Feminism: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.
Veganism: a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of and cruelty to animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose.
Why have so many of us overlooked the relationship between feminism and veganism? As feminists, we fight for equality and defend the reproductive system and our freedom to make choices on issues that pertain only to females. Why should males be considered superior to women just because we are biologically different? We can ask the same thing about inequalities between animals and humans. We are all members of the same animal kingdom and there is no sense in defending the equality of the sexes in only one species. Gary L. Francione is a staunch vegan feminist and strongly advocates the relationship between the two. As one of my favorite quotes of his reads:
“If you claim to be feminist but are not vegan, you are confused because any coherent theory of feminism requires veganism. A real feminist opposes hierarchies based on power. First, our consumption of animal products is nothing but an expression of power. Nothing. Consuming animal products is indistinguishable from rape in representing the imposition of suffering based on power. Second, animal products, particularly dairy products, involve exploiting the mother-baby relationship.”
If you have no interest in veganism from an ethical, environmental, or health perspective, I would at the very least like to invite you to look at it from a feminist perspective.
The modern-day dairy and egg industries are singlehandedly the most extreme forms of exploitation of the female reproductive system. Many people can sympathize with the idea of vegetarianism even if they are not vegetarians themselves, because they recognize that the concept of unnecessarily killing another living being can be immoral. What many people don’t understand is why vegans denounce dairy and eggs if these products are taken without killing the animal. Let’s delve in for some further understanding, shall we?
Similar to women, cows do not produce milk unless they gestate. What this means for the dairy industry is that they are repeatedly and artificially inseminated in order to keep them producing. Their calves are stolen away from them generally within the first week of birth where the males are sent away to the veal industry and the females are kept around to be future milk producers. The milk that should be nourishing the calf is then pumped out of the mother for our consumption. So, yes: the dairy industry does include death. Not only that, it rips apart the special bond that a mother has with her child with no regard to nature and condemns her to a lifetime of heartbreak and suffering–which is in some ways worse than death itself. Imagine having to lose your child over and over again, then also having to bear the extreme mental affliction and physical toll that such repetition can cause. This is a prime example of everything that feminists stand against: rape, abuse, infanticide, oppression.
If the truth about dairy is not enough to get your mind churning, we will also look at the egg industry. Eggs from any type of bird (chicken, quail, ostrich, etc.) are a product of their ovulation, yet another beautiful trait of nature that belongs only to the female body. The yolk is surrounded by amniotic fluid that we call the “egg white” (omelets, anyone?), though they are generally unfertilized. However, the laying hens are kept in extremely cramped and unsanitary conditions for the entirety of their short lives. Even “free range” or “cage free” hens suffer the same conditions. This video will give you a large dose of enlightenment if you have fallen prey to the false pretenses of poultry and egg labels.
Of course, the argument of backyard chickens and small farm chickens will always be brought up. Vegans will not eat eggs regardless of how happy the producing hen may be, and here is why: The shells of the egg are made up almost entirely of calcium, and when hens are made to lay over and over again, their bodies suffer massive calcium depletion which leaves them emaciated and close to death within months—just a fraction of what a healthy chicken actually lives. In undisturbed nature, hens lay only about 10-15 eggs per year, compared to factory hens laying nearly an egg a day. It is no wonder their bodies deplete so quickly in the egg industry. When chicks hatch, the males are either thrown into a macerator and ground alive or suffocated in large trash bins by the thousands because they are not able to produce eggs and are therefore deemed a useless byproduct. The female chicks are spared only to become yet another egg-laying machine doomed to a short life of misery. Even happy, healthy backyard chickens will lay close to an egg a day due to the evolution of their reproductive system, but many vegans will feed the eggs back to the chickens to replenish their lost calcium and the chickens’ egg production will eventually fall back down closer to a natural number. Consuming the product of menstruation from a bird was an easy and important form of sustenance to early civilizations, but has turned into a house of horrors for chickens born into today’s poultry and egg industries. Can a true feminist support this?
Being a woman is such a beautiful thing. We have the capability to bear child, to feed our offspring from our body, to create the mother-child bond full of infinite and undying love. Just as a feminist rejects rape and abuse of a woman, she should also reject rape and abuse of females of all forms. In menstruation, gestation, and motherly instinct and love, we are no different from our animal counterparts. We should be seeking equality for all Earthlings, not just that of our own species.