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Response to VegNews: Empathizing with Slaughterhouse Workers

12 Nov

CtD’s own Stacia recently wrote a letter to VegNews:

I respectfully disagree with the person who wrote a letter in the July/August issue of VegNews stating that empathizing with slaughterhouse workers is akin to feeling pity towards the SS soldiers who worked in Nazi concentration camps.  No one wants to grow up to be a slaughterhouse worker.  There is little pay, lots of danger, and no status.  Slaughterhouse work is undertaken because of a severe lack of choices, or rather, privilege.  If one has the privilege to make other choices, one can consider herself or himself fortunate.  There are a myriad of reasons for working in a slaughterhouse:  trying to establish a life in a new country with limited opportunities, a stagnant local economy, lack of access to good education, poverty.  Being vegan is so much more than about what food you eat or what clothes you wear.  It is about trying to be kind to yourself, other people, animals, and the Earth.  Caring about people who work under perilous conditions for very little compensation is vegan.  It is also vegan to strive to get others to reduce the demand for such work and then to try to focus on improving conditions in other sectors of food production, such as for produce workers.  Check out the Food Empowerment Project http://www.foodispower.org/ to learn more about the perils of slaughterhouse work and produce work as well as how to eat more healthy and get active on this front.     

Stacia Mesleh

Somerville, MA

Don’t Expect a Pendulum to Swing to the Middle

24 Oct

By Stacia Mesleh

A couple of weeks ago, a Facebook friend posted something about putting together a “smack a white boy” music mix.  As I was contemplating this, I realized that if a friend had posted something about putting together a “smack a black boy” mix, I would immediately defriend that person.  I didn’t consider defriending the person in question.  I stopped to think about whether that was right, wrong or hypocritical.  It is socially okay one way, but clearly not socially okay the other way.  Did the pendulum swing a bit to the other side?  On the surface, maybe, but in actuality, definitely not.

Once I started working on the Connect the Dots concept with Ashley, I became aware of social matters that had rarely permeated my conscientiousness before, like heteronormative behaviors, whiteness as the norm, and white privilege.  It’s not that I didn’t care, it’s just that some things are invisible to us like the air we breathe because they so all-pervasively surround us.  If you are part of the “norms” group, they are easy to miss.  If you are not part of that group, they are impossible to ignore.  They impact every moment and can limit your choices, happiness, opportunities, and even possibly– your safety and life.

Since I consciously chose not to carry the racism, homophobia, and ethnocentrism of my family into my adult life, I thought I had done what I could and should to be a kind citizen.  It was definitely a step in the right direction, but there was more to learn.

We can’t simply look at matters on the surface or even evaluate them based on social acceptance.  I started thinking that it is easier to get offended by the knock on white people than it would be to suffer the cruelties historically imposed by white people.  Slavery, breeding programs for people (I’d never thought about this horrific aspect of slavery before reading Toni Morrison’s Beloved), the selling of adults and children, segregation, genocide of Native Americans, colonialism, and the devaluing all bodies and lives that are not white enough.  If you hold white privilege or identify as white, stop and think, really think, about what it would be like to have your child taken from you and sold; no way to protect the life that you would give your own for.  It is too terrible for me to take in.  Imagine (or maybe know) that your ancestors suffered this.   I’ve heard so many times, “That stuff is all in the past!!!  There is equal opportunity now!!”  Not really.  Everything builds on everything else.  Inequality has been woven into the social fabric of this landscape since the onset of European colonization.  Where we are now is the product of everywhere we’ve been.  There are many books that detail the lack of equal accesses to resources that plague people who are not perceived as white.  One that I found informative was Tim Wise’s Between Barack and a Hard Place.  I’m sure a simple Google search could reveal many more.  If you think that there is a level playing field now, please get to reading or just look around!

For people who hold privilege around any identity, it is easy to unintentionally offend.  This is uncertain ground for our intent can be vastly different than our actual impact.  What do you do?  First, own your mistake and apologize.  Then, don’t expect the person you offended to teach you.  This is like putting the impetus for preventing a social problem on the victims of that problem instead of on the people who help keep the problem alive.  This may be something that is too painful for that person to do.  If the person does want to teach—listen please!  You can read and try to learn about white privilege.  Books are easy to look up and read reviews about.  Also, if you engage in an issue about race relations, wait before thinking you know the right answer.  Get a feel for what is going on.  Listen a lot.  Ask how you can contribute instead trying to lead the group.

This stuff gets even stickier when you consider the issue of shame.  None of us likes to be shamed and it is human nature to focus more energy on getting over the embarrassment than on the issue at hand.  If we lived in an ideal world, when we made an error based on a lack of knowledge rather than malice, we would get information given to us about how that affected another person without the virulent dose of shame.  But if we lived in that ideal world, unjust treatment wouldn’t be a part of anyone’s everyday reality and we certainly can’t deny that it is.  The bottom line is that it is easier to be hurt by shame than it would be to live in another person’s shoes who has born the impact of racism an entire life.  It is definitely easier than it would have been to have lived through slavery or segregation as a person of color.  As pendulums always do, it has swung past the middle—by a bit.  And keep in mind that this is just in the realm of social media, and leftist social media at that, not in access to desirable jobs, education, housing, a clean environment, healthcare, or healthy food.  Now, imagine if it had swung all the way to the other side.  What would you do with all that anger?

What’s The Official Story? Cultural Change for a Connectionist World

20 Oct

Dr. Will Tuttle wrote a fabulous article for One Green Planet in which he discusses the fact that the Occupy Wall Street movement has included industrial animal abuse in their list of concerns.  While we wrote about that exciting phenomenon in a recent post, we want to highlight his article for another reason – culture.

In this article, Dr. Tuttle talks about the fundamental cultural change that needs to take place in order for us to create a truly peaceful and just world.  He focuses on the plight of cows in industrial agribusiness and connects that with the pharmaceutical-medical complex in what he calls, and what truly is, a poignant riddle.  

We love this article because it focuses on cultural change and asks what is it about our culture that perpetuates violence, abuse, and exploitation?  We at CtD believe that we need to fundamentally change culture to promote the health and well-being of ALL.  We believe that we need to challenge norms, or standards of behavior, that fuel violence and exploitation.  We need to replace these norms with new, healthy, positive norms.  Dr. Tuttle promotes this when he states:

We can free ourselves when we awaken from the cultural food trance and its official story line—that meat and dairy are natural for us to eat—and switch to a plant-based way of eating that frees the animals, ecosystems, and people enslaved by this official story.

What stories have we been told?  What stories do we buy into?  And who profits?

Connectionists Take On Occupy Wall Street

16 Oct

We’ve seen a lot in the online world lately using a connectionist perspective on the Occupy Wall Street (OWS) movement.  While some literally use the OWS message to represent the plight of non-human animals:

…others write about why the movement should include issues beyond a human-exclusive focus.  This article on One Green Planet, for instance, delineates a 4 clear arguments why food policy should be a part of the OWS movement:

  1. The food industry is a monopoly
  2. The food industry mistreats farmers, its own employees, and the environment
  3. Wall Street leaves millions to starve
  4. Politicians are in bed with agribusiness

Please read and share the article for an explanation of these points as well as several relevant links.

Here at CtD, we hope to encourage, support, and build capacity  to advocate for more connections in movements like these.  Regardless of the strategy, we are thrilled to see a push for a connectionist approach to a very, very popular human-focused social justice movement.  It is through efforts to be inclusive to ALL that we will truly attain a peaceful and just world.

Roots of Change: Social Justice and Media

6 Oct

November 2-4, 2011

Portland, Oregon

We like to promote efforts to create a peaceful and just world for all.  Thus, we’d like you to know about Roots of Change: Social Justice and Media.  This conference addresses the prevention of gendered violence (aka violence against women).  How does this conference fit a connectionist perspective?   It’s in the name.  Roots.  This conference focuses on something called primary prevention.  Primary prevention is about preventing the harmful behavior in the first place.  This means focusing on the root causes of the problem, in this case gendered violence.  It’s about creating environments that promote health and well-being so the “bad stuff,” whatever that may be, doesn’t ever have a chance of happening.

We know that the same root causes that lead to sexual violence support violence and exploitation of all animals and the planet itself.  We encourage you to attend Roots of Change to explore those roots and lend your connectionist voice to efforts to eliminate them and to create a world that works for all.

What other conferences should we know about?  Leave a comment!

Because I Can: Another Rationalization for Exploitation (Plus a Great Response)

15 Sep

It seems fitting that yet another (misguided) feminist justification for exploiting vulnerable beings would come out while we are attending the National Sexual Assault Conference this week.  We put so much effort and energy into supporting the very norms that perpetuate the exploitation of women and all oppressed humans just so we can justify our own pleasure-seeking and power-over  behaviors.  Read this  response from Carol J. Adams to yet another of these justifications attempts.

We want to share your writings!

31 Aug

Have you written articles, essays, blog posts, or more from a connectionist perspective?  If so, send us a link!  We are going to be building a list of articles and other readings for our resources page.  So if you’ve written about connections between human, animal, and/or environmental concerns and well-being, let us know!