"Millions of people are starving to feed animals"

(note: this is posted by Melissa Danielle, the other Sistah Vegan blogger who rarely makes an appearance 😉 This is not by A. Breeze Harper.  )

said the 50something-year-old woman soliciting for PETA on the 6 train yesterday.

Yes, a considerable amount of land is being used to produce feed for animal consumption.

But that ain’t why folks are starving and it’s disingenuous to use that as an argument to promote veganism.

The so-called food deserts of US American cities (and rural areas) and food access have nothing to do with how much food is being produced for animal consumption. Policy, redlining, and structural racism, terminator seeds, cash crop subsidies (welfare), commodity crops, monoculture, and Global South subsistence farmers growing for First World consumers (and not themselves) are why people are starving here, and all over the world.

I’m so sick of this nonsense.

In NYC, incentives intended to spur job creation in low-income neighborhoods paved the way for food access inequities, because they went specifically to fast food eateries. Groceries and supermarkets were not included in the zoning. So there’s a fast food or Chinese takeout joint within a five minute walking radius, but not a green grocer or supermarket.

The money being allocated now to improve fresh food access in NYC is geared towards large-scale supermarket chains, and not for the possible development and improvement of independent convenience stores that make up the 7 out of 10 stores in neighborhoods like the one I live in.

She also said that human bodies are not intended to be graveyards for dead animals.

I find that interesting, considering that plants are living things. Is my stomach not a graveyard for kale?

What I most wanted to ask her, but didn’t, was how many trees went into producing the brochure she was handing out and if she was aware of how toxic color ink is to produce?

Oh well.

0 thoughts on “"Millions of people are starving to feed animals"

  1. Melissa, this is a shallow argument, I agree.

    Reminds me of when I was in Berkeley and Greenpeace was out there trying to convince me that I should donate because of the polar bears. Their concept of environmentalism and using suffering of polar bears to convince N. Berkeley folk walking around to give to Green Peace didn’t sit well with me. I wanted to know why images of human beings, as well LOCAL non- human animals, right here in California, isn’t enough to get donations and support. And why can’t we talk about climate change and environmental racism as part of environmentalism? What is the fascination with polar bears?

    Why didn’t Green Peace have pictures of the brown, black, and indigenous communities suffering from environmental pollution as a way to get more donations that day? What does my single donation to Green Peace do to help resolve the structural racism and classism that make it possible for white upper class people to live in more environmentally ‘healthy’ regions than black, brown, indigenous communities in the USA?

    But I just kept my mouth shut since I’m always being told I ‘distract’ from the ‘goal of the movement’ when I bring up that silly old thing called ‘race’. LOL

  2. I think one of the things that upsets me the most is how this very serious statement, which is is incredibly complicated (and political!), is made so simplistic so that people think by going vegan it solves this very challenging problem.

    And yes Breeze, as someone who runs an organization working on the food issues impacting our communities, it does not seem to be as ‘sexy’ as talking about feeding people in other countries (or polar bears). What about feeding communities here – the working poor? It is tougher when the finger is pointed back at the problems in the US.

    I am trying not to get off topic here, but I sometimes feel that it is so much easier for people to point the finger at other countries without acknowledging the problems in the US (Koreans eating dogs? What about the 9 billion chickens killed for food every year in the US?)

    I don’t see how we think we can solve issues in other countries when we have similar problems here in the US. Oh wait, we always have a blind? arrogance on our side.

  3. As a person who is sensitive to racial issues, I still think the person wrote this has got a MAJOR problem with themselves. I think there’s nothing wrong with the woman’s statement who was leafleting, and in all honesty, I just think a lot of people are having a chip on their shoulder. As vegans we all need to get together and unite. And if that is one reasoning that SHE has, then that is one reasoning. I would suggest adding your reasoning to the pile, and just stay vegan, and help out and do YOUR OWN leafleting to help to movement if you can. Don’t knock her efforts. It makes you sound hateful, ignorant, and bitter on your OWN part. I am in it to help stop the suffering for sentient beings – that’s it. One usually does not hear of or see any animals of the same species except for humans getting all in stupid fights because one has a darker or lighter coat or skin than that of the other. This is bulls*it. We have to stop this. Veganism isn’t a black, brown, green, yellow, sepia, white etc. thing – it’s a good thing for everybody – so stop making it just something that should be only specific to one race. I just think some people on this thread hate whites. I don’t hate anyone but animal abusers, but I feel that some of these articles are being swayed that, in order to be a vegan, none of you can share that desire and lifestyle with other people who happen to be white. Seems like you would rather keep hating white people NO MATTER WHAT, even if they are vegan. That’s messed up. I bet you anything that woman handing out the leaflets was white – and that’s really the reason why you hate her, and what’s sad about it is – if you got to know her – I bet you that she wasn’t racist. And look at you hating on her. I understand the plight in non-caucasian people. I do, and I will keep learning. But I am not going to put up with entitlement-issue, nonsense, where if you feel oppressed, you have the right to keep on with your hate regime with EVERYBODY. out there who happens to be white. Yet is being just as equally screwed up in your own way as a person of color going to help? I am on the outside of your situation, and looking in and it is wrong. And that’s what you have a problem with. And that’s the chip on YOUR shoulder that you need to get past. AT LEAST she is out there making an effort. What are doing, except putting her down? Get over yourself, and help the movement, and stop the grudges. Just STOP. I am white and at a food shortage, too. We were on welfare growing up; I don’t want to hear it. So just cut it OUT.

    1. It’s interesting that you focus on negating someone else’s “hate regime” when your post, itself, is so full contempt. The author is trying to express frustration with post-racialism that is evident in all parts of society, including the animal rights sector. All mainstream animal rights non-profits are complicit in post-racial politics, which are evident by their lack of racial diversity and a continued negligence in recognizing how structural racism plays a huge factor in both animal liberation and how we configure ourselves within that movement. When we make statements like “millions of people are starving to feed animals,” we are grazing over the very important racialized, classed, gendered, ableist, and other interventions that make that statement actually false (how do you feel when people talk about climate change without talking about animal agriculture? it’s not a perfect analogy because we feel racism very viscerally on our bodies and so our triggers can often be very intense but you get the jist…). We already grow enough food to feed 12 billion people, and we only have 7 billion people on the planet. It’s political/state power that makes starving possible (look up things like subsidies, globalization, NAFTA – all which are geared toward privileging the west and marginalizing the global south (aka it’s racist)). Furthermore, your reply comes from a place of privilege. As people of color, we often don’t have the privilege of being to ignore racism, we recognize early on how racialized statements contribute towards cultures of racism and legitimize structural and institutionalized forms of discrimnation based on race. When you say animals don’t engage in racism and that racism is bullsh*t, I couldn’t agree with you more. You are severely mistaken, however, in your implication that the author is to blame for citing racism when she sees it (I’m assuming that I don’t have to explain why post-racialism equates to racism). You are invoking a very tired old trope of how people of color are antagonized when they call out racism (heres another tired trope: people of color having to educate white people about their privilege, and here we are. surprise surprise). Racism IS bullshit, but it doesn’t end by pretending it doesn’t happen. The beginning of the end happens when we can call it out and begin to develop politics and praxis that are actively anti-racist. When you call out the author on hating white people, you foil yourself in exposing your own narrow-minded, arrogant understanding of the situation. People of color, and particularly black people, in this country face racism every single day in this country and this idea that we get angry when we see it because we hate white people undermines the power inequity that lays there. You can have the audacity to just say that we hate white people, but we have to bear the burden of having to experience white supremacy. You can imply some idea of reverse racism all you want, but until you have experienced or feel the effects of 400 years of severe oppression, cultural appropriation, the fear of the prison industrial complex, a government that is negligent to people of color (and particularly historically marginalized peoples), slavery, the prison industrial complex, food deserts, an economic system designed to maintain historical inequities, and continued legacies of racism that you feel mentally, verbally, and physically, your words carry no glimmer of truth or understanding.
      I read your comment at first with anger, and I re-read it again and again until I was calm and I could respond with some hint of compassion and without the frustration I initially felt. I need you to know how insidiously offensive your comment is, and how insidious your implications are, both on the author and on people of color in general. You are convinced that as a movement we need to unite, regardless of the complicity of our politics, choices, or actions. It’s sad because the animal liberation movement will never get far until it can learn to accept it’s own faults, grow and build upon them, and move toward a more inclusive praxis that is outspokenly anti-racist, anti-patriarchal, anti-classist, and against all other marginalizations. That is a true unity. Until then, like every other social movement that has faced such problems in history, it is doomed to see only minor concessions to make the movement complacent and stop it from truly challenging the system of oppression that it faces.

  4. I don’t care about the two typos that I made – you hear me. That’s all. Because if you hate someone, you pick apart anything and everything they do, and you will never get approval – isn’t that a horrible way to treat someone – especially if you know how that feels?

  5. Hello,

    I think both sides are correct–and wrong–in the above debate.

    I agree that focusing on non-human animals is indeed the lens that is palatable to structurally and privileged (and mostly but not exclusively) white world to look at environmentalism rather than the plight of vast non white millions of the world.

    At the same time, I have to say, plain and simple, the human race is not facing the immediate risk of extinction as far as numbers are concerned. Other species are (yes, I understand that in and of itself is as a result of our first world actions and global over population-also related). The focus for the survival of the planet earth should be SPECIFICALLY on women: women and their reproductive health, rights and economic autonomy.

    NONETHELESS: the immediate and already vast reduction in biodiversity is a real and potent danger and symbol for the earth. I think the alarm bell of the polar caps and polar bear encapsulates the danger we are in like nothing else. If the melting planet, dying animals and rising sea levels does nothing to change privileged people’s mind-neither will ( I hate to say) images of suffocating, undernourished people won’t either (they rarely do, rarely have and if so, for short periods of time). And, yes, in addition I do believe collectively human beings can have a particularly sympathetic response when exposed to the lives and fate of other non-human animals more to than our own.

    Do I like the state of affairs? No. But polar bears are, literally, our only chance (we don’t have much time and frankly, I think we are way over the tipping point. I grieve for the planet and know that when I leave this earth, 2040-2050, I will be witnessing horrible things-the beginning has already started). If polar bears don’t convince folks that resources have to be distributed and produced differently and that reproduction rights and education need to be a global standard-then, frankly, nothing will. I’m not an optimist I’ll admit.

    I would also like to point out that China and India are also educated superpowers who are politically and intellectually mature enough to take wise decisions-but they don’t either. So while Europe and the US (mostly the former) at the forefront of environmental disaster, educated middle classes and elites elsewhere have the exact same self interest. Shark fin soup habits, eating dogs, and the billions of animals mistreated and consumed in the US, are all part of a global elite scandal. Just want to balance out the “white vs all the rest” a bit. Again, Asia has two superpowers yet they show no sign of making different decisions, including the exploitation of Africans and their natural resources (China, anyone?). It’s not just exclusively about white folks any more.

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