnant. Thus these gentle, intelligent beings are subjected to continual, forced artificial insemination, with each calf taken from her until she dries out and is sent to a slaughterhouse at a fraction of her natural lifespan. Peaceful Prairie Sanctuary has more information about the ugly reality of dairy and egg production; chickens and other birds raised for eggs are also routinely abused and killed.

Cow’s milk is also harmful to humans, particularly people of color, as few of us can digest lactose properly after infancy. This “intolerance’” is actually the normal human condition. Cow’s milk is designed for baby cows, not humans.

Some vegans as well as non-vegans might be cynical or offended at a cisgender white male celebrity comparing the plight of marginalized humans to the plight of animals. Certainly, many animal rights organizations and vegan celebrities have drawn inept and even outrageous comparisons; PETA, which Phoenix regrettably supports, comes to mind.

But the connections between human and animal oppression have been highlighted by marginalized people ourselves for decades. Feminist vegan authors and activists who have written and lectured on racism, sexism, and speciesism include A. Breeze Harper of Sistah Vegan Project, lauren Ornelas of Food Empowerment Project, pattrice jones of VINE Sanctuary, Aph Ko of Black Vegans Rock, and Carol J. Adams.

Two of these trailblazing women, lauren Ornelas and Carol Adams, will be presenting alongside fellow vegan advocates Karen Davis, Christopher Sebastian McJetters, Jasmine Leyva, and Patti Breitman this month at the annual Conscious Eating Conference in Berkeley, California. Fittingly, this year’s theme is “Making Connections: Overlapping Oppressions”. I attended and wrote about the 2018 Conscious Eating Conference, and was honored to be invited by Hope Bohanec of United Poultry Concerns to be the guest host for this year’s event.

Veganism is not a diet or exclusive fad for the privileged. It is an ethical stance against violence. If you are interested in going vegan, or learning more about veganism, I applaud you on behalf of our fellow animals.

Pax Ahimsa Gethen

Written by

Queer agender trans male. Black vegan atheist, photographer, blogger. Pronouns: they/them/their. http://funcrunch.org, https://www.patreon.com/funcrunch

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