By Kali Nelson
Ecofeminism is a topic near and dear to my heart. It is not well known in most circles, but there is an even less known branch of ecofeminism called vegetarian ecofeminism.
A quick refresher on ecofeminism is the idea that the oppression of women and the oppression of nature are connected. I’ve discussed this topic before on this blog, and today I want to discuss a smaller branch of the ecofeminist movement.
Vegetarian ecofeminism is different in a few ways from ecofeminism. This ideology is an activist and academic movement which says that all types of oppression are linked and need to be eradicated. Vegetarian ecofeminism makes its biggest distinction in its belief that the way in which we treat animals, mainly in the way humans exploit and kill, needs to be recognized and addressed.
Vegetarian Ecofeminism uses the concept of intersectionality, which looks at the convergence of sexism, ageism, classism, and racism. But it takes it further and adds speciesism. This concept is central to vegetarian ecofeminism.
Speciesism is a big concept that is central to ecofeminism; it is characterized as the idea that the species you belong to has a moral meaning and places you on a hierarchy of importance. Or in easier to understand terms it means that nonhumans (or animals) and humans are not equal. For example, speciesism is exemplified in the belief that some animals aren’t as smart as people meaning they do not need as many rights. It is another type of discrimination according to some. This term is usually used by animal rights activist—when they protest factory farming and animal testing.
The ideology that is in opposition is Humanism. Humanism is a philosophical and ethical stance which highlights the personal power of people. It mainly refers to the notion of human freedom and progress. Humanists believe that speciesism is not a “bad-ism” like the others in the umbrella of intersexuality. They believe that other groups of oppressed humans are moral humans and animals are not moral and therefore do not deserve the same rights.
Veg. Ecofeminist disagree and say that there is an inherent bond between humans and animals, and the hierarchy humans impose on themselves and animals is a social construct used to undermine the bond. Many veg. ecofeminists believe killing any animal is part of a larger system of oppression. They also assert that “as long as humans are violent towards animals they are often violent towards one another.”
I should probably make it clear that vegetarian ecofeminists are mostly vegetarian. This is because they say that eating meat makes one complicit in the exploitation of animals. When we eat meat, veg. ecofeminists say, we participate in a patriarchal domination of animals and nature.
There are less extreme options if people want to be more environmentally friendly or just not support factory farming and some of its questionable practices. One can try to find more ethically raised meat, but that may not be possible for everyone, because that meat is ex-pen-sive. Even just scaling back on meat products consumed could be a good alternative.
I like the idea of vegetarian ecofeminism, but it is steeped in privilege. I have the privilege of being in this group if I want, because I can afford to not eat meat and to go vegan if I wanted, which I did for a week a while ago. Eating ethically sourced meat or animal products is a privilege because these products are expensive. My biggest example is buying farm fresh eggs, they can cost upwards of $5 a dozen. This is absurd because I can go to WinCo (a grocery store chain with decent prices) and get 5 dozen eggs for almost $6.
This is a class privilege because I can shop at the co-op and buy my cage-free eggs and drink my organic kombucha and drink my milk alternatives but not everyone can afford to spend over $5 on milk and eggs. If it comes down to making rent and buying bougie milk, people are going to pick rent.
I think this ideology has good points, and studying it can lead us all to live more conscientiously, but it is not accessible to everyone. While limiting the meat you eat could save you money because you don’t have to spend the money to buy it, the alternatives are also expensive. To get the adequate nutrition for a person, people need protein which can be found in a multitude of sources from meat to tofu. But tofu is not cheap and may not be the easiest thing to find. Even meat and cheese alternatives aren’t cheap.
For this idea to work we need to work towards making a variety of foods accessible. Food is a feminist issue because it is such a big part of western society and our lives. We need to have a conversation about how we treat animals and how we price food because people in the majority tend to forget that not everyone can afford to shop at their co-op or go organic and ethical for all their grocery needs.
Vegetarian Ecofeminism has some good ideas that we need to work on just a little bit more to make it accessible for more people. We need to take a deeper look at how we treat animals in our farming practices and how we glorify organic food. So, if you can’t do vegetarian or vegan or buy local because it’s too much money and won’t work with your budget, understand there are other ways you can change the system. Contact your representatives about animal farming or animal testing, do your research and spread the word. At the very least, it’s good to examine and be aware of the systems we are a part of.