feminism feminist veganism vegan meat
An early feminist advocate and role model of mine, Yeshua of Nazareth, taught in the Essene Gospel of Peace that people should never kill for meat … he was called the Prince of Peace for good reason.

Feminism and eating meat exist on opposite ideological ends, yet the meat-eating “feminist” is still somehow a thing in 2016 America. It may be fashionable to say that one is a feminist in 2016, but I’ve also met “vegetarians” who eat chicken.

The “feminist” meat eater exists because not many people have stopped to really think through either what feminism really is nor the ideology of eating meat.

Now before you flip out, try to stop and open up to what I’m about to say. If you identify as a feminist but eat meat, your first impulse may be to get pissed and shut down. Rather than feeling implicated and defensive, just think about what feminism really means and how that should dictate our behavior.

feminism feminist veganism vegan meatFirst, the term “feminism” is frequently misapplied to women’s rights, LGBTQ, or other civil gender issues. While it’s true that these overlap feminism greatly, women’s rights issues — for example — cover a far smaller area of concern because they only worry about one species of female. Feminism more broadly concerns itself with femaleness, femininity, and the female aspect of things, regardless of gender. While contemporary feminism in America tends to focus on female empowerment, it is a stance of peace, respect, and equality that cuts through boundaries of ethnicity, nationality, race, and species.

So there’s nothing more ironic than a self-proclaimed “feminist” eating a steak.

In our country, we believe that certain rights are inalienable, which is a fallacy. Rights are ideas, and all ideas are most certainly alienable: just stop thinking them, and poof! They’re gone. No idea inherently exists on its own without a thinker; therefore, any idea is inherently alienable. It’s a harsh truth. Rather, certain rights could be argued as inalienable to a certain set of values or a cultural definition. And I would argue that it is uncivil and barbaric not to recognize people’s rights, but this admittedly involves clusters of thoughts and ideas, and those are always without a doubt entirely insubstantial — and ultimately irreal — by definition.

All beings tremble before danger, all fear death. When a man considers this, he does not kill or cause to kill. All beings fear before danger, life is dear to all. When a man considers this, he does not kill or cause to kill.” The Buddha, Dhammapada 129–130

So because people are used to thinking of nonhuman animals (people are just glorified animals, after all) as things, people fall into the delusion of believing that some beings have rights while others don’t. This imposes an artificial reality upon the world, and because we do it en masse, it becomes a very convincing operative substitute. But this selfish delusion is not real, and when we stop imagining it, it goes away.

feminism feminist veganism vegan meatFeminism, like rights, is also a thought process; consequently, it’s as insubstantial as any other stance. So a “feminist” who does not recognize the rights of another sentient being — a fellow animal with thoughts, feelings, a face, friends, and family — simply because it isn’t human is simply not a feminist. That person may be a women’s rights advocate, which is still a great and necessary thing for someone to be in 2016 … but he or she has neglected to give a shit about everyone not anthromorphic enough to qualify for compassion and respect.

The other big problem with the meat-eating “feminist” lies in the aforementioned fact that most people regard other sentient beings as objects — as “meat.” Even the word “meat” robs the being of ownership of its own body by renaming it. Try this with “bitch,” “slut,” “whore,” or maybe “chink,” “nigger,” or even “gentile.” When a person becomes a thing, he or she is stripped of personhood. Naming is a powerful act that confers a sense of ownership and dominance to the namer. It’s why name-calling is an effective way to hurt someone.

Animals are classified as property at best and animate soulless natural resources at worst. The American sense of entitlement to the entire Earth, intensified by egocentric Judeo-Christian “gimme” culture, exacerbates our already seemingly innate tendency to take what we want and defend it as ours. The pursuit of happiness has been confused with the pursuit of materialism. To put it flatly, America has largely conditioned the innate empathy out of even the best of us. We are trained to see beings, even sometimes humans, as things to be possessed.

But feminist thought argues that one’s self is solely one’s own. It does not argue that only a human’s self is one’s own; the concept of self-sovereignty pervades the realm of being.

That said, a so-called “feminist” who does not respect the sovereignty of another being but rather pays someone to kill it so that he or she can indulge in the carnality of eating its corpse is by no stretch of the imagination a feminist.

feminism feminist veganism vegan meat
Mother, not meat; baby, not burger

Furthermore, to eat meat is to hijack the female reproductive system for the sake of gustatory pleasure. A woman’s rights advocate will get up in arms (and rightly so) about how women should be able to make decisions about their bodies. But a nonhuman animal should be awarded the same right; otherwise, the ethnocentric artificiality of the alleged human right to one’s own body is exposed — although few seem to see it. To behave as if the body of another being is nothing more than a biological food factory is … well, evil. It’s sick. And it’s sure as hell not very feminist.

Even drinking the milk of a creature that it made for its children and eating the stolen menses of various fowl is a might-makes-right imposition upon the sovereignty of one’s fellow Earthlings.

Now if one owns land where animals live without suffering an eventual violent death at the hands of a butcher or a machine, that’s a little different than purchasing those items from a store that purchased them from a factory farm. Chickens who lay unfertilized eggs aren’t being abused if someone takes their eggs, although it remains to be said how the chicken feels about it — and the chicken certainly didn’t give it away. And if cows truly have surplus milk … well, they have surplus milk, although they are not designed so as to require a nonbovine creature to relieve it of its surplus.

This is a slippery slope, though, because as soon as one shelters a being, he or she immediately begins to feel a sense of entitlement to that being’s body. This happens between people, too, and it’s an underlying causal factor in domestic and sexual abuse.

feminism feminist veganism vegan meat
The bodhisattva Quan Yin, the feminine aspect of Avalokitesvara and the mother of compassion who to me represents the feminist ideal, photo: Whereisciao / CC BY 2.0

At the end of the day, there is only one stance for a feminist to take in regards to eating meat or other substances forcefully taken from another creature’s body. A feminist simply does not eat meat.

A women’s rights advocate might eat meat. And women’s rights advocates are wonderful and we need more of them regardless of what they eat.

But a feminist recognizes every creature’s right to life. As such, the vegan position is a feminist one and vice versa, and not because I said so. There is no more room for the occasional steak or chicken nugget in feminist life as there is for the occasional rape.

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Widely regarded as the greatest writer of all time, ever, Jason Gottfried is editor of The Independent as well as a freelance editor, writer, multi-instrumental musician, and composer transplanted to Utah from Nashville by way of Gainesville, Florida. He has previously been an album reviewer, opinion columnist, humor writer, staff writer, copy editor, and opinion editor of The Independent. Before that, he was editor of SOKY Happenings magazine and wrote a column, The Vociferous Vegan. He was also general manager of Nashville’s fabled The Wild Cow Vegetarian Restaurant and briefly co-owner of Gainesville's longtime staple vegetarian restaurant, Book Lover's Cafe. When he is away from the computer, he plays between Colorado and California as a live and session musician. He sexually identifies as an Apache AH-64 attack helicopter and cannot be accurately referred to using any currently existing pronouns.