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We’re all together! Apologies for the audio quality as we kept moving and the mic picked up everything, but Mexie, Marine, and Nix from Pynk Spots got together in Portland to record this episode! We discuss the importance of being clear about what we mean when we say we’re fighting speciesism, as this has implications for how we proceed as a political movement. We also discuss the importance of making sure our anti-speciesist movements are actually political. We say often that veganism is not a grocery list, but are we actually treating it as more than that?
Sources and Links
- Pynk Spots YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCFh3fDI2O4pYIurpRhnRzQA
- Pynk Spots Podcast: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/pynk-spots/id1540391376
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F1: [MUSIC] How can we not only discover more compassionate relations with human beings but how can we develop compassionate relations with the other creatures with whom we share this planet?
F2: There’s an us before the wound, there’s an us before oppression, and to me pleasure is the way that we tap down into that.
F3: We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.
MEXIE: Hey, everyone. Welcome to the Vegan Vanguard. It is Mexie.
MARINE: And Marine.
NICHOLE: And Nichole.
MEXIE: We’re all here together in Portland.
NICHOLE: Woo! Land of Antifa.
MEXIE: Land of Antifa.
MARINE: And BLM.
NICHOLE: And BLM.
MEXIE: Apparently. People were real upset about it, but it’s beautiful. We’ve been hiking in the gorgeous — I guess hills of Portland and yeah, just having a great time. We’re here to talk to you today about speciesism and basically how we define it, and a lot of the problems with both the mainstream vegan movement, also the political vegan movement. So, we’re really excited to talk about it. Before we get started, I’m just gonna shout out the new patrons for this month, so thank you so much to Jeff, Adelle Goodman, and Nate Stringer. If you would like to support the show, you can become a monthly patron donor at patreon.com/veganvanguard and for just $2 per month, you can join our bi-monthly political chats which Nicole is often present at. I co-host the Discord with Kathrin and Mad Blender. You can also give us a one-time donation on our website which is veganvanguardpodcast.com. So, let’s get into it.
NICHOLE: Let’s get into it.
MEXIE: Let’s get into it. So, the inspiration for this podcast came about — it was actually a few months ago, but I got a comment on the Vegan Vanguard Facebook which was quite upsetting to me. It was upsetting to various other people because a lot of other people commented as well in support of what I was saying. I can’t remember what the original post was. I think it was actually a photo of a manatee. I don’t know if you remember that, that manatee that someone had etched ‘Trump’ into or something like that, and I had posted about the connections between speciesism and white supremacy. Someone had commented that that was ridiculous and that speciesism isn’t related to white supremacy because indigenous cultures and other cultures all around the world have always been eating animals and therefore, they have been speciesist, right, like speciesism has always existed and it predated white supremacy.
I was pushing back on it and getting pretty frustrated but I think that upon some reflection, it just made me really realize that even in the political quote, unquote, “political vegan movement”, a lot of people are walking around with a definition of speciesism that isn’t systemic at all and that at the root of it, we really need to be clear about what it is we mean when we say speciesism, so then we can be clear about what it is that we are fighting in our political movement, because otherwise it devolves into something that is apolitical, consumerist, whatever, individualist, but also it leads to all these contradictions where you have vegans being completely ignorant towards indigenous people and calling them speciesist and murderers and all of this stuff, and then saying that anyone who supports animal liberation but also supports indigenous sovereignty is a hypocrite or engaging in cultural relativism or all this stuff.
To me, the root of that is this completely apolitical and not-systemic view of speciesism that would allow you to make those claims, right? I think it’s a huge problem and something we need to sort through if we’re gonna actually have any kind of effective political vegan movement.
NICHOLE: Yeah, I completely agree and I know — when I was still kind of newish to the movement, you see that thing where it’s like speciesism equals racism equals sexism, and I was like yeah, fuck yeah, I’m gonna get that as a tattoo. Then pretty quickly you are — like, you hear — well, if you’re part of the right spaces and following the right people, then you hear that is not actually an appropriate concept. I think a lot of us maybe kind of know that, but I don’t think a lot of us can explain why or get to the root of what you’re saying, is like, why are these systems not the same? We see this in a lot of political movements that every form of oppression is equated to each other as if these things are all identical and you just switch out the target of the oppression and it all functions the same.
But it doesn’t; everything has its own flavor. Everything has its own nuances. I think that — I’ve been telling you two that I just watched a Big Joel video where he was talking about this tweet where someone’s vegan — was like oh, explain to me what the actual different — I’m paraphrasing, but explain to me what the actual difference between eating animals and bestiality is. That wasn’t the point of the video; his point of the video is to analyze a shoe-on-heads response to this tweet…
MEXIE: Oh, good.
NICHOLE: …and talk about how people try to prove their points online and what that means. But bless his little heart, Big Joel’s like, it is a good thought exercise. It’s a good question. I’m like oh, Big Joel. But it just brought me back into my time being really in the vegan movement and how often things like that are posed without any kind of analysis of why that would be different. You know? To them it’s so self-apparent that it’s like a huge gotcha. You’re doing both for pleasure and they’re both perverse and wrong, so they’re equal. To your point, then it’s like well, if you follow that to its logical conclusion, then we’re talking about indigenous people are animal-fuckers, like people who need to eat animal products for whatever reason are animal-fuckers.
Like, this is not tackling what speciesism actually is, which is rooted in white supremacy which is rooted in human exceptionalism, and these other — any systemic forms of torture and oppression, it’s not about people living within their environment in a way that’s sustainable and respectful, I guess you could say. Yeah, I was just really glad to have this conversation today because I’m shocked at how far we’ve come and yet we’re still having a lot of this in conversations in the spaces.
MEXIE: Yeah. So, maybe we should start with how do we define speciesism, because I think the issue for a lot of the mainstream vegan movement and also even some more quote, unquote, “political vegans” is that they’re defining speciesism as — we talk so much about how veganism is not a diet and it’s not a grocery list; it’s a political systemic movement, but then we’re still treating it as if you’re a speciesist if you ever consume an animal for any reason, right? Like, speciesism is when any animal dies and is consumed by a human animal. So, if that’s your view of speciesism, then yeah, you can have some pretty disgusting colonial, racist ideas about indigenous people and other cultures because that’s the definition that you’re going from, right? Just, a human eating an animal is a horrible speciesist.
But to me, speciesism is systemic, right? It’s a systemic — it’s — the institution of speciesism really arose with animal agriculture, mainly. It grew out of capitalism because capitalism actually grew out of the Enclosure Acts. Capitalism and the dawn of commercial agriculture are completely tied together, right? You had the Enclosure Acts in England which was the dawn of commercial agriculture and commercial animal agriculture, and that was also the dawn of capitalism because it enclosed all these areas and made all these people proletarians, basically, who had to go into the cities and work for wages. Those two systems are completely tied together. Then as Aph Ko says, it also completely tied to white supremacy and colonialism and the animalization of the other, the animalization of indigenous people, black people.
NICHOLE: Disabled people.
MEXIE: Disabled people, right? So, now speciesism in this Western capitalist society are all of the laws and institutions and our economy that systemically oppress animals, that systemically bring animal bodies into these factories, turn them into living commodities, and export them. Then all the laws and the infrastructure that goes around that, so ag-gag laws, the big dairy lobbies, you know, all of these things that work together to systemically oppress animals. It’s like, if you think about systemic racism, right, it’s institutional. It’s about laws. It’s about systems. It’s not — when we say we’re fighting speciesism, we’re anti-speciesist, it doesn’t mean that we’re against anyone ever consuming an animal for any reason. I think a lot of vegans are very uncomfortable with that, right?
But for me, yeah, it’s like, I’m not fighting for a world in which no animal ever dies and is ever consumed by another animal for any reason. I am against institutional speciesism just like I am against racism, sexism, and whatnot. That to me is why it is completely consistent for me to be for animal liberation and anti-speciesist but also for indigenous sovereignty and not having anything to say about people who are living off the land in reciprocity with the land or whatever, because a lot of people will hear that and yeah, just level things at me to be like oh, you’re just a cultural relativist, oh, you’re inconsistent, your philosophy is inconsistent, it doesn’t make sense. I’m like no, it makes perfect sense because I’ve defined speciesism and now I want to be part of the movement that’s going to attack that, so what does that mean?
I want to be part of a movement that’s going to be lobbying the government for change to get rid of animal subsidies. I’m part of a movement that wants to dismantle capitalism and the capitalist animal agriculture industry and all other industries that exploit animals in that way, right? I’m not out here trying to stop indigenous people from doing traditional hunting. That’s not what I’m doing. I feel like a lot of people get tripped up on that. Like, a lot of vegans will get challenged by non-vegans on these points and they’ll kind of just make these arguments of oh, well, I’m not worried about that, but they won’t be able to articulate why. Then I think for the broader public, it makes them think oh, well, this isn’t consistent, then. If indigenous people can eat animals, then why can’t I eat animals? Yeah, it’s not about that, right? We say all the time, this is not a diet. This is not about a grocery list, but we still treat it like a grocery list and we still treat speciesism as if you just — anyone consuming an animal for any reason.
NICHOLE: Yeah. We have a huge barrier to entry for someone to even have a voice in the movement or to even have these views. It’s like, you do have to be following this particular diet for you to even have a seat at the table to talk about your different viewpoints with how the mainstream movement talks about these things. That’s inherently filtering the movement to have a very certain type of voice, a very certain population. We know that white veganism is a huge issue in the movement, and this is a big part of why, because this barrier has been set that doesn’t work for a lot of people. So, we — it’s very effectively functioned in my opinion as a pretty colonist and pretty white supremacist mechanism to say we’re only gonna listen to the people who pass this arbitrary barrier that we set for this conversation.
It just tickles me pink, you know, when people use that; you’re infantilizing indigenous people or they say stuff like that in order to defend that indigenous people should not eat animals. It’s like, but you have dehumanized — you have kept those voices out of the conversation and now you’re just leveraging these talking points to make your point, but you’re not actually representing this community in any sort of way. You’re not giving them a seat at the table. You’re not listening. You’re not reading their theory. You’re not listening to what they have to say. You’re just using this line that you heard somewhere to make your — to reinforce your point. I think what’s really challenging for people in our movement is that we don’t seem to understand that human is as much a construct as anything else.
Human is a construct the way that whiteness is a construct. It is literally something created to create a division between us as superior and animal as inferior. Then it’s leveraged, as we said in the beginning, to oppress — it’s leveraged against animal animals, but also other human animals as needed. I see what we’re trying to do in the movement is humanize animals, and I think we need to focus more on deconstructing human so that we can understand that we are on the same plane as animals and start to — I just think that shifts the paradigm of how we think about and approach our animal comrades, you know? If we can see ourselves existing within the same ecosystem and not being above it and not having our position be to manage it, then we can start to understand how it isn’t hypocritical to talk about animal rights and also defend that animal consumption might happen.
NICHOLE: But if we always have this idea, ‘cause we were talking about this last year, it’s like oh, well, we have these — I think you were saying this; we have these brains so that’s why we shouldn’t eat animals, ‘cause we’re too smart. We know better. It’s like well, there’s other animals that are as intelligent as us and also, what are we considering intelligence? We’re again having this very human exceptionalism lens on this whole thing and saying that oh, because we evolved to have these brains, we should not now participate in nature. It’s like, but that’s actually the root cause of what got us here. That’s the cause of this problem, is us always feeling that we were above nature and that it was ours to manage or exploit.
MARINE: Yeah, and I think to some extent what Nic is describing is also going to then always animalize any human that isn’t able to partake in the consumerist version of veganism which is to not consume animal products, because it’s saying basically those who have a superior intellect are able to enact speciesism in this really pure, superior way. Then people who are disabled, people who don’t have income to do what we do, like this burden that we uphold, right, by stricting to — sorry, sticking to strictly plant-based diets, then they kind of get a pass, or that’s how we reconcile the contradiction between the fact that they’re not fully plant-based, but isn’t that also then just sort of animalizing other humans and other animals because they still might partake in eating other animals?
I feel like we have defined speciesism. I think more and more people are understanding speciesism is theoretically a systemic injustice and is political, but I do feel like it’s slightly disingenuous ‘cause at the root, that critique or that understanding of speciesism is only valid or acceptable to hear if you are individually practicing veganism and having a plant-based diet. I think that’s why — Mexie, when you were describing — yeah, like the systemic implications of fighting for speciesism and how that would affect laws and ag-gag laws and really dismantling that. It’s almost like we see that as less vegan. Like, if the people dismantling that systemic speciesism, the barrier to entry is that they still are practicing this consumerist version of veganism where they’re not eating animals, any form of animal products in their daily lives because otherwise, we don’t really spotlight them in the vegan movement. We’re not gonna have articles celebrating what they do, you know? Because it’s like, but they also need to be making recipes that allow people to have a vegan grocery list, you know?
MEXIE: Yeah, yeah. If anything, we would call them out as being a hypocrite. We would shame them ‘cause we’re like oh, you’re out here and you’re fighting against the ag-gag laws and you’re fighting to dismantle animal agriculture but you don’t eat perfectly plant-based, so you’re a hypocrite; get out of our movement. We would tear them down.
MARINE: It’s like, but you don’t have that same scrutiny if you are perfectly plant-based but completely participate in capitalism, don’t take any issue with those — and like, not everyone has to be an activist out there fighting laws, but why doesn’t that obtain the level — the same level of scrutiny that maybe somebody fighting against ag-gag laws who eats eggs would, you know?
MEXIE: I know. We’re honestly shooting our own movement in the foot because there’s so many people — and we’ve watched this happen, right? We’ve watched so many influencers, vegan influencers be vegan or be plant-based for however long, they run into some health issues or whatever, they’ve been told that they should eat animal products, and they go back to eating animal products, and then the whole movement is just so humiliated that we have to just completely disown them. Like, we have to tell them that they’re hypocrites, tell them that they were never vegan, they never cared about the animals, we always thought that they would do this, we never believed in them, and forget it. Move on, don’t ever think about this person again, right? It’s like, these people might still care about animal liberation but for whatever reason…
MARINE: They probably still do. They spend ten years learning about it.
MEXIE: Yeah. They probably still actually care about animal liberation and they could still be part of the movement. They could still be allies, they could still be fighting the fight. But yeah, vegans can’t wrap their head around that; they — because we’ve built the movement on a grocery list. We’ve built the movement on a boycott, on a grocery list, which is not political. It’s like, that’s not gonna do it. That’s not gonna overturn the systems.
NICHOLE: Well, it’s not effective activism either, frankly, because what I have found at least is that when you build a platform based around food and consumption, who you’re attracting is other people who are already plant-based. Whereas, if you build a platform like I have in the past and I think you two have here as well, that is based on the politics, the theory, the philosophy, you will find that you’ll attract a lot of non-vegans who are like oh wow, I haven’t heard vegans talk about this stuff in this nuance. I haven’t heard them have this reasonable, logical understanding of what animal rights, animal liberation mean without focusing on the diet. That is far more — in my experience, has been far more effective.
So, I just see — again, that’s why I keep coming back to — to me, the movement has such a colonizing quality because it seems to be — mainstream movement, obviously; it seems to be solely interested in creating these pockets of homogeneous thought and practice and then doesn’t do anything else with it. If you listen to a vegan podcast that focuses more on diet or has a [inaudible] plant-based perspective, over time the philosophy doesn’t change. It’s just this repetition of the same thing over and over and no one’s being challenged to grow or to forward the theory or to have a deeper, more sophisticated analysis. It just stays the same, and I think that’s what people want. It’s almost like a cult; they want all of us to be doing and eating the same things, saying the same thing, wearing our kale t-shirts, you know?
Like, listening to the same — everything — and that’s — like you were saying, even to the point where someone who had been doing that kind of work comes out and is like hey, I’ve had to make a change and it’s kind of — it’s changed the way we look at stuff, we banish them, right? We attack them, make — hurt them as much as we can, and then we ostracize them and cut their voice out from the community. It’s like, that is not — anytime you have a homogeneous culture, you’re doing something bad. In that, you’re going to have racism, you’re gonna have ableism, you’re gonna have all these things because you’re not making space for anyone else’s voice.
MARINE: We tell them they were never really vegan anyway and they never believed.
NICHOLE: Yeah, and we attack them on a deep, core character level. It’s not enough to just be like, you’re gone, we’re not gonna listen to you anymore, which is already very violent when you think of things psychologically, but yeah, it’s also to say you’re a monster. You’re bad and you were always bad. It’s extremely violent and it’s also — it’s very abusive and it teaches other people in the community that that’s what’s gonna happen if they do that as well. Again, you’re creating this space where if for whatever reason someone decides to eat animal products again, they know they have to slink away. They have to leave, and then what do you have left? You have people who are just doing the same thing out of fear and out of a lack of other perspective.
MARINE: Yeah. I’ll just come right out and say this, that the more that I advance in the vegan movement, the more I think the definition of speciesism as something that an individual can be, or speciesist, is kind of ridiculous…
NICHOLE: I think especially when applied to food.
MARINE: …or not useful. Yeah, not useful at the very least, absolutely. Yeah, I think that if capitalism and animal agriculture wasn’t what it is, then speciesism, that word, like, you’re a speciesist, you may be walking in the forest or whatever; you’re harvesting your food and you’re killing prey. The notion of an individual being speciesist in that way, yeah, as it relates to food, is like —
NICHOLE: Like, disconnected from the system.
MARINE: — is a bit…at the very least it’s kind of unhelpful, I think. I think it draws us away from ecosystems and other animals in a way that I’m just not sure is very useful anymore. Yeah, then are you saying that every — all other animals are individually speciesist as well? ‘Cause if you look out into nature, yes, it’s absolutely functioning as an — interconnected ecosystems, but species are — I know it’s a social construct, but you get me. They’re grouped together, you know? I was telling you guys this story of me going to the countryside and I was having a lot of these thoughts and we were having a lot of these conversations. I was looking out on a field and all the horses were together and all the cows were together and all the birds were together, and I get that this is what I was seeing.
I’m not denying that there are insects in the grass and that there’s a big ecosystem living all together, but I do think that there is something to be said. If we were living outside of capitalism, that species likes — tend to stick together and to survive together, you know? That somehow is extremely speciesist to point out or something. I don’t really — yeah, I think — I just don’t really think that’s useful. Like, an individual eating an animal, that’s problematic because that animal was killed in a way that was obtained through this capitalist animal agricultural system that’s super exploitative. I have kind of stopped seeing it as problematic in its own right. I think that if — as long as we define speciesist as first and foremost this thing that individuals can be, like racism, like sexism, then we will never — this explains why veganism is extremely racist and antagonistic towards indigenous people because we’re still like, but I don’t get it ‘cause at the end of the day, it’s still a speciesist act that they’re engaging in when they sit down to eat. It’s like…
NICHOLE: Well, and then you get — yeah, ‘cause you get the — I even heard this recently of someone being like — it might have been in that vigil video, but someone being like oh, would you eat your grandmother? It’s like, that’s what I mean. It’s not that I don’t think animals have personhood. I absolutely do. They have sentience, they have personhood 100%. But we have this weird way of being like, well, but humans are just so different. Then we try to humanize animals to the point where we’re making these ridiculous comparisons of like — I remember getting an e-mail once ‘cause I had been doing work around this general concept, and someone was like, picture this; like — they were like, I want to challenge you on this.
Picture this; you go to someone’s house for a dinner party and you have this wonderful dinner and you’re complimenting the host on the meal that you just ate and then they’re like oh, that was my grandmother. She died last week and we just ate her body. I was like bro, you are so far — this is just not — I was like, honestly, if that was part of someone’s culture, I don’t — I’m like, obviously I don’t want to eat another human for whatever reason, ‘cause a lot of animals don’t eat each — like, don’t eat their own kind, but if that was part of your culture and your grandmother was stoked to be served at a dinner party after she died, like, it’s — you know what I mean?
I’m just like, that’s not as shocking as you think it is to me and it’s also not relevant. It’s just not a relevant comparison and that’s what I mean. I have gotten to the point — and I’m sure I’ve been guilty of doing this in the past, but I’ve gotten to the point where calling animal consumption murder to me just does not feel useful. You’re saying it’s just not a useful framework because it’s not the same thing. You know what I mean? Like you were saying, if you look at animals in nature, they don’t often kill each other, right? It’s normal that for humans, we would take it seriously to kill each other, but it doesn’t mean it’s the same as us killing anything else for whatever reason.
MEXIE: Yeah, they kill each other in a predator-prey relationship that’s part of a broader web of relations, right? Yeah, I’m not really concerned — I don’t think it’s a speciesist act for people to participate in a predator-prey relationship while living off the land or whatever.
NICHOLE: Very well said.
MEXIE: Just an aside, I know people are gonna be like oh, but there’s indigenous vegans and you’re…
NICHOLE: Of course.
MEXIE: …you’re silencing their voices and I’m like no, obviously there’s indigenous vegans and they are having conversations in their communities, but obviously as a white settler, I’m not gonna — that’s not what I’m fighting against because I’m very clear about what I’m fighting when I say speciesism, right? Those conversations can happen in those communities but I’m not a part of that and I don’t need to be, right, because I don’t — I’m not shocked that that’s happening. That’s not — yeah, that’s not the issue that’s harming the planet. That’s not the issue that’s — that’s not part of the system of oppression that we are implicated in and that we are complicit in, right? If you think about other movements, like if you think about the environmental movement or whatever, we don’t look at the average person.
I mean, on the left we don’t look at the average person and say oh my god, you’re driving a car and you’re doing this and you’re doing this. You’re not an environmentalist; you’re — you know, ‘cause we recognize that we’re living under a system that makes it so that we need to do that, right? We’re talking about fighting for an environmental future means fighting capitalism, fighting laws, fighting all this other stuff. Veganism is the only movement where we recognize politically that we are supposed to be fighting the laws and we are supposed to be fighting capitalism and whatever, and yet we’ll look at the most marginal people and be like, why aren’t you eating plant-based? You know?
MARINE: I really feel like making this point when Nic was speaking, that we think we’re so exceptional, right, and different because we’re humans and we can reason our way out of eating other animals, but that also is so delusional because humans are the only species that kill each other at the rate that we do, intraspecies, right? Like, first of all, actually, humans are the only — they’re the only species where there’s — and we talked about this in our violence podcast forever ago, but where males systematically kill females in their own species. Like, that is the only species in which that happens, and that’s linked to patriarchy.
But also when you think about how much police — like, what colonization did and how much police kill other humans and the fact that we incarcerate, imprison, jail, and torture humans on the scale that we do — and then we look at other animals and we’re like oh, but they’re less evolved. But killing each other in the goal of being in a — what were you saying, in a prey-predator relationship, right, is so — so much more incredibly humanistic or peaceful than what we do. But we’re like okay, but we do this and we systematically kill each other at a level that any other animal would look at that and think, I mean, that was…
MEXIE: What’s going on?
MARINE: …completely laughable and completely — so incredibly dysfunctional, right? Yet we’re like, but since we’re vegans and we don’t consume other animals, we’re less speciesist than other tigers that must kill an antelope to live, or indigenous…
MEXIE: Or bush hunters.
MARINE: …people who must kill animals if they’re living in reciprocity with the land for sustenance. It’s so dishonest.
NICHOLE: It is, yeah.
MEXIE: Yeah, there’s no evolutionary advantage at all to — especially men killing women of the — like, men killing the people who can reproduce the species. Like, there’s no advantage to that.
MARINE: Right. Is there an evolutionary advantage to mass-incarcerating over two million people in the United States or whatever the stat is, you know, and to — diamond mining and to — child slavery for chocolate and just like, so many…
MEXIE: Yeah, it’s so funny ‘cause you’re right. You’re completely right that if you put the predator-prey relationship in contrast with all of that, it’s like well, the predator-prey relationship is actually…
MARINE: Is a really good thing to strive for.
MEXIE: Yeah, exactly, right? If we are considering ourselves — like you said, if we’re destructing — if we’re deconstructing human and understanding that we are animals, then yeah, our predator-prey relationship among us as animals is much more natural, peaceful, whatever, than the whole rest of the shit that we’re doing.
NICHOLE: The rest of the shit that we’re doing, but we’re vegan, you know? It goes to — I’ve been thinking about Braiding Sweetgrass. I think about it all the time, every day. But thinking about — and I know I’m generalizing here, but the general — you hear indigenous philosophy of like, they see — you know, they may see the rivers and the trees and the animals all as friends…
MEXIE: Yes, in relations.
NICHOLE: …people in relation, and that never fully made sense to me. I didn’t necessarily disagree with it but I was like oh, just given my upbringing, I don’t fully under — comprehend that and I feel like it’s finally clicked into place for me recently thinking about all of these things that it does make sense to me. Because I think people hear that and they’re like oh, so you’re saying, like, animals are plants, like they’re the same thing? It’s like no, I don’t think it means that they’re the same thing but I think it means that you just are — you have a relationship with everything in your environment and you may use a tree to build a house. You may use an animal for food. You know what I mean? But you’re in relationship with those resources and you don’t see yourself as above them.
I’m not trying to explain indigenous here; I’m trying to explain how I’ve been able to internalize this general concept in a way that has really shifted how I look at things and it just makes so much sense to me. Because I’ve been thinking so much about living in reciprocity and being indigenous to place; I think it’s a beautiful concept and I think it’s a really important one for every single social movement to talk about and consider. I think for vegans who are in this train of thought where any — animals have to be seen as humans, basically, and given the exact same rights and considerations, I don’t think that they can understand what that is saying. It’s not saying that a animal is the same thing as a branch that fell off a tree. It’s saying that you are seeing what you — it actually elevates the environment around you and every part of that environment is a relationship to you that you want to honor and respect in the way that you engage with it. It doesn’t mean that you don’t use those resources; it means that you have that sense of responsibility when you do.
MARINE: And you assure the replanting of the tree or the — you know, the ongoing ecosystem.
NICHOLE: Yeah, and that’s why Braiding Sweetgrass was so impactful to me in helping me to understand that because she was talking about the science of studying how human intervention on plant and animal populations actually improves those populations when it’s done…
MARINE: Permaculture and…
NICHOLE: Yeah, when it’s done in a responsible way, in an intuitive way of — if we harvest to 50%, the next harvest is — the next growth period is actually bigger. It actually helps the plants thrive and then it helps us too. I was like, that is so beautiful because I’ve been raised in a culture that tells us that any human intervention is bad and evil. Then you get to where we’re so far removed from a life like that that if I think any human intervention on the environment is bad and evil, I don’t know how to live and I don’t know how to imagine a future where we’re not doing what we’re doing now. I think — and this is why to me it’s such a tragedy that these kinds of voices and this kind of theory is left out of the movement, because it does prevent you from being able to picture anything that isn’t this cartoonish — everyone’s eating plant-based forever and then we win. You know?
Also this idea that by doing that, we somehow have also magically solved racism and sexism and all these other things ‘cause we’re eating tofu. It’s like, we’re just missing so many steps here. You get people who are like, for whatever reason they just don’t think they can give up meat or they can’t give up meat, and then you’ve lost them. Whereas I think you could sell them this idea of like, no, we need to get to this way of living. We need to figure out how to make this work, and this is the kind of future we can envision for ourselves. I think a lot of people could be like, okay. Same with the technology thing; a lot of us don’t want to get rid of technology but we want everything that we do and create to have this end goal of helping us to live in reciprocity with our environment. I think that is a vision that could motivate and mobilize a lot more people than us being like well, we need to see your shopping list first.
MEXIE: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, I’m so glad you brought all of that up. Braiding Sweetgrass obviously has been so impactful for me and I recommend it to everyone. But some parts of the book were pretty challenging the first time that I read it, especially the trapping chapter. I was like, oh boy. But yeah, it challenged me in a really good way, and — yeah, about the humans not knowing how to live. Cronon — I don’t know if people know; William Cronon wrote The Wilderness Ethic and we learn about that in geography ‘cause it’s a lot about conservation, but it’s kind of the same idea that we have this idea of quote, unquote, “wilderness” as this unpeople place and this idea of any human intervention as being a negative impact on the environment.
So we have these national parks that we basically — we put boundaries around them, we lock them up, although we allow commercial tourism in them, so I — yeah, there’s kind of a — yeah, well, it doesn’t really make sense, but — and then outside of that, we’re just allowed to live our hyper-capitalist, consumerist lifestyles and we think that we’ve conserved by locking up this piece of land away from us, but then yeah, it’s like, well, if for nature to thrive we can’t be in it, then we have no place in this world. What do we do? We just continue what we’re doing outside of it and then just allow it all to burn because of climate change and whatever, right?
NICHOLE: Yeah, can you imagine if those spaces were managed in a way where you would go in and see people living in reciprocity and be able to participate in that, and you’d be like, whoa, we could do this everywhere.
NICHOLE: But that’s why they don’t do it that way.
MEXIE: Yeah, and there is a movement — there’s an indigenous conservation movement that I’m working with right now that that’s kind of like what I’m doing right now because I think that’s — that holds so much potential, right?
NICHOLE: Oh, it’s so powerful.
MEXIE: Because then we could replicate that all outside of protected areas and it wouldn’t be this bounded thing. But yeah, for that to — vegans would be like oh my god, but no, we can’t have any animals dying. It’s just like, that’s not the goal. You mentioned technology; it’s like well, yeah, we can also have lab-grown meat for people who need to have that if people have disabilities or whatever and they need to consume those products for any reason. There’s a lot of ways that we can envision moving forward that doesn’t require that everyone is so strictly plant-based. I think we really need to move away from this because it’s like, I’m so happy to be part of this political vegan movement and see all these comrades posting and stuff on Instagram, but yeah, there’s just this underlying layer of we haven’t moved away from the grocery list thing. That’s still our main focus and our — still the main way that we think we’re gonna move forward to animal liberation even though we know it’s not.
NICHOLE: Yeah. I can see questions on the show all the time of people asking about — what if I have a friend, what if I have a family member that I think could be vegan but they’re not? So much of the advice that other vegans give is like well, just help them do the best they can and keep pushing them towards being plant-based. It’s not well, tell them about all of the other more effective things they could be fighting for or pushing for or looking for or talking about in terms of legislation and things that would actually move the needle, or even just educating them on what speciesism actually is and how to talk about it to other people. That to me is far more effective than us going out and pushing tofu on everyone. But we don’t — it’s always this — all of the effort and energy — this is just what I observed so many times; all of the effort and energy just goes to that conversion and then we never get past that…
MEXIE: We don’t.
NICHOLE: …with a lot of people because they, for one reason or another, can’t or won’t get there, and then we lose the ability — these are people who are genuinely interested in animal liberation and could be really good comrades and really good allies, but we tell them well, you’re failing before you’ve even started because you’re not meeting this minimum standard. I have a comrade now who does great work; I love her stuff, and she told me that she is extremely interested in animal liberation and fully buys into animal rights and all of it because she has a really good analysis and she gets it. But she has had an eating disorder in the past and she’s like, every time I try to be plant-based, it’s extremely triggering. I’m just miserable the whole time.
She said, the last time I did it for six months and I was just extremely depressed. This is also a queer, black comrade and I’m like, I don’t want you to have more strain and stress in your life, you know what I mean? I don’t think that it’s helpful or useful for you to have to take more pain and strife into your brain and your body than you’re already having to from the systemic shit you deal with. She lives in a very white, very conservative area and already deals with a lot of shit. I’m like, I just don’t see how that’s useful. But I was like — I think — she’s a content creator and I’m like, I think you having this analysis and including that in your work is really powerful. I think that is what to do and don’t — you can experiment with stuff if being plant-based is really important to you, but I don’t — don’t feel like that’s the thing that you have to do before you do anything else.
MARINE: Right, and that’s not gonna be your contribution to the movement, what you do with your grocery list. Basically we’re telling people if your grocery list doesn’t look a certain way, we don’t actually really care about your voice or your voice is hypocritical or disingenuous in some way. I had an experience that is different from what Nic was just describing but kind of similar; I was talking to a kid who — she’s like, ten years old and she loves animals and loves — I mean, she’s a better vegan than I’ll ever be.
This is what we were saying with my partner; even though she’s not plant-based, but she collects all these books about insects and knows so many facts about all different kinds of animals and loves dogs and cats but also loves — she has this whole — she’s telling me about like, you know, the thing is that we all care about cats and dogs and that’s easy, but what’s hard is getting us to care about the little species that aren’t fuzzy and warm but that we really need to care about, and this spider that her grandmother had just killed which made her really upset. Yeah, she’s just like, really amazing in that way and always educates peoples — peoples; people about facts around these kinds of animals and the ecosystems and stuff.
She was telling me the thing is with veganism, I’m just a kid and I don’t decide what I eat. My mom does and I go to the cafeteria. I still like yogurt, you know? It’s like, maybe one day — and I don’t even know if she said this but I think that she would like to perhaps be more plant-based but it’s just not a reality in her ten-year-old life right now. I had to — I explained to her; everything that you’re doing, to me that’s veganism. To me, looking at books about insects and educating people around them and educating people around how our practices are harming them and standing up to your friends even though it’s not cool to care for the cockroach in the corner or whatever. All of that to me represents such moral consistency that a lot of adults and even adult vegans can’t necessarily demonstrate. That is so valuable and I’m not here telling her that’s only valuable if — well, okay, let me educate you about the facts that you’re — about the — all the harm that you’re committing while eating an — while eating animals.
NICHOLE: Or even focusing your energy on being like well, here’s how you could talk to your mom about being more plant-based.
MARINE: Right, right.
NICHOLE: It’s like…
NICHOLE: Yeah, you’re cultivating her [inaudible].
MARINE: Like, that’s awesome. Keep at that world view. Keep fighting the good fight. Then, I trust you little person, other human, to then make the decision that is right for you knowing that you have this really killer, powerful mindset around sustainability and ecosystems. I’m not here telling you that needs to look a particular way when you get older, as soon as you get outta the house and can buy your own food. You know? ‘Cause I also feel like that’s really infantilizing. Trust your friend. She has this developed understanding of why animal consumption in its current state is so harmful. You’re not there telling her what she needs to do to shift. We need to trust each other to do what’s best for our own bodies, you know? Yeah.
MEXIE: Yeah, and Marine, ages ago you made that video about why veganism must be anti-capitalist and this whole idea that every person who goes vegan is saving so many animals and whatever.
MEXIE: We debunked that so long ago. We know that one individual person going vegan isn’t really tipping the scales. That’s not how change is made.
MARINE: Even millions of people going vegan…
MEXIE: Even millions of people going vegan.
MARINE: It’s really not. It’s driving a new market and that’s it. I haven’t checked recently but the last time I checked, more animals have been killed than ever even though there are more vegans than ever.
MEXIE: Absolutely. Yeah, and I want to have Vegan BatGirl on the show on Instagram because she talks about that all the time ‘cause she actually works lobbying the government and she talks about it all the time. She’s like, consumer choices is not how governments change their laws. They don’t give a shit. They’re still gonna give the subsidies to big ag, you know? That’s not actually — that’s not moving the needle and it’s not actually saving animals, so why are we again, yeah, focusing on people and trying to force them to be plant-based when there’s so much more that we need to be doing, right? Yeah, and just in terms of what we were saying before about oh, there’s certain people that just get a pass and we kind of look down on them, right? There’s this idea; it’s like okay, well, yeah, if you’re disabled, sure, I understand or oh, you having…
NICHOLE: If you’re disabled enough.
MEXIE: Enough, right? Oh, if you have an eating disorder, sure.
MARINE: That’s not disabled enough.
NICHOLE: It usually isn’t.
MEXIE: Oh, really? Yeah.
MEXIE: Yeah. So, anyway, but yeah, it’s like, where’s the line? Where’s the line? ‘Cause it’s like well, I’m a disabled person but people would not have any — you know, they’d be like well, no, you’re not that disabled. It’s like okay, whatever.
MARINE: Right, and that means that we wouldn’t trust you to make the decision. That means the track record that you’ve established and all the theory you’ve published — actually, Bob in the — I keep using Bob on the show. Bob in the corner can decide like, that’s not good — that — then you’re a hypocrite. That’s not good enough.
MEXIE: Then like, everything would be tanked. It would be like, don’t ever watch our YouTube, don’t ever go — like, she was never part of this movement, you know what I mean?
MARINE: Yeah, and she was never vegan, which…
MEXIE: Never vegan. You know? It’s like, why are we doing this to people? I watched recently someone who I follow for other reasons; she has a channel about beauty and influencers and how Instagram is fake and whatever. She was vegan but she never really talked about it and she came out recently with a why I had to do this, and it was purely health-based and she even — she went to all these lengths where she’s only getting eggs — occasionally eggs from backyard chickens, she’s not eating red — she’s — it’s very like, okay, I know where this stuff is coming from and I’m doing it sparingly because I’m on this plan with my doctor because I desperately needed to be. She’s still — she had to turn off the comments, she had to turn off the lights and whatever. I’m sure she just got fucking roasted and I was like, why are we doing this to people?
NICHOLE: Like you were saying, she wasn’t even a vegan…
MEXIE: She wasn’t even a vegan creator, and it’s just like, this is embarrassing for the movement, right?
NICHOLE: It’s embarrassing.
MEXIE: Embarrassing. Not only does it look bad, because it looks like all these people are just invalidating the movement and it’s like, they’re only invalidating the movement if the movement is a grocery list.
MEXIE: So, it’s embarrassing that that’s — our movement is so easily…
NICHOLE: We’ve made our movement fragile.
MEXIE: We’ve made our movement so fragile that all these people are just embarrassing the movement, but then you’re also embarrassing yourselves. It’s like, it’s embarrassing to have this level of violence — whatever, because then who wants to be vegan? Then you have these people on the other side who are so jaded from what they just experienced that they don’t want to touch animal liberation ever again. They’re like fine, fuck it; I guess I’m a horrible person, and that’s it. Then they just kinda cynically make jokes about it and they’re like yep, fine, I’m a murderer, and they just move on. Then we’ve lost everything.
MARINE: If you look at who veganism as a plant-based consumer lifestyle is not accessible to, it’s — okay, yeah, other animals, right? Supposedly ‘cause they don’t have the capacity to rationalize, children…
NICHOLE: If lions would only eat tofu, then everything would be better.
MARINE: Right, right. Children, a lot of times, right?
MEXIE: Unless their parents are vegan.
MARINE: Right. People of — who have low income, a lot of times, non-white people who have a very different cultural background, disabled people, homeless people, whatever, the list goes on. But if you — that’s really uncomfortable to be like oh, that our movement is actually replicating the exact system that also disenfranchises all those groups of people. It is really unique in that way. You know, and being anti-white supremacist or anti-patriarchal or all that, they don’t disenfranchise those exact groups of people that veganism disenfranchises. That is — runs incredibly uncomfortably close to this — the structures that absolutely must be dismantled if animals are going to be helped in any kind of way.
MEXIE: Absolutely. Then it also alienates us from other leftists because having materials analysis, like, I’ve had so many conversations with leftists in Toronto who are part of different organizations who don’t — individual people in the organization might be vegan or buy into it, but as an organization, their stance is that they don’t buy into veganism because they don’t believe in boycotts, because boycotts typically don’t work. Obviously BDS, that kind of stuff has proven to work, so in some instances it does work but on the whole, boycotting something, especially as we’ve talked about, how so many companies are owned by larger conglomerates, if you boycott one thing, you’re not really gonna bring down the conglomerate, so it’s not really — right?
So, people who have a leftist materials perspective are like, I’m not buying this because your movement is a grocery list and we keep saying to them no, no, no, it’s political and it’s systemic and whatever, and yet all we ever talk about is the fucking grocery lists, so of course other leftists are gonna write us off, right? These can be allies because they are fighting capitalism. They do want to fight against all of these oppressive industries or whatever, and animal agriculture is a completely oppressive industry that they could get on board with fighting against as well, but probably not if we have this litmus test of it being just like, but you have to do it only if you’re buying these specific groceries. It’s like, we’re alienating everyone who’s marginalized, and other leftists because our analysis is so shitty.
NICHOLE: These are leftists who know how to organize, they know how to mobilize, they know how to have effective — these are like, high-value comrades that we could have, and yeah, we’re completely alienating them and it’s because they know how to get shit done that they’re like, you guys are a bunch of fucking clowns. You know?
MEXIE: This isn’t it.
NICHOLE: Yeah, this is not it. I don’t know what you think you’re doing, and Marine, you phrased it beautifully but yeah, it’s — they can see — they can look in and see that we have created a structure that literally targets oppressed people for further oppression by the way that we’ve structured the movement. I think we also discount how many people that is.
MEXIE: We really do.
NICHOLE: Yeah, even learning about my own autism, and so, learning about autism in general, that alone — autistic people tend to have a lot of trouble — tend to be very strict about what they eat or to be very picky, which I don’t really like that phrasing, but they tend to have a lot of digestive issues. There’s just a lot of stuff that even just for this one community that we know is a lot bigger than we ever thought that it was before. We’re now more aware of autism and how much more prevalent it is than we thought. That’s a lot of fucking people and that’s just one thing that I’ve been looking into and thinking about. It’s like yeah, we’re talking about a huge, huge population and like you said, critically, a population that is already dealing with a lot of shit.
It’s like, how fucking effective can our movement be if we’re putting pressure on people who already are facing systemic oppression and then telling them it’s their fault that this one other group is oppressed and that they have to individually do stuff to liberate that? I was just bitching about this recently too on one of my live streams, but I just had this moment the other day where I broke and I just was like, fuck all these people; no one better tell me to do any individualistic solutions ever again because I’m so disabled right now and I was specifically thinking about the zero waste movement at the time, because every zero waste person I’ve ever talked to, I try to — a lot of times will be like, what’s the biggest barrier that you see or that you have, or what questions do you have as someone who’s not zero waste that could help you go zero waste or whatever?
I’m just always like, y’all are fucking ableists. You never take — and classist, I think. You never take into account — I’ve never heard a zero waste person — and I’m not saying there isn’t someone out there, but again, when we’re talking about the mainstream movement, the party line, I’ve never heard someone address the fact that all of the zero waste solutions are — take a lot of time energy, have usually a really high upfront cost — like, if you’re talking about buying glass containers for things, I don’t think people understand those are heavy, those are expensive. As someone with fibromyalgia, I cannot carry a lot of weight on my body anymore. It sucks. Even a light backpack or a light bag sometimes can cause me a tremendous amount of pain.
I don’t have a car, so I’m walking to the store and walking back with whatever I have or I’m ordering delivery to help me out. It’s just simple things like that, and a zero waste person is just like oh, well, it’s just so easy to go buy jars and then buy in bulk and then cook from scratch. I’m like, you do not understand my life. That is not easy. That is not accessible to me. I just had this point to make my point; I had this point in my day — I was taking out my recycling and I was feeling a lot of guilt for — I had a couple cans in there ‘cause I had cans of beans and I bought a couple of frozen meals to help out with stuff. I was like oh, I should be doing better. I was just having this narrative in my head and then I just all of a sudden got this hot anger all over my body and I was like, fuck this.
Why am I — am I here, I literally have no support, I’m by — like, physical support; I’m by myself, I’m doing the best I can, and these people have gotten into my head to the point where I’m having this horrible guilt while I’m taking out my recycling because I can’t do all this stuff from scratch and have lower waste than I have. I just felt like I — if one more fucking person comes to me with individual solutions — because me, I — listen, would it be great if we all had lower waste? Of course. But also, we know that again, it’s the governments, it’s the military, it’s big ag. These are the institutions that are really causing the most environmental damage. If you’re not starting…
MARINE: By far, too.
NICHOLE: By far.
MARINE: It’s like, if you didn’t buy those cans, they’d be sitting in the grocery store. NICHOLE: Exactly. They would still exist.
MARINE: Like, I don’t understand how we don’t — we pretend that that’s not a reality because we think that free market capitalism actually is this perfect 1:1 ratio where if you’re buying those cans and someone out there right as you buy them is making new cans, right, and like…
NICHOLE: But there’s Joe Shmoe at the factory and they’re like…
MEXIE: We sold two!
MARINE: Then if enough people stop buying them, they’re gonna stop producing them, you know? But no, that aluminum has been already harvested. It’s gonna go towards something — it’s so complex and systemic.
NICHOLE: Exactly. Christopher Sebastian, super shout-out to him because I always see him giving people this analysis, but it’s stuff like, people will make fun of the chopped — the pre-chopped vegetables in the plastic packaging and just be like oh, people are so fucking lazy and who needs those? It’s like, you know, sometimes I need it and I do actually need it. Not like oh, it would be nicer. I’m gonna do a video soon on how disability aids are not luxury items and this kind of factors into that. Like, pre-cut vegetables aren’t some frivolous luxury item for a lot of us. They’re a necessity, and I know in your life that you have no context for that, but shut the fuck up then. That’s how I feel; like, shut the fuck up and stop making assumptions about what other people should do with these individualist solutions. Why don’t you go tackle all of these major industries; the governments, everything else, and then when that’s all done, we can talk about what’s left and what we’re all gonna do.
MEXIE: Well, if that was all done, then we could design a society that didn’t have waste and didn’t use plastic and didn’t use — you know what I mean?
NICHOLE: Exactly, and have social support so if someone like me can’t cook all their meals now because everything has to be done from scratch, then…
MEXIE: We’d have community meals.
MARINE: We can help you out, yeah.
NICHOLE: Yeah, we can have an exchange where we can help each other. I don’t want to say — I’m sure someone’s gonna be like oh, you’re infantilizing disabled people; like, they can’t do stuff. Of course, some people are able to do more than others or some people prioritize that. I can’t because I have other priorities like literally trying to figure out how to make enough income to continue to have a home. So, sorry if that is selfish of me, you know? I just think like you were saying, Marine, I like how you put that. I want people to trust me and I want people to trust each other that they’re going to make the decisions that are best for them and make the right choices depending on what their situation is versus policing each other and again having this minimum barrier to entry of like, if you’re not doing this, then you’re not — then you’re part of the problem.
It’s like, don’t come — I guess my message here is don’t come to minoritize marginalized people who are already suffering so much under the system and then tell them that they’re part of the problem, because you’re actually part of the problem. If you’re coming to me with your one focus — like, everyone seems to have — like, zero wasters, Jesus Christ, it’s like, do you know about anything else happening in the planet? Sorry if I’m offending anyone, but I’ve just had some very negative experiences. But you know, it’s such a sole focus for them and it’s like, I get it, but that means that you have no awareness of my situation and to me, like you were saying, Mexie, if I’m a comrade and you’re coming at me in this way, I’m not gonna take you seriously.
I’m not gonna join your movement because you’re already showing such a lack of concern or awareness for, say, disability and ableism, and what are you doing about that? If you’re coming to me and offering like hey, I can make you a few meals a week and you know that you’re gonna make them from scratch and you’re gonna do all these things to make them lower waste, then cool. If you’re coming to me to offer that as a comrade to help me, even if you’re doing it in a way where it’s like you know you’re then reducing waste and that’s a bonus for you, then that’s cool. But if you’re coming to me and being like, you need to do this and you need to do better and you’re part of the problem, we’re not gonna be — we’re not gonna have a relationship and I’m not gonna listen to you.
MEXIE: Yeah. Yeah, even recently I’ve seen a lot of comrades that I really respect or new people that I’m following on new podcasts and stuff like that, yeah, lumping veganism in — like, veganism always gets lumped in with zero waste, with…
NICHOLE: Yeah, always.
MEXIE: …all of these kind of individualist — like, plastic straws, liberal individualist solutions, and it’s like, you know, I don’t even — I didn’t — I don’t message them or say anything because it’s just like, well, to be honest, the mainstream movement is that way. I’m sorry to say, but like, even the quote, unquote, “political movement”, it’s like well, I don’t know, we still seem to be focusing a lot on a grocery list or on a boycott and yeah, it’s embarrassing because it just feels like such an uphill battle to fight that kind of — ‘cause people have really internalized that, right? It’s like, there’s truth there so it’s hard to be part of these conversations or feel like you always have to be pushing back, pushing back, pushing back, be like no, it’s political, no, it’s political, no, it’s political, but you have nothing to show for it.
MEXIE: So, we need to do better, you know? We actually have to do it. We actually have to enact our values and actually live a political movement into being before other people will look at us and be like oh yeah, that is a political movement. I can see that that’s a political movement. ‘Cause right now we’re acting like it’s political but we’re not — I mean, we’re saying it’s political but we’re not acting it like it. So, they’re like no, I don’t believe you. This is liberal shit. We’re like no, it’s not. It’s just not working, you know?
NICHOLE: Well, and that’s going back to that whole speciesism is sexism is racism thing. It’s like well, okay, that’s very flawed, but also if you think that, then why are you not just freely volunteering your time and energy for those other movements, too? But every time I would talk to vegan activists or get questions from them, it’s like oh, I just joined this group to do whatever political movement. How do I get them all to go vegan? You know? Or like, we have these meetings and there’s not vegan food at the meetings. How do I get them to only serve vegan food? I’m like, you’re just missing the whole thing. It’s like, if you do understand — and it’s not to say these systems aren’t connected; of course they are. They’re just not equal. They’re just not the same.
But if you understand that these systems are connected, then why are you not understanding that you just participating in this group is actually helping to fight speciesism? Why are you not understanding that you don’t have to colonize everything you do with this grocery list in order to — it’s almost like they feel like they’re not doing work until that has been done. It’s almost like okay, if I can get you all to eat plant-based, then we can talk about racism. You know what I mean? Then we can start doing that work. It’s like, how do you not see that just helping with anti-racist work or doing mutual aid in your community or whatever it is, that that is all part of how we fight speciesism.
I can’t stand the way that that is so devalued, and again, this colonizing mindset that so many vegans have, of any — I mean, I would get questions all the time, like how do I get people at work to go vegan? How do I get my family to go vegan? How do I do all this stuff? It’s like, stop. Stop it. Stop trying to make every space the same. That’s actually really violent. Just educate people the best you can and also educate your damn self and care about — it’s okay to have a focus, but you have to have a full analysis and you have to care about other stuff too in order to actually be an effective activist.
MARINE: Veganism is a multi-faceted thing. We need people with all different types of focus, and we’re practicing veganism in all different types of ways, and not all those ways involve the food they’re eating. Yeah, and I think this is perhaps for a next episode on this, but I do think that the most prominent people talking about veganism as a food-based — as a grocery list are able-bodied middle to high class white men who are not taking into consideration how plant-based diets are inaccessible to certain peoples and may be harming certain types of bodies because their bodies might not function the same and definitely do not function the same as the bodies of women or the bodies of, you know, different people of marginalized communities.
I think that a way that ableism just runs through our veins as a society is our society — we all need help. We all need various types of aid and support and not a single person can tell me that they don’t, but we’ve constructed a society in which the help that certain people need is totally invisibilized. The labor that goes into making their lifestyle possible, but the way in which, for example, Nic might need support is hyper-visibilized, right? But these vegan doctors who are advocating for like, I don’t know, maybe these zero waste solutions or cooking their own beans or eating certain types of superfoods or whatever, they also need assistance to make that possible. They might need a babysitter to take care of their kids, who’s a marginalized woman who can’t take care of her own kids.
They might need a slow cooker. They might need whatever; vents in their — but yeah, it’s just so insidious the ways in which we think only certain types of people need help, but really we are all receiving so much help, and the billionaire class even more ‘cause all these people are fucking working for the paycheck that they have at the end of the day, but that’s just really invisibilized and that really structures the way that we think veganism is — should be practiced. It invisibilizes the support that privileged vegans absolutely need to have, the privilege in — the material privilege but also the health privilege, right, that they need to have in order to sustain this lifestyle and every other person is morally flawed or needs so much help that then they’re not really considerate and we — they’re not really considered in the movement. They’re just — they can’t — yeah. Well, they’re too poor, they’re too disabled, or whatever. We don’t actually critique our own framework to be like oh, how should we reframe this so that these voices are included?
NICHOLE: I remember reading one of the Health Tones and the doctor who wrote it was like, oh, I take these thirty-two supplements a day. I was like, who can afford that? I have so many friends who can’t swallow pills to save their life, so you know what I mean? Like you were saying, there is — even down to the fact that some people can’t swallow pills. That can be a barrier to certain things. I actually just had dinner with a friend who’s plant-based and who’s vegan and she was telling me that she got a checkup recently and her doctor was like, you’re severely anemic. Like, severely anemic. She can’t swallow pills, and iron supplements are really hard to take; they constipate you, they are very hard on your stomach, and they’re — usually they’re not coated and they’re just huge pills that are hard to swallow.
She told me, she’s like, I was trying to take them but they made me feel like shit and I can’t swallow them, so I just didn’t. She’s just going on being severely anemic because she is so — she was even telling me that she has another friend who she kind of got to be plant-based, and they’ve had a lot of conversations about ethics and animal liberation. She’s like, if she was ever not plant-based anymore, I just — I think our friendship would suffer. I just don’t know — I would just think she was fake and full of shit and all the conversations we had. I’m just looking at her; I’m like, but honey, you need a steak or something. This concerns me that you’re okay being severely anemic and just not doing anything about it ‘cause you feel like you can’t.
To your point, her body, there are these subtle nuanced things of her body that are making it so that this diet is not working for her. She doesn’t have the kind of body that can take thirty-two supplements in a day and fill in those gaps. A lot of people can’t afford that and a lot of people don’t have spouses who work — who don’t have a job, so their job can be this labor to allow someone to live this kind of life. Yet, yeah, someone like me or someone more disabled than me would be seen as like okay, I see where your needs are. But it’s like, but we all have needs; it’s just, some of you are getting them met and some of us aren’t. Some of you have the resources to meet those needs and some of us don’t.
MARINE: That makes me concerned for your friend.
NICHOLE: I’m thinking about it every single day. Like, I think about it every day.
MARINE: Because I’ve been in that place where…
MEXIE: Me too.
MARINE: …you have little deficiencies at first and you just fucking move past them. I’m now at the point where I have a pretty potentially severe autoimmune condition and it’s like, oh, there were actually quite a few warning signs before getting here, but I really did not want to hear them. I was still getting by enough so that I could not challenge certain things that I’m doing. Yeah, now I’m at this point where it has actually really impacted my health and who knows for how long? But yeah, that — yeah, it’s just hard for your friend. At the same time, I’m like, we all have a collective responsibility for that as people who have really pushed this very prescriptive diet, because we boil down to speciesism as this individualist thing that if you eat a certain animal, if you eat an animal product, you are a speciesist and you are an internal enemy in the movement.
MEXIE: Exactly. Exactly, yeah. It makes me concerned too ‘cause there was a time in my early twenties — I was vegetarian at the time but I was — I had an eating disorder or whatever and I was very anemic. It really fucked me up. I’m certain that that was part of everything that combined to contribute to my autoimmune disorder and my health declining very rapidly. So, yeah.
NICHOLE: Yeah, and I struggle; I’m like, should I see if there’s a liquid supplement? Or do I just leave it alone? I don’t want to be that friend who’s like oh, you told me a thing and now I’m gonna harp on you and try to fix it, but I’m also — I’m concerned. This is worrying to me.
MEXIE: I feel like if there is a liquid supplement, that would…
NICHOLE: Yeah, ‘cause it might still hurt her stomach and they’re just — iron’s tough.
MARINE: I want to tell her you can still be part of this movement no matter what you need to do for your health. Please don’t leave once you do get anemic enough to have to eat a steak, you know? Please don’t leave.
NICHOLE: It’s hard ‘cause it’s like, if I broach that with her, would then that hurt our relationship? Because she’d be like oh wait, you’re making allowances.
MEXIE: You’re a hypocrite.
NICHOLE: Yeah, so it’s just very tricky and it just was this well-timed experience, I guess, given that we’ve been talking about this, to be like, this is such a perfect example of all of these things put together in one little interaction where now I know that this friend is having this pretty serious health issue and is allowing it to continue because of these prescriptive politics that we have in this movement.
MEXIE: Yeah. Well, I think that’s kind of a natural break in the conversation. We’ve been going for, like, an hour and fifteen minutes.
MARINE: It’s a miracle we stopped talking.
MEXIE: I feel like if we just let it go, we would talk for like, six hours about this. But yeah, thank you both for having this conversation. I think it’s really important. I hope people receive this well.
NICHOLE: I hope so, too.
MEXIE: I think people will. I think our audience is pretty rad, but I can see a lot of vegans being really uncomfortable with this conversation, but honestly I think it’s something that needs to be said. I don’t hear it being said anywhere. I know that you used to do work around this on your programs but other than that, I don’t hear it being said and I think it’s incredibly important and we need to start changing the movement. We need to start actually making this a movement that is political and systemic and not a grocery list and actually mean that, like actually fucking mean that.
MARINE: Which is hard.
NICHOLE: Yeah, we need people stepping up to support this and to maybe say I eat animal products once in a while ‘cause I also question how plant-based every single vegan is. I think it’s — we’ve come to that point where we have to be brave and start just supporting this very publicly not in theory but actually supporting it ‘cause I think some people make some allowances like well, okay, if someone was super, super poor or super, super disabled, then maybe…
MARINE: Right. Where’s your ticket for…?
NICHOLE: Yeah, and I think we need more people with platforms just being like yeah, I’m fine with it. I’ve seen — I do think a lot of black vegans, I think a lot — I think there’s a lot of — our radical comrades are doing this, but we — it’s also a question of shifting who this movement allows to have a voice and is promoted, then — and us having the wherewithal to turn away from these voices that have always colonized the space and looking for these other people who have always been doing this work and promoting them and showing our support, even just following someone on Instagram, liking their posts, sharing their posts. Something like that can be really powerful because you’ll get the pushback and then you have to be a person who’s like, this is what I believe, and take that hit. You’ll find your people.
You may lose a lot of people, but then you’ll get other people who are like oh yeah, I’ve always had this — that’s what happened for me, is yeah, I lost a lot of people once I started being very firmly anti-consumption veganism, but then I found a really good core contingency of people who are like oh my god, yes, this is how I feel and this is applicable in my life, and I’m here. To me it was worth it to lose those other people because that was not the work I wanted to do anyway.
NICHOLE: We need to be brave and show our support publicly in one way or another, retweet people’s stuff. I know it sounds silly, but that shows that there’s a shift in the movement and that these voices are valid. Those people need the follows and they need the support and they need the money, and they’ve been silenced this whole time, whereas CPG…
MEXIE: I’ve never, ever watched her but I just know all about her from you.
NICHOLE: Yeah, that white walker. But these other people get incredibly wealthy off of perpetuating this very colonist idea of veganism and we need to do whatever we can to shift that and take the political hit and ride it out and be brave.
MEXIE: Yeah, yeah. Exactly. Yeah, I think this is really what we need to leave off with, just everyone go out; we need to shift this fucking movement. We really do. ‘Cause imagine if somebody came out with a I’m No Longer Vegan video and instead of having a million violent as fuck comments being like, you’re terrible, you were never vegan, whatever, people were just like hey, you can still be in the movement; don’t worry about it. Hey, let’s talk about this. Hey, shoot me a message. What are you going through? Let’s talk about it.
NICHOLE: Even going through…
MARINE: Coming from you, too, that way we can support other members of the community.
MEXIE: Yeah, exactly.
NICHOLE: I was gonna say, even going to far as to be like, I’m really glad you did what you needed to do for your health. I’m really glad that you did this. I’m really glad you made this video.
MEXIE: Yeah, very glad. Yeah, let’s talk about — you know, we can still fight for animal liberation.
MARINE: Yeah, all the other things you can do…
MEXIE: Yeah, exactly.
MARINE: A myriad of things you can do.
NICHOLE: …that are actually way worth it.
MEXIE: Exactly. Imagine that. That would be so beautiful, you know?
MARINE: We’d be indestructible.
MEXIE: Yeah, who cares about social clout? Take the political hit; tell the truth.
NICHOLE: Tell the truth, man.
MEXIE: Tell the truth. So, yeah, thank you both for this great conversation.
NICHOLE: Oh, this was so fun.
MEXIE: I know.
NICHOLE: I wish we could record all of our podcasts like this.
MEXIE: I know, me too. It’s gonna be so fun. Yeah, thanks for listening everyone, and we will see you next time.
NICHOLE: Thank you. Bye.
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