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In this episode we discuss why leftists should be vegan! We start by defining veganism as a political stance and not a grocery list, so that it’s clear that vegan praxis will look differently for everyone based on their background and privilege. We then consider the theoretical reasons why animal liberation should be a leftist concern, including discussion of anarchist and Marxist theory, and how animal agriculture was pivotal in the spread of colonial-capitalism. We follow this with a discussion of exactly how animals, environments, and people are being exploited by the animal agriculture industry (with lots of handy stats!), and finish by giving our take on whether veganism is “bourgeois.”
We cover some heavy topics but keep it entertaining. We’d love to hear what you think!
Sources and Links
- Anarchopac’s Animal Liberation Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gvEBa2PgO-w&t=1s
- Baby Momma Rachel’s “My Food Stamps Cookbook”: https://myfoodstampscookbook.backerkit.com/hosted_preorders
- Cowpiracy Infographic: https://static1.squarespace.com/static/544dc5a1e4b07e8995e3effa/t/54e4d927e4b0aaf066abfcf0/1424283943008/Cowspiracy-Infographic-Metric.png
- Dylan Powell Talk: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/which-side-a-vegan-anarchist-podcast/id578833282?mt=2&i=1000364830540
- Food Empowerment Project, Slaughterhouse Workers: http://www.foodispower.org/slaughterhouse-workers/
- Good and Cheap Cookbook: https://cookbooks.leannebrown.com/good-and-cheap.pdf
- Kropotkin, Peter. 1993. Fugitive Writings. Black Rose Books.
- Mexie’s Climate Change Video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Dohwus7rXqY&t=0s
- One Green Planet Infographic: http://www.onegreenplanet.org/news/infographic-veganism-and-the-environment/
- Springer, S. 2014. War and pieces. Space and Polity. 18(1): 85-96.
- Reclus, Elisée. 2013. Anarchy, Geography, Modernity: Selected Writings of Elisée Reclus. PM Press.
- Zurowski, M., Animal Liberation and Marxism: http://weeklyworker.co.uk/worker/994/animal-liberation-and-marxism/
We’re featured on Veganliftz Best Vegan Podcasts, thanks for helping us radicalize vegans and turn leftists on to the connections between animal liberation and human liberation: https://veganliftz.com/best-vegan-podcasts/
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[MUSIC] Oh, those rich people. Always flying off somewhere.
MARINE: Welcome to the Vegan Vanguard.
MEXIE: A show about all things from the perspective of two revolutionary vegan women. I’m Mexie.
MARINE: And I’m Marine.
MEXIE: This is our very first episode.
MARINE: Woop! Woop! Woop! It does not work when I do that. I try.
MEXIE: Yeah. Yeah, so for this first episode, we wanted to tackle a topic that’s very close to both of our hearts; why leftists should be vegan.
MEXIE: Yeah. So, we’re planning to put out a podcast every two weeks. We’re gonna release them every other Thursday at whatever time.
MARINE: We’ll discuss that.
MEXIE: Yeah. But yeah, hopefully our aspiration in the future is to put one out once every week, but we just have to see how it goes and kind of get into the swing of things at first, here. We have a website that you can check out. We’ll link it in the show notes, and you can also subscribe and download the podcast via iTunes or Google Play.
MARINE: Mexie, should we introduce ourselves a little bit?
MEXIE: Yeah. Why don’t we just talk a bit about our channels and how we met?
MARINE: Cool. I have a channel on YouTube. I go by the name I — sorry, this is Marine ‘cause I realize the listeners don’t really know our voices yet. My channel is called A Privileged Vegan and I talk about a lot of things on there, but related to leftism and anti-capitalism and veganism. Yeah, and I called it A Privileged Vegan just because I wanted to try and unpack my position of privilege within the vegan movement and highlight how that did impact how I’m able to practice veganism, and also the fact that I really wanted the deconstruction of privilege and of capitalism to be at the center of my practice.
MEXIE: Mm-hm. Yeah, and you take the pro-intersectional approach which is very, very dope ‘cause you — I love your channel because you’re able to look at topics through a variety of lenses at the same time, or you’re able to synthesize a lot of information and critique what’s going on through a variety of lenses and not just one, whereas I kind of stick to one at a time.
MARINE: What? No, that’s not true. I was gonna say thank you, that’s so kind of you to say because I feel the same way about your channel.
MEXIE: Oh, thank you. Yeah, so I also have a channel. I just started as a vegan channel but I kind of moved into what I know best which is political economy, so yeah, I basically provide political economic analyses of current issues which sounds really boring, but it’s actually like — yeah, I kind of critique what’s going on in the world today relating to politics and economics through, yeah, a leftist perspective and a vegan perspective. Yeah, and we actually met via YouTube because we found each other’s channels and we were so into the other person’s channel, and we were just like, aah!
MARINE: I still remember your very first comment. I don’t remember what video it was on but when I checked out your channel, I was like, fuck yes! Like, another woman that I relate to so much on YouTube talking about these things, and I feel like our first exchange of comments was just like, gushing. We were just like oh my god, I’m so excited to find you!
MEXIE: Yeah. No, seriously, I was so excited to find you. I think I found you through Reg Flowers and until then, I was just surrounded by uber reactionaries or people who just were not even remotely clued in or political at all, and I found your channel and I was just like, this a wealth of — everything you’re saying is amazing. Yeah, yeah.
MARINE: Yeah, I felt very much the same way. It was a very exciting YouTube day. It gets lonely out there sometimes.
MEXIE: Yeah, my god, especially with the kind of people that are taking over…
MARINE: You don’t say.
MEXIE: Yeah, taking over YouTube, like both the vegan YouTube and also the political YouTube; just a ton of reactionaries and people, yeah, in the vegan movement who just could not give a fuck about what happens to other humans which is sickening.
MARINE: And a lot of leftists who could not give a fuck about what happens to animals, which is…
MEXIE: That’s true.
MARINE: Which is what we’re here to talk about today. This is why we’ve started out with this very podcast.
MEXIE: Yeah, that’s true.
MARINE: Then, after speaking via Facebook for a few weeks, that led to us adding each other on WhatsApp and sending each other between ten and thirty-minute voice notes each time, just because we loved speaking to each other. Yeah, that plus a couple hours of Skype each week. Basically we just completely fell in love. We were like well, clearly we have a lot to say and I’ve always wanted to start a podcast, and it’d be super dope to do that with you.
MEXIE: Yeah, I just thought it was such a great idea, and I’m stoked to get started.
MARINE: Here we are.
MEXIE: Yeah, so I hope everyone enjoys. So, today we’re gonna talk about why leftists should be vegan, something that we are both very passionate about. So, we’re gonna start with some theory, like theorizing veganism within an anti-capitalist framework, and then we’re gonna move on to some actual statistics and looking at how the exploitation of animals, people, and environments are happening in real life, today, and then we’re gonna move on to a discussion of whether veganism is bourgeois.
MARINE: Mm-hm. Great. So, I’m gonna start off by defining veganism, not that I get to define it for everyone, but we wanted to clarify that veganism, in the way that we’ll be talking about throughout this episode, is a political stance. It’s a ideological framework that seeks to abolish the commodity status of animals and that advocates for animal liberation. It’s not a way of consuming, it’s not a certain grocery list, it’s not a certain way to shop. It really isn’t a lifestyle even though a lot of people like to talk about veganism as a lifestyle, but we really wanted to politicize it in today’s episode and talk about it as just a larger ideology and why animals, non-human animals, should be a part of our anti-capitalist practice and way of thinking about the world.
Yeah, so with that definition, anyone who believes in the philosophy of veganism, of animal liberation or of the non-commodification of animals, is a vegan. As a result of this belief, they’ll — each person is going to implement those values in he, she, or their lives as far as is possible and practicable. That second part is going to be — is gonna look different for everybody because we all have different backgrounds and privileges and we all have different things accessible to us, so the practice of the political philosophy of veganism is for each person to define for themselves. However, veganism is the political ideology in and of itself.
MARINE: So, yes, we just wanted to make that clear.
MEXIE: Yeah. We just want to make clear that we’re rejecting the consumerist vision of veganism and we’re rejecting the idea that you can only be vegan if you’re privileged. Like, you can only be vegan if you have the money to access that for yourself.
MARINE: Right, because actually, a lot of people have the money to access only quote, unquote, “vegan products”, but might not reject speciesism.
MEXIE: Right. Do you want to explain briefly what speciesism is so that people know what we’re talking about?
MARINE: Sure. I’m actually just gonna read out a definition of speciesism by Corey Lee Wrenn. I happen to really like this definition and it’s the best one I’ve found.
MARINE: The definition goes, “Speciesism is institutional discrimination and to a lesser extent, individual prejudice against non-human animals based on their species. Speciesism is violence against non-human animals that is perpetuated by the privileged human species usually for the benefit of humans. It is conducted based on the belief that non-human species are lesser in some way. Speciesism relies on the understanding that there is an us and a them, that humans are on top and other animals are below.” Yeah.
MEXIE: Nice, yeah. I also kind of felt like it had to do with the fact that we value certain species more than others, so it’s like, dogs are our lovable pets and cows, we couldn’t give a fuck what happens to them. Maybe that’s wrong, but…
MARINE: No, definitely.
MEXIE: Yeah, there seems to be a hierarchy even within the animal kingdom.
MARINE: Mm-hm. No, no, no, you’re right. Yeah, so speciesism is both the intraspecies discrimination that goes on, but ultimately it’s about the structural oppression of the belief that humans are on top and animals are on the bottom. Another word you might hear is anthropocentrism which relates to speciesism, right? It’s the mode of thinking where…
MEXIE: Humans are at the center of all thought.
MARINE: Right, exactly. Alright, so what does it mean to be against the commodity status of animals, the point that I made earlier. For me, it means the belief that animals are individual people and that they weren’t put on this earth just for our use — or not even just for our use; for our use, period — that they’re individuals and they’re sentient, they’re intelligent, they’re emotional creatures who exist for god knows what reason, the same reason that we’re here; just to live their lives and that they weren’t put here for us to use. Yeah, just recognizing that animals are people. They have personhood. Anyone who has a pet, right, or a dog or a cat knows that they have a personality and when they look into their eyes, they can tell that they’re individuals with thoughts and a certain perception of reality. So, recognizing that personhood of animals is, for me, what means decommodifying them, that they’re not just, yeah, that they’re not just here for food or for clothing or for entertainment, that they’re here just to live their own little animal lives.
MEXIE: Yeah, to be little animal dudes. But even between my two dogs, there’s such a difference in their personalities, such a huge difference.
MARINE: Yeah, I haven’t had a — the only animal I’ve ever had — even as a vegan now, isn’t it weird to talk about your pets, like, the animal that I owned…
MEXIE: Yeah, well, I mean, it’s actually my parents’ pet, so it’s not technically mine, but still. I love them so much. Anyway.
MARINE: …was like, a pet cat a really long time ago and then a few goldfish. That’s it. Now I just — this is the other thing; I feel like people think that vegans just must all really love animals but I don’t even love animals that much. I like them from afar, you know? I recognize that they’re beautiful and I just want them to go about their lives. But in my own space, I’m not the biggest fan.
MEXIE: Really? I mean, I love animals. I fucking love animal — like, every animal, I just love them so much, even bugs. I’m like, I don’t love them, but I’m like, I would never want to hurt them. You know what I mean? But even that, animal welfare wasn’t the reason that I initially went vegan, but it’s something that I’ve opened my eyes to once I got into it. Anyway, that’s kind of off-topic.
MARINE: Yeah, I do feel like, yeah, just a last comment on that note is that I do feel that as someone who was never really an animal lover, becoming vegan, I can sense — I have sensed my love for animals grow a little bit when I’m around them. Now, I’m just like, aww. Hi, guys.
MEXIE: Yeah. I just adore them.
MEXIE: Anyway, that kind of feeds into our next bit of theory about this false dichotomy between humans and animals, that this false construction of this human-animal divide. This is something that we talk about a lot in my field, just the social construction of nature, our idea of nature as something that is external to us, something that we can see physically. We have these conservation spaces that are bounded in space, so it’s like, there is nature out there and here is me in my modern house here which is not considered to be nature or natural in any way. The way that we do this, the way that we externalize nature from ourselves and just remove ourselves from that ecosystem or from thinking of ourselves as animals and as part of that ecosystem is a way of externalizing nature, and that feeds into its commodification.
A lot of people will talk about the fact that capitalism has commodified so much of nature and animals, et cetera, is at its core part of this false dichotomy or false way of conceptualizing our place in the world, because if something is external to you, if it’s something that you can measure and convert into metrics, then you can quantify that and then you can commodify that. You can sell that for a price. So, yeah, this externalization or this false dichotomy kind of feeds into our exploitation of nature and also our — just our disconnect and our thinking that animals are somehow — like, we are not animals somehow.
MARINE: Yeah, exactly. Even the idea that we are not animals, like even though scientifically I feel like most humans know that that’s not true; we are animals, we are mammals. This whole binary is absurd between humans and animals because there’s way, way, way more similarities that exist between us and a monkey, right? I wish I could come up with a species of monkey right now.
MARINE: A bonobo, exactly. There are way more similarities between a human and a bonobo than between a bonobo — am I pronouncing that correctly? — and a fish or an ant or even between, I don’t know, a gazelle and a rhinoceros or something. There are way more differences that exist between those species than between us and a bonobo. It’s absurd that we say we’re humans and they’re animals. It creates, as you said, this false binary, this illusion that we’re more different from other animals than they are between themselves.
MEXIE: Yeah, don’t we share like, 99% of our DNA with so many primates?
MARINE: We really do. Yeah, exactly.
MEXIE: More than that; it’s like, 99.9%.
MARINE: Exactly, so there are — how does that work, the fact that there are so many more differences amongst different species in the animal kingdom than between us and most given species, yet we are qualified as humans and they’re qualified as animals.
MEXIE: Mm-hm. I know, and there’s even the argument that like oh, well, humans are self-aware, but now they’re realizing that dolphins are self-aware, elephants are self-aware, all these other species are actually self-aware. We just don’t know how to measure that. How do you measure whether a species is self-aware, right? Yeah.
MARINE: Mm-hm. Another point is that if you think about all systems of oppression or of all hierarchies, they’ve been structured along this spectrum between who is more human and who is more animal, right? We know that even biologically, the human species, like so many people weren’t considered humans because they weren’t white, [inaudible], and male, and heterosexual, so on and so forth. It’s helpful to think about animal as a status, as a political category that the dominant class just casts on whoever they want to objectify or they want to exploit or they want to extract resources from. In a sense, the human-animal divide exists on the spectrum where whoever uses others as a commodity is more human and whoever is used as a commodity is more animal with different, you know, with different levels of — with different gradients.
MEXIE: Right, yeah. Yeah, we’re gonna talk about colonialism in a bit, but that’s exactly the kind of othering that happens in that kind of colonial appropriation and oppression, kind of turning the local people into savages, into animals, into barbarians that are not worth — or that need European saviors to come in and civilize them, right? To make them human, to make them civilized in a colonial, capitalist sense.
MARINE: Mm-hm. If you start to see human as this privileged status that whoever is doing the oppressing claims, right, then you can really start to see the commonalities between different victims of this system of oppression, of this white, capitalist, patriarchal, European system of oppression. On that point, I wanted to talk briefly about how vegans often make these comparisons that are considered very offensive and rightfully so, between — for example, there’s this sort of famous photo that puts — that stages a pig that’s being hung versus a man that’s being hung and presumably lynched. The caption reads ‘Only the victim has changed.’
But what I’ve heard Aph Ko say this who’s a vegan woman of color, an afro-feminist, and I’m sure other people have said this as well; what’s problematic about that image of those side-by-side victims of oppression is that the system doing the oppressing is completely absent from that image, right? In terms of the system that’s responsible for animal agriculture or for systematic racism, those are actually — there’s so many commonalities that can be said about the oppressor there. However, when you’re just — when you’re leaving that out of the photo and you’re just showing the two victims and you’re drawing a direct comparison, it’s quite — it’s, yeah, understandably so considered oppressive.
MEXIE: Right, and similarly, the relating the animal Holocaust to the real Holocaust is similarly, yeah, offensive, obviously, and really not precise, you’re right, about naming well, who is the oppressor here and what is — what are we taking aim at here?
MARINE: Right. Actually, on that point, there is — we keep going on tangents. You can tell we’re not really — we’re not very professional about this yet. We’re just like oh, and this idea, this idea, but…
MEXIE: And then this!
MARINE: Yeah, but there is a book called Eternal Treblinka which I have not read yet, so I will — you know, hopefully my summary of it won’t be too ignorant, but it talks about how, in the animal — in the Holocaust, there were — a lot of the techniques that were used in concentration camps were techniques drawn directly from animal agriculture and from slaughterhouses. In turn, kind of the — it’s disgusting to say this — but the progress in terms of the mechanization of the death tools they used in concentration camps were then used to quote, unquote, “to make slaughterhouses more efficient” or “to better slaughterhouses later on.” There is really a direct — there is a direct connection between modernization and mechanization and the industrial revolution between human and animal oppression, however that needs to be named, and it’s not just the victims that should be compared, ‘cause it’s almost redundant when you do that, right? It’s almost like you’re showing two victims of the same system. Talk about the system.
MEXIE: Right, yeah. For people who aren’t really aware of what happens in the animal agriculture industry, they’re just going to be wildly offended that you’re comparing their uncle’s suffering to what’s going on to a pig. Pragmatically, it’s probably not the best approach. But anyway, yeah, I wanted to mention what you were talking about, about this gradient between human and animal and how the oppressors dehumanize victims. That’s largely how you victimize someone, is you dehumanize them. I was just thinking about women and what they go through recently with all of this sexual misconduct and different allegations coming forward. Yeah, I just felt like there’s a similarity there. So, yeah. I’m not being very articulate…
MARINE: No, absolutely.
MEXIE: …at the moment, but yeah, I just feel like what you’re saying about animalizing people as a form of oppression is exactly what we see in so many other areas in racism, sexism, transphobia, et cetera.
MARINE: Yes. Hopefully in the future we’ll do an entire podcast about them. Another way that I like to talk about animals and humans is by talking about animals that are trapped in the entertainment industry as political prisoners. I have Christopher Sebastian who is another one of my favorite animal rights activists to thank fully for this. When I first heard him talk about political prisoner — about animals being political prisoners, it just really was one of those a-ha moments because he talks about the prison industrial complex and how certain humans are enslaved for profit, right, and for the perpetuation of this white supremacist heteropatriarchy. He also talked about zoos and aquariums who hold captive certain animals that are political prisoners. This really hit home for me when I went to the aquarium three months ago. No, this was not something that I willingly did as a vegan one day, but I got home — I got to the house of the person I was babysitting. I know I’m keeping this person very mysterious, but this girl that I was babysitting, and her dream was to go to the aquarium. Her mom was like alright, so, I’ve already reserved the Uber. You guys are gonna go to an aquarium. Here are your tickets. At that moment I was just like, well, okay. I’m gonna go to the aquarium, you know? Almost like I’m gonna see it as it’s like this ethnocentric opportunity for me to go back into one of these spaces that I haven’t been to in so long. I wasn’t thrilled, obviously, but I was kind of like…
MEXIE: Because you need employment under capitalism.
MARINE: You do. I was like, this is gonna get me like, thirty bucks an hour. I have no choice. Actually, it wasn’t even thirty bucks. It was babysitting, so it was less than that. But anyway, I needed the employment at the time so I went to this aquarium, and it made me so sad. I really didn’t expect to have this really visceral reaction, just because we live in a world where people consume animals three times a day or all the time. I’m so used to, I guess, being around speciesism in this reality of animals being commodities, but seeing fish, like different tropical fish from all over the world in these tiny-ass tanks labeled with the name of different countries, you know, like Vietnam, or Cambodia, or this one is from Venezuela or whatever, was just so sad. I was like, wow, these fish are individuals and they’re conscious of this reality in whatever way. Obviously it’s not — they have a different understanding of it than we do, but they’re trapped and they’re here because some asshole is making so much profit off of their imprisonment. We’ve completely, completely commodified them. It is so clear when you walk around a zoo or around an aquarium that the people are there for an experience and are like…
MEXIE: If you look in the eyes of the animals, they’re so fucking sad. I saw this poor — it was a chimpanzee and it just looked like it was about to cry. It just was not happy at all. That was so clear. Same; in Toronto, they made this new Ripley’s Aquarium and I’ve refused to go. It was this big to-do because it was down by the CN Tower and the Roger’s Center and everyone was all hyped about it. I just, I have refused to go. Basically, everyone has gone except me, and my ex-partner was all upset ‘cause he was just like oh, it’ll be fun, it’s a new thing, whatever, so upset that I was just refusing to go to this thing. But then I read an article about how they actually got the fish for these — for this aquarium and I was totally vindicated because it was like, for every one fish in there, they had to catch eighty and seventy-nine died because it was such a stressful experience or they died during transport or whatever, right? The amount that they were actually destroying the coral reefs to actually go and harvest all of these fish that they would need — just, yeah, just the amount of fish that died just for one fish to be in there was just ridiculous. Then on top of that, it’s like, the sharks and — I don’t know if they have dolphins or whatever, but it’s just — it’s too much. They’re too big to be in here. Anyway…
MARINE: Definitely, no. Plus, all of this is hidden under the guise of conservation, right? People almost think like they’re doing a good thing by going to the zoo and by supporting the conservation of these animals that were otherwise going to disappear in the wild. It’s also like yeah, think about why so many species are going extinct; climate change and deforestation and capitalism and all of that. But yeah, I think that a lot of people in this aquarium or in the zoo that you’re talking about — and I believed this as well, definitely, before I learned the reality of it, is oh, they’re — it’s — they’re these endangered species. It’s wild how we create these categories and then they’re so normalized and naturalized in the way that we think about the world. Some species are just endangered, you know? Some food is just organic, or something. I was thinking about that too, but just this whole concept of organic food now, it’s a whole different — we just think about food that’s organic, but I saw this meme that was like, organic food or what my grandmother used to call food. You know?
MEXIE: Right. Yeah, yeah.
MARINE: Yeah, this is the reality, you know? Some animals are pets. Some are made to be in zoos. Some are made to be food.
MEXIE: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Have you seen that cute video of that Australian kid who, I don’t know, he’s like five but he comes to this realization that the animals in zoos are — it’s like they’re in a jail?
MEXIE: Have you seen that? Okay, well, I gotta show everybody this video. I’ll post it on my Facebook page. It was so cute. But anyway, you know. Yeah.
MARINE: Yeah. Cool. Another little tangent. I’m starting to see how this goes now.
MEXIE: Yeah, yeah. Branching from that, thinking about the politics and economics of animal liberation, I wanted to talk a bit about anarchism and Marxism specifically with relation to the idea of veganism. Obviously, anarchism — I mean, I think — I’m obviously not an expert in anarchist theory, but I believe that anarchism has more of a history with veganism or more of a direct history with veganism because anarchism, as Simon Springer talks about, is basically their rejection of -archy, so it’s anarchy. The negation of -archy which is any form of hierarchy, so patriarchy, capitalism, racism, speciesism, et cetera. Simon Springer, who I’ve talked about a lot who is a very badass, cool anarchist geographer, he talks about how anarchism basically entails a categorical rejection of all of the interlocking systems of domination. That includes capitalism, imperialism, colonialism, all the big ones; racism, sexism, ageism, ableism, transphobia, homophobia, but also speciesism and carnism, obviously along with the state and organized religion. So, I just want to shout out Anarchopac. They made a great video about this topic and I’m not gonna go into everything that they talked about, but they bring up Peter Kropotkin who is quoted as saying, “Civilized man will extend his principles of solidarity to the whole human race and even to animals.” Then also, another anarchist geographer — basically there’s this whole anarchist geographer movement. I’m in geography, right, so there’s this kind of a increasing or growing circle of scholars who are anarchist vegan geographers, and I think it’s actually really rad. There’s gonna be a book coming out about veganism and anarchist geographies and I’m so excited for it, but that’s just me nerding out. But anyway, another anarchist geographer, Élisée Reclus, wrote against the oppression of animals by humans as early as 1896 and 1901. Again, I won’t talk about everything that he talked about, but he basically discusses the violence and the degradation of non-human animals that’s part of meat-eating culture, the ways that this degrades our environment as a whole and feeds into this problematic nature-human dualism that we talked about before that makes us think that nature as a whole is there for our exploitation, and also that meat-eating culture feeds into other forms of domination like racism and sexism and other hierarchies. Basically, that it acts as a foundation for violence against other humans. I think that fits in well with what you’re talking about, about the Holocaust technologies being modeled off of animal violence and exploitation because yeah, obviously if we’re conceiving of our entire world as implicitly hierarchical, then it’s going to affect the way that we behave and the way that we treat certain categories of people or non-human animals that we deem as less than, basically.
MARINE: Yeah, yeah. When we learn to oppress one group, then we are gonna better oppress the next, and so on and so forth.
MEXIE: Right, exactly, and be able to justify that violence with greater ease.
MEXIE: Yeah. So, this kind of feeds into what I was thinking about in terms of fetishization because I feel like buying animal products is kind of the most stark example of fetishization under capitalism because people are so removed from how that product was made. People go to the grocery store and buy this super-sanitized, packaged-up, nice little neat meat product. Maybe it’s fashioned into a little chicken nugget or something. You’re not gonna look at that product and see a cut-up, dead chicken. You know what I mean? You’re not gonna understand where that actually came from.
MARINE: Right. I think about that sometimes when I see another person eating an — or when I see a chicken nugget. I’m like, how many parts of animals are in there? When were they all killed? Where are they from? We have no idea.
MEXIE: People just — they don’t want to know and they don’t really care, but it’s like, if somebody had to stand there and watch somebody string up a cow from its legs and slit its throat and then cut into it and cut out a big hunk of meat, I don’t think that most people would be standing there drooling and thinking like, well, that looks so appetizing.
MARINE: Right. Let me blend that up and drink it like a smoothie.
MEXIE: Mm, steak. Yeah. Let me just bite that hide. People would just be vomiting and really disturbed. I feel like this is just the height of fetishization, especially when you see all these commercials for Superbowl Sunday and chicken wings and beer and Big Macs. It’s like, nobody is looking at that Big Mac and thinking about a cut-up, dead cow, you know? They’re not.
MARINE: Yeah, right.
MEXIE: No, yeah, and they’re also not thinking about the workers or what kind of work went into this. They’re not thinking about the labor that went into this at all. What did that look like? Who’s making this food? Are they getting paid? How are they being treated? It’s just this beautiful little Big Mac in a snippy McDonald’s commercial. It’s just the height of fetishization, right? Yeah. It just kind of bothers me.
MARINE: Definitely, and how — right, how the burger patty is not — it’s not even — it’s become a whole thing in and of itself and a whole commodity in and of itself that people completely divorce from any actual recognition of what went into making that product, or like a leather jacket or something like that. It becomes a — it is a leather jacket. It is not the skin of a dead animal. There’s an — a really amazing author called Carol J. Adams that talks about how meat is the absent referent for the animal. In feminist theory, I don’t know who came up with the concept of absent referent; like, kind of when on commercials you see just boobs or a piece of a leg or something like that of a woman and how that body part is actually like the absent referent for the person that stands behind it, but how the person that actually — those limbs become — belong to is completely irrelevant. Yeah, so she talks about meat being the absent referent for animals in a book called Sexual Politics of Meat, which I encourage everyone to check out.
MEXIE: Yeah, we should do a podcast on that. But yeah, no, ‘cause I went to the CnE in Toronto and every year, they have this farm exhibit. You go in and you get to see a bunch of farm animals and I always love it because I love animals so much, so I love going and petting them and seeing them but it’s like, there’s this real, heavy and depressing tenor to the whole thing because you realize that they’re all captive and they’re all gonna be turned into products. They don’t even label — like, they label — the cows, they label them beef. It’s not even like, here are the cows. It’s like, this is the beef section and they’re live animals. I’m just like, yeah, yeah, it’s just such a stretch for me, but people don’t question it. Yeah, I mean, they always say that if people could see or if slaughterhouses had glass walls, then everyone would be vegan, or similarly, I feel like if people actually had to slit an animal’s throat their — selves and then cut it up and eat it, they would not be doing it, you know? For the most part, for the most part. I mean, I know there’s people who love hunting and — or, you know, other cultures and indigenous cultures or whatever, it’s totally different. Yeah, I feel like for the average middle-class western citizen, they would be like, fucking appalled by that, yeah.
MARINE: Right. We’re such naturally empathetic creatures, you know? I think in those cultures where killing is — yeah, animal killing is ritualized and it is a sad — it’s seen as this — well, I don’t know. I don’t want to speak for other cultures, but there is this ritual around the fact that you’re taking a life, you know? It’s not supposed to be this completely meaningless act that takes — that happens by the millions and the millions each day. It’s just…
MEXIE: Right, yeah. Exactly. It’s like a relationship and not just some invisibilized thing that brings it to your plate. Yeah.
MARINE: Yeah. Vegans say put a baby in a play pen and bring it an apple and a lamb and see which one it eats and sees which one it plays with.
MEXIE: Right, yeah. Yeah, and there’s so many videos of young kids realizing what they’re eating and just being destroyed by it, just destroyed, yeah. I should post some of those on my Facebook wall.
MARINE: Yeah. Did you see the one, I think, of — it was some — I think it was a Venezuelan girl eating an octopus, the little girl? She realizes that it’s an octopus and she’s like, did it have a family?
MEXIE: Yeah, she was mortified. Have you seen the one — I think it was a little — I think they were from Vietnam. I’m not sure, but it was a young boy and the mom had cut off a bit of this fish and he was desperately trying to put the cut-off piece back onto the fish and make it move and be alive. He was like, what’s happening to it? He’s like, so upset. He was just wailing, crying, and I was like, aww. But yeah, anyway. That’s forced out of us by our society.
MARINE: Yeah, which is ironic because when we’re little kids, we love animals so much. Like, literally every single one of our games or movies or, you know, stuffed animals is a stuffed — is an animal, you know?
MEXIE: Right, exactly.
MARINE: But then we learn to — I have memories of me as a kid definitely having a lot of cognitive dissonance around that; being like, wait, this animal is sentient or this animal is alive and then you just kind of rationalize it as oh, but no, we need to do this and those animals are food and other animals are not food, and those are the animals that I pet and whatever.
MEXIE: Mm-hm. Yeah. Yeah, anyway, so that was basically — I was talking mainly about anarchist thought, but this is not just for anarchists. Marxist thought can easily be related to animal liberation, so I’m gonna read a quote here that I like from Christian Wittgin. He says, “Since capitalism is the object is our critique, Marxists should address all that capitalism destroys. If you do that consistently, you will soon realize that capitalism does not merely exploit and oppress the class of wage laborers. Indeed, you will find references in the works of Marx from his earliest writings through to his late works on economy to the fact that nature and therefore explicitly animals are subjugated and exploited by capital. Take this as a starting point and you will begin to understand how the mode of production and the social practices in which we participate distort our view not only of our relationship to the means of production, our work environment, and the commodities we produce, but equally that of our relationship to animals and nature. This distorted view which is to a certain extent shared by the oppressed and oppressor class, must be criticized just like the exploitation of humans.”
MARINE: Very solid quote.
MEXIE: Boom. Yeah.
MARINE: I love it.
MEXIE: Yeah. I just love that quote. It’s so spot on. I mean, even though Marxists don’t necessarily — like, the definition of Marxism isn’t the same as anarchy. It’s not the same as the rejection of all hierarchy entirely. If we’re against oppression and exploitation in all forms, then of course we should be against exploitation and oppression of non-human animals.
MARINE: And the direct theft of their labor and their lives for profit. I mean, I — yeah, when I hear now-Marxists talking about labor exploitation, I’m just like, make the connection. You are describing exactly what we routinely do to billions of animals every year in order to extract resources from them that are not ours.
MEXIE: Right. Well, we appropriate their labor, basically, because we’re not paying them. They’re not laboring in the sense that they’re doing…
MARINE: But Mexie, what would they do if we didn’t milk them? They would just be bored on the field.
MEXIE: Oh, right, yeah. They would just take over the world because nobody would be killing them, so they’re…
MARINE: I’ve gotten that response so many times, but what would they do? Would they graze? What would they do if we weren’t there to make them do something? Which is also an argument that you hear about that you hear from capitalists, right? When we’re like, abolish work, it’s just like well, what would people do? There would just be complete chaos.
MEXIE: Or people who are apologists for the sweat shop system. It’s like well, what would they do without the sweat shop?
MEXIE: Yeah, anyway. Maybe we’ll make another podcast about that.
MARINE: I feel like you were onto something and then I interrupted you.
MEXIE: No, it’s all good. That was basically the point I was making, was just that from both Marxist and anarchist perspectives, it just makes sense to enroll animal comrades as our allies and to want to end their exploitation and their commodification just as much as we want to end the exploitation and wage labor of humans. Yeah, so additionally, anarchists and Marxists also — this is another point of theory, but they also would be highly critical of colonialism and imperialism, et cetera, and the way that capitalism has spread around the globe. A big part of that that is really not talked about is animal agriculture and the way that that has contributed to the spread of colonialism and capitalism over history.
MARINE: Yeah, so European — it’s impossible to talk about European settler colonialism and just colonialism in general without also talking about animal agriculture. European settler colonialism could have never happened without animal agriculture, and this is because 500 years ago on the whole continent of North America, there weren’t any domesticated pigs, chickens, or cows. Those animals were brought to the continent and bred, breeded? How do you say that?
MEXIE: Bred, bred.
MARINE: It sounds weird. Were bred, right, and since animal agriculture — it takes a huge amount of resources to breed animals for food and grow the crops that is needed to sustain those animals. Animal agriculture is inherently not only hierarchical, but also expansionist. So, it requires taking up just a huge, huge amount of land. Not only is it — yeah, expansionist, but you need to take up more and more land, especially under capitalism, and so, it’s a really effective strategy to displace people from their land and centralize all of the resources because it requires so much energy into a small place, right?
MEXIE: Yeah, yeah, no. Like, in geography, again, we call that territorialization where it’s like, conservation was a mechanism to territorialize North America, basically. It was just basically legitimizing the state coming in and taking claim of all of this territory and then evicting First Nations, like primitive accumulation, basically. Animal agriculture obviously did the same.
MARINE: Yeah, and on top of that great point that you just made, it also completely disrupted the food sovereignty of Native Americans. They actually had one of the most sustainable and advanced systems of agriculture that was built mostly around three crops. I think it’s corn, barley, and, forgive my ignorance on this, but they called them the Three Sisters. It was a really wildly effective and sustainable system of agriculture that was not hierarchical and that also was very, very focused on plants. There was very little usage of animals. Right, coming in European settlers; when they implemented animal agriculture, it was a very effective way to displace Native Americans from their lands and also to disrupt their food sovereignty so that they could centralize all the food and privatize it and sell it for profit.
MEXIE: And force them to become wage laborers because if you don’t have food sovereignty anymore, you can’t access food. You’re stuck on a reserve. What can you do? You have to engage in capitalist markets and really, the colonizers didn’t give a shit if they could access markets in a fair way. They didn’t care if they had education or resources to engage in capitalism. It was just, we want your land. Yeah, it really — disrupting.
MARINE: I saw this stat today, actually, because I was re-watching this amazing talk by Dylan Powell. We’ll link it in the show notes, because we’ll have show notes now.
MARINE: He quoted this statistic that 1/4 of all the privately-owned land in North America is used for animal agriculture. It’s used to graze animals. We know that 1/3 of the land worldwide is also used by the animal agriculture industry. Yeah, it is just so clearly a tactic of colonization and a tactic of building this hierarchical capitalist state where you centralize and privatize all of the resources and then force everyone into becoming a wage laborer, otherwise they die. There’s also this really great book; it is — also, the name is escaping me right now, but I know — and my knowledge about this is not great, but that the Europeans, since they — since Europeans had animal agriculture a lot earlier than the rest of the world, they actually built up resistance to certain bacteries — to certain bacteries; to certain bacterias for — no, you know what? It’s because I was mixing the word bacterias and centuries, so I went — anyway. Bacterias for centuries because they had all these rodents and all these domesticated pigs and whatever, all these domesticated animals. They died of all the infections and plague and everything centuries before everyone else did, so when they came to other parts of the globe like the Andes and certain parts of what is now Australia, just like 80% — upwards of 80% of the population would just die out because they couldn’t resist these bacterias that the Europeans had built up from centuries of animal agriculture. It’s just like, animal agriculture is so intricately intertwined with the — with imperialism and with the development of everything that leftists criticize about the state and about capitalism and this system of domination.
MEXIE: Right, yeah. That’s so important because imagine if they had all been healthy and fighting back, you know what I mean? Like, when 80% of the population dies, of course you can just go in and take whatever the hell you want and basically force the rest to be your slave laborers.
MARINE: There’s this myth that it’s just like, well, it sucks that colonization happened, but they were just like — the Europeans were just stronger. They did a really good job in battle. It’s like yeah, no. Just because they were so dirty and bacteria-resistant, they got there and most of the population dropped dead. They didn’t stand a chance, you know?
MEXIE: Right, right. It’s because of these, whatever, centuries of exploiting animals, and then they just went on to exploit humans with that ability. Yeah, it’s really fucked up. Colonialism itself is a spatial practice. It’s first and foremost the acquisition of land and the displacement of people, like we said, in primitive humiliation. Yeah, I mean, animal agriculture plays a much bigger role than anyone, I think, gives it credit for or that anyone even realizes.
MEXIE: It’s happening today with current land grabs, as well.
MARINE: Right. The animal agriculture industry is — this is still one of its favorite tactics because it — animal — by nature, the nature of animal agriculture lends itself very well to ongoing imperialism, but yeah, the animal agriculture industry is planning to double the consumption of animal products by mid-century.
MARINE: Yeah, and it’s already tripled or quadrupled its production since the 1970s.
MEXIE: Oh, my god.
MARINE: How is it planning to do this? Well, through land grabs of tens of millions of acres in Africa and Latin America for future grazing and feed crops. These land grabs are funded by hedge funds and multinational corporations and other powerful investors. The animal agriculture industry and quote, unquote “national security advisers” are planning a really — a military response to obtain resources that will be very scarce in the future such as food and water and arable land. I think you’re gonna talk about scarcity later, but it’s like this whole — leftists really denounce this myth of scarcity and rightfully so, but we’re actually creating that scarcity and the future, it’s — all these resources are really going to be scarce and animal agriculture is an institution that is going to continue to be weaponized to help the elite class obtain those scarce resources.
MEXIE: Yeah, well, the resources are going to be scarce under capitalism and animal agriculture is a way that they are continuing to prop up imperialism and capitalism into the future, right? This is fucking scary to me, actually.
MARINE: Well, it’s ‘cause it’s creating the — I can’t even get my mind around it ‘cause animal agriculture is a way to create the — it is creating the scarcity but it’s also a way to help the privileged elite ownership class reap the benefits of that scarce situation that they’re creating, you know what I mean? It’s a mind-fuck.
MEXIE: It gives them legitimation to say that capitalism is what we need because resources are scarce. It’s a vicious circle, but it’s also just incredibly scary to me in terms of an environmental standpoint, in terms of a sustainability standpoint. How can they possible think that we can double our consumption of meat by mid-century?
MARINE: A third of the land is already being used. It’s gonna be like, two people and just billions of animals and animal agriculture by the year 2050.
MEXIE: Right, and how do they think they’re gonna use these militarized responses to force everyone off their land so that they can get this land to produce animal products and sell them for profit? Who are they gonna sell them to, all these dispossessed people with no money? You know what I mean?
MARINE: Credit cards.
MEXIE: Yeah, credit cards. They just, yeah. I’ve talked about this before about how capitalism destroys what it needs for its own reproduction, but it’s like, they’re not even bothering to try to think about the long-term impacts of this for both their own profits or for the environment that they need to sustain them. Yeah, I don’t know. It’s really fucked. But I’m gonna talk about the exploitation of the environment shortly, so I will get into that and why this is actually so terrifying. But first, I want to talk a bit about what’s actually happening to animals because I feel like when I feel like when we say animals are being exploited, I don’t know that it’s really mainstream information exactly what is happening to animals. I always recommend people watching Earthlings. I’ve actually not watched that video because I was already vegan when it came out. I was like, I don’t need to see this, but I’m aware of everything that they cover in it. I think it’s a really important video if you want to see what’s actually happening to animals. But anyway, in terms of global figures, between 52 billion and 70 billion animals, farmed animals, are killed every year for food. That figure doesn’t even take into account the amount of fish and aquatic animals that are killed every year. The number for fish and aquatic animals is in the trillions. It’s like, it’s unfathomable. Numbers that large, you can’t even — there’s no context for that. It just sounds real big, but you can’t — there’s absolutely no context for understanding what that actually looks like. But it’s huge. Yeah, I’m just gonna talk about a bit of what happened to each different kind of animal. In terms of animals that people think are cute and fluffy and don’t want to get killed, baby male chicks — I’m not sure if people know this, but baby male chicks have no value to the egg industry because obviously, they can’t become laying hens, so as soon as they’re born or a day after they’re born, they are killed en masse. They are thrown — they’re either thrown into a grinder where they’re just cut up alive and die, or they’re stuffed into these giant bags and then they’re — the bags are tied and they suffocate inside, or they are gassed. I don’t know, the data on this is kind of — there’s different numbers for this, but they say that 200 million are killed in the US or, that was in 2009, and 40 million were killed in the UK in 2010. I’m not sure about world data, but male chicks are getting a real raw deal. Then the laying hens that are kept alive are given probably a worse deal. They are forced to just live in these tiny, tiny cages where they cannot move. Most of them do not see the sunlight. They do not get to touch their feet on grass or anything like that. They’re just stuck in these cages indoors in this terrible industrial facility, and they’re just forced to reproduce, reproduce, produce their eggs over and over and over. I talked about this in my Esther video about how this is so draining for their system. It drains out the minerals, it drains out calcium and such from their bodies. Eventually, the eggs that they lay just become really soft and they start to actually not come out of their bodies properly, so they’ll get infections and just get really sick and die prematurely. Most of them are so stressed that they actually lose all of their feathers. If you see any pictures of them inside some of these facilities, you’ll see that their wings just look like little — it’s like, they’re just little spikes sticking out of their body because all their feathers have fallen off and so, there’s just the bone left. It’s really just horrific.
MARINE: I know that normally, laying hens get something like twelve or fifteen periods a year because their egg is — when they — it’s basically menstruation. It’s ovulation and menstruation. But they’ve been genetically modified to ovulate two hundred times a year or something like that.
MARINE: That’s also incredibly unhealthy for them because they’re forced into these cycles of ovulation that are completely unnatural and that are incredibly, incredibly destructive to their bodies.
MEXIE: Yeah, exactly. Yeah, no, good point. I didn’t mention that, but that’s a big reason why their systems get so depleted, because they’re doing this so, so much more than a normal hen would be doing this. Yeah, it just becomes ridiculous.
MARINE: I had no idea about the feathers. I always wondered why they have no feathers. I thought maybe that they clipped them off or something, but…
MARINE: It’s just so sad.
MEXIE: Yeah, they’re so stressed that they just fall off. It’s just becomes — it’s just disgusting. I mean, most of them are so sick, so the stuff that you’re eating…
MARINE: Right, ‘cause then when they die or when they stop producing eggs, they just slaughter them for chicken, right?
MEXIE: Right. Same with the meat chickens; they’re also kept in deplorable conditions. A lot of them get sick and die. Their meat is still used. It’s like, the meat that you’re eating is so unhealthy. For people who are like, oh, well, I don’t eat beef; I just eat chicken ‘cause it’s cleaner. It’s like, if you only knew what you were — if you saw the kind of sick animals that you were consuming, you would just, I don’t know. You know?
MARINE: Not eat them.
MEXIE: Right. That’s why so many of them are washed in chlorine, because they have to be because they’re so gross. Anyway. Yeah, so the meat chickens are bred so that they obviously have the biggest breasts possible. It becomes impossible for them to actually walk because they’re so lopsided. They’re so top-heavy. Their legs stop working, it becomes very difficult for them to move because they’re bred in such an unnatural way. A lot of them actually end up going down. They’re called downers and they just kind of fall over and their legs can’t support them anymore.
MARINE: They can’t walk anymore.
MEXIE: No. It’s just toast for them. Yeah. It’s like, really devastating. Yeah, also what happens to dairy cows; I was going to recommend watching the video Dairy is Fucking Scary on YouTube, but Marine and I were talking before the podcast about whether it’s actually ethical or speciesist to even recommend that people consume media that’s watching horrible images of animals being treated or slaughtered or et cetera, so I also recommended Earthlings a while ago, but it’s the same thing. If you don’t consent to that, if you’re not down for that, it’s totally fine, but if you’re interested, these are resources that show you exactly what is going on. Yeah. Anything to add, Marine?
MARINE: No, that was super well-said. Yeah, no, it’s something that I definitely struggle with. I think that ultimately if people choose to go watch that footage, and I think it can be a really powerful paradigm shifting moment for a lot of people, then I would definitely recommend it. But then sometimes I feel sort of weird or icky about that just because I really hate — even ending hunger campaigns that show starving African children dying of thirst or of starvation or of something like that, of basically fetishizing or objectifying a person to — in order to make a point. I wonder if when vegans show footage of animal slaughter very freely, you know, and I guess this is — we’re talking about when they show it to people who don’t necessarily consent to it being shown, to it being shown to them, if that is sort of speciesist because we would not do the same with rape awareness, rape raising awareness campaigns or ending hunger campaigns or things like that. Anyway, but that is — can be a podcast for another day.
MEXIE: Yeah. No, that makes perfect sense. It’s just like, me, personally, I was very affected by the Dairy is Fucking Scary video, so if anyone is interested, then you can check it out, but yeah, again, I understand.
MARINE: I was very, very affected by Earthlings. I watched ten minutes of that video and I shut it off, and that is the day when I actually decided to go vegan. Yeah, I totally see, yeah, it’s a really hard line to walk.
MEXIE: Right. Anyway, I’ll just describe what happens to dairy cows and then you can make a decision about whether you want to actually see what happens to them. Basically, dairy cows, they are forcibly impregnated on what is called a rape rack which is a whole loaded thing that we can probably do a whole other podcast on. Yeah, so anyway, yeah, they are continually forcibly impregnated on what is called a rape rack so that they will produce babies so that they will produce milk. The milk that they produce is actually supposed to go to their baby, but the baby is, once again, violently and forcibly ripped away from them basically right upon birth. You’ll often hear, or maybe you don’t hear but you should hear, that the dairy industry is actually the veal industry. All of these baby cows that are born are — and ripped away from their mothers — are basically shut in a small crate where they cannot move or stand or anything so that they…
MARINE: They can only stand. They can’t lie down, I think.
MEXIE: Oh, I thought they couldn’t stand. They can barely move so that they don’t develop their muscle so that it becomes — their muscle, their meat, is still really soft and tender and fatty. Yeah. Yeah, they’re kept in these crates and then they’re killed very early in their lives. The dairy cows — and those are mostly males, right? Then the females grow up to be also dairy cows, so they are just brought into this cycle of being forcibly impregnated and then having their babies ripped away. The emotional trauma of having your baby ripped away is well-documented. Cows will call out for their babies for long periods of times after they’ve been ripped away. It’s very, very taxing on their bodies to give birth and then to produce all this milk. Yeah, so the dairy cows, basically, their lives are cut short just like the laying hens because of how much this is taxing their bodies, and then they are slaughtered for meat.
For vegetarians who think that oh, I’m eating dairy so I’m not harming any animals, it doesn’t hurt a cow to milk them, there’s a very disgusting and cruel underbelly to this industry that I don’t think many people know about, frankly. Yeah, very gross. Then of course, the beef cows, people pretty much know what happens to them. Goats are similar. I watched — there’s this environmental documentary called Terra and they had a — just a segment where they showed goats that are milked industrially and they were just forced into this circular, revolving machine upside-down. It looks so uncomfortable, and these metal prods just came out and milked them very violently. It looked horrible. Yeah, this is just all what happens when you commodify animals, when you make living beings commodities. Yeah, I mean, there’s so much more I can talk about. I mean, fish; that’s a whole other thing. Fish are just treated terribly.
You have those huge, trawling fishers that just go out and catch everything in their path. They’re killing dolphins, they’re killing tortoises, they’re killing sharks, they’re killing everything and they’re just discarding all of that waste and keeping what they can sell. It’s just doing incredible damage to the underwater ecosystems. Yeah, once again, I said in the trillions, fish are being killed. I put dogs on the list because obviously there’s Yulin and every year, everyone loses their shit over the Yulin Dog Festival not realizing that, well, what the fuck is going on every day to pigs and cows and chickens and fish and everything else, right? It’s kind of just the height of hypocrisy, but anyway.
Then there’s everything like animal testing and using animals for entertainment in circuses and zoos, et cetera that we talked about, so I mean, I could honestly talk forever about this, but yeah, I just wanted to give you a taste of how animals are actually being exploited for these fetishized commodities that we’re consuming without thinking about any of this and how this is totally covered up by the industries, totally covered up. Yeah, not only are animals being exploited, but the land is being exploited. We talked about how 1/3 — I’ve seen up to 45% of global land space is used up for animal agriculture which is the most fucked up thing to think about, actually. Actually, there’s a stat — let me try and find it. Yeah, 30% of the Earth’s landmass goes towards raising animals. That’s about the same size as Asia. It’s 17 million square miles, and the moon has less area than that.
MARINE: Oh, my god.
MEXIE: The fucking moon has less area than that, yeah. Unbelievable. The equivalent of seven football fields of land are bulldozed every minute.
MARINE: That’s disgusting.
MEXIE: It’s disgusting. That puts it into context for you.
MARINE: It really does.
MEXIE: Yeah. A meat-eater needs about eighteen times more land than a vegan. Again, that’s hard to quantify, but if you think about a population of 7.5 billion, then that’s a fucking lot of land. In terms of water, this — animal agriculture uses up so much water. Nearly half of all water used in the United States goes to raising animals for food. They say that 1/3 of the world’s fresh water is used for animal agriculture which is absurd. Eating one hamburger — one hamburger would use 3,000 litres of water which is equivalent to showering for two months.
MARINE: That is actually…
MEXIE: It’s fucked.
MEXIE: Yeah. It takes more than 2,400 gallons of water to produce one pound of meat versus one pound of wheat taking only 25 gallons. 2,400 versus 25. It’s fucked up.
MARINE: Yeah, and the people who think that it’s more sustainable to eat quote, unquote, “sustainably raised meat”, there’s no such thing because actually, that 3,000 litres would probably turn to 5,000 litres of water because that animal is alive for longer and they need more land to graze, and they need more — every day that you’re keeping that cow alive, you’re spending — there’s 50 gallons of water and however many dozens of pounds of grain that go into — sustain that cow for one more day. The shorter the life, the more sustainable it is.
MEXIE: Right. No, that’s such a good point. Yeah, people who say that oh, well, I only buy free-range meat, whatever. I’m like, that’s even less sustainable from a global resources perspective.
MARINE: Congratulations; not only have you not made a good point, you like, buried — you’ve dug your own grave.
MEXIE: Right, yeah. The point, the reason why this is so inefficient is because you not only have to clear land and make land for the actual feed lots; you have to clear all of this land and use all of these resources, fossil fuels, water, to grow the crops that you’re gonna feed to the animals. It’s doubly inefficient. 70% of the grain and cereals grown in the US are fed to farmed animals. 70 fucking percent. Excuse my — that is just unreal.
MARINE: There are a lot of — this has been going on for centuries but countries, like very, very quote, unquote “poor countries” or countries that have been colonized during — I think it was in Ethiopia in the 1970s, there was this terrible famine and their — the country was still exporting large amounts of grain to feed fucking animals that we in Europe and North America were eating. Just all the food that goes into feeding animals, not only does it contribute to global — world hunger, like a lot of times, it’s literally — it’s taken out of the mouths of human beings to instead be raised — to fatten up the meat that we as…
MEXIE: Privileged white people.
MARINE: Yeah, privileged white people eat. It’s just nonsense, this whole idea that we can care for animal rights or that animal rights need to — I mean, animal rights; sorry, human rights, Jesus, that we can save — that we need to save humans before we address animal suffering, it’s so tied.
MEXIE: Mm-hm. Yeah, yeah. Yeah, intimately tied. That’s such a good point. Yeah. It’s completely inefficient. It’s completely exploitative of people and environments, and it’s one of the number one — or, it is the number one contributor to climate change. Yeah, it accounts for 70% of all agricultural land use, occupies 30% of the land’s — the planet’s surface, and is responsible for 18% of greenhouse gas emissions such as methane and nitrous oxide as well as CO2. This is more than all of the cars and trucks and transportation systems in the world. Yeah. I think I talked about this in one of my old videos but I deleted it because it was such a — it was a poorly-made video. It was my first video that I ever made, but I talked about how in terms of climate change, they’re talking now about all these ridiculous solutions like literally blocking out the sun, like flying these satellites up to block out the sun using sulfur dioxide as this cloaking cloud that’s just — sits above us and, again, basically blocks out the sun.
MARINE: No way. I didn’t even know that.
MEXIE: Yeah. Honestly, we should do an entire podcast about it because it’s so messed up. I’m like, guys, we don’t have to do this. We can just reduce our meat consumption. We can just marginally reduce our meat consumption and we would save the same amount of — we would cut our emissions the same or more than we would if we would — were doing these ridiculous things.
MARINE: Right, but that wouldn’t be good for capitalism.
MARINE: Plus, think about all that innovation and investment that’s gonna go into making that huge fog machine.
MEXIE: Yeah. No, you’re right, actually.
MARINE: I mean, you gotta think about the growth of employment.
MEXIE: Yeah, you’re right, yeah. How silly of me.
MARINE: How silly; I did not consider innovation. Okay, scratch that. Let’s do that instead.
MEXIE: Right, exactly. Yeah. Another reason why this contributes so much to climate change is because when you deforest all of these areas, you’re losing a carbon sink. Trees act as a carbon sink. They absorb the CO2 that we pump up into the air. If you’re cutting these down, you’re releasing the carbon that’s stored in those trees and you’re also losing sinks, so there’s more CO2 or more greenhouse gases that are floating around. In terms of methane and nitrous oxide, methane is a 25 times stronger greenhouse gas than CO2, and nitrous oxide is a 300 times stronger gas than CO2. Even if you’re emitting these in small amounts, they’re gonna have a significantly higher effect on warming than if you’re emitting a lot of CO2. This is so problematic, so problematic. In terms of deforestation, animal agriculture is responsible for 91% of Amazon destruction.
The area of rainforest cleared for palm oil is 105 billion meters squared compared to — for animal agriculture, it’s 550 billion meters squared. As vegans, you probably don’t want to buy palm oil either, but just the magnitude of deforestation that goes along with this is just fucked up. Yeah, in addition to that, the fisheries are now failing. Coral reefs around the world are dying. This is intimately linked to climate change because trees are a carbon sink, also the ocean is a carbon sink, and the more that it absorbs CO2, the more than it acidifies. It turns into, I think carbonic acid. I’d have to check that, but it acidifies with a lot of input of CO2. So, we’re getting ocean dead zones, we’re — which are also affecting the fisheries and their ability to produce sustainable catches. A study done actually predicted that — or predicts that the global fisheries will collapse around 2050. It’ll become increasingly difficult for us to get any sustainable catches from the ocean. It’s pretty fucking scary. I should still be alive then.
MARINE: I’m surprised that’s not sooner, actually.
MEXIE: Yeah, a lot of things are happening now that…
MARINE: Much faster than we had anticipated.
MEXIE: Absolutely. Again, I talked about this in one of my videos on climate change. Maybe I can link that ‘cause it didn’t really get a lot of views, but it was important. But there’s all of these positive feedback loops that are now being triggered by the release of all of this CO2 and the warming of the planet. There’s the melting of the ice caps and there’s the melting of the permafrost which are themselves really seeing greenhouse gases, and this is being accelerated by a warming planet. Things are starting to snowball and happen a lot faster than people expected. What percent of the Great Barrier Reef just died? That was…
MARINE: Yeah, no, wasn’t it declared dead?
MEXIE: Yeah. Well, it was like, 2/3 of it had died, and I don’t know — I haven’t looked at the updated stat, but…
MARINE: We’re past the point of no return.
MEXIE: Yeah, yeah. I could not believe that. The Great Barrier Reef, going to see that was on my bucket list for sure and I was like well, I gotta get there before it dies. But I really didn’t think it would die right now. Everything is just happening so much faster. It’s terrifying.
MARINE: It’s fucking terrifying.
MEXIE: Yeah. So, yeah, that’s basically the exploitation of the environment. Now, as leftists, maybe you care more or, I don’t know, you should care about the exploitation of the environment but if you don’t, you might care about the exploitation of slaughterhouse workers.
MARINE: The exploitation of slaughterhouse workers is one of the most exploitative industries on the entire planet. Currently, slaughterhouse workers, at least in North America, are mostly refugees or undocumented immigrants that can be freely exploited by these multinational animal ag corporations. The job of working in a slaughterhouse is itself extremely dangerous. First of all, there are really toxic chemicals that, as Mexie was saying earlier, since these animals are so sick, in order — chicken will get bleached before it goes into processing or there’s just all sorts of chemical washes that need to occur between the slaughtering process and the actual packaging process, and those are really toxic to human health as well. You’re talking about incredibly powerful disinfecting and antibiotic-ridden sprays and pills and, yeah.
Anyway, but also the rate of slaughter; a lot of slaughterhouse workers need to kill upwards of 100 animals a day. Slaughterhouse work is incredibly repetitive to up the efficiency, so after the animals are either shot with a deadbolt to the head or gassed or whatever method is being used that day to kill them, they then have to be sawed up by other workers. The hand saws that they use are incredibly powerful and are obviously mechanized to saw the animals up and down as quickly as possible, so you can imagine if this is like a cow, it’s a huge animal that’s hung up by its feet, and sawing the animal is really dangerous work because it’s incredibly powerful machinery. If you’re working twelve or fifteen hours a day, you’re not — a lot of them — there have been cases that are reported where they’re not even allowed to take bathroom breaks, so slaughterhouse — a lot of slaughterhouse workers have to wear diapers in order to go to the bathroom on the job because they literally can’t even take a break in order to go to the bathroom.
Imagine how dangerous that is to handle machinery that is so powerful on — when you’re so friggen exhausted. Then there’s the whole problem of being incredibly traumatized by this sort of work, having — I think, if I’m not mistaking — slaughterhouse workers have the highest rates of suicide out of any other workers because it is so incredibly traumatizing and depressing to work in a slaughterhouse, understandably. Worker exploitation doesn’t only end in slaughterhouses. There’s terrible working exploitation in fisheries. Notably, I know that The Guardian recently — or, not recently; maybe this was a couple of years ago — came out with a large report on how all the shrimp that basically western consumers were buying at Whole Foods or in Walmart, were from slave labor. Yeah. It’d be a good idea to pull that article up again, but yeah, workers in that industry were basically working literally twenty hours a day in terrible conditions, getting horrible infections, and weren’t getting paid.
MEXIE: Once again, they were illegal migrants, so they had to accept this or they would — they were threatened with deportation.
MARINE: Right. On the basis that this is just not — that it’s somewhere in the supply chain that western corporations can’t monitor, then we turn a blind eye and these products end up in our grocery stores. In terms of labor exploitation, there really — there are few industries that are as that…
MARINE: Yeah, that are as brutal and exploitative as the ones in the animal agriculture industry.
MEXIE: Right. I struggle to think of any industry that is more inefficient in terms of resources in the environment and I struggle to think of any industry that is more exploitative to their workers, because it’s disgusting. Yeah, it says — The Food Empowerment Project says that today, US slaughterhouses and meat processing facilities employ over 500,000 workers and the turnover rate on these workers is 100% annually. 100% because it’s such terrible work. Yeah.
MEXIE: 100%. Then yeah, as you said, these are mostly people of color that are undocumented that the companies can exploit. I was watching — I don’t know if it was Food, Inc., but it was one of those documentaries and they basically — they showed — they went into one of these communities where people were just kind of huddled together, living in terrible conditions, and they filmed a raid of the area, like a federal raid. Of course, the employers are not the ones that are being reprimanded for employing undocumented workers or for treating their workers so poorly. It’s the workers who were arrested and deported.
MARINE: And deported.
MEXIE: Yeah, and their families destroyed and everything. Yeah.
MARINE: Now, not only are — is the animal agriculture industry employing refugees and undocumented migrants, which they’ve been doing forever, for decades; before, it was a lot of African — at least in US slaughterhouses, mostly African Americans, and now it’s mostly undocumented immigrants from Mexico and more and more refugees from the Middle East, the ones that make it over, anyway. Now, there’s also prison labor that’s getting a good share of that. Prison laborers, for $0.66 a day are having to milk cows, harvest honey, or fillet fish in order to — yeah, ‘cause it’s forced prison labor, so it’s not just like the garment industry like we’re told. It’s also like, yeah, more and more the meat industry is just finding new ways to make profit and it’s the most disgusting human exploitative labor conditions ever. A lot of these, by the way, these are products that are ending up in artisanal, hippy-dippy, whole foods type of places, you know? Oh, and I was online and I went down the rabbit hole of reading the comment section which you should never do…
MEXIE: Never, never, never.
MARINE: …on an article talking about prison — yeah, that was talking about prison labor and so many fucking people, like white capitalist assholes are like well, this is really good ‘cause at least they’re close to animals and it’s gonna rehabilitate their soul. I’m like, that’s just the most messed up way to think. First of all, there’s nothing rehabilitating about enslaving and slaughtering other animals.
MEXIE: Mm-hm. The opposite.
MARINE: Yeah, and it’s this whole idea that through hard work, especially if they’re lucky enough to work outside with magnificent creatures, they’re gonna be rehabilitated. It’s just, it’s disgusting.
MEXIE: Yeah. We’re gonna have to do a whole other video on the prison system, probably. But I mean, mostly, these people are not even convicted criminals. They’re just in there because they can’t pay their bail, right?
MARINE: Yeah. Literally, which they were forced to accept because if they didn’t plead guilty, then they would be in jail for life.
MEXIE: Exactly. Yeah. Yeah, I just wanted to give a few quotes here from slaughterhouse workers describing their experience because it’s like, oh, it just makes me want to vomit. In terms of the line speed and how fast they have to do things, most facilities operate nearly 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, killing and processing hundreds or thousands of animals each hour. One worker stated, “The line is so fast that there is no time to sharpen the knife. The knife gets dull and you have to cut harder. That’s when it really starts to hurt and that’s when you cut yourself.” In terms of repetitive stress, they’re doing the same motions all of the time, and so they get a lot of repetitive stress injuries, et cetera. A lot of them don’t report these injuries at all because, again, they’re precarious workers; they don’t have the leverage to be able to confront their employers like that or to report these things without losing their jobs.
MARINE: Right. This is all on The Food Empowerment project website which is a really amazing organization that does — that has done so much work around, yeah, slaughterhouse human rights and just human rights violation in so many different food products.
MEXIE: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. Thinking that prison laborers would be rehabilitated by slaughtering animals is just absurd because there’s actually research now that shows that this has such a traumatic psychological and emotional impact on the slaughterhouse workers themselves. Most of them are being diagnosed with PTSD, or other consequences include emotional, domestic violence and withdrawal from society, and anxiety, and drug and alcohol abuse. Research actually found that towns that have a slaughterhouse have higher rates of domestic violence including murder and rape and other violent crimes. Yeah.
MARINE: Yeah, and that people who are violent towards animals, it trains them to be violent towards the most vulnerable humans, notably women and children. I know that there are other — there was a study that stated a very clear correlation between those, yeah, who are violent towards animals and how that engenders them to be violent towards other people and how households — something like 90% of households where there was abuse reported by the person in the household, the abuser was also violent towards their — the animals. It’s just, it’s so tied. When you — objectifying someone is the first step towards performing violence against them.
MEXIE: Yeah, no, absolutely.
MARINE: …exactly said that, but yeah, when you learn to objectify animals, when you learn to objectify sentient beings, that’s gonna make you be more violent towards other people.
MEXIE: Yeah. Yeah, I found this research that said the more positive a person’s attitude to animals, the lower their aggression levels, and the reverse is also true, so yeah, exactly what you just said. Yeah, that’s mostly the exploitation front. I just wanted to briefly mention that as leftists who talk about post-scarcity all the time, as we just talked about the environmental issue, we’re definitely not gonna reach a post-scarcity society with meat production continue…
MEXIE: Yeah, ever, but especially continuing a pace. There’s a lot of people who are banking on cultured meat and growing meat in labs which is like, alright, I mean, that’s a whole other thing. But in terms of animal agriculture and the way that we’re currently practicing this industry, it’s just not gonna work out. To be able to feed a growing population with the amount of meat that we’re eating today, the factory model is the only one that we could use just in terms of scale, and that’ll never be sustainable. We’re gonna either be forced to reduce or just perish because we burned the earth up into a ball of fire.
MARINE: Alright, and the last thing we wanted to address is the criticism that we hear a lot, that veganism is bourgeois or is only accessible to hyper-privileged people who can buy luxury items and super foods. I think, you know, I think that there’s guilt on both sides of this question. I do think that sometimes, definitely vegan — mainstream veganism is responsible for perpetuating this idea that veganism is a white thing that’s only — that’s like, yeah, that’s this way of living that is actually wildly inaccessible to a lot of people, and that’s talking about veganism as a mode of consumption and a diet, and I think we are the first to, I don’t know, acknowledge that. My channel, which is called The Privileged Vegan definitely tries to — I definitely try to talk about the fact that I’m not just a vegan; I’m a vegan living in a western industrialized country with enough money to have a very easy vegan life. However, here we’re talking about veganism as a political philosophy that advocates for the liberation of animals for all of these reasons that we have just cited, and that’s not only talking about veganism as a diet. However, veganism is more accessible than people might think, at least certain people. There’s a lot of ways to make veganism cheap. Mexie was talking earlier about the example of people who eat bacon and eggs, or make themselves bacon and eggs for breakfast. It’s like, well, oatmeal is definitely cheaper than that and also more sustainable. There are…
MEXIE: Like rice and beans.
MARINE: There’s a really great cookbook — yeah, rice and beans. We’re not saying that people should just go vegan and that poor people don’t deserve to have any of the fun vegan stuff that’s been out there like vegan ice creams. That’s a whole other conversation and we definitely acknowledge that yeah, your level of privilege is going to affect how you can practice veganism. However, just because — especially, there’s comfortable bros sitting in their house eating their meat, being like well, I won’t go vegan because a mother of five living on food stamps who I’ve never met doesn’t have the privilege to go vegan, you know? That’s also really tokenizing and offensive, I think to — that’s really tokenizing of poverty to just refer to it as a reason or to perpetuate the abuse of animals. It’s pretty fucked up.
MEXIE: Right. If you’re not experiencing that poverty, like if you’re not living in a food desert and you’re just going to a regular grocery store, then there’s absolutely no reason you can’t just switch. You know what I mean?
MARINE: Exactly. There’s this really great cookbook that I wanted to plug that’s not out yet, but it is written by a woman of color who is — who wrote a whole vegan cookbook about how to eat plant-based on food stamps. Mexie was also — here, do you want to recommend the PDF that you were telling me about?
MEXIE: Yeah. There’s actually a free PDF online which we can include in the show notes, and it’s called Good and Cheap. It’s a cookbook that this woman wrote. Every meal — I think it’s how to eat well on under $4 a day or maybe $4 a day. Most of the — they’re not all vegan recipes but most of them are vegetarian at least, and they can be made vegan if you just don’t put butter, like if you substitute butter with oil or something, or you just leave out certain — leave out or swap certain ingredients. But yeah, I think that’s a really good resource for how to make good, cheap food.
MARINE: I realized that I didn’t even say the name of the cookbook that I was talking about. It’s called My Food Stamps Cookbook and it is authored by Baby Momma Rachel.
MARINE: Yeah, but I would love to check out that PDF that you just recommended because I haven’t seen it yet.
MEXIE: Yeah, no, I’ll send it to you. I used to use it. Yeah, there’s a lot of resources out there if you’re looking for actually how to do this on the cheap. Again, if you’re living in a food desert, if your situation is just such that you cannot access that all the time, that’s fine. We’re not defining veganism as consumption here. We’re defining it as an ethical position and a political position in which everyone can participate.
MARINE: That’s so tied to also political practice and prefigurative justice of saying okay, well, this vision of a more inclusive anti-capitalist revolutionary world we’re imagining is going to include animals as our allies, because animals really are our allies. They definitely do not have an interest in the perpetuation of capitalism. Also, leftists will never go very far dismantling the capitalist system if they don’t seriously start taking into account the exploitation of animals. It is just really short-sighted to think that we can continue consuming them and objectifying them and that that isn’t completely at odds with so many of the other goals that we have, you know? ‘Cause hopefully as we’ve shown on this podcast and as other very brilliant people talk about, they definitely are tied.
MEXIE: Yeah. Yeah, so now that everyone’s vegan…
MEXIE: Wonderful. Let’s start the revolution.
MARINE: Yeah, yes.
MEXIE: Two foo dogs for everyone.
MARINE: Well, a lot of people actually might say that — opening another can of worms here, can of vegan worms, but that soy — this is an argument I get so much, that yeah, soy monocultures are also just so horrible and how vegans are contributing to that. Actually, 80% of the crops we grow are fed to animals. If you’re concerned about monocultures, if you’re concerned about yeah, how we steal — how we take soy or quinoa or corn or whatever, all the fucked up stuff that goes on in those industries, go vegan because you’re still gonna be consuming — like, think about it, when you’re eating a piece of meat, you’re not just consuming that piece of meat; you’re consuming three years of that animal having to eat and drink and all of those resources.
MEXIE: Yeah, exactly. Most of the soy we’re growing is going to feed animals. You know what? That’s another thing; how fucked up is that? These cows are supposed to be eating grass. They’re not supposed to be eating corn. They’re getting just completely fatty. The quality of the meat is so different than what it was even fifty years ago because they’re not eating what they’re supposed to be eating. It’s unhealthy as shit. They’re just eating sugar or soy. They’re not supposed to be eating that.
MARINE: Yeah, yeah, and it’s terrible also for the — they don’t have the digestive fluids — it’s not fluids, the word that I’m looking — enzymes or something. Whatever; they don’t have the constitution to be digesting this food, so that’s making us sick and that’s making them sick.
MEXIE: Exactly, it’s making everyone fucking sick, and it’s using up all these resources.
MARINE: I feel like since it’s late here, I’m just like, it’s making us all fucking sick. Just go vegan.
MEXIE: Yeah. Well, I feel like we can — we should end at this point. I feel like we’ve made our points. Yeah. I guess we’ll see you in another podcast.
MARINE: Yeah, we’ll see you in another podcast.
MEXIE: Okay, bye.
[END OF RECORDING]