Book Review: Springer Mountain: Meditations on Killing and Eating by Wyatt Williams

I think I want to say that I think this book is what praxis without ethics looks like. He didn’t know what or why he was doing what he did at first. Maybe he did come to an answer, but did that make it right? Pretty sure many disturbed (is that the word I’m looking for? Troubled?) people have come to similar awakenings, after realizing why they did something after years of not being able to rationalize their behavior. Parts were so beautiful it brought me to tears, but ultimately the ending felt like he, a white man, was using indigenous meat-eating practices as just one more way to justify his own killing and eating, which, in my view, will never justify his eating and killing of animals for meat when he has other options and traditions available to him. That isn’t kinship. It’s him romanticizing the relations of one people with a species. His conclusions did not satisfy me. So, no, I don’t think he’s trying to understand why humans are still drawn to meat-eating. It’s not a question that needs to be asked any more than why do humans cause war or suffering or do evil. The answers are too varied and of course his conclusion fed into what he was already doing. What is the point on meditating on what is, if you also fail to imagine something better?

Veganism FAQ

I’ve done posts like this before, but as my views on veganism change, so do my answers. I represent just one viewpoint on veganism. I can’t see all sides or all my blind spots. I am hoping this format will make things easier to update as I’m sure I will change in the future. I’m also hoping that these answers will help both non-vegans and vegans alike understand where some vegans are coming from, to  maybe not feel as alone? I’ve been vegan a while and am still learning things myself.

How long have you been vegan?  Hark! The origin story! Since some time in 2015. I don’t have an exact date because I was vegetarian before then (from some time in 2010) and the transition was gradual. I just stopped buying milk and things with eggs for myself. I used up the products that had animal-derived ingredients in them and replaced them with vegan versions as I went along. The transition to vegan and cruelty free makeup was the hardest part for me. Not the food, honestly.

What do you eat every day?  To be honest, I hate cooking and I do not have time for it. I work full-time and have a lot on my plate, so anything that can make my life easier is what I choose. Time is my most valuable thing. Thus, I have a frozen dinner meal at least once a day. It’s usually an Amy’s, Gardein, or Sweet Earth, or Trader Joe’s vegan tikka masala (soooo good). For lunch, I do something light like vegan ramen, vegan chick’n nuggets, a bagel with vegan cream cheese, or some sort of vegan sandwich (PB&Js are vegan!). For dinner, anything goes. I might eat a whole jar of salsa with chips. I might make vegan grilled cheese and heat up tomato soup. It depends on how tired I am. You can see what kind of foods I recommend in my saved stories called “Vegan foods” on my Instagram.

Where do you eat out at?  Sometimes you are on the go and can’t make something at home. I get it. When that happens to me, some of my favorite big chain places and what I order at them are:

  • Olive garden, spaghetti. Hold the salad (they put cheese on it and the croutons are not vegan).  The breadsticks are vegan, though! See more info.
  • Taco Bell. I get the black bean crunch wrap with no cheese, no sour cream and add guac. It’s so good! See more info. 
  • Carl’s Jr. This one is more controversial for me. I do not like their sexualized ads and the fact their CEO clearly supported Trump. However, they have the best vegan burger hands down. I get the Beyond Famous Star with no cheese, no sauce, no mayo. I add ketchup.  My meat-eater friends say it’s better than the meat burger. Costs about $2 extra, though.
  • Red Robin’s in-house vegan burger in the lettuce wrap is really really good but it feels more like a breakfast wrap or salad. I do not like the impossible burger they offer. It’s really basic  and bland.
  • Pizza Hut. Thin crust veggie with no cheese. If you do the limited toppings then I pick tomatoes, onions, and green peppers. My friends have tried this and they couldn’t tell there wasn’t cheese on it.

Isn’t eating out bad for the environment? Doesn’t it support capitalism? Doesn’t this just help the chains make more money to kill more animals? If I’m going to eat out then I’m going to eat vegan food. I believe that my choices are an act of resistance. They are an expression of my ethics. Carol Adams, in her work The Sexual Politics of Meatstates that the very fact you do not eat meat is an act of feminism. Making an outward choice is a performance. It is praxis that goes against the norm and brings attention to an issue. It might not change the world or be the most I could do in that moment, but it is doing something.  It reminds me of religious choices as well — how outward displays and acts are signals to the world of your religious principles. Like a nun wearing a habit, a Sikh wearing a turban, or a Muslim refusing to eat pork (pig), they are outward embodiments of what group you belong to and how you understand the world.

The work of Vegan BatGirl is what I draw on most readily when talking about the government bailouts for animal ag. She’s actually been (from?) to my hometown and done her activism here. Because of her work and others, I have started to question the “you vote with your money” concept. My purchases do not affect supply and demand as much as I thought, because capitalism doesn’t work and the government will still prop up animal ag even though it is failing.

I think buying any food supports capitalism right now, however. Many vegans refuse to go to restaurants if they aren’t vegan restaurants. I get it. And I think supporting vegan-owned things is important. But they probably also shop at grocery stores at times that sell meat and eggs and dairy. Would they just not buy from that grocery store? Walmart sells vegan brands too. I think making veganism accessible to all is also an important step. Just because there is no ethical consumption under capitalism doesn’t excuse you from the choices you do make.

Have you ever accidentally slipped up and eaten animal-derived ingredients or purchased something with them?  Mistakes happen! That doesn’t mean you aren’t vegan. It means you made a mistake. One time I was at work and saw there was granola at the buffet for the breakfast gathering we were attending. After eating it, I realized it tasted too sweet and there was  probably honey in it! I was very sad and upset with myself, because others probably noticed me eating it who knew I was vegan. But I did finish it as not to waste it. Sometimes I buy something new and miss something in the ingredients list, only to double check when I get home because I’ve become paranoid of such things. I typically give it away if I haven’t opened it yet. As you are still learning how to navigate being vegan, you will slip up or not realize something. That’s OK! You’ll pick up what to check for and get a routine down.

It’s for this reason that I might suggest that if you’re just starting out, you might not announce it. So that, if you do make a mistake, you won’t feel as judged.

Why do vegans want their food to look and taste like meat? Um, does your meat actually look like meat? Who put the meat in to funny shapes in the first place? If you like meat so much then why do you cook it? Add seasoning to it? It really seems more like people want their meat to not look or taste like meat!

Do you eat honey? No. Honey bees aren’t native to where I live, actually, and I think we should stop farming them. They are struggling to thrive here anyways, and they are competition for native pollinators. 

You can learn more here too.  Beyond this, it is wrong to take something (honey) that isn’t yours and the way some farmers cultivate bees is by clipping the wings of the queen and crushing the drones to get the sperm (graphic video of practice here).

Is veganism cruelty free? Living on the planet isn’t cruelty free, first of all. Even walking on grass as the potential to hurt a plant or insect. It’s about being less cruel. It’s about doing the least amount of damage you can. Not the max.

But don’t plants feel pain?  Why do vegans care about one lifeform’s pain but not the other? This is the wrong question and framework. Plants may feel pain, but do they care about it? There is a difference between feeling something and understanding what that means. However, I also believe questions like this lead into “Peter Singer territory,” which is risky to enter into. You have to be careful about intention and show care. In the past I have brought up the fact that many humans with little to no brain activity on life support still react to stimuli but might not react based on want or need. Am I comparing them to plants, then? This could be seen as setting up a framework of those who are more “killable.” It should not be about what/who is killable and what/who is not, but about what/who is suffering from the choices we make. I recommend this video for more context and Sunaura Taylor’s work:

Here are some of my favorite quotes from Taylor’s book. 

The talk of “vegetative states” also makes me consider this question: “If meat-eaters* think they are being fair by eating indiscriminately, then why don’t they also eat humans?” Since they so clearly think that vegans are hypocritical for eating only one type of thing that “feels,” I think it is more hypocritical that they eat everything except one thing. That “thing” being humans. And pets, maybe.  A lot of the taboo of eating humans is actually very colonial/Western. Many indigenous cultures still do consume humans as part of traditional practices. I find this a more interesting way to point out their own biases and hypocrisies in food.

Instead of the “stranded on a desert island” scenario that is often referenced/brought up to put a vegan in a situation where they have to make a choice against veganism, I like to bring up what I call “the Donner Party scenario” and give my stance. I myself would not feel any qualms in eating a human if I had to to survive and there was nothing else to eat (notice I did not say kill a human). But that is not the scenario we are in. That is not what we are living. For those of us who do not have to choose meat (human or animal), why would we?

*here I mean a capitalist consumer type of meat-eater, not those practicing indigenous traditions

Are your pets vegan? No. I only have cats who are picky eaters. I would like to be able to buy them lab-grown meat though in the future, though!

Would you eat lab-grown meat? Maybe? Depends on if it tastes better than the plant-based meat. How affordable it was.

Do you use the word “Carnism” like some vegans do? There has been some pushback on accepting the word carnism, which was popularized by this book by Melanie Joy, I believe (?). The pushback, I believe, comes from POC communities and allies who do not want to pressure indigenous communities, etc. into a label that does not accurately represent those communities. I think Joy was the first to use the word in psychological terms (?), but I do not think she actually invented the word and I don’t think a word has to have a single definition in all contexts. Yet the focus does seem to attack her and her points at times, which undermines what she was trying to say.  But do I think that everyone who still eats meat is a carnist? I think that is where some pushback lies. However, I still find it a helpful word to describe certain situations. Is the dominate culture carnist? I think that to say so is glossing over things because it is supposedly the opposite of veganism at points, under certain definitions. And if I, a vegan, know I am vegan, I think that most non-vegans don’t realize they’re carnists. A lot until recently didn’t even know about veganism as an option. They might define themselves as non-vegans, but carnism is not likely a word they would own. They don’t delight in eating meat the way some others might or the way vegans delight in veganism. Food is just food to them and they have never been confronted with alternatives. However, I do think many in the dominate culture are so anti-vegan and pro-meat that carnists as a label does fit and they would not even mind it — they’d embrace it even. I think of Arby’s ads that say “We have the meat” or “Beef: it’s what’s for dinner.” These are so overt in suppressing vegs ideals that I think carnism works. Their stance is not in-between or neutral, just like veganism is viewed as not neutral. Many of these ads even mock vegans, creating an opposing stance to veganism, not just an uniformed one. So, yes, I believe that points of our culture like that are carnist. I believe people who are so anti-vegetable and pro-killing for meat are carnists. I am reminded of this quote from the article “An already alienated animality: Frankenstein as a Gothic narrative of carnivorism” by Jackson Petsche, which muddies the waters more because I so agree with it in parts (but is the word “carnivorism” fair when humans here are not carnivores in the biological sense of eating raw meat, but instead carnists for choosing to do so and having to cook it? This is an instance where the newer word might have fit better in the context) :

In rejecting the food ‘of man’, the monster rejects the system of carnivorism, and this refusal to eat animal flesh contributes to his alienation. Martin argues that, like capitalism, carnivorism constructs subjectivity: ‘carnivorism not only runs very deep into subjectivity formation, it runs so deep that it comes close to assuming the character of an absolute presupposition’. (30) By stating ‘[m]y food is not that of man’, the monster explicitly underscores his alienation from human social relations: he does not participate in what constitutes the normative model of the human subject–the eating of nonhuman animals. The monster would appear to recognise that his vegetarianism precludes him from attaining human subjectivity when he paradoxically asserts to Victor, ‘The picture I present to you is peaceful and human’ (170). Calarco, like Martin, recognises how carnivorism constructs subjectivity. Speaking of Derrida’s theoretical articulation of ‘carnophallogocentrism’, Calarco states that it highlights that ‘being a carnivore is at the very heart of becoming a full subject in […] society’. (31) The monster’s vegetarianism keeps him from ‘becoming a full subject’ in human society. However, for Victor’s creature this is intentional. In fact, he professes his vegetarianism to Victor during the moment in which he tells him of his desire to flee human society with a female companion constructed like himself. He states, ‘I will quit the neighbourhood of man’ (171). The food ‘of man’ is equated with ‘the neighbourhood of man’, and both are to be rejected.

What are your go-to vegan beauty items? Check out my Instagram story highlights for “Vegan Beauty” 

As a vegan, do you take medicine? Aren’t all medicines in the US tested on animals? Yes, I take medicine as necessary to help me survive and live a good life. I refer back to my Donner Party scenario. If it comes down to alleviating my suffering, I will take medicine.

How do you feel about plastic? I feel like plastic gets a bad rap. This may be a hot take I later regret, but to me, it has made food accessible in food desserts, including vegan food. It has improved nutrition and sanitation. I feel like cleaning up plastic is an easier feat than reversing deforestation caused by animal ag. I think we need to focus on limiting both, but that there is a bit too much hatred that goes into plastic and not enough on meat/animal ag. I’m still taking references to more sources if you have them. On the scale of suffering, though, I think animal ag is causing more for the world.

How do you feel about hunting? I hate trophy hunting. I disagree that it can help conservation efforts, because most conservation efforts are based in nationalistic, xenophobic, and eugenic principles of ecological purity (reminiscent of racial and ethnic purity, if you will). I believe in the right for a species to die out. I would like to see extinction decolonized. I also disagree that hunting is a means of population control, which is what I hear about in the U.S. a lot. Starving is a natural means of population control too for a species and dead bodies are part of every ecosystem, so I do not think humans are as important as they think they are in that area.

Trading one suffering for another is just you playing God. I think indigenous hunting practices, where the food is eaten and the bodies don’t just become a stuffed head on the wall, are much more ethical. I, too, would hunt if I had to. Or maybe I would just let someone do it for me and still partake. But I do not have to. It seems unethical to take a life I do not need. I am not asking indigenous populations to become vegan. I am asking most specifically for people to be vegan in their other choices.

See this link and this link for more context on my stance on extinction and invasive species.

Do you think everyone should go vegan? If possible, yes. As stated above, indigenous peoples still practice traditions that involve meat and I support that as means of life if there is no alternative. My focus is on those who have the means and ability to make better choices, but choose not to.

However, I do question “tradition” as an excuse from some as why they will not stop eating meat when they clearly can affordably and nutritionally (I certainly question it from people who live in the same area as me when I hear it). I question tradition for the sake of tradition, especially traditions such as child marriage, genital mutilation, bull fighting and other animal fighting, and the “traditional” family unit. So, yeah, food practices are not “off the table” for me (pun intended). I think if we can’t examine our traditions and make changes, then we are  harming ourselves and are trapped in an unexamined life. For a small example, it was a tradition in my childhood home to have meat for every dinner, despite my parents both having high cholesterol. Traditions can harm as well as give meaning.

Isn’t leather/aren’t animal products more sustainable? Aren’t vegan clothes just plastic? Not all of them are. This page has a lot of good info:

How do you feel about comparing animals to humans? This is the question of our time, I think. When I was younger, I would do so readily. As a woman who could become impregnated, I was never offended when women were compared to a cow to show the horrors of the dairy industry, how rape is referenced when talking about the artificial insemination of a farmed animal. However, comparison only goes so far. The communal focus is now on “intersection” — where two issues intersect rather than how they are similar. There is no one size fits all model, and if you risk insulting one party with a comparison, then it would work against your goal.

Are you a vegan who compares what happens to animals to the Holocaust? To Slavery? (CW, sensitive subjects of abuse and genocide). I used to when I was first starting out, and for that I am sorry. My comparison was not nuanced for sure. I no longer do so and see how it was wrong.  I could not see how it was working against my cause and against the groups I was referencing. To make matters worse, there’s a lot of conflicting signals within veganism about the human/animal comparison (re: the Taylor YouTube video above as well). There’s a whole Wikipedia page on the subject of comparing Animal Rights and the Holocaust, apparently.  But, like what I said above, comparison can only go so far and it is better to focus on the systems that affect all groups negatively, no matter how. Otherwise, it can turn into the oppression Olympics, where we are tallying who has it worse off. That distracts from being united in taking down the system that is oppressing. If forced to admit it, I also do not think using the Holocaust comparison against animal farming is affective because the comparison stops when we realize that the Jewish people were being exterminated and farm animals are actively bred (to be eaten). That sure as hell isn’t genocide. That is something else. This most common example when it is brought up in vegan arguments doesn’t even work logically for me. It seems to be used more for shock value.

The book Afro-dog complicated the waters for me on this subject as well. I still don’t know what to make of that book, but I liked it.

What is hard for vegans to see is that, while we do not take being compared to an animal as an insult because we lift all animals up, in some contexts it is still a way of Othering someone to be less-than-human. On the flip side, what some do not understand about vegan reasoning is that if the animal/human binary (hierarchy, rather?) could be dissolved, there would be no way to make someone “less-than-human” because there would just be “beings.”

But bringing all of that to the conversation can’t be surmised in a single comparison. It has to be unpacked over time.

Wasn’t Hitler vegetarian? Why do you want to be like him? I don’t care if he was or wasn’t. I could see why he would propagandize that he was, though, to make himself look like a compassionate, gentle leader. I’ve read arguments where he was trying to look/act like Gandhi, who was popular at the time? What is interesting, however, is that veganism is and isn’t tied to white nationalists depending on what is and isn’t being said. Compare these two articles from VICE:

Why So Many White Supremacists Are into Veganism

Got Milk? Neo-Nazi Trolls Sure as Hell Do

What’s also hilarious, on the other end of this conversation, is that Israel, with the largest “core Jewish population” is also touted for its veganism.  There’s even a Wikipedia page dedicated to Jewish Vegetarianism.* So…you tell me what you are implying by suggesting vegs are like Hitler. I sure as hell don’t know. If I stare long enough, both of these cases do seem to speak to the plant-based lifestyle as some sort of nationalistic ideal, though. I’m not sure what to make of it. I think it’s similar to the issue of conservation, where there’s a lot of racists and eco-fascist ideals there — where talking about invasive species feels like xenophobia, where conservation is a stand in for conservative ideals, where eco-purity comes at the cost of killing and ignoring indigenous needs and rights. For example:

The Fascist History of De-Extinction – Undark 

When Environmentalism Meets Xenophobia – The Nation

The Most Effective Conservation is Indigenous Land Management – Yes! Magazine 

Should Some Species Be Allowed to Die Out? – NYT

Book Review: An open-eyed view of conservation – Undark

*That said, I want to be clear that not all Jewish people are synonymous with Israelis nor support their political agendas. I recognize it might also be problematic, since we are talking about nationalism, to not address Israel’s own human rights abuses against Palestinians. For more context on criticizing the Israeli government and where I am coming from, I direct you to this recommended video (starts at recommended portion):

The pamphlet referenced in video:  

Do you support zoos and conservation efforts as a vegan? No and yes. See answers above. I think if we are talking about sanctuaries that is one thing, but the very concept of zoos is a colonial one. Humans used to be put in zoos, to be shows off like some collection of conquest. My belief is that the human/animal binary has a thin line between them and I’d like to take away all potential for suffering for when that line is crossed, like I reference above. I also believe that zoos falsely placate the real need for us to save the environment. My local zoo calls itself a “Living Museum,” which is the saddest thing I can think of, because museums are where you put artifacts that can no longer be a part of the world. That need to be protected from it, not part of it. I hate that line of thinking, that the world is too dangerous for them. The animals, therefore, are viewed as no longer of this time period. We no longer strive to protect them in the outside world, because why would we? They’re “safe” in the zoo.

Why are you vegan? Probably because I want to be able to like myself at the end of the day. IDK. I used to not be. Then I saw how the world could be different.



Book Review: Messy Eating: Conversations on Animals As Food

The most enlightening chapter for me was “The Tyranny of Consistency” by Naisargi Dave. I was unfamiliar with Dave’s work until this point and I quote from it below.

Donna Haraway’s name is mentioned in almost every chapter from the interviewees. She and veganism are the common, entwined thread. As far as I can tell, Haraway has always danced around — been noncommittal to — the veganism issue in a way I can’t quite understand (though, I guess I’m trying by reading this book). To me, a vegan, there’s something unsatisfactory in her past answers, when I so eagerly agree with her in every other way. In this particular area, it’s as if she lets others do some of the thinking for her so she can later pick and choose what to work with. This was also the vibe I got from the book Making Kin Not PopulationShe has others make some of her points for her to create a collaborative, well-rounded argument that is no longer hers. The only difference here is she is not a contributor in Messy Eating. 

Haraway has clearly struggled (read: “kept with the trouble”) by bringing animal issues/relationships to light and this book feels written created to fall in line with that framework/approach. Part of me wonders if this book was written created for her enjoyment — for her notice. I’d like to think so. Even I hope she reads from it and responds in some way (has she? I don’t know. I only dabble in this stuff). Maybe she’ll have different answers on veganism/farmed animals later on. Was this her scholarly intervention? Ha. It is, at the very least, part of her legacy. Maybe she has already changed her mind/speculative fabulations on the subject (look at me dropping sf bombs! Am I earning fangirl points???).

Messy Eating’s introduction mentions that this (?) interview is part of the motivation for the book, and states that her answers in said interview have a “desire for a world in which there is a place for agricultural animals.” This quote is probably what that referred to:

A bit defensively, Haraway carries the animal-rights argument to its logical extreme, claiming that it would make modern agricultural animals either “museum specimens” or extinct, both of which she finds unacceptable. Still, she is troubled by the killing of animals. “It’s impossible to work from the fantasy that animals are for human use. I’m not comfortable, and I don’t think we should be.”

Part of me, as a reader of that quote, is sad to think she can’t imagine futures without farmed animals. Another part of me is still sad even after reading Messy Eating because some of those interviewed were not imaginative enough to do so either. I still can’t put into words what the issue is, though there is a gist–a general hesitancy that I can see.

I’m still wondering, deep down, why farmed animals — many the result of selective breeding that make the animal unable to breed on their own without the aid of artificial insemination — should not end up extinct. If not the extinction option, then flourished without consent becomes the (current) alternative. And even then, if we think it is OK to selectively breed them to be this X way, why can’t we selectively breed them to be another way — one which lets them decide to reproduce and not depend upon us so much? I tend to put more faith in those species that have evolved with us in a symbiotic relationship on earth, but not entirely dependent upon us. I also do not think that Haraway still worries about this (extinction). If she is so willing to de-emphasize human exceptionalism, why would what humans created/engineered/bred need to be maintained over other species? In fact, I feel like “the Chthulucene” is all about letting humans die off if necessary/take a step back. Why wouldn’t she let that be the case for farmed animals?

This is probably what Haraway was getting at all along — wanting vegans to be more imaginative and purposeful in their thinking rather than just shouting blanket statements of “No more breeding farm animals!” And that’s what this book is, that purposeful thinking.

Here’s some quotes from the book that I wanted to archive here:

“All too often, what we do with that fact is to say that to oppose that kind of violence means to eat cows. It’s posited as a kind of solidarity with non-caste Hindus. But of course the Brahmin who decides, ‘I’m going to eat beef—or pork or whatever—” will simply not be subject to the same kind of violence as someone who eats meat by tradition. What this high caste person doesn’t understand is that people aren’t subject to violence because they eat beef: They are subject to violence because they are Muslims or Dalits. The cow was the mobilizer, it was the justification, but it was not the reason. So when a Brahmin decides that they’re going to start eating beef, no matter how much they try to be in solidarity with the Dalit or the Muslim, it’s not going to happen, because what they fail to recognize is they’re just playing into the circulation of symbols that is at the heart of the problem in the first place.

One comparative case is the right wing in the United States, which at times enacts violence against women who have abortions, or the doctors who perform them. We as feminists vehemently oppose that, yes. That does not mean, however, that we go out and deliberately have abortions…Of course we don’t go around having abortions or aborting other people’s fetuses just because we oppose a Christian right ideology. But the issue there, then, is that in understanding the animal as a symbol that is not subject to the same value as a human, you’re participating in and allowing your own ethics to be completely colonized by the use of symbols of an adoption of an ideology you oppose. That’s not a rejection of an ideology, it’s an adoption of an ideology, it’s speaking in those people’s terms, it’s using their morality to be the only framework in which you can possibly be a moral person. Your only option then is, do you eat beef or do you not eat beef? That’s not rejecting the use of the cow as a violent symbol; it’s appropriating it, and not appropriating it in a way that undoes the problem. It’s more of a wholesale adoption of an ideology than an appropriation, actually.” -Naisargi Dave, The Tyranny of Consistency

“Similarly, for Donna, the real issue is that you shouldn’t institute a discursive technology or nay other kind of technology that automatically, taxonomically makes certain forms of life killable but not muderable, simply by virtue of that designation. As she puts it, the issue is les ‘Thou shall not kill’ – because killing is, after all, unavoidable – than ‘Thou shalt not make killable’ by some kind of taxonomic or – to put a finer point on it, coming out of biopolitical thought – racial designation.” – Turning Toward and Away

“Veganism, to me, is about a kind of direct challenge to the property status of animals and the notion that they can be rendered as objects. It’s a kind of daily personal boycott, a rich practice of eschewing the understanding of animals as objects or servants from the beginning of their lives to their deaths. Within an industrial context, everything about their lives is geared toward serving human beings. Their bodies are manipulated in various different ways and mutilated in different ways in order to serve the purpose of being objects.” – Subjectivities and Intersections

“So contradiction is a problem politically, in terms of the imperative of consistency that forces anyone who tries to do anything differently to make a choice between nothing and everything: I either do it perfectly or I might as well just do nothing. That, of course, is a terrible way to operate, but it tends to be the way we approach ethical life. Except for all the invisible ways in which we’re never perfect moral beings, but we excuse them for various reasons, because they’re normative and thus naturalized.

…So long as you try to fix the ideology before the practice – you can say, ‘Well, first I have to convince myself that veganism is worth doing’ –it’s never going to happen because there’s no way to ideologically explain it, because everything is geared toward maintaining the norm. There will always be the one person pointing out the hypocrisy, the flaw in the logic. So if you wait, and wait, and wait to have it all figured out, then you’re not going to get there, and that’s not accidental, that’s by design, that’s how normativity reproduces itself.” – Naisargi Dave, The Tyranny of Consistency

“So often people critique vegans because there’s this stereotype that we think we’re being cruelty-free, or that it’s this ideal that can’t be reached. I think vegans need to take that back and say, ‘No, veganism is not about being cruelty-free or practicing ideal non-violence.’ It’s actually a way of saying that it’s really incredibly hard to actually figure out how to live in ethical relationships, whether you’re trying to do that across human difference or whether you are trying to make a space that’s accessible and open to other sorts of species; the challenges are really real—but veganism is saying that it’s absolutely essential that we try.” – Disability and Interdependence

“There is this kinship and affect happening in really interesting ways, but in larger context of grooming these dogs to hopefully be adopted into what is an implicitly white middle-class ‘forever home,’ with picket fences and all that. And this is because people have very set ideas about what makes a good home, that are very deeply shaped by class, politics, and the resources involved: whether you have a back yard or not, whether you own your home or not. Most shelters I know of – and this is also the shifting landscape of pitbull politics – won’t adopt out bully breed dogs to people who don’t either have a lease explicitly stating that they can have a bully breed dog, or own their own homes. And in a lot of urban areas that’s pretty much impossible.”  – Interspecies Intersectionalities

“While promoted as an ecologically responsible alternative, small-scale animal agriculture requires more resources than factory farming. Free-range production uses more land and emits more methane and nitrous oxide than do industrial methods. This is because farmed animals are allowed (somewhat) more space, and because these animals take longer to reach slaughter-weight, as they typically have not been genetically altered in such a way as to promote rapid weight gain. Given that small-scale animal agriculture accounts for only 1 percent of the meat produced in the United States, it is hardly a large-scale solution.

I would further argue that small-scale farming is coterminous with the settler colonial and racial capitalist systems that sustain the settler nation states of Canada and the United States…Specifically, colonists imported the institution of animal agriculture, farmed animals, legal statuses of property, and ontologies of Western human superiority that structured ways of being and living in their homelands.” – Coda: Toward an Analytic of Agricultural Power

Book Review: The Art of Frugal Hedonism

Other reviews I agree with:

So, why the two stars? Because damn it, my fellow white people, we need to do better. Tip #10 is “romanticize other eras,” and the idea that “people” were happier in the simpler days of say, the 1950s, is a major thread in this book. This is that dangerous white supremacist crossover space between liberals and the Make American Great Again set – other eras were downright shitty for everyone other than white cishet nuclear families (and also not all that great for some of those family members)


It was helpful for those interested in living a more frugal lifestyle without sacrificing your entire lifestyle, but I felt like I could easily skim the essays for the best bits in them.


A good introduction/overview of frugal values and how to incorporate them into your life without sacrificing happiness.


On “invasive” species:

I’ve never heard this issue summed up so succinctly.

If you worry about:

– “invasive” species
– endangered species
– extinction
– feral cats
– the environment

This video is for you.

Book Review: Afro-Dog: Blackness and the Animal Question by Benedicte Boisseron

The animal-rights organization PETA asked “Are Animals the New Slaves?” in a controversial 2005 fundraising campaign; that same year, after the Humane Society rescued pets in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina while black residents were neglected, some declared that white America cares more about pets than black people. These are but two recent examples of a centuries-long history in which black life has been pitted against animal life. Does comparing human and animal suffering trivialize black pain, or might the intersections of racialization and animalization shed light on interlinked forms of oppression?

In Afro-Dog, Bénédicte Boisseron investigates the relationship between race and the animal in the history and culture of the Americas and the black Atlantic, exposing a hegemonic system that compulsively links and opposes blackness and animality to measure the value of life. She analyzes the association between black civil disobedience and canine repression, a history that spans the era of slavery through the use of police dogs against protesters during the civil rights movement of the 1960s to today in places like Ferguson, Missouri. She also traces the lineage of blackness and the animal in Caribbean literature and struggles over minorities’ right to pet ownership alongside nuanced readings of Derrida and other French theorists. Drawing on recent debates on black lives and animal welfare, Afro-Dog reframes the fast-growing interest in human-animal relationships by positioning blackness as a focus of animal inquiry, opening new possibilities for animal studies and black studies to think side by side.

Who am I to review this book? I don’t like being the first one to do so on Goodreads, but it looks like it’s me. This book explores – grapples?—with the issue (the “animal question”) of comparing a human population to an animal population. At least, that’s why I was reading it. I was reading it to understand the dynamics of it, to question it, to come to some stronger conclusion. I have seen posts like this that caution against doing so and I am even guilty of making the dreaded comparison. I regret how I have compared in the past, in part, but deep down I always knew there is an intersection. The research question, for me, was how best to do it, or if it should be done even if there is an “intersection” — if it should be done at all.

The two main populations mentioned in this book were, most obviously, Black people (i.e. slavery, mainly) and Jewish people (i.e. the Holocaust), basically because these two groups seem to be who are compared the most to animals in this culture. I was hoping this book could confirm or deny my modes of thinking, others’ modes of thinking. I’m not sure what it did for me, though it has indeed done something.

I recommend you actually read the Coda first if you start to struggle with what’s in the chapters you start to read, because this was the most enlightening portion for me and it might give the work better context than the introduction does. Before I read the Coda, the book seemed flip-floppy. The previous chapters seem to state in sections that you shouldn’t compare people to animals, only to do just that by highlighting where their struggles, most specifically Black struggles, often intersect. At other times it seems to confirm you can compare them, but only if you are part of the population being compared (which is a thought I have heard before, elsewhere). It was hard to process all this with the fact the book is one big comparison of Black humans to animals. Perhaps one critique is that the chapters are too objective (what this review would call “without much thematic structure or a temporal narrative”). I was hardly sure of Boisseron’s official stance at times, all of her observation laid out for us to come to our own conclusions. She’s clearly done the work of research and making connections, but what we should interpret from them is somewhat up in the air. And even the Coda is purposefully no official stance, showing that it’s difficult for even someone within a population to compare themselves to animals and be held as a lasting authority. Boisseron even questions herself and her authority, asking “Who am I to talk about the Afro-dog?” after pointing out Alice Walker, who wrote the forward for the Dreaded Comparison, is a lapsed vegetarian.

While I agree that if comparison is ever done it should be done in a careful way that focuses on the intersection, Boisseron makes a case for never doing it…but also for doing it? I think this paradox (?) is the point.  What I am now struggling with (still struggling with?) is how to think about the “intersection.” To me, pointing out the intersections (what this review calls searching “for narratives of interspecies connectedness, rather than structural similarities used by activists”) is still a form of comparison and I don’t understand the definition of “structural similarities.” Additionally, I wonder if Boisseron’s work does somehow (and in what ways) validate Walker and therefore Spiegel’s Dreaded Comparison and works like it? Are these “acivitist” works? I’ve not read either, so some of what was said about them in Afro-Dog may have gone over my head.

The only word I was left with after reading this book was “frustrated” — not necessarily in a bad way. Perhaps this is because I’m having trouble understanding it (the issue itself and this scholarly work), which is why I didn’t want to be the first to review it! I do not know what I do not know.

But to the most interesting parts of the book (for me): Boisseron referenced so much dog literature that I had never heard about. Apparently that’s a thing — white people writing about dogs and their struggles. My favorite chapter was “The Naked Truth about Cats and Blacks” – where it examines interpretations of the Biblical Ham story. It was eye opening (quotes from it below). In some ways it reminded me about the scene in Fifteen Dogs where the woman realizes the dog can speak and starts to change her behavior around him. I also don’t think I’ve ever (?) seen Carol Adams (author of The Sexual Politics of Meat) and Donna Haraway mentioned in the same book. If that tells you anything about where this book is coming from and going, it means it’s a necessary contribution and read. Please tell me your thoughts on it and help me better understand this book!


“Rankine says in Citizen that she always thought that racist language erases you, but, through Butler, she now understands that it makes you exposed and hypervisible. The racist language takes the measure of your addressability. Likewise, the animal-black analogy is not only a question of racial or species elision, but also one of (hper-) visibility and addressability. The addressability of both in a malapropos context makes them as visible as an uninvited guest at an intimate dinner party.”

“If Harper first saw vegan activism as a ‘white thing,’ it is mainly due to the fact that, as she explains, her ‘vegan classmates weren’t trained or well read enough in antiracist and antipoverty praxis to deliver their message to [her] in a way that connected to [her] social justice work as a Black working-class female trying to deal with sexism, classism, and racism…”

“The common appeal for the exotic animal in the Western world targets the woman, and even more so, in a system of intertwined racism, sexism, and speciesism, the black woman. Think of the Hottentot Saartjie Baartman, nicknamed ‘Vénus Noire” and “Black Venus,” a black woman with extremely large buttocks, who was exhibited in salons.”

“Examining defiance rejects the construction of blacks and animal as exclusively connected through their comparable state of subjection and humiliation, and instead focuses on interspecies alliances. In other words, to what extent are Josephine Baker’s animal impersonations not only a white-crowd-pleasing performance but also a means to reclaim her voice in a sort of auto-interpellation, as Louis Althusser calls it?”

“As Delise explains, by 1880, all productions of Uncle Tom’s Cabin included a pack of ferocious-looking dogs for dramatic effect. The recurrence of the canine prop gave people the impression that Stowe’s book was filled with dogs chasing slaves when, in reality, the Eliza scene is the only incident in the book involving the idea of chasing dogs.”

“What I call ‘afro-dog’ is the result of the animal and his human victim merging through the bite in a mutual becoming against…Instead, human consciousness, namely feeling human as opposed to animal, could very well be based on the taboo of cannibalism. Humans eat animals but do not let other animals eat the, including the human animal. However, the dog bite, a somewhat mundane occurrence in our society, is a constant reminder that the human being is also an animal that can be eaten… The bite brings to mind the fetishistic nature of human nonedibility; it shows that human consciousness is based on the disavowal of being an (edible) animal. The dog, in this sense, is essential to the process of dehumanization since it is the only animal that dares bit humans on a regular basis, thereby constantly confirming the fragile nature of the human condition….The dog bite, when orchestrated by the white against the black, is a racially driven kind of cannibalism that uses fangs as a means of transference.”

“Blacks owning big dogs enacts Justice Brown’s double fear: the black and the dog together on the loose, without the white master. We may dare to make a symbolic connection between the 2005 pit bull ordinance and black men losing their lives (Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, or Eric Garner) at the hands of policemen and self-appointed authority figures: Blacks jaywalking or roaming the streets are like ‘dangerous’ dogs on the loose, threatening and to be contained at all costs.”

“Edgar Allan Poe draws a similar comparison in ‘The Murders in the Rue Morgue,’ a short story in which a detective, Monsieur C. Auguste Dupin, is assigned a double murder case with no visual witnesses. There are several aural witnesses, however, who indicate that the unfamiliar sounds that the heard during the time of the killing came from a foreign (human) language. The presumed foreign language, as Dupin eventually discovers, is that of an orangutan, the perpetrator of the double murder. Poe’s story completes Kilito’s axiom: the animal is a foreigner to man, just as much as the foreigner is an animal to the native.”

“By addressing the right to marry, be baptized, or to be freed, the Code Noir acknowledges that the slave is not merely an animal or an agricultural tool. In other words, there would have been no need for the creation of the Code Noir if slavery had involved an equation of the human body with the animal or things alone, since animality and objecthood are, legally speaking, tow clear categories.”

“One of the many nuances of blackness today is the relationship of the black body to the idea of pre-ownership; the black is not a free man, but a stray in the legal and historical imaginary….Because of its stray dog population, Detroit has been depicted in the media as a postapocalyptic canine city with packs of stray dogs prowling through neighborhoods….The representation of Detroit’s dog population in visual media reveal that the majority of those dogs are abandoned pets avoiding human contact, rather than feral animals preying on residents. Yet the dogs’ status as previously owned and on the loose stigmatizes these animals as feral, aggressive, dangerous, and unrestrained. The media’s misrepresentation and amplification of this stray dog presence additionally depicts Detroit as a predatory and savage city.”

“Yet, how can one guarantee that the black will not eventually speak? How can one be so sure that there will never be an Olaudah Equiano or Frederick Douglass to tell on the white man? If the chattel (as in cattle) slave were truly an animal, the white would have no need to feel exposed—or would he?”

“Within an interracial encounter, the chattle/cattle slave can also be said to be figuratively à poil, not because the slave is naked, but rather, and on the contrary, because the slave looks covered in contrast to the exposure of the master; in that, the black is indeed an animal (cattle). The inception of slavery in the Americas seen through the lens of Ham’s curse allows us to understand nakedness as the constitutive taboo of plantation society.”

“The black and the animal are nonfaces that do not blush in return, as if they did not even care about what the Other – white and human – may think of them, as if they did not fear being caught naked.”

“The premise of the curse of Ham and Derrida’s cat is that of a silent or silenced one who has seen the exposure and will not tell about it. The difference between these two cases, however, is that one (human) can technically speak and the other (animal) cannot. Yet, the threat of feeling exposed is equally poignant in both cases since shame has more to do with wondering what the Others think of us than wondering what they will subsequently tell about is.”

“Who are we to talk about the animal? What are our credentials? Those questions also apply to Jacques Derrida, who, in The Animal That Therefore I Am, feels the need to tell his audience (also in a formal address as a guest speaker) that ‘animals are [his] concern,’ as if to anticipate the audience’s puzzlement at hearing the deconstructionist philosopher talk about the animal. Who is he to talk about the animot?

Book Review: Protest Kitchen by Carol J. Adams and Virginia Messina

While this book boasts over 50 Vegan recipes (even some for non-human animals!), it is not really a cookbook. I had slightly hoped it would inspire me to start cooking more (I’m vegan and I really don’t cook because I do not have the time — I find myself buying pre-made dinners or eating out a lot, actually), but it didn’t really end up doing that. I am not compelled to start experimenting in my tiny apartment kitchen. I’m unmotivated to break from my low-effort veganism in that way. I also do not think reading about cooking is helpful to me learning how to better cook and work it into my life. What I have picked up is usually from videos or infographics. This book contains no pictures of its suggested food, honestly. Like I said, it’s not a cookbook.

However, I think this  book has good cross-over appeal to non-vegans to help them understand and transition into a vegan lifestyle. It is a good introduction to veganism as a whole and it also reinforces some of the choices vegans are already making. It encourages people who care about social justice issues and feminism to put their actions where their mouths are. Activism is lived.

The book mentions many other books I’ve reviewed here on my blog (such as We Animals, Beasts of Burdenetc.) which almost made it feel like “the same old thing” for me. The book’s main thesis is that Veganism is more than just a healthy diet choice; that what we eat affects humans and has social justice implications, which is a fairly underrepresented argument in publishing. This argument is, I think, is very similar to the ones that the book Aphro-ism and others make, if not a little more focused on the environmentalism and praxis points. Something that bothered me about the book was that it did not seem to reference Aphro-ism or the authors Aph Ko or Syl Ko. I even double checked the index and they were not listed, while other referenced authors were. The fact that Carol J. Adams, who is the author of The Sexual Politics of Meat, and Virginia Messina, a dietitian who runs a vegan website, are both  white women did not really make it seem like the target audience for this book is very inclusive. I wish more voices had been represented for a book on this topic.

While I think white women need to hear some of the messages in the book, I think the cover and the title are a bit misleading — for example: the image of the fist seems to call forth the Black Panther fist. I’m not sure what to make of it. I think a lot of the book tour for the book involved non-white voices, but I haven’t been following it very closely.

The book is still very quotable and informative:

“Donald Trump actively exploited the fiction of self-sufficiency during the presidential campaign of 2016. Despite his birth into wealth, the assistance his father provided, the nameless staff that enabled his work, the tax benefits he leveraged, the ghostwriter of his book, Trump cultivated the idea that he succeeded on his own, as self-made man. He also benefited from generous subsidies from banks.

In Beasts of Burden, Sunaura Taylor points out that one result of this prizing of ‘independence’ is that disabled people’s lives are often seen as tragic. But, dependence is relative, according to British disability activist Michael Oliver. People with disabilities see independence as the ability to be in control of and make decisions about their own lives, rather than being able to dess, was, or cook without help.”


“When David Foster Wallace turns his attention from lobsters to farmed animals, he makes a noteworthy observation. ‘It is significant that “lobster,” “fish,” and “chicken” are our culture’s words for both the animal and the meat, whereas most mammals seem to require euphemisms like “beef” and “pork” that help us separate the meat we eat from the living creature the meat once was.’

There is evidence that people feel a small sense of unease –or no sense of unease at all — about eating birds and fishes. This might be one reason why meant-reducers often gravitate away from beef and pork. It feels like a logical place to start. Moving away from these foods is good for health and the environment. It’s good for cows and pigs, too. But if you are looking at the issue of how to reduce your meat intake from the perspective of compassion, it’s not the logical place to start at all. To make a change that has a significant impact on animal suffering, it makes far better sense to stop eating chickens and fishes.”


“Children have a natural affinity for animals. Instead of taking them to a petting zoo — an encounter that teaches that their experience is more important than the animals’ experience of captivity — give them an opportunity to see animals in settings that honor their inherent dignity. Farm animal sanctuaries are able to save only a small number of animals from today’s factor farms. But their essential work allows people to connect with individual cows, goats, pigs, turkeys, and chickens, giving visitors the opportunity to learn more about why the work to liberate animals from factory farms is so important. You can find a list of these sanctuaries at

In addition to farm sanctuaries, there are safe havens for wild animals. If you can’t get to one of these places in person, there are ways to bring the experience right to your home. Visit the lions and bears of the Wild Animal Sanctuary in Colorado through their video series at or help schoolchildren take a virtual field trip to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee through their distance learning program on

Book Review: We Animals by Jo-Anne McArthur