This article was originally published on a UK-based women’s lifestyle site called Six Hot Chicks, which has unfortunately shun down.
Finding veganism at the corner of intersectional feminism

Feminism and veganism. Those two isms are usually met with an eye-roll and a heavy sigh. Their proponents are labelled angry, belligerent, and hostile. Yet they share more in common than stereotypes of unshaven armpits and bare feet.

Feminism is concerned with breaking down the system of oppression that affects women. Intersectional feminism extends that to include factors such as race and class that often intersect with gender discrimination. This more inclusive definition is where we’ll find veganism.

Despite being able to buy a Dior shirt proclaiming ‘we should all be feminists’ the idea that all humans are equal remains, sadly, a radical one. Veganism, however, is growing in popularity thanks in part to trends like Veganuary and the availability of vegan products in convenient and affordable shops like Aldi and Tesco.

It is also gaining traction as we learn about the harmful impacts of industrialised meat and dairy production. This industry has created its own system of oppression regarding animals, humans, and the environment.

A system of oppression in which men are on top and all other individuals are below is the patriarchy. And this similarity is where we see the links between feminism and veganism.

Animals, obviously

Industrialised meat and dairy production is horrific for the animals involved. Beyond the obvious cruelty, the animals are subject physical oppression based on the gender we assign them.

For example, dairy cows. The industry takes their natural process of reproduction and manipulates it so that female cows can produce as much milk as possible. Artificial insemination ensures she is almost always pregnant, and soon after she gives birth the calf is taken away from her. Female calves are raised to be over-worked dairy cows and the boys are either killed or raised for veal.

The cows’ quality of life is not a factor in this system. They are objectified and used as tools; treatment that women and minorities are very familiar with. There is a lot to unpack here regarding this connection so I recommend starting here and here (both YouTube lectures) if you’re interested in learning more.

Humans and the environment 

The human link from veganism to feminism includes two different groups of people with two distinct problems: those who work in the meat and dairy industry and those people who lack access to food due to financial circumstances. However, intersectional feminism is concerned with both.

The exploitation of workers in the meat and dairy industry is similar to that in other agricultural industries where workers are mostly minorities and immigrants, both legal and illegal. The work is physically demanding, the workplace is not safe and the pay is very low. In this industry workers also contend with the psychological effect of their work.

Food insecurity is on the rise, even in the UK. Families cannot afford to eat three meals a day and given the realities of the gender pay gap women are more likely to be food insecure.

Women are also more likely to feel the negative effects of climate change, which the meat and dairy industry contribute to massively. Women’s diminished economic capacity makes it difficult to recover from weather events that disrupt their lives. And it means they have less political power to change government policy.

Yielding to privilege

The intersection of feminism and veganism is really more like a two-lane roundabout in complexity, but both ideas stem from the recognition that all individuals, not just humans, are deserving of equal treatment in the society systems in which we live.

The meat and dairy industry operates within our current patriarchal system and contributes to it through its treatment of animals, humans, and our environment. Individuals should do what they can to challenge these systems, but those of us who have the choice need to recognise that privilege. Many people do not have the resources to live a vegan lifestyle.

Perhaps those with ample resources – the industry itself, governments, and other global corporations – should shoulder the responsibility for mitigating the damage done by the system that feminism and veganism are fighting against.