Breaking Free of Speciesism
Written by Butterflies Katz
Created Wednesday, 08 August 2012
I wear the same clothes (that I purchased secondhand) year after year. I feel more beautiful not partaking of consumerism and dressing totally vegan than if I dressed otherwise. I feel like I'm dressed in the Truth. You can always find people to agree with the rationalizations to continue wearing one’s old shoes (made of an animal’s skin) till they wear out, while calling themselves vegan. However, I don’t believe that is the right action to take. It's not about "what you can or cannot afford to replace" - it's about upholding the principles of veganism; which are sadly being weakened. I got married (almost 30 years ago) in thongs; that's what was available to me back then. You don't need money to be vegan. What you need is the understanding that someone’s skin is not a fashion statement that we should be making.
It's upsetting to see people wearing someone’s skin. It is not that far removed from the book covers, lampshades, and furniture that were made out of human skin during the holocaust. I grew up indoctrinated about the holocaust. And, I have always looked at the world through nonhuman animal's eyes. What we (as a species) are doing now to them IS an ongoing holocaust; of major proportions. Because I was taught about the oppression of Jews, it was easy for me to draw a parallel with it and the oppression of others; both human and nonhuman victims. Concentration camps - slaughterhouses; different name, but much the same.
I've been vegan for 32 years, and yet, I feel the need to come out of the closet: I might be an out-an-out speciesist. Not as bad as the average person who walks the earth adorned in his/her "humancentric" mind-set; believing they are the 'top of the food chain' with the right to use other sentient beings for any purpose they like, including food, clothing, products, vivisection, entertainment, etc. No - not that speciesist. However, if we compare speciesism to racism (and one certainly can), I would be a bigot towards certain ethnicities.
For example, I dislike snakes. I am certain that I will never meet a snake that I would like. I don't think it would be possible to meet a rabbit that I wouldn't like. Perhaps I'm speciesist (or I just have a preference for herbivores). I don't judge snakes individually; I clump them into one group and dislike them all. I realize they can't help that they were born a snake. This is analogous to a person not being able to help what race they were born into, or a person can't choose their age, or a female has no choice that she was born a female, nor can a snake help that it was born a snake. In all fairness, our opinions of others (human or nonhuman) should not be based on these attributes that one has no control over. So I might still be a bit speciesist, however, I am not a Nazi. I don't persecute and kill the species I don't like. In fact, I don't harm any species of sentient animal.
We're all speciesist; to differing degrees. However with my speciesism; no one gets hurt. But in other's speciesism; ducks, turkeys, sentient mammals and fish get tortured and killed. They are killed like in Nazi slaughter camps while people's rescued felines can live and bask in the sun on their patio, feeding off these other tortured nonhumans. This form of speciesism is confusing for me, because many vegans care for cats and participate in this. I can empathize. I have had to feed my parent's cats. I wasn't going to starve them. I did what I had to do when it was my obligation. But I felt shame every second doing it and I didn't rush back to do it again. It left me deeply disturbed being a part of the "demand for animal products".
At the time, I befriended a wild duck and her 18 ducklings. They would stay outside my door, almost all day. They tapped their bills on the door in the morning for food. They let me pet them and feed them from my hand. It was remarkable, and then it was time for the dreaded duty of feeding the cats. Then, and this really happened, I pull out a can and it says 'duck'. That's it; I will never deny who is in a can of cat food (however disguised) and how it got there. I want to fully escape the "food chain mentality". I can't do that living with carnivores; of any species.
Some vegans are caregivers for feline refugees of our problematic domestication and breeding situation. Some adopted their cats before they became vegan and they are bonded, so they are in a moral predicament. What are they going to do? They love their lovely feline friends and they don't want to abandon them or compromise their health (some cats can’t eat vegan; especially males.) If a vegan is going to befriend and care for a cat, ethically, they should be offering him/her half plant-based food, and thereby lessening the demand for slaughtered animal products. There are reportedly thousands of felines who will eat and be nourished off plant-based food. Some suggest to mix plant-based with animal based food. Whether it's wearing our old leather shoes or purchasing murdered animals to feed our felines, we can all (and that includes me) further strive to live the vegan ethic. We could always become even better examples of a vegan. After 32 years, I still kill some insects. I don’t usually, but I have painted a Christmas Window for a non vegan shop. In other words, I profited off and helped a non vegan business. I usually donate the money to my favorite vegan non-profit, but I need to stop doing that. None of us are the highest vegan we could possibly be. We can do better, and we should do better, because we need to BE the change we want to see in the world.
M Butterflies Katz is based in the USA and New Zealand and has been a vegan for over 3 decades. She runs the blog Veganism: A Truth Whose Time has Come, previously wrote for the now-retired Australian Vegan Voice magazine and is the Co-author of Incredibly Delicious; Recipes for a New Paradigm by Gentle World