The Sistah Vegan Project

Snarky Fanon: Cruelty-Free Vegan-Consumerism

What is cruelty-free? What is sustainable? In whose interest?

So, this is the comic version of chapter three of my dissertation. I wish I could substitute 40 pages of one chapter with one Snarky Fanon (my new comic series and Sistah Vegan venture) comic. Maybe the dissertation committee would be okay with that? Goddess, I wish it were that easy!

Here is a little snippet from the chapter in progress to give you a little more context. Remember, this is just a snippet, and this is from a 200 page document:

One of the most important ideas that the reader is left with is the notion that just because a company claims ‘sustainability,’ doesn’t mean they will actually create sincere actions around it. Readers who have clicked on the link to the Der Spiegel article, from the Food Empowerment Project (FEP)page, read an unsettling idea about corporate concepts of sustainability:

Despite claims of sustainability, many companies continue to deforest the area. A concession costs about $30,000 in bribes or campaign contributions, reports a former WWF employee who worked in Indonesia for a long time. ‘Sustainble palm oil, as the WWF promises with its RSPO certificates, is really nonexistent,’ he says. (Glüsin and Klawitter 2012, 2)

Yes, Earth Balance’s own webpage about sustainability claims that they source their palm oil from Malayasia and Brazil, not Indonesia. However, in reading the above paragraph excerpt from Der Spiegel, the reader is left with the potential initiative to start questioning how sincere Earth Balance’s sustainability initiatives are, and to what degree profit is the defining factor for sustainability, particularly if RSPO is working with World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Readers learn that WWF was initially established and financially support by incredibly wealthy people with big interests in preserving certain wildlife areas for their own amusement, such as ‘big game’ hunting. Largest financial capital investments that WWF received have come from Shell and BP oil companies, Monsanto and Cargill as well as backing from nuclear, tobacco, and arms industry. One of the most striking realities implied in the Der Spiegel article is never-ending roles that European colonial configurations of the globe, economy, and people play into palm oil industry’s construction of ‘sustainable.’ Overall, those who have clicked on this article link from FEP are left with the knowledge that RSPO, WWF, and the palm oil industry are simply legalized forms of colonialism and cultural imperialism that benefit the same groups of wealthy white Europeans from a lineage that started over four hundred years ago during the racial colonial project.

Rich Europeans or Americans are allowed to behave as if the colonial period had never ended. They are allowed to shoot elephants, buffalo, leopards, lions, giraffes and zebras, and they can even smear the blood of the dead animals onto their faces, in accordance with an old custom. A WWF spokesman defends this practice, saying that quotas have been established, and that the proceeds from this “regulated hunting” can contribute to conservation.(Glüsin and Klawitter 2012, 3)

 Only one of 55 article hyperlinks on FEP’s page, the FEP’s campaign against the use of palm oil functions as pedagogical tool to decode the language that Earth Balance and Smart Balance present to the USA consumer as ‘sanitary’ and ‘feel-good.’ Most importantly, FEP re-narrates the landscape of which the palm oil is coming from, explaining to USA consumers that the story of ‘wellness’ they are being marketed, is a myth. Through careful analysis, consumers learn that corporate capitalist’s sense of ‘sustainable’, ‘wellness,’ and ‘healthier world’ are not universal, but are rather defined by the logics of neoliberal whiteness; vegan products by  Smart Balance and Earth Balance are no different. It is another type of ‘white talk’ or ‘white logic’ that has set the rules for what is ‘ethical.’ Such ‘white logic’ means European and US American consumer’s material privileges are protected, while fooling them into thinking that their consumerism is ‘helping’ primitive non-white people go through “development” (Cárdenas 2012).

Works Cited

Cárdenas, Roosbelinda. “Green Multiculturalism: Articulations of Ethnic and Environmental Politics in a Colombian ‘Black Community’.” Journal of Peasant Studies 39, no. 2 (2012): 309-33.

Glüsing, Jens, and Nils Klawitter. “Green Veneer: Wwf Helps Industry More Than Environment.” Der Spiegel May 26, 2012, no. 22 (2012): http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/wwf-helps-industry-more-than-environment-a-835712-2.html.

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8 thoughts on “Snarky Fanon: Cruelty-Free Vegan-Consumerism

  1. This is awesome stuff, Breeze. Powerful, naked, tragically funny.

    I have a feeling Snarky Fanon is going to be HUGE. I can’t wait for more!!!

    GD

    • Genious and spot-on! You reveal once again the fallacies of white eco-consumerism and sustainability rhetoric and the dangerous ego trips we get out of it, like ‘I buy organic vegan and am the better and more responsible consumer with a conscience’.

      It’s crying out to be mainstreamed and we could do with a lot of it over here in uber eco-Germany. Keep it up Breeze!

  2. myhorangi126 on said:

    I wish I could efficiently explain this to the droves of people in the first world hoarding things such as açai for their own vain intentions. I’ll bet if I show them this succinct, very excellent comic, some people will actually be introspective to see how effed up their ways are. Well done!

    • Don’t even get me started with the demographic who think they are “living immortal gods” because they eat raw imported commodities like Acai, goji berries, etc and then judge the rest of the USA for not eating ‘ethically’ or ‘responsibly’. I am blown away by the lack of critical analysis on what it means for all these packaged imported raw vegan/live foods to be seen on the shelves of so many grocery stores in the USA (grocery stores with these items are also located primarily in white and socioeconomically vibrant zones).

  3. Dear SistaVegan,

    I have been following you for years now, and I’ll finally comment lol. First, I want to say thank you for your work and the countless amount of information you put on there. It is greatly appreciated. I stumbled upon your blog exactly 3 years ago when I was working and going to school in Milan, Italy and just became vegan. This post speaks so much to what I am trying to understand for myself. As a result, I’ve had to down a huge slice of humble pie as I was one of those people turning my nose up at the meat eaters…until I did some research. I’ve just about said eff it to many processed/packaged raw foods now because well…it’s BS.

    “…explaining to USA consumers that the story of ‘wellness’ they are being marketed, is a myth.” Exactly! It’s a fantasy. So many “vegans/rawfoodists” fail to wipe the pixie dust out of their eyes and smell the not so sustainable coffee beans. My issue is that even when it comes to food this will always be a business! On a larger scale, the “vision” of “sustainability” that companies try to sell consumers just does not exist for companies existing on a LARGE scale i.e. can be found in supermarkets everywhere (not locally). I mean we never get to here the locals/natives side where these foods originate from (IF they come from where the packaging claims) This can be said for food, cosmetics (ugh. an entire post own its own), clothing, etc. I currently reside in China and luckily fresh is fresh here. No packaged organic anything, but when I return to the states in a years time this will not be the case. So much is at stake (or fake) all in the name of “sustainability” “eco-consciousness” and “convenience”.

  4. Your work is fascinating. I am blown away by your thoughts and analyses of what it means to be cruelty free. I have been living a mostly vegan lifestyle for only about a year now, but my struggle is always with the idea of where that food comes from initially. I feel as though I am a pretty well-educated person — studying literature and English, these same themes come up fairly often, but not quite as in-depth. I have really only encountered direct correlations in my Caribbean and Postcolonial literature classes. However, I find myself wrapped in ignorance on a nearly daily basis. I have so many questions about cruelty in our food system (and our global economy in general) that I feel as though I will never be able to reconcile. How does one avoid contributing to a system of exploitation and cruel, wasteful farming systems? Your blog offers a lot of insight into these things, but I am still often reeling at the possibilities offered in grocery stores and markets. I live in South Florida and here even the “local markets” sell a vast selection of brands like Chiquita and others mixed into the local offerings. How can one escape these things if they are literally everywhere? Often I find myself in an entirely nihilistic mood about it wondering how my efforts can really result in anything worthwhile? How do you escape the constant barrage of evil products out there?

  5. I am but an undergrad in afroamerican studies, and am already in love with snarky fanon. More please!

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