Kate Harveston is a political writer from Pennsylvania. Her favorite topics are feminist-focused, but she writes on a wide variety of social and cultural issues. If you enjoy her work, you can follow her on Twitter or visit her blog, Only Slightly Biased.
I've always felt a strong affinity for animals, and I'm speaking honestly when I say I far prefer most four-legged creatures over their two-legged human counterparts! I’ve always wondered why I hold such affection and empathy for my feline and canine companions, and recently, I believe I’ve unearthed at least one possible reason I resonate so strongly with animals. My reasoning relates to how we often share the unfortunate mutual experience of being treated like nothing more than pieces of meat by someone else in power.
I originally converted to a vegan lifestyle because of numerous documentaries I've viewed about the inhumane conditions experienced by animals on factory farms. My path to veganism started with an aversion to pork products due to the way these farms treat intelligent, loving porcine females with absolute neglect, confining them to gestation crates so small they cannot even turn around and forcing them to undergo repeated insemination and pregnancy.
I think that part of the sympathy I feel for these poor incarcerated creatures mirrors my own frustrations of being trapped in a patriarchal society where many of my most personal of decisions, especially related to my reproductive rights, get dictated by men without a single care for the way their choices impact women’s’ everyday lives.
The way factory farms basically rape female animals — even dubbing the tie-downs they use during artificial insemination "rape racks" — is a sad parallel to our patriarchal society’s constant validation of sexual assault and many other actions intended to make women subservient to the wills of men.
From ever-more restrictive bans on abortions to allowing employers to refuse birth control coverage, men in America have a long, illustrious history of denying women the most fundamental right of all — the right to decide what she can and cannot do with her own body.
Even former House Speaker Paul Ryan suggested that forced intercourse constitutes nothing more than an alternate form of conception, ignoring the traumatizing reality of sexual assault. According to him, whether you are a female human being or a hen matters not one whit, nor do your feelings about being forcibly compelled to procreate.
The objectification of both women and animals doesn't end with reproductive freedom or lack thereof. As any SVU detective will confirm, rape isn't so much a matter of sexual desire as it is an expression of power and dominance over another person. If there's one thing the patriarchy loves most, it's showing presumed superiority over others. Historically, men who commit sexual assault often receive laughably short sentences or even no sentence at all.
Speaking of messaging, clear parallels have already been drawn between the objectification of women’s bodies in the media and that of animals. Just as flashy ads show delectable plates of warm steak and chicken, women’s bodies are likewise put on display in advertising to invoke a primitive reaction in many viewers.
Underlying all of this cruelty against women and animals alike lies the same deep level of narcissism that leads some people to truly believe that only they matter, and all the living creatures on the planet exist solely to serve their needs. And indeed, many serial rapists and murderers perpetrated violence against animals as youth, and nearly every mass shooter has a history of domestic violence — something the media frequently conveniently dismisses instead of examining further.
I’m not by any means suggesting that everyone who eats meat is akin to a murderer or sexual abuser! My desire is to call out those who deny that the injustices being waged against animals in factory farms are just that — injustices. Similarly, those who deny that women are still an underprivileged class in society need to do more research into the reality of the situation. Both of these mindsets of denial validate a power dynamic that keeps the patriarchy alive and well.
Again, I am not seeking to pass judgment on anyone’s dietary choices — my sole purpose is to inform. It’s worth noting that even eating one less meat-based meal a week makes a difference environmentally and where health outcomes are concerned. If you’re interested in learning more about how you can cut back on your meat consumption, I’ve listed a few beginner tips below:
- Talk to a doctor first — it’s important to understand your body’s unique nutritional needs before embarking on any new diet.
- Start slowly — As I said, even eliminating some meat from your diet makes a difference. Start out at your own pace, cutting back wherever feels comfortable.
- Do lots of research. Slowly, you can learn more about protein-replacement products that you can start integrating into your diet instead of meat. A few great places to start are trying out tofu, quinoa and other protein-loaded bases for building out a full meal.
- Read food labels and make sure you’re not replacing meat with less-healthy alternatives.
- Get involved with other like-minded individuals and community groups to get ideas and motivation!
I hope this post has provided you with a few reasons to reconsider meat culture in America, especially as it relates to our feminism. To truly address violence and inequality in our society, we should make it a priority to examine cruelty toward all creatures, great and small.