“It’s cultural”: On Domestic Violence and Meat-Eating

7 Mar

Ever since I began learning about domestic violence, years and years ago, people have been asserting that domestic violence is cultural. By “cultural,” they mean that there is something inherent to the culture of a particular country, society, or group of people that causes domestic violence to occur. Do you see a problem here? Those who espouse this argument point to “others” and say there is something about “them” that allows for domestic violence to occur. It’s just part of who “they” are – not us. That’s the (often unspoken) crux of the argument – it’s cultural for “them” but not for “us.” The unspoken implication is that we, Americans, are better. Our culture doesn’t really allow for this. WE think it’s wrong but THEY don’t.

Lately I’ve been hearing this a lot in animal rights work. Eating meat is cultural. Something about THEIR culture says it’s okay to kill and consume nonhuman animals. Well, if that’s true for THEM, then it’s true for US. Just like domestic violence, if it’s “cultural” for one culture or group of people, then it’s cultural for us all. A culture of oppression, patriarchy, power-over, and might makes right is the culture we’re talking about. That’s everywhere. To imply that THEIR culture is like that but OURS is not is frankly racist. It’s othering, and it’s not okay.

lauren Ornelas, founder and executive director of the Food Empowerment Project, recently wrote a fantastic blog regarding this very issue. We encourage you to read it and take it to heart. Why can’t we fight racism and speciesism? Why is this an either/or situation? Well, it’s not. These issues are linked and it is inexcusable for us to use one form of oppression (racism) to end another (speciesism). How will we ever achieve a peaceful and just world if we allow any forms of oppression to persist, let alone actively use them?


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