Feminism? Vegetarianism? Linked or not?

vegetable-heart.jpgI have set myself a challenge to see if there is any link between being a vegetarian and being a feminist.
This fulfils a number of the Zerotohero challenges as it comes out of comments I’ve left on sites and new sites I’ve been looking at. one site which is great fun – but is very inspiring if you think you are a feminist is http://shatteredsmoke.com/2014/01/13/those-things-women-do/ – by the Opinionated man. Well he certainly has opinions – just look at what he has to say about fashion… but then he does live in Colorado – says the Londoner and proud of it!
As part of my challenges I looked into a number of new topic areas but came back to a discussion about being a vegetarian by someone who was also a feminist and blogged about both, so I thought ‘I wonder if there is any link? Are more feminists vegetarian than other women? Is there any link between the two whether historically or in current politics? I am pretty sure – but will confirm this by doing some research on the topic, that there are more women who are vegetarian than men, but does this vary by country? I think I have to discard India in any of these statistics as there is a cultural influence there, so I need to consider just those countries where there is no cultural imperative – and yes, you might say that Buddhists would be vegetarians but in Thailand they certainly aren’t so…
So this blog will be researched and will have some history and some current politics and we shall see if there is any link we can make…

So starting with some definitions:
The Vegetarian Society (UK) defines a vegetarian as: “Someone who lives on a diet of grains, pulses, nuts, seeds, vegetables and fruits with, or without, the use of dairy products and eggs. A vegetarian does not eat any meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish* or by-products of slaughter.”

*Shellfish are typically ‘a sea animal covered with a shell’. We take shellfish to mean;

Crustaceans (hard external shell) large – e.g. lobsters, crayfish, crabs, small – e.g. prawns, shrimps

Molluscs (most are protected by a shell) e.g. mussels, oysters, winkles, limpets, clams, etc. Also includes cephalopods such as cuttlefish, squid, octopus.
There are different types of vegetarian:
Lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat both dairy products and eggs; this is the most common type of vegetarian diet.

Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy products but avoid eggs.

Vegans do not eat dairy products, eggs, or any other products which are derived from animals.
Eggs: Many lacto-ovo vegetarians will only eat free-range eggs. This is because of welfare objections to the intensive farming of hens. Through its Vegetarian Society Approved trade mark, the Vegetarian Society only endorses products containing free-range eggs.

Some people may be vegetarian for religious reasons. Jains, for example, are either lacto-vegetarian or vegan, while some Hindus and Buddhists may choose to practice a vegetarian diet. https://www.vegsoc.org/definition

Again using their website, the history of vegetarianism in the UK is as follows:
The Vegetarian Society has its roots in the reforming spirit of the early 19th century. The backdrop of health reform, the temperance movement, and the rise of philanthropy set the scene for the convergence of groups that eventually formed the vegetarian movement. The Industrial Revolution unleashed any number of social problems, and the ‘vegetable diet’ was seen by some as a solution (the word ‘vegetable’ at that time meant all types of plant foods, including fruits, grains, beans etc.). The idea that eating meat was a brutalising force was strong and, in an age where social reform was gathering pace, the question of whether abstention from meat might bring order attracted attention.

The first long-term modern organisation to abandon meat eating was the Bible Christian Church, led by Rev William CowherdBack in 1809 in Salford, near Manchester, where he advanced the principle of abstinence from the consumption of flesh to his congregation.

Now according to wikipedia:
Vegetarianism can be adopted for different reasons. Many object to eating meat out of respect for sentient life. Such ethical motivations have been codified under various religious beliefs, along with the concept of animal rights. Other motivations for vegetarianism are health-related, political, environmental, cultural, aesthetic or economic.
The word vegetarian is derived from the Latin word vegetus, meaning lively or vigorous.

The earliest records of (lacto) vegetarianism come from ancient India and ancient Greece in the 5th century BCE. In the Asian instance the diet was closely connected with the idea of nonviolence towards animals (called ahimsa in India) and was promoted by religious groups and philosophers.[19] Among the Hellenes, Egyptians and others, it had medical or Ritual purification purposes.
Indian emperor Ashoka asserted protection to fauna:
“Twenty-six years after my coronation various animals were declared to be protected – parrots, mainas, aruna, ruddy geese, wild ducks, nandimukhas, gelatas, bats, queen ants, terrapins, boneless fish, vedareyaka, gangapuputaka, sankiya fish, tortoises, porcupines, squirrels, deer, bulls, okapinda, wild asses, wild pigeons, domestic pigeons and all four-footed creatures that are neither useful nor edible. Those nanny goats, ewes and sows which are with young or giving milk to their young are protected, and so are young ones less than six months old. Cocks are not to be caponized, husks hiding living beings are not to be burnt and forests are not to be burnt either without reason or to kill creatures. One animal is not to be fed to another.” —Edicts of Ashoka, Fifth Pillar (304–232 BCE)

SO that’s the History.
Now let’s look at Feminism.

Feminism is a collection of movements and ideologies aimed at defining, establishing, and defending equal political, economic, and social rights for women. This includes seeking to establish equal opportunities for women in education and employment. A feminist advocates or supports the rights and equality of women.

As an academic of course I look for any articles on the topic and yes, there is one!
A Defense of the Feminist-Vegetarian Connection by SHERI LUCAS. [http://ethik.univie.ac.at/fileadmin/user_upload/inst_ethik_wiss_dialog/Lucas__S._2005._Veg_and_Fem._defence_16187585.pdf]
Sheri says that although feminism has a goal of ending oppression most feminists do not recognise animals or non-humans within that goal. She says that Carol J. Adams published the first article on the feminist-vegetarian connection in 1975. Though there were few publications on this topic in the following decade, it became an issue of concern for many feminists. An Ecofeminist Task Force eventually formed and in 1990, urged the National Women’s Studies Association (NWSA) to recognize this connection by adopting a strict vegetarian menu for its future conferences.
It seems, she would argue, that the majority of feminists remain silent about possible reinforcements between the oppression of women and that of nonhuman animals. According to this silence, they would disagree that nonhuman animals are oppressed, and are not convinced that the oppression of nonhuman animals is inconsistent with feminism and antithetical to its goals.

One of the issues that was raised by the feminists who do not advocate vegetarianism is the fact that, except for (men) in privileged countries/areas, a vegetarian diet may not provide the necessary dietary requirements for good health. this argument clearly rings true in areas where there is no crop growing but only animal raising as in parts of Africa and where as a result animal products provide the bulk of the nutrition. the argument then is whether it also rings true in other parts of the world.
Many feminists it is argued in this paper say we must not go against local custom and culture and must make their own moral judgements as to the ethical diet for them – they must not be judged by first-world values. Or cultural Imperialism.
The paper then goes on to argue against these points in a complex and philosophical manner.

Finally judging that we are not morally permitted to add to the pain, suffering, and death of nonhuman animals when there is no need to do so.

So there we are. According to some Feminists, it is imperative to be a Vegetarian; and according to others it doesn’t matter.

Personally I claim both – but confess to eating fish for health reasons but really really prefer not to see the ‘face’.. and whilst I will cook meat for the family, I put gloves as I can’t bear to touch it.

So other Feminists – what do you think? Which argument do you support and why?

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40 thoughts on “Feminism? Vegetarianism? Linked or not?

  1. Pingback: 2014 in review: And why you should read Tiggerrenewing! | The Bouncing Tigger

  2. rudyhou

    i have a lot of respect for vegetarians. i was once a follower. well, on and off, mostly as lacto-ovo. during which i was also a raw vegan for a good three months. that was a great education and am glad to have experienced it. now i try my best to follow a vegetarian diet from time to time.

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  4. attireclub

    Interesting parallel, however, there should be more research on this topic (not necessarily by you right now). It’s nice that you brought it up, it’s definitely a good conversation starter.

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    1. ukgardenfiend Post author

      Thanks. I’ve started the conversation as you say but don’t intend to research further. I’ll leave that to people who feel strongly… I did think it might generate some interest and it has…

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  5. aclayman702

    What a great article! I became a vegetarian (but I also eat fish for health reasons) before I even knew what being a feminist was all about. But it’s quiet interesting that you think there’s a link. I think there could be a small one, only because feminists and vegetarians/vegans (at least in America, not including those who choose the lifestyle for religious reasons) both are fighting and concerned about others rights and whatnot.
    Thank you for the new perspective!

    xox Alie

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  6. migrainemeltdown

    I’m a vegan and the furthest thing from a feminist that you would ever find…the thought of being compared to one almost makes me want eat some meat or something just to break that comparison…

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    1. ukgardenfiend Post author

      Hmm. Wonder why you a. Bothered to look up the topic; and b. Come to the blog and comment? Oh I know. You wanted me to get mad. Shan’t. I’m on to you mate. Read the blog though if you can bear it , you just might like it.

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    1. ukgardenfiend Post author

      Thanks for the link to the lecture. Interesting. I confess to not being much of a YouTube person so miss lots of what is out there unless people point me to it. Not a vegan myself but do see why people might be – unfortunately not good for my health and I have real bone density problems as it is – osteopena – so couldn’t do without milk for a start… I do try to avoid leather when I can and won’t wear a leather coat or fur and do see their point. I guess we all have to make a stand at some point along the scale which is where our moral compass points us.

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      1. adamfromnorway

        well i am not a vegan today either, and i do have several leather coats. however, i am totally against cruelty to animals, cynical and warrantless (wasteful) animal food production and total destruction of the balance of life on this planet. there must be room for alternatives beyond just black and white, no?!! bone density, say you!?? do not know about that but i have bone-joint issues myself. a real pass in the arse (or rather in my case, feet and a couple of other places). i am intrigued that you wrote back. now i am curious to know a bit more about you. so i will follow your blog for awhile, and hope to hear from you more. btw, my name is adam.

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        1. ukgardenfiend Post author

          Hi Adam. Thanks for responding and deciding to follow me for a while. Personally, I think it polite to acknowledge when people take the trouble to write.. Now bone density is rather more than just osteoporosis arthritis. I have that too. In all my joints. But my bones would shatter rather than break if I fell badly, but luckily I have learnt not to fall when I can avoid it! So I claim my excuses but I am also a food lover and have you tasted soya cheese. Ugh. Hope to hear your thoughts on future blogs. Elayne

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  7. Tarnished

    Got over here from the aforementioned Opinionated Man. Hi!

    I am a weird case, but thought I’d try to help with your research anyway.
    I’m a 29 year old woman with gender dysphoria, so I don’t really think of myself as a female. I’m also not, nor have I ever been, a feminist. However, I am an egalitarian and have been an ovo-lacto vegetarian as well as a Solitary Wiccan since I was 13. I fully embrace the idea of “Harm None” as much as possible, so to me my vegetarianism is a daily reminder of my faith and dedication to the Lady and Lord.

    I talk about most of this on my blog, but am willing to answer any further questions here as well. Hope this helped you!

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    1. ukgardenfiend Post author

      Thanks – certainly ‘harm none’ is a really good morality position and the Buddhists would agree.
      I am not sure that feminists would necessarily exclude you from their ranks as the human sex is far from definite – we are all somewhere on a very long scale and it is only where we define ourselves that gives us our ‘position’. Do you live in the ‘female’ or the ‘male’ world? Only you have defined yourself as a woman? If so, then why not embrace feminism?
      I was young in the age of bra burning – not that I ever did that, they were far too useful – but for me the Pill meant a whole world of opportunities opened up and as for abortion on demand etc etc… without feminists where would we be? I confess my school was founded by a feminist – at least she believed in equality for girls in education right through to university – and my grand-mother was denied her degree just because she was female!So I can not be other than a feminist.. of some colour at least. But it doesn’t necessarily link to being a vegetarian for me.. that is definitely a moral choice.

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      1. Tarnished

        I am very physically female, and thus don’t try to present myself as male…I can’t bind my breasts like I did in middle/high school anymore, and I’d have to wear really baggy clothes to conceal my hips. I think much more like a male though, my mental identity is male, and I agree with men that women are sometimes difficult to communicate with. Most people see me as a “hardcore” tomboy nerd/geek.

        It doesn’t matter to me if feminists would accept me or not. In fact, I know some who would. The issue is more that I don’t agree with everything feminism says, the same way I don’t agree with everything the Men’s Rights Movement says. Thus, I’m an egalitarian instead of a feminist or MRA.

        Maybe this clears things up?

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  8. vicbriggs

    A very interesting piece. I am a feminist, but not a vegetarian, although I do go vegan for 42 days of the year before Christmas. Do I think that for a feminist it is an imperative to be vegetarian? The simple answer is no. Although it is possible to find overlaps in their respective philosophies, I believe that ultimately feminism is about the equity of political and social and economic rights for both men and women, while vegetarianism tends to lean towards a moral justification.

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    1. ukgardenfiend Post author

      Hi there and thanks for reading the blog. I think I agree with you about the morality of the concept of being a vegetarian and certainly their is an equity element to feminism but shouldn’t it be part of our own personal morality charter that we are equal to all?

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  9. Opinionated Man

    Reblogged this on HarsH ReaLiTy and commented:

    This article was amusing. I also appreciated the mention of my scientific piece written on shatteredsmoke.com entitled “Those things women do.” I found it rather amusing myself. -OM
    Note: Comments disabled here, please comment on their article. Thanks!

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  10. samkbell

    Great article! I’m both, but would largely say they’re unrelated. The high corrolation might just be because people who are either veggie or feminist are people who think more, and do things more deliberately, and people who think abut their choices are probably more likely to be either veggie or feminist!

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    1. ukgardenfiend Post author

      You may well be right… I thought it an interesting idea to link the concepts and see what fell out.. I just wonder at what point do we become feminists? At what age? And what impels us into that mind set?

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