This post is also available in: Ελληνικα (Greek)
The following essay was distributed at the Antiracist Festival of Athens in July 2019.
The Antiracist Festival calls us all this year to “organize the struggle against the cruelty and to honor the priceless gift of life”. Once again the Festival will be full of people who believe that everybody has the right to live, it will be full of people who stand against injustice and oppression. These are same reasons that vegans also take part at the Festival.
I hear you say “racism is about the human races, animal rights are irrelevant”. While it is true that racism is about humans, as people who believe in justice and respect, it is only logical to extend our antiracism to other aspects of our lives. There are many differences between humans and animals but the systems that oppress both groups have common characteristics which make their connection necessary.
The construction of Otherness & Objectification
For a racist, contrasting words like “greek” and “illegal”, “man” and “faggot”, “pure” and “immigrant”, create the false perception of the Other. They define who should live and who should die. Similarly, as humans we have adopted contrasting words for the animals. We say “friend” for a dog and “meat” for a pig, “cute” for a cat and “steak” for a calf. Just as in racism, these words about animals define who should live and who should die.
As antiracists we know that someone’s characteristics and the prejudices about them are not a justification to kill them. Why don’t we follow the same logic about animals? What’s the actual difference between a dog and a pig? A cat and a calf? There is not. The only reason we make a distinction between them is speciesism, a system of oppression that resembles racism.
Racism and speciesism make it easy to turn the Other into an object. So, the racist believes that he has no moral responsibility when killing a pakistani person – but he would if he killed a greek person. The meat-eater believes he has no moral responsibility when killing a pig – but he would if he killed a dog.
When we turn a conscious person (human or non-human animal) into an object, we don’t need to consider its life. Immigrants are turned into “illegals”, animals are turned into “meat” and women are turned into “sluts”. All these linguistic tricks enable the abuse and murder of these people. Objects do not have opinions, life or feelings. As antiracists, why do we objectify lives every time we eat?
Veganism is a political stance
We are vegan anti-speciesists as an extension of our anti-racism. Everybody is here today to fight against discrimination and celebrate life. But how can we celebrate life while we eat the body of someone who didn’t want to die?