‘Veganism in an Oppressive World’ – edited by Julia Feliz Brueck

22nd August 2018

In this blog, VegfestUK manager Tim Barford reviews Julia Feliz Brueck’s recent book ‘Veganism in an Oppressive World’.

 

Over the last few decades, there have been many ‘new’ movements spring up within the global vegan & animal rights community. The huge demos in the 80’s were often focused on vivisection, and animal rescue and liberation grew. The growth of the ALF, multiple Single Issues Campaigns, vast welfare campaigns, the establishment of veganism as the baseline for animal advocates, the rise of the abolitionist a few years back, the ‘reducetarian’ enigma, the recent growth of street activism with campaigns like the Save movement, and a few years ago the beginnings of a pro intersectional vegan movement began to emerge.

Roll forward to the present day, and we are now witnessing the emergence of what we hope will become THE vegan movement of choice across the globe over the next few years – Consistent Anti-Oppression.

 

Veganism in an Oppressive World’ – a short compact and very bijoux collection of thoughts, essays, and interviews, edited by Julia Feliz Brueck and published by Sanctuary Publishers, is just the book for those looking to either introduce themselves to the idea of consistent anti-oppression, and for those seeking to deepen their knowledge of this rapidly developing concept. As the editor says in the introduction, “If you are sceptical about embracing a consistent anti-oppression and pro-intersectional approach in your veganism, or simply want to learn more about what it means to embrace a movement that is truly just in its fight for nonhumans, then this is a pretty good place to start.”

There is a big push for ‘non-humans first’ amongst the current vegan movement, in part a backlash to the rise in ‘reducetarian’ and ‘vaguely veganish’ approaches adopted by many of the animal groups, and whilst in essence this is a good thing, it backfires badly when humans are forgotten and left out of the picture. Witness the amount of ableism, ageism, fat shaming, body shaming, racism, and sexism within the vegan movement and you can start to see the problem.  As the editor explains, “Upholding an anti-speciesist approach does not mean perpetuating human oppression. On the contrary, vegans must recognise that if we are going to win the fight for non-human animal liberation, we must openly join the fight against human oppression.”

The book explains further how systemic oppression affects people going vegan, and points out that the current vegan majority often refuses to acknowledge this, thereby helping sustain systemic oppression and making the vegan movement inaccessible to many, especially marginalised groups. As Julia explains further – “The reality is that the majority of mainstream vegan/AR advocacy groups do not incorporate a consistent anti-oppression approach or intersectional understanding in their advocacy. Do we really want to be a group that claims to be about Justice, whilst taking part in and excusing racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, classism, transphobia, Islamophobia, ageism etc, and alienating anyone who experiences these things?”

Julia Feliz Brueck, author of ‘Veganism in an Oppressive World

 

The book goes on to include a number of contributions from vegan women of colour, including a stunning poem by Meneka Repka “White poem” which brought a lump to my throat – it’s a poem which examines ‘the pervasiveness of whiteness in mainstream and dominant vegan movements’ –  and a deeply moving account of a homeless vegan person documented by Michelle Carrera from the truly fantastic Chillies on Wheels group. “I fight for the animals, but no one fights for me” in many ways sums up the book in one short and very sharp sentence. This is about fighting for human rights as well as animal rights, and we have the chance here with veganism to undo so much systemic oppression if we as a movement can gear ourselves up to be genuinely consistent in our anti-oppression work.

Further contributions from different authors, including a very revealing look at how religion and spirituality influences veganism in different cultures, including  an excellent contribution from Rama Ganesa entitled ‘Vegan misappropriation of Hinduism’ really opened my eyes to this problem, and a wonderful insight into Islam and veganism from Shazia Juna, not only serve to educate and inform, but also to inspire, and prove to be very enjoyable to read too. Maybe that’s a strange thing to say about a book that focuses on oppression, but the freshness, the honesty, the compassion, the beauty of language and the hope that we can have for a truly vegan world combine to make this a book you don’t want to put down until the last page.

Perhaps the most striking contribution comes from Margaret Robinson, entitled  ‘Intersectionality in Mi’kmaw and Settler Vegan Values’. This is intersectionality in practice, and really demonstrates the benefit of a pro intersectional framework to help work within and navigate a whole area of contradictions and different social justice elements that intersect. Reading about Margaret’s experiences as an indigenous woman fighting for both human and animal rights is truly moving and I recommend anyone with a desire to see the world through different eyes to grab a copy and read from cover to cover.

Other contributions of note include essays from Saryta Rodriguez, whose new book ‘Food Justice a Primer’ (out now on Sanctuary Publishers) I am currently reading and reviewing. Saryta is a prolific writer and has covered many areas within veganism and their short chapter contains some really useful advice especially around Tokenism. Thanks to all the contributing authors, including Bipasha Ahmed, Melissa John-Charles Carillo, Shazia Juna, Leila Kassam, Vinamarata ‘Winnie’ Kaur, Deepta Rao, Meenal Upadhyay, Destiny Whitaker, Rayven Whitaker and Ankita Yadav.

In short – this is a must-read book for anyone serious about campaigning for veganism as a social justice movement – which should be all of us. Consistent Anti-Oppression will emerge as THE approach to veganism over the next two years, and this book serves as a fantastic reminder that there are some truly awesome voices from vegan women of colour that we are just not hearing enough of. Credit to Julia Feliz for their tireless work in this area and especially for bringing together this compilation of voices to a new audience. The work has been going on for a while – with the likes of Dr Breeze Harper, Aph and Syl Ko, Christopher Sebastian and many other dedicated individuals – but who knows, maybe this book  will be the start of something really big, and in years to come, when we’ve seen Consistent Anti-Oppression become the established approach for veganism, we may look back at this book and say that this was the time that the ball started rolling in the favour of the many billions of oppressed humans as well as animals. Let’s hope so. The planet depends on us.

The book is available now on Sanctuary Publishers https://www.amazon.com/Veganism-Oppressive-World-Vegans-Color/dp/0998994618

Tim Barford Aug 2018

 

Further resources

Consistent Anti-Oppression

http://www.consistentantioppression.com

Veganism of Colour

http://www.veganismofcolor.com