IFA Presents Compassionate Connections: the Intersections of Feminism and Animal Rights

Illustration by Jacqueline Adamescu.

Intersectionalist Feminists for Animals (IFA) is hosting an event on Thursday, March 31st at 6:30PM in the Kerckhoff Salon, with the help of Bruin for Animals. The event, titled Compassionate Connections: the Intersections of Feminism and Animal Rights, will host a series of speakers who will discuss intersectional feminism, veganism, animal rights activism, and how these three movements correlate.

Third-year English major, long-time vegan, and proud activist Kathleen Kane is the founder of IFA, the organizer and the moderator of the event.

When discussing what prompted her to create the group, Kane said, “I’m all about saving animals but I don’t want to do it at the cost of oppressing another group… [like feminism, which is centered on white feminism, the vegan community is still very white]. There are many of us – vegans of color – out there. I guess I wanted to have a group that kind of addressed that.”

Her group also aims to fight for the women affected by sexual assault and harassment in the animal rights community.

“There’s unfortunately too many men in the animal rights movement who get away with abusing their partners, or just being extremely predatory in their actions and harassing women at protests or in activist circles… So I kind of wanted to start something where I can have this support group, I guess if you will, for survivors and victims… and to also organize my own campaigns under it, because like I said, there are many problematic campaigns [that continue to include problematic men].”

These focuses will echo throughout Compassionate Connections. Kane hopes to ask questions discussing intersectional feminism and animal rights to her all-women panel of speakers, which includes lauren Ornelas, Aph Ko, and Jacqueline Adamescu.

lauren Ornelas founded the Food Empowerment Project, a non-profit organization that ties environmentalism and animal rights activism together. She is known for fighting against chocolate produced by West African child slaves and for bringing corporate-level changes to chain stores such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods.

Aph Ko is an activist and the founder of Black Vegans Rock, a group organized to support the endeavors of specifically black vegans. She and her sister Syl Ko also founded Aphro-ism, a site dedicated to black vegan feminist thought.

Jacqueline Adamescu is the founder of Project Intersect, a zine dedicated to, “ethical veganism, activism, & the collective struggle against capitalist patriarchy.” Her writing can be found in two books, titled “The Vegan Studies Project: Food, Animals, and Gender in the Age of Terror” and “Letters to a New Vegan.

With the help of these activists and many others, Kane came to understand the need for more inclusion within the animal rights community.

“Before I had any revolutionary or radical thoughts, I was introduced to a lot of feminist theory through activist friends, who were already in the animal rights/vegan community… There’s a book from Carol J. Adams, named ‘The Sexual Politics of Meat.’ So that talks a lot about the parallels [between women and animals]. And obviously they’re two completely different [forms] of oppression going on, but just that both women and animals are objectified both sexually, and that their bodies are used… And if you think about it, like with phrases we use, like, ‘Oh, you’re treating me like a piece of meat.’ She writes a lot about that, and that was kind of one of the first feminist books that kind of discussed the ways that they intersect.”

The book and its argument as a whole is akin to the ideas of Ecofeminism, which as any theory, comes with critiques. One critique stems from this alignment between animals and women; to say that women lack agency, or are uncomplicated victims in their oppression to the same extent as animals is dubious and problematic. But Kane mentions Adams’s text as one of many thoughts within the interaction between intersectional feminism and animal rights.

She was also quick to point out the class privilege associated with a vegan diet.

“These are not just connections between animal rights and feminism but also between class, with how much meat is subsidized compared to fruits and vegetables and… yes, I think it can be done to eat vegan on a cheap diet, but it’s definitely harder because of the government’s subsidies – how you can buy a whole cheeseburger at McDonald’s for like, a dollar, but one broccoli head is like, a dollar… Unfortunately, the way our food system is run today works against that, because honestly, if you look at all the people who are in the government departments like the food and drug administrations, and the agricultural administration, they’re all people who work for these meat companies.”

Kane went on to describe the “catch-22” people of the lower class face. A vegan diet is too expensive, but the high prices of health bills that could eventually come from a  poor diet are also a large strain on their pockets.

“You have to really evaluate your privilege all the time. I have to think about my privilege all the time. Even though I’m a woman, even though I’m of color, I still need to think about how I’m able-bodied and have a certain financial class privilege compared to others. So that’s a big goal of my group, to constantly be thinking about and examining your privilege,” she said.

Kane hopes people will come to the event with an open mind. The event ends with a Q&A, so she asks those that are interested to come with questions.

“I really wanted to do [the Q&A], because I’m hoping people will have questions. I want to expose people who haven’t been exposed to these ideas before. I could totally have this in an activist space, but I would just be preaching to the choir. So I really hope it attracts all kinds of folks… Like I said, just the goal being, at least, some exposure to the idea of true intersectionality and to include animal rights in that.”

Compassionate Connections is a free event and open to the public. Any further information can be found on the Facebook event page.

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