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For feminists who adopt vegan lifestyles, food choices offer a means to subvert the patriarchal foundations of the food system. Vegan feminists stand in solidarity with animals to challenge dualistic hierarchies that put women, non-gender conforming individuals, and animals at a disadvantage.
As Angela Davis describes, the norm for diets in Western culture entails thinking of animals raised for food production as commodities: “Most people don’t think about the horrendous suffering that those animals must endure simply in order to become food products to be consumed by human beings.” Recognizing the suffering that animals endure can lead to an emotionally charged feeling of empathy. Vegan feminists often identify with animals as victims of exploitation in a system that merely places value on them both through the lens of marketability and objectification.
As a victim of rape, Elizabeth Enochs describes how veganism honors her defense of victims and her belief that all living creatures deserve care. Like many other vegan feminists, she cites how the forcible domination within the meat industry specifically targets female animals whose reproductive organs are exploited for their profitable function.
Female cows are artificially inseminated and continuously forced to endure pregnancies and births in quick succession. Their calves are then taken from them to be slaughtered for veal meat. The physical strain these activities impose on animal bodies is intense. And whereas male cattle are killed, the females must live through these painful and traumatizing processes. Feminists who choose veganism can easily recognize the similarities between the experience of these female cattle and women whose bodies, domestic labor and even child-rearing abilities are often devalued and controlled by men in society.
Another vegan feminist activist, Karolina Skowron, points out how both women and animals are objectified in the media. Women are often called a “piece of meat,” or they are portrayed as idealized body parts on billboards. And rather than accurately depicting animals, the meat and dairy industries portray them as smiling cartoonish figures that gloss over any suffering they endure.