In this episode, Mexie talks with anti-oppressive, anti-speciesist activist and lecturer, Christopher Sebastian, about the intersections between race, class, and species. We discuss the links between speciesism and white supremacy, the ongoing bigotry and racism in vegan activism, and the connections between the Black Lives Matter uprisings and anti-speciesist activism. We end by touching on the importance of queering animal liberation, or moving away from a patriarchal and heteronormative approach to vegan activism.
Sources and Links
- Christopher Sebastian’s website: https://www.christophersebastian.info/
- Christopher Sebastian on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/ChristopherSebastian
- Christopher Sebastian’s lecture, Race, Class and Species: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H_ebX07H4wM
- Christopher Sebastian’s lecture, Queering Animal Liberation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SkRke88QKPs
- Marjorie Spiegel, The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/1046666.The_Dreaded_Comparison
- David Nibert, Animal Oppression and Capitalism: https://books.google.ca/books/about/Animal_Oppression_and_Capitalism_2_volum.html?id=F6UxDwAAQBAJ&redir_esc=y
- Patrice Jones, Queering Animal Liberation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=36oPVbrU5uY
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[MUSIC] Oh, those rich people. Always flying off somewhere.
MEXIE: Hey everyone, welcome to the Vegan Vanguard. It’s Mexie and today we have a very special guest on the show. This is someone that I have looked up to quite a lot in the movement for quite some time; the one, the only, Christopher Sebastian. So, Christopher, welcome to the show. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today.
CHRISTOPHER: I am really thrilled to be here. Thank you so much for having me.
MEXIE: Oh my goodness, yes. I was just saying off-air that I’m just thrilled to be finally meeting you. I mean, e-meeting you I guess, because yeah, I was really excited to meet you at VegFest Calgary and it didn’t work out but yeah, this is just fantastic. For anyone who’s new or who doesn’t know who Christopher is, Christopher Sebastian is a super-rad anti-oppressive anti-speciesist activist, author, researcher, and lecturer. He is the founder of VGN, he’s the Director of Social Media for Peace Advocacy Network, he’s on the advisory council for Encompass, and he’s a senior fellow at Sentient Media. You can find all of his work at christophersebastian.info and on Patreon which you should definitely subscribe to because then you can join his live interactive lectures. We’ll put those in the description box below. I guess first off, I guess how are you? How are things in Prague with this pandemic?
CHRISTOPHER: Things are going pretty well for me personally, here. But obviously the rest of the world is falling apart, so it’s — you take all of that in stride. It’s one of the most difficult things for me. I’m in a very privileged position because I work from home so I don’t really have to go outside at all except for to walk the dog and maybe exercise a little. I know everybody else can’t really do that. But just looking at how the pandemic has reshaped people’s relationships with one another because people are seemingly falling along these divided lines of either you want to wear a mask or you don’t want to wear a mask or you are willing to take a vaccine or you are not willing to take a vaccine. Just all of these really complex questions converging in online spaces which can be really toxic for communication because it’s not the most ideal way to handle these discussions. It’s been tough.
MEXIE: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. I feel like social media really does us a big disservice because it kind of silos us into these communities where there’s so many people who are only getting one kind of narrative fed to them. They’re only getting certain sources, certain kinds of information fed to them and then it just creates these kind of in-group — weird in-group, out-group dynamics around things that affect us all and that are super-important. Yeah, it’s been kind of wild to watch this all unfold. We still have a while to go, so yeah.
CHRISTOPHER: That’s the best part. Yeah, we still have so far to go. Now, as of this week, we have a couple of different very promising vaccines, one of which was just released in the UK. The first few people or the first few thousand people have taken it. That’s only the beginning of the end. We still have at least another six-to-nine months of waiting before we see how this all pans out. I don’t imagine that it’s going to get much better before it gets at least a little bit worse. I’m just kind of holding all of my joy inside and trying to make it through the end of 2020.
MEXIE: Not to be too doomerish but even if we — even after these six-to-nine months and we get — we’re just talking about COVID here, right? We’re not talking about all of the future pandemics and crises that are likely to happen in this speciesist, capitalist — you know, dystopian society, yeah. [MUSIC] Hello, lovely people. I am jumping in before the rest of the interview to thank the new patrons who are supporting the continuation of this show this month, so thank you so much to Alex Madsen, Kim, and Sean Michael, and as well to Liza and Dustin Ward who both generously increased their pledges and also to Sarah who gave us a nice donation via PayPal. This is a donor-funded show.
We rely on your support to keep the show going and to pay for things like transcripts, et cetera, which we’re trying to do for all of our episodes. If you’d like to support the show, you could become a monthly patron donor at patreon.com/veganvanguard or give us a one-time donation via PayPal on our website at veganvanguardpodcast.com. Please also rate and review us on iTunes or any other app that you listen to us on. That really does help to increase our reach and it’s another great way to support the show. Okay, well, let’s just dive into the main topic. So, yeah, I’m thrilled that you came on today. I just have so much that I wanted to get your take on and just wanted to hear you speak on and I think that our audience will really benefit from it. The first few questions are kind of an overview.
I think we do talk about this stuff on our show but I think it would be just wonderful to hear you speak on this. The first question is there’s a lot of vegans who are not leftists and there’s a lot of leftists who are not vegan who still kind of balk at this idea that speciesism is in any way directed to white supremacy or is an outgrowth of it. Could you explain the links that you see between the two and how this idea of human as a political identity has been and continues to be shaped by whiteness?
CHRISTOPHER: Absolutely. That is one of my favorite things to talk about. By favorite I mean least favorite because of course, just as you pointed out, it’s so uncomfortable for everyone on all sides. So ultimately what happens is everyone hates you. All of the leftists who are not vegan and all of the vegans who are not leftists; everyone wants to distance themselves from this relationship that human — people say human supremacy — I talk about human exceptionalism has with white supremacy. This is such an overt and obvious thing that the fact that we want to avoid talking about it should actually tell us a lot more about why we should be talking about it, because ultimately what human exceptionalism is and what speciesism is, it’s a form of discrimination against other animals.
It checks all of the boxes. The psychology of racism, the psychology of sexism and misogyny. It’s not exactly overlaid but when you are looking at all of the distinctions of a form of discrimination and/or bigotry against another marginalized group, yeah, it kinda fits there. The way that it interacts with white supremacy is very overt as well. I know that other scholars talk about this and I’m not the only one, obviously, but when I actually started looking at it, one of the most certain points in our history of western civilization that I think really illustrates this or really fomented these ideologies as something that has a definitive relationship with one another was the enlightenment era. Philosophy; when you have all of these amazing, wonderful thinkers who are talking about what it actually means to be human and what human rights should actually look like in a quote, “civilized society”.
When you are laying down the groundwork for what it means to be human, that is what it means to actually create human as a political identity because scientifically what we actually know is that human is just one of many species of animal on this planet, but we don’t actually think of ourselves as animals. I’ve talked to countless people who actually balk at the idea, who actually say to me well, I’ve never heard of that; of course humans are not animals. I’m like wow, you definitely did not pass seventh-grade biology. It’s like, you know, but this is just — this just illustrates to me how deeply entrenched these ideologies are. Because of course humans are animals but when we create human as a political identity, what we simultaneously do is create animal as a political identity and not just a species classification.
When we set up this binary, everyone who does not fall into the neat little perfect box of what’s considered human, they exist on the spectrum as an animal. You see the animalization of black people. You see the animalization of any marginalized group or any group that we desire to marginalize and that’s occurred several times throughout history. Yeah, you know, that’s one of the driving things that I want people to take away from these conversations or what I want people to understand. Human was actually never something that was meant to include — in particular — us as black people. Human was just a distinction that was meant to be — that was meant to include primarily people who were white, male, straight, land-owning, heterosexual, and had all of their abilities.
That’s really what we are — that’s really what we’re talking about and if you don’t meet these qualifications, if you don’t meet these criteria, then you are somehow considered to be less-than. That’s when the animalization starts to creep in. Yeah, this sort of aspirational humanity is something that I see people working toward over and over again in black liberation movements. We’re always talking about I am a human being. You know what? I deserve these rights as a human without ever critically interrogating what it means to be human or why human was considered someone — a person who is deserving of rights and not all of these other citizens that we share the planet with. That is one of our fundamental problems. Until we actually include other persons in our frame of reference of who is a marginalized community, I think that is going to continue to keep us back. Instead of actually embracing solidarity with other marginalized species, we instead continue to perpetuate the perceived exceptionalism of human and why that’s so good.
MEXIE: Yeah, absolutely. I think under capitalism it becomes even more pernicious because not only is animal considered less-than, it’s also considered property in so many ways, right? Then obviously if you’re trying to animalize people that you want to view as less-than or you want to other-than, it takes on a whole other kind of pernicious angle when you kind of bring in the commodity and property relationship.
CHRISTOPHER: Property is actually such a big deal. When we actually talk about this, I actually bring up the philosopher John Locke very frequently and presentations that I do because he’s a primary example of what I’m talking about when I talk about human rights and what it means to be human. Locke talks about what our natural rights are and our natural rights as conferred to us by natural law which is conferred to us by God himself. So, therefore, what are our rights? Our right to life liberty and the pursuit of happiness? I’m paraphrasing here but of course that’s something that’s enshrined into the American Declaration of Independence. But yeah, no one should be harmed in their pursuit of property as well. So, when you talk about capitalism — and again, I have to reference other people that have written about this long before I came along.
David Nibert talks about this in his book Animal Oppression and Capitalism. It’s literally called Animal Oppression and Capitalism. Definitely look it up. But like, the acquisition of property and who is considered property, that is — that goes hand-in-hand with animal oppression. The rise of mercantile capitalism and around the same time that all of these great thinkers were actually cementing their place in our history of western civilization isn’t accidental. When we’re talking about the acquisition of land, part of the purpose of that, part of that project was the acquisition of land for the rearing of cattle. You have all of these touchstones in history that connect these dots for us, so when we actually look back at it, it’s like you know what?
Actually releasing animals, other animals from that property status is fundamental to dismantling the project of capitalism. A lot of us unfortunately on the left, and I do consider myself a leftist, really don’t want to sit in the discomfort of that reality because that means actually releasing the stranglehold that we have on everyone else in the animal kingdom. A lot of us unfortunately — I hate saying it but you know what? Drag me in the DMs, drag me on Twitter because that’s where people go to do the draggings; it’s fine but you can’t escape the fundamental reality that yeah, you know what, a lot of us aren’t actually looking for total liberation. A lot of us are actually looking for a better place on the hierarchy. With that reality, I can’t get with that. I want liberation for everyone irrespective of our species membership.
MEXIE: Mm-hm. Yeah, that was so well-said. So, my next question is it can be kind of difficult to talk about the connections between racism and speciesism because that can kind of come across as though you’re comparing the plight of marginalized people to that of animals. I’m wondering how do you go about approaching conversations about the connections that you see between black liberation and animal liberation?
CHRISTOPHER: A couple of things, really. Number one, I actually try to talk to people instead of in terms of comparisons and terms instead of origins. Where did this particular attitude originate? Why do we feel the way that we do? Why does talk of animal liberation in conjunction with black liberation inspire feelings of anxiety, anger, antagonism? Why do you feel the way that you do? Let’s talk about where this comes from, where this came from. That usually reframes the conversation for people. This is the other thing; when I’m having conversations, a lot of people don’t feel invited into the conversation. 99% of the time when I talk to people, they don’t really respond with that same level of vitriol or with that anger.
Advantageously for me, usually when I’m talking about it, it’s in a classroom setting where people have already given their consent to be there. They already know the topics that we’re going to be talking about. They already understand the need for sensitivity and we’re going to be talking about things that are going to be difficult topics. But even outside of the classroom, invite people into the conversation. I’m really not a fan of the folks who jump people on the street who weren’t already prepared for this dialogue; they were just going to the grocery store, minding their business, waiting for the bus. It’s like, a guy with a microphone and a camera just jumped in your face and said hey, I want to talk to you about speciesism and you’ve never even heard that term before.
Yeah, for me, it’s uncomfortable but when you frame the conversation around origins instead of comparisons, that puts people into a different mindset that is more receptive to having that dialogue. Then you talk about the academic foundations of this. The Dreaded Comparison; I actually have that book on my website as one of the recommended books that I tell people is one of the resources that I use frequently. It’s a very clear-cut example of these conversations and of these origins. You can’t have or you would not have been able to have the transatlantic slave trade without animal agriculture. You would not have been able to use these tools on black people without using them first on animals.
You would not have chattel slavery, at least not in the same way, and maybe people can argue that oh, yes we would have, or whatever. But perhaps, but guess what? That’s not what happened. You’re presenting a counter-factual. Factually speaking, historically speaking, this is exactly what happened. The animalization of black people and the creation of the political animal itself is all tied to these philosophies and these ideologies of white supremacy. When we actually have conversations about these origins, then people are like okay, you know what? I can see where this comes from and why this is relevant and why this is important and why and how my liberation is tied up to that of other persons that I share this planet with and why it’s important to investigate how we can gain their freedom as well.
Also, it’s really encouraging that we’re — this isn’t brand-new. Black people have actually been working toward animal liberation all throughout American history and in the history of western civilization. It’s not an either/or even though lots of people like to present it that way. It’s a both/and. Of course, this is now a very familiar example but I remember five or six years ago, nobody was talking about this. I’m like holy smokes, the MOVE Organization, a black liberation group in Philadelphia, my hometown, was actually deeply, deeply invested in animal liberation. That scared the state. The state apparatus actually — they — the one thing that the state apparatus cannot stand or will not tolerate is solidarity between marginalized groups. Keeping everyone isolated is how oppression thrives.
Recognizing our need for solidarity is when we become most successful, and that scared the state so bad that they actually burned those people alive because they were not able to tolerate that affront to their power structure. That’s the unfortunate history of black liberation and animal liberation, or that’s part of our history in the United States. We minimize that. We trivialize that. I hear black liberation activists all the time talking about the MOVE Organization and how radical they were and still are and completely erase their very pro-animal position and pro-animal origins. We contribute to this rewriting of history. We contribute to our own enslavement and our own marginalization when we don’t look at these things through an holistic lens that actually captures all of the importance of all of the things that we need it to cover. I point that out to people and most of the time or almost universally, people appreciate it. It’s about approaching people the right way and helping them to make these connections in a way that resonates for them.
MEXIE: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I was revisiting one of your lectures online on I think Race, Class, and I can’t remember exactly the title but…
CHRISTOPHER: Race, Class, and Species. I stole that, by the way, from Angela Davis because of her early book Women, Race, Class. Yeah.
MEXIE: Oh, so cool. Yeah, well, it was so great, so I’ll link that below as well for everyone to check out. But yeah, in it you made the point that it’s not me making the comparison between marginalized people and animals, right? It’s the colonial white supremacist system who is making that comparison and I’m just pointing it out. I’m pointing it out to you to show you that there’s so much to be gained in solidarity here, right?
CHRISTOPHER: That’s true, and of course, you know what? Outside of the one-on-one experiences or the classroom experiences, when you put this out there on the internet, the internet is where all of the heat comes. That’s where people get real big mad. Again, it’s people from both sides because just even a couple of weeks ago I had done a presentation called White Meat which I started doing this actually in Berkeley early this year at the United Poultry Concerns Compassionate Eating Conference. Boy, you know what, if you want to talk about things that actually make vegan non-leftists get in their feelings, it is — it’s recognizing these connections ‘cause they really did not like the fact that this is actually hurting our vegan activism, the fact that we don’t recognize the way that animal exploitation is not only celebrated but often very much — it’s actually part of white national identity and if you are a conservative vegan, then this isn’t something that’s very fun for you.
But I’m just pointing it out. I’m just pointing it out. When I had done this presentation a couple of weeks ago, yeah, there was one woman — after it was over with, she said I don’t like that you made this political. I did not enjoy this at all. I’m a vegan Republican and I don’t like this message. Did you actually pay attention to not just the whole presentation but the very third slide that was actually an image — a screenshot of an article saying that milk is the creamy, new symbol of white supremacy in Donald Trump’s America. You’ve got this photograph of a bunch of shirtless white men guzzling gallon jugs of milk to articulate their white national sentiments and their genetic prestige, genetic superiority. I’m not the person who has politicized this. I’m not the person who has racialized this.
They racialized it and I’m merely drawing your attention to it. Part of dismantling the project of speciesism is to recognize that it has been racialized as well. You’re sitting here before God and all and telling me that you don’t like the fact that I have racialized this or I’ve politicized this. I’m like, I didn’t do that. You have to talk to your people. I didn’t do that. You wasted an hour of your life sitting here listening to me and you didn’t even hear anything that I said because you were — that’s what we’re facing right now. I’m like yeah, I’m the messenger and y’all have shotguns. I’m like, wow. Okay.
MEXIE: It’s so true. I love that oh, don’t make this political, right? Especially from Republican vegans. It’s like first of all, you’re gonna go out and talk about cognitive dissonance to other people and not realize the cognitive dissonance in the politics that you espouse and what you’re fighting for?
CHRISTOPHER: It’s so real. The way that — oh, my computer’s being loud. I apologize for that. But I just, I don’t know. It doesn’t frustrate me. I actually find it really, really interesting when this happens, especially when you actually talk very explicitly about conservatism and progressivism or leftism, however you want to talk about these things or however you want to frame them. One of the things that I find fascinating is that this has become — or it always has been but it’s been accelerated in I would say the past decade — this has become one of the fronts in the culture war. What I find fascinating about culture wars is that they’re almost always started by the right. People tend to think of the culture wars as something that the left initiates but listen; trans people have been going to the bathroom all this time.
They’ve always been going to the bathroom. It only became a problem when people wanted to legislate that in the United States. That’s when it became — so, this culture war was initiated by people who wanted to stop something that has absolutely been going on since people have been going to public toilets. The same thing with veganism, with animal rights, and with animal liberation. This is a front in the culture war that — from that one example and many, many more that has been initiated by people on the right. So, the perception that people on the left have actually been creating these culture wars is not true.
We get dragged into and fight culture wars because they have been started, and we don’t even recognize the power that we have in actually uniting and resisting these fights that have been started by someone else because if we actually stopped and said hey, what we’re actually doing is making ourselves even further complicit in white supremacist institutions by fighting for the right to exploit someone else’s bodily autonomy. We should actually stop doing that but we don’t want to. We instead become conservatives ourselves. My god, the number of times that I’ve read comments from people online that — they sound like absolute dyed in the wool Republicans and they start coming up with all of their rationalizations and excuses for animal exploitation and wanting to continue it. Not trying to dismantle it or recognizing that these are the challenges that are in place but just being so angry at the idea that we should actually grant someone else bodily autonomy and not have species membership being a barrier. It infuriates people and that’s their bigotry. That’s their bigotry and prejudice coming out.
MEXIE: Yeah, absolutely. I think another great example of the culture war with respect to animal ag and animal oppression coming from the right is all this talk about soy boys and all the rest. It’s very patriarchal, right? Of course the Trump administration — I mean, there’s people — I’m here in Canada so there’s a ton of people in Alberta who are kind of just making the case that eating meat is manly and the left wants to take your meat and you’re gonna all turn into soy boys and whatever. It’s just, so much of that kind of crap is thrown at us from the right and then we’re like hey, what the hell’s going on here, right? You’re trying to point it out and then there’s so much push-back. But yeah, I think that was really well-said. Yeah, so, and then I wanted to ask how do you see — what are some of the ways in which racism and bigotry still pervade vegan activism even in spaces that consider themselves leftist?
CHRISTOPHER: Oh, boy. How much time do we have here? It’s incredibly difficult to talk about because there are so many examples that — just looking for one or two that would be indicative of the condition of vegan activism right now is difficult. I will refer to presentations over and over again during this conversation but this is — there was one that I had done actually very recently because my background is in journalism and media theory. Having conversations about misinformation is actually near and dear to my heart, so trying to integrate media theory and the fight against disinformation and disinformation campaigns into my animal rights activism is something that I try to do as often as possible because that’s something that is relatable to a lot of people especially right now, living in this post-truth universe that we are in.
Yeah, when I actually look at the landscape right now, there are so many disinformation campaigns that are being waged within vegan activism and we buy into it. We believe a lot of things that are absolutely not true, things that are part of conventional wisdom that we just — that just sound right or sound correct over and over again because they’ve been repeated enough times. That does us a material harm. It does us a material harm because we don’t — we’re not actually looking for the truth. We’re actually just looking for things to support our arguments. One of the ways that this has manifested — I’ll just give you the example of homelessness. Excuse me. There were vegan activists a couple of years ago — I’m sure that it still goes on — but actually just last year.
Time has all moved and melded together for me in the universe now. In the coronavirus universe, there’s no yesterday or last year. It’s all the same amount of time. But there were vegan activists that have actually taken a dog away from a homeless person. There were actually a couple of examples of this. One of them was a couple of years ago but this one was within the past nine months. One I think was in the United States. Another one was actually in France. This one was actually in, I believe England, the one that I’m thinking of right now. But taking dogs away from homeless people is — that’s incredibly heartbreaking to me as a person who had previously experienced homelessness myself.
I didn’t have another family member of a different species at the time that I was experiencing homelessness but if I did, having someone take my family member away from me and breaking up my family would be incredibly devastating if not outright traumatizing to me. That’s an example of white saviorism. No one actually wanted to interrogate how can I make this family situation better. They immediately saw an animal and in this particular situation, it was an animal that was the family member of a Roma person who also go by travelers. Yeah, they just took it upon themselves to take this dog away from them and then actually post pictures online saying you know what? Oh, I gotta take this dog someplace; they were out in the heat and this person was not taking very good care of them.
Thankfully there were a couple of people in the comments who were saying well, did you actually check on the person? Did you actually — why did you just take this dog away from someone without knowing anything about their situation, the relationship that they had with one another and feel justified in that action? But overwhelmingly, the comments were positive and they were like oh, you did a really great thing. I’m like wow, this is bananas that this is something that actually took place and that people are applauding as an overall good thing. The truth about homelessness is actually — it’s incredibly complex. It’s difficult to talk about.
There’s actually a story in Montreal last winter of a person who froze to death with their dog because they would not be admitted to a homeless shelter with an animal and rather than leave their family member outside in the cold, that person chose to stay out there with them and died. And died. We don’t actually take the — this is what people mean when they say white supremacy, when we say white savior complex in veganism, because we don’t actually stop to look at holistically what is going on, what is the situation here. A minimum of 10% of people who experience homelessness have companion animals and in some major urban centers, that number swells to 25%. That’s a quarter of the homeless population in a given major metropolitan city — actually has a companion animal.
When we construct our activism around these strict binaries of animal rights versus homeless rights or whatever, we’re not actually looking at the bigger picture of making a better society for everyone involved and we’re doing damage to the animals that we want to protect, along with doing damage to humans. Fortunately there — some shelters have actually taken strides to be more inclusive because they recognize the need for not separating families regardless of what your family may look like. This has larger consequences for everyone who has non-traditional family members. The nuclear family structure is itself a white supremacist construct. Multi-generational families happen in so many cultures. Families of different types happen in so many cultures.
My family includes my dog who has been with me for two years and I couldn’t imagine my life without him. Yeah, trying to come up with — I hate saying it — white solutions to problems of white supremacy; it’s always going to do us a harm. It’s going to do us a material harm and that harm usually plays out in a way that not just hurts animals but black and brown people, too. Look at the adoption rates for animals in shelters going to black and brown families. Could we not actually minimize homelessness among companion animals if we make it easier for people of different backgrounds to adopt? We probably could. Yeah, that’s just one of many examples that I’ve talked way too much on. I apologize.
MEXIE: Oh no, I could listen to you talk about this all day, right? That example is so interesting because yeah, it’s like, with these white saviors that are humanizing the animal while animalizing the human, right, and then not having any gripes or not seeing any contradictions there or…
CHRISTOPHER: Nothing. Any contradictions — wild. It’s wild.
MEXIE: It’s wild, yeah. Yeah, and as you said, there’s so many examples that I see every day, so it very much pervades our activism. I mean, not our, but I guess the mainstream approach and even in some leftist spaces, I think people aren’t making these broad connections as much as they could be. But you pointed out on Instagram that the three or three of the largest vegan organizations in the US don’t have any black board members. Could you speak a bit to why a race-neutral approach to vegan activism, particularly online, is so damaging and ineffective?
CHRISTOPHER: I sure will. I know exactly which post you’re talking about. That was actually in response to some of — that post that you’re describing was actually in response to some people who were trying to take a race-neutral approach which is absolutely a mistake, especially if you believe in the theory of effective altruism which, just as a baseline — and I’m going to completely bastardize this by paraphrasing it — effective altruism is what is the most cost-effective way to help as many marginalized persons as possible and applying these principles to animal activism? How do we help the most animals that we can in the most cost-effective way with the resources that we’ve got? How do we do this organizationally and individually?
Of course, there are some wonderful solutions that come out of this but also, you know, trying to take a race-neutral approach is an absolute abject failure. When we recognize that in the United States, and I use the United States as an example because of course, that’s where I’m from and so naturally that is where most of my experiences are. Although I have — I’ve got plenty of experiences in other places as well and I’m living in Eastern Europe right now as we speak. But I shouldn’t say Eastern Europe; I should say Central Europeans because the people in the Czech Republic take umbrage to being called Eastern European. They’re gonna knock on my door very shortly. But the black and brown people in the United States are actually going vegan at twice the rate of our white counterparts.
If that’s the case, why in the world does our activism not reflect this? Why are we not actually making it easier for those populations? This is going vegan despite all of the challenges that actually stand in our way, all of the structural and systemic challenges that have been put up that would otherwise prevent us from doing so. Nonetheless, you know what? The data actually support this, that black and brown people are actually going vegan at faster rates than our white counterparts and yet no one has reimagined to a large degree their online strategies, their in-person strategies for connecting with these people based on what we know the data to be. I find that to be a huge limitation.
Because people are trying to take a race-neutral approach; oh, we don’t want to talk about race or we don’t want to integrate — if you don’t want to talk about it, that’s fine, but not recognizing that it’s there and implementing strategies to actually examine it or to actually be more inclusive is a failure. That is an institutional failure on our part, and especially since everything that we know in particular about online marketing — this is where the media theory comes in — with social media, black people are absolutely taking over in certain spaces. Black Twitter is an absolute thing. We absolutely know that engagement on Black Twitter outpaces our white counterparts. We know that black people on Twitter actually post far more frequently. We’re not actually taking advantage of that as much as we should be.
We’re not taking advantage of the opportunities that are afforded to us by social media. We’re not taking advantage of all of the marketing that exists that indicates that black people are not just market trendsetters but we’re actually brand loyal as well. When vegan brands actually come out with new products, actually gearing their marketing campaigns towards black and brown people would be a smart strategy and yet we don’t do that. In terms of us being market trendsetters, how many trends have we seen online that have been started by the black community? The fact that Black Twitter is itself a thing — we don’t talk about White Twitter, do we? There’s not a conversation about White Twitter. That’s real. When you look at the research done by people like Dr. Safiya Noble who wrote Algorithms of Oppression; she’s a remarkable professor and that’s a fantastic book.
Black people are some of the most adaptable people online, learning new technology at rates that outpaces a lot of other demographic groups. The failure to capture that is a failure of animal rights and of animal liberation organizations or vegan organizations. That is a crying shame. It’s all steeped in — there’s nothing new under the sun. It’s all steeped in these ideas of appealing to the most moderate quote “voices” or the white moderate which we’ve known since the 1960s. God love Martin Luther King is one of the greatest stumbling blocks to black liberation. It is also a stumbling block to animal liberation as well because we’re appealing to people who essentially are not our strongest demographic or who are not the — you don’t — you’re not going to be a change-maker if you’re a moderate person.
You’re just middle of the road. Those are the people who have the least broad appeal and we keep trying to flatten out our strategies and turn them into one-dimensional things that appeal to what we perceive to be the most important person in the room because they’re white and middle-class. That’s just not the way to go. We need more radical solutions and we need to actually give more leeway to the more radical parts of — but this again just speaks to my broader politics, doesn’t it? Of course I’m gonna say that as this rampaging leftist who thinks that people shouldn’t die of not having healthcare and have a livable wage. That’s wacky pants. Who would think such things? Me going around saying things again.
MEXIE: Yeah, for sure. I think — I don’t know. I don’t know that much about effective altruism but to me it seems like an approach that is really focused around making the most money and then contributing that money towards the problem, right? It’s also this capitalist solution that I think a lot of the major vegan organizations are very interested in promoting this kind of, yeah, consumerist capitalist approach to solving — or to promoting animal liberation. I’m sure that kind of plays in because white supremacist capitalism, it doesn’t want to — if that’s your approach and if these big organizations are run by these white businessmen, basically, then black liberation and actual anti-speciesist action kind of — it destabilizes your power and privilege as this big, white businessman, right? I think a lot of those organizations — that would just be kind of antithetical to them maintaining their power, right?
CHRISTOPHER: Absolutely, and this goes back to what I was saying earlier; you know what? A lot of us are not invested in actual liberation. We’re invested in jockeying for a better position on the hierarchy and that is what I think that a lot of these organizations are doing. This isn’t easy work. We want really easy solutions to things that are incredibly complex and people get on me all the time. It’s like oh, you’re complicating it, you’re making it so much harder. It’s like, you know what? This isn’t easy. This isn’t fun. The amount of reading that I had to sit down and do and learn about capitalism and socialism and all of — and communism and all of these other -isms that the people poorly understand, that’s not a fun place to find yourself in, but learning and understanding theory is fundamental to executing these things in activist spaces.
Theory and actual practice go hand-in-hand but people really don’t care about that. We’re very attached to finding those fast solutions. Again, as you rightfully pointed out, that’s a very white thing to do. It’s unfortunate and I don’t want to come down on anybody but this is the part where I say I don’t want to come down on anybody and then come down on people. But I really don’t. I look at all of these food startups and how people are saying we have to come up with all of these burgers and hot dogs and chicken nuggets and all of these wonderful things because we don’t have time for people to learn about theory and do this the hard way. We have to do it the easy way. We have to appeal to people’s taste buds because we can’t appeal to their sense of compassion. I recognize the value of that.
I don’t think that this is an either/or situation. Like I said, there’s no — there’s not a magic bullet. I’m not saying that I have cornered the market on this and if everybody did things my way, then we would win tomorrow. But yeah, that’s all well and good and I appreciate — like, listen; I’m gonna eat all the burgers and hot dogs and ice cream that you can throw at me. I’m definitely going to do that. I’m here for all these wonderful products, but actually painting that as the primary way that we should be — that we should approach this is, again, that’s a mistake. It’s also ahistorical. We have to actually concede that the reality is that the radical people actually have been making a difference time and time again.
I understand that people will make the argument that oh, we implemented these incremental solutions at different points of history to make the situation of marginalized groups better whether we’re talking about women or white women or black women or any other marginalized group including animals. So, we look at those as successes and I’m fine with that, but the fact that you were able to implement those incremental solutions actually comes in large part due to the work of very radical people, because if you don’t have someone who is shouting from the rafters that this is an absolute atrocity, if you don’t have those people in place who are saying that no, actually, working a sixteen-hour day until your bones actually start to fall apart is actually wrong.
It’s distasteful, it is criminal, it is immoral; if you don’t have these radical people who are actually pushing for widespread, broad systemic changes, those incremental changes were never going to take place anyway. You get what you ask for, you know? If you don’t ask for it, then you’re not going to get anything at all. If I’m an incremental person who’s saying you know what? Larger cages is what we’re actually all about. That’s what we want. Just imagine if everybody in the movement was saying larger cages, and you know what? Then they make larger cages and then we’re going to come back in six more months and say just a little bit bigger. Just a little bit bigger. Then maybe a walk outside of your prison cell once a day. That’s what we’re all about. That’s absurd. That is completely absurd.
You know what happens? You’ve got people who are absolutely saying no, abolish this. This is bullshit. This is absurd. I’ll tell you what happens, is the people who are trying to seed the middle ground will say well, we don’t want to get rid of it altogether. How about we take an appeasement gesture? Again, this is all historical. When you look at this history of social theory, when you look at Marx and the Frankfurt School, when you look at all of these different people who have actually taken approaches to social theory, this absolutely pans out. The ruling class has to make some sort of negotiation with the working class in order for change to take place. The working class is coming to the ruling class with pitchforks and torches and guillotines. It’s like, okay, an eight-hour workday. That’s what happens.
It’s not like — I’m sorry to say — it’s not Joe Biden coming along and saying you know what? I don’t think that Medicare for all is the way. I think that we should lower the age from like, from 65 to 62. How about that? Then everybody said oh, that’s freaking brilliant. That’s not what happens. Yeah, this can be applied to the animal rights movement as well. The radical people actually have, with our sweeping changes, we have the grand ideas and we may get those ideas implemented or we may get incremental change. But I’ll tell you what; we’re not gonna get jack doo-doo if we’re just sitting around and saying hey everybody, everybody, calm down. You’re too scary. You’re too scary. Let’s all just get on the same page and let’s all just say three more centimeters. How about that? That’s our chant. That’s our chant.
Like, that’s not — so, yeah, no, and that all — that again ties into capitalism because again, to bring this back to the point that I was making about people who are making all of these wonderful products and everything, sure, I want the products and I’m happy to have them but let’s not ignore the reality that most of us can actually live on a completely plant-based diet right now and we don’t need another goddamn burger in order to do it. We’ve got burgers coming out of our asses, here. How many burgers do we need before we actually stop and say okay, we’re just actually creating new products on the market and it’s lining people’s pockets. The projections as they exist right now all indicate that animal consumption is actually going to peak over the next ten years before it even thinks about falling. I don’t know what you all think you’re doing other than making rich people even richer. That’s the situation that we’re looking at and I know that it’s unpopular to say. I like the fucking burgers, too. I want the burgers but really, on the ground, this is me saying I’m gonna eat this but at the same time y’all are just like — y’all are wilding out. That’s my theories on this.
MEXIE: That’s so funny. I mean yeah, I love a good burger but yeah, they’re definitely coming out of our asses and it’s not making a ton of change. But I love that you said all of that because yeah, it’s so true. The New Deal itself was only implemented because there were so many freaking communists who were just demanding the most. You don’t get what you demand either, right? You demand the most and then you get the incremental negotiated — I guess people throwing scraps at you to be like hey, if I give you this, are you gonna put the pitchforks away, basically? We need the radicals out there talking about abolishing everything and then even with all of that pressure, all we’re gonna get is the bigger cage, you know?
CHRISTOPHER: Exactly, yeah.
MEXIE: That’s gonna be the compromise. Yeah, and I mean, I don’t know if you saw it recently; Obama came out and was like, saying something like defunding the police is gonna lose people, right?
CHRISTOPHER: Oh, yeah.
MEXIE: We have to say abolish and then what we’ll get is maybe a tiny bit of defunding, you know?
CHRISTOPHER: Right, right. I’m with you, Obama. Let’s actually switch the slogan to Abolish the Police. Let’s do that. Defunding is actually too soft for me because I’m like no, I want this gone. I want the prison system to be completely abolished. I want the carceral state gone.
MEXIE: Mm-hm. Yeah, absolutely. Yeah, so, I mean, what I really wanted to talk to you about was all of the BLM uprisings this summer and I guess the reverberations throughout the vegan community. After all of the uprisings which, I mean, are still going on in a number of places in a number of ways, but a number of vegan organizations put out statements of support. I’m wondering if you saw many of these as being largely performative and if you could speak to the dangers of performative allyship to both animals and other marginalized communities.
CHRISTOPHER: Oh boy, that is a wonderful question and yeah, I’m really glad that you asked that, too. You know that as soon as it was Black Square Tuesday, up and down the internet I was like oh, I am making an absolute list because this is performative. It’s like, so we’re all gonna put up black squares on our social media profiles and some groups didn’t even bother with that. Some groups didn’t even bother with the black square and I loved it. I’m like wow, y’all are really showing yourselves. But for the ones who did, and as a show of solidarity with Black Lives Matter, I definitely made a list. To their credit, some of them implemented, again, incrementalist policies that were more inclusive or that granted money to black and brown activists who were doing on-the-ground work in different communities.
I’m not going to name names because that would be petty, far pettier than I normally am but yeah, some organizations did implement some very, very incremental changes and while I appreciate those shifts, we do recognize that the real change actually comes when black and brown people are in the room where it happens, if you will. I didn’t see anybody actually making that change because now that would have been far too radical. Actually making black and brown people primary decision makers and stakeholders is something that a lot of people are not prepared to do. People actually giving up their individual position of power within an organization to make space for a more radical person is not something that most people are willing to do.
Creating positions for black and brown people or more radical people irrespective of their race, that’s not something that a lot of people want to do and to my knowledge and my own very limited investigations, without making too many waves, I hadn’t seen that. I hadn’t seen that. So, very limited concessions from a handful of organizations which I deeply, deeply appreciate and wholly approve of; that’s great. But the majority of organizations did not do anything except for change a black square on their social media and participate in Blackout Tuesday. I think that that’s really telling because it’s exactly what I expected to happen and lo and behold, that is exactly what took place. Yeah, that is — that’s what we are — that’s what we’re looking at and yeah, how does it — how does performative allyship harm people of color and other animals?
The proof is in the pudding, once again, the delicious soy-based vegan pudding. This is, you know, we’re still looking at precisely the same conditions that we have been looking at for the past ten years, for the past twenty years. I will name one name because it’s always the most obvious name anyway, correct, but PETA is an organization — I’m never gonna win any awards from PETA, so whatever. It’s great. You know what? Just out of respect, I try not to step on people’s toes but they make it really difficult. I noticed that they had a black activist actually pen one of the blogs on their website over the summer I think in mid-June or July talking about the importance of solidarity with black and brown people and for animal rights organizations to actually step up their efforts.
I don’t know how anybody can trust that though, because what we’ve actually looked at is in the past — let’s just look at a very short history of PETA over the past six or seven years. We’ve seen PETA actually putting on KKK outfits which is terrorizing to black and brown people, and it’s a joke. Like, oh, it’s so funny. It is meant tongue-in-cheek; it’s satirical. That’s like well, I don’t know how you can accurately make satire out of walking around in white hoods looking like people who literally right now are actually terrorizing black and brown people. Not funny. We’ve got them having — tried a campaign of extortion against poor people in the city of Detroit by promising to pay their water bills if and only if they would actually go vegan for some predetermined amount of time.
You have PETA actually passing out non-dairy ice cream to actual police in a city that during that same period was — had actually — was experiencing racial unrest because the police had committed another extrajudicial killing of a black person. You have PETA actually rewarding Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Arizona, Maricopa County, for feeding his prisoners plant-based food and doing so as a form of punishment, as a form of retribution, along with making them wear pink undergarments and things like that — and PETA actually fawning all over this and making their spokespeople people who have been aggressively anti-black in their presentation and in their actions.
Even just as recently as this past year, when — during the Superbowl — after having said nothing about Colin Kaepernick and his protest of kneeling actually having an advertisement that they wanted to share during the Superbowl of animals around the world actually quote “taking a knee” not in solidarity with black people but for the purposes of animal rights. What is the material harm that’s done to animals? You’re alienating people over and over and over and over again, repeatedly. You’re alienating black and brown people and once again, despite their best efforts at anti-blackness, black and brown people are still more likely to be vegan than our white counterparts and that’s what the data actually says.
How much further along toward animal liberation would we be if we actually centered those very people that we seek to alienate over and over again in our activism and made them the primary stakeholders and recognizing that the power that black people have as an electorate, as consumers, as social media users, over and over again in all of these spaces, how much further along would we be if we actually gave them the resources that they need in order to be successful? But we can’t do that because what we want is exactly the same system; we just want to remove somehow animals from it and we can’t be successful like that. We can’t do that. That’s not going to work. That’s never going to work. That’s never going to work. You can’t maintain a system of white supremacy and make that consistent with animal liberation. It can’t happen.
MEXIE: Mm-hm. No, absolutely not. Yeah, and PETA is just so unconscionable in so many ways. I mean, it’s like they just want to shock people with how unconscionable they are and then draw attention to themselves that way and get more attention for animal liberation. It’s incredibly harmful. But yeah, we talked with Meneka and Ehsan on another episode about something along the lines — but you know, the fact that there are so many vegan organizations that do present themselves as being pro-intersectional or anti-oppressive but do not have any black and brown people on the board actually making the decisions. Then so, inevitably they’re gonna make a whole bunch of really bad mistakes and things like that and then have nobody to really hold them to account, right?
I think that’s a really big issue. But also, during the uprisings, right, so there was that kind of iconic image going around of a BLM activist carrying a pig’s head and in general a lot of memes, et cetera, calling cops pigs. This is definitely not something that is unique to the BLM protests. This happens a lot in anti-fascist circles and other leftist circles that I’m in in Toronto as well. But there were a lot of vegans who then chose to take that moment to call out black activists for using the word pig to denigrate cops. I would just love to hear you speak on that and in general kind of around this idea of how you navigate speciesism in a racist world.
CHRISTOPHER: Oh boy, man, you are coming with — you’re coming correct with the questions today. That’s a really difficult one to talk about. You know what? I do have a lot of sometimes conflicting thoughts about that. When I first saw that, I was reminded of the use of animals as cultural symbols that has existed for pretty much a millennia. We’ve always seen animals used in one way or another as cultural symbols living and/or dead. The use of lions or the way that we talk about lions when we are talking about our canine teeth and how — the mighty hunters that we are and apex predators and whatever have you which is again an actual bastardization of the reality because what we know is that female lions are actually the real hunters and male lions just sit around on their ass taking care of the kids all day. But I digress.
Talking explicitly about that pig or specifically about that pig and using the objectified pig as a symbol of white supremacy; while I don’t condone it and never would, I absolutely understand it because I — this is one of the ultimate symbols of white supremacy, if you will. The language of calling police officers pigs actually goes back so far as I was able to observe it linguistically to England in, I believe the 17th century, if I’m not correct. But yeah, that is where this originates from, and other people have actually gleaned onto this and other leftist groups. The origin — once again, talking about origins — of this actually lies with white supremacy itself. The objectification of that pig’s head, whoever they were when they were separated from their head, that is actually — I understand that because that is actually itself a symbol of whiteness.
The anger and frustration that people experience is very real. What’s really outstanding to me is the — that pig, again, and it breaks my heart because we’ll never know who that person was of another species, but that pig actually embodies so much more than that moment, than that photograph, because what you see is the re-objectification of that pig over and over again because the people who were actually using it were exploiting that animal in a different way. They were actually using that animal as a weapon against mostly peaceful protesters, because what do we know about the Black Lives Matter movement? What do we know about BLM marches and protests and demonstrations that have been happening all around all fifty states and had expanded into eighteen different countries?
The New York Times said it was the largest protest movement in the world, historically. Over 90% of those protests have been completely peaceful but people decided that they will use this moment, that they will weaponize this moment and this image to show what is wrong or what is bad about Black Lives Matter because they’re using their personal feelings of racism toward black people. That’s what they want to express and they put all of those feelings into that pig as their own cultural symbol. Am I angry? Am I disappointed? Am I saddened by the use of a pig’s head in our own protest? Absolutely. It should never happen. It definitely shouldn’t happen. But the reason that people have decided to make that their rallying cry to show the violence of black people, that is actually to me a far more important issue to interrogate because that does not actually represent the majority of Black Lives Matter movements.
Realistically speaking, all of the people on — at any protest are actually wearing leather. They go home and they’re eating hamburgers. They’re eating fried chicken. They’re eating hot dogs. They’re eating animals and exploiting animals in a hundred thousand different ways every single day before that protest and every day after that protest. But we didn’t actually care about that. We actually cared about the use of this one pig. Why? Because that was something novel to us. That is something that we can look at and say look at the grotesqueness. Look at the violence of these people. That weaponization actually just exploits that animal in a different way. Once again, we come back to the tools of white supremacy and how racialized speciesism is the real system that we are living in because these things cannot be divorced from one another.
Yeah, it’s speciesist to use a pig’s head. It’s speciesist to use any animal whatsoever. But actually using that speciesism as a weapon against people who are seeking their own liberation, I think it’s far more telling and that’s actually — that’s the reality of what many of these individuals and activist organizations have been doing. It just really shows their contempt for black people because really, you know what? Clean up your own back yard because if we didn’t actually have police that were terrorizing black and brown people and occupying territories all over the United States and around the world, we probably would be having a very different conversation. This is the reality that we’re living in right now. The fact that this objectified pig is a symbol is — that goes back to what white people have been doing to black people since the beginning of this nation that I was born in.
Unless we can actually face our own histories with open eyes and with authentic engagement, we’re never actually going to be successful as a movement. But we want to hide that. We want to minimize and trivialize the ways that white supremacy has influenced our perceptions of human exceptionalism or our perceived exceptionalism as humans because in order to — if we do recognize that then we have to recognize our own complicity and that again is very, very hard work that we do not want to do.
MEXIE: Yeah. No, absolutely. It really just felt like incredibly inappropriate especially for vegans who don’t often actually talk about the connections between white supremacy and speciesism, to kind of hijack this moment to make it about the pig or make it about the animals and things like that. Yeah, it just felt incredibly inappropriate. I mean, I agree. Actually, Meneka from Nooch Design Co. just did a really beautiful design I think last week. It was a pig and she wrote a really great caption about how wonderful pigs are and that we shouldn’t compare them to cops and things like that. But that was obviously months after the heat of the moment, right? It’s really interesting what moments people choose to insert this kind of narrative into the picture. It’s incredibly telling. Yeah, I think it is just a really difficult discussion. Most of the people that I hear calling cops pigs around me in Toronto are white as well, right? I think we can do work around that as anti-speciesists but yeah, it is incredibly symbolic and yeah, I think for people — obviously you can’t walk around with a picture of a cop’s head hanging or something like that, right? It’s like, you’re trying to show your rage and you’re trying to show how much you’re not gonna take it, right? I just, yeah, it is a really difficult conversation. But thank you for sharing your thoughts on that.
CHRISTOPHER: Absolutely, absolutely.
MEXIE: Yeah. Yeah, so we’re kind of running — it’s been an hour and ten minutes. I don’t know how much time you have. I had this last point that I would love to talk about; queering animal liberation.
CHRISTOPHER: Let’s do it. We’ll wrap that up quick.
MEXIE: Yeah, it’s too huge to talk about but I loved your lecture on it. Yeah, I just — maybe quickly could you just speak a bit about the importance of moving away from this kind of cisheteropatriarchy and the way that we talk about and show it for animals?
CHRISTOPHER: Yeah. What I can do, one way to wrap this up very quick is to talk to you about the work of Pattrice Jones because Pattrice is phenomenal. She runs VINE Sanctuary along with a team of other people but Pattrice has written about this quite extensively. Even the phrase queering animal liberation is part of Pattrice’s larger project about the queering of animal liberation and the necessity of it as well in addition to — it’s almost comical. In addition to the data that we have that supports the fact that black and brown people actually go vegan at rates far more than our white counterparts, queer people actually are quite vegan ourselves. You know what? If I run into a radical queer person and especially if they’re wearing Doc Martens, that’s a dead giveaway, it’s a 50% chance that that person is vegan or vegetarian. There’s already a lot of commonality.
Queer people pick up on these things remarkably, remarkably quick. We’re really good at that and I’m so grateful for it. I’m so glad for it. I’m talking about queer people of every race. But yeah, I will absolutely refer you to Pattrice’s work. When I think about the queering of animal liberation, one of the things that comes to mind is actually something that we talked about earlier and that is the manifestation of family and what it looks like. When we actually recognize the non-traditional family structures that exist outside of the cisgender heteropatriarchal nuclear family construct, when we actually start thinking more radically about who family is and who it can and/or should include, for queer people, that inevitably extends to other animals as well.
The fact that I can’t adequately express my grief as a queer person for a romantic partner or an intimate partner who is experiencing hardship or worse, died, because it’s not recognized as a valid relationship by the state, that is — that’s one of the ways in which queer people are marginalized in our society. Similarly, when I can’t express my grief at the passing of a companion animal as a family member — and even I feel the phrase companion animal is incredibly limiting itself. You know, those persons are part of my family one way or the other. I don’t even get to take time off from work. I have people saying incredibly insensitive things like oh, you can just get another one. These are not limited to dogs and cats. You know what?
I have people that I talk to who run sanctuaries with rabbits or who have large families of rats or other rodents and talk about their rat family members that have long passed away with such memory and such vivid memory and such color in the way that they talk about them, I feel like they’re right there in the room. That’s something that’s stolen away from us. That’s something that — so, when we actually raise the bar for inclusiveness, for human communities, whether we want to or not, we raise the bar for everyone. We raise the bar for animals across the board because a rising tide really does lift all boats. When we talk with such vicious bigotry about queer people and especially about sexual violence — and this is something that you probably heard me talk about in my — in that lecture — that impacts animals as well.
We talk about same-sex attraction as a form of — as bestiality or comparative to bestiality. You’ve seen conservative — once again, the conservatives at it again — conservative legislatures from across the political universe, not exclusively in the United States; it’s always oh, you know what? It’s compared to bestiality, same-sex attraction and same-sex acts. We completely ignore the fact that we actually engage in actual acts of bestiality and create exemptions for it in order to impregnate other animals so that we can perpetuate the system of animal agriculture. We do this over and over again on every farm, every day across the world. This is the reality. The recognition of — or the lack of recognition for that versus the perceived bestiality of two people who are consenting adults being attracted to one another, that is just unconscionable and yet we allow it.
We allow it over and over again and that type of sexual violence is inexcusable. Yeah, the necessity of moving away from a cisgender heteropatriarchal model of animal activism is very real and becoming a more inclusive place for queer people. It defies description because it’s so necessary and yet you have people who are so resistant to it that they don’t even want to do something as trivial as acknowledge someone’s pronouns that they are a trans person or a gender non-conforming person. That’s so difficult for them. I take that into account every time I see those people on the internet having absolutely no trouble using proper pronouns or what we think are proper pronouns for other animals. It’s like oh, that’s your bigotry coming out. That’s alienating to queer people and that you think that we’re — we don’t recognize that.
Boy, oh boy, you — if you actually decided to welcome queer people into animal spaces authentically and genuinely as our real and authentic selves, we would have completely transformed this. Again, the comparisons to or the use of queerness as a fearmongering tactic or as coded language to scare people away from animal rights, from legislatives is real, too. During the — my White Meat lecture, there’s actually — there’s an article that I share, a screen capture where a legislature was saying you know what? They’re going to — animal rights organizations are run by lesbian terrorists and they’re also communists. This is a real thing. They’re lesbian communist terrorists and that’s who’s running the animal rights organizations and they’re going to come for your fur after they stop you from eating meat.
That’s what they’re going to do. The use of or the invocation of queer identity as another front in the culture war in order to preserve the project of animal exploitation, that’s just another way, and we don’t bat an eyelash. The mainstream community doesn’t bat an eyelash. We don’t recognize — we talk about solidarity. We talk in good gain but we don’t recognize it in practice and that’s what we need to do.
MEXIE: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah, so I’ll link those resources below. I’ll link to Pattrice Jones, I’ll link to your lecture so people can dig deeper in that. I think all of that is so interesting and the conversation around sexual violence I think is so interesting so yeah, thank you so much for sharing all of your thoughts today. This was such a wonderful conversation. I don’t know if you got my e-mail about this but I know that very often you kind of issue an honorarium in favor of donating it to a vegan organization or charity, so we do have some funds that we are able to donate, so if you wanted to choose an organization to forward that money to, that would be really wonderful.
CHRISTOPHER: Oh, let’s give it away. Let’s find somebody to give that to.
CHRISTOPHER: I love it. I love it. Mutual aid. I love it.
MEXIE: Yeah, absolutely.
CHRISTOPHER: You are fantastic for doing that. You are a remarkable example of it and I can’t tell you how grateful I am that you are here. You say that you’re a fan of mine and I’m just fangirling out over here because I think that your contributions are so, so important.
MEXIE: My goodness, I’m fangirling out over here now.
CHRISTOPHER: No, I mean it, I really mean it. It fills me with joy when I see you posting online and it really — it gives me a sense of validation to see that you know what? Five or six years ago I felt like I was very, very alone and I don’t feel like that now. I feel like there are so many more people who are just fed up and ready to make a radical change and one of the most radical changes that we can do, we can do it every day multiple times a day if you’re not intermittent fasting, is to incorporate veganism and a practice of animal liberation into our leftist ideologies. The fact that you’re out there doing the work, capital T capital WTM is — that is vastly, vastly encouraging to me and I cannot thank you enough for it.
MEXIE: Oh, my goodness. Yeah, I feel like we can just go back and forth fangirling so much because I feel like you’ve had — you’ve played such a big role in getting people there, you know? It’s true; five, six years ago there weren’t that many people talking about this, right, and you played such a big role in inspiring this movement, so thank you.
CHRISTOPHER: Ah, they canceled me every week, though.
CHRISTOPHER: I said they canceled me every week, though. You gotta watch out for that.
MEXIE: Oh yeah, well, they’re gonna cancel us all. But yeah, so I guess just before we go, do you want to shout out where people can find you maybe on social media, on Twitter and whatnot?
CHRISTOPHER: Oh yeah, my Twitter handle is @ThotsandPrayers. That’s Thots, T-H-O-T-S and Prayers. You can find me on Instagram @v_christopher_sebastian. It was not very imaginative. You can find me on Facebook; if you just look for some black person named Christopher Sebastian, I’m gonna come up. I’m shitposting all over the place. That’s my MO. This is why I don’t feel like I make very valuable contributions. I just get online and I just wild out, so that’s me.
MEXIE: Then I just share your posts, so. Great, so yeah, thank you again for coming on the show. This was really, really wonderful. I hope everyone really takes a lot from this conversation and yeah, we’ll see everyone in a few weeks.
CHRISTOPHER: Alright. Thank you.
[END OF RECORDING]