Are Animal Crackers Vegan?

vintage-barnumsDating back to 1902, Barnum’s animal crackers have been an American classic for generations. The original boxes came with a string and cardboard wheels so that the bears, elephants, lions, and tigers painted behind bars could be carried about by children encouraged to take on the role of ringleader. The animals were often shown vicious, wild, exciting, and in need of control. The cages separating the consumer from the wild beasts within were necessary and clearly defined.

vegan-animal-crackersIn Our Children and Other Animals (2014), Matthew Cole and Kate Stewart argue that children’s toys, media, and other products are carefully constructed to capitalize on children’s interest in other animals, while also teaching them speciesism and dominance. To accomplish this, the violence inherent to speciesism is presented as unexceptional or erased altogether to the effect of normalizing human supremacy.

In support of this socialization process, the “wildness” of other animals may be emphasized to teach children that violent relationships with other animals is “natural,” as is human dominance. However, oppression is increasingly framed as consensual, rather than forced. This approach surfaces is in Barnum’s packaging today.

Gone are the angry, caged animals requiring harsh control. Today’s box features sentimental images of animal families. This is a soft control. The bars become faint and fall into the background. Children can now imagine that the animals are there of their own will, their oppression desired and mutually beneficial. This ideology of consensual, happy, and willing participation is perhaps the most powerful in support of speciesism. It is not only circus animals who are reframed in this way, but other “zoo” animals. Over 50 species have been imprisoned in Barnum’s cardboard railroad cars since 1902.

barnums-animal-crackersSome of the newer special editions show no bar enclosure at all. The animals are still controlled, boxed or within a snow globe, but the child is encouraged to understand this control as benevolent.

lilly-crackers limited-edition-crackers

Are animal crackers vegan? While Nabisco’s recipe is free of animal ingredients, Cole & Stewart’s sociological analysis would suggest that consuming animal crackers is ritualistically anti-vegan, as it socializes speciesist sentiments and human supremacy in children. The work of vegan feminist Carol Adams supports this position, theorizing that Nonhuman Animals are routinely represented as willing, happy participants in order to repackage their consumption as something pleasurable, fun, and natural.

In the 1990s, Nabisco ran limited edition packaging that featured endangered species to raise awareness and funds, but even this intent to help was human-centered. Said the Nabisco product manager in a story with The New York Times:

What do people like about animal crackers? Biting off the heads! Our hope was that children will line them up, match them up with the names on the box, learn about them and then decapitate them.

barnum-crackers

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about the sociology of speciesism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on the Animals & Society Institute’s Human-Animal Studies Images blog on December 3, 2016.

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A Month of Vegan Research: Entanglements of Oppression and Liberation

animal-rights-dakota-pipeline

The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.

 


nibert-entanglementsDavid Nibert. 2002. Animal Rights/Human Rights: Entanglements of Oppression and Liberation.  

Animal Rights/Human Rights makes a clear and convincing sociological argument for the social construction of speciesism and stratification. Human oppression and the oppression of other animals are inextricably linked and often compound one another. This oppression is a product of an economically-driven unequal power dynamic.  Those who benefit from this inequality seek to reinforce and perpetuate the system with the support of ideology, the state, and the internalization of powerlessness by those being exploited.

Nibert makes the interesting observation that our use of other animals is not a natural or inevitable phenomenon, but rather a cultural manifestation that reflects institutional arrangements. Human animals once lived harmoniously in their ecosystem as foragers, as this system was much more reliable and efficient. It was not until major changes in the landscape and the increased presence of migrating large mammals approximately 20,000 years ago that hunting became accessible to humans. Nibert notes that the switch to hunting (and eventually livestock keeping) moved human society away from egalitarianism.  This marked the beginning of speciesism, but also the beginning of gender and class divisions soon thereafter. Inequality developed with a fervor from this point and ideologies and state institutions were promulgated to support it.

Nibert argues that this indoctrination is achieved through daily experiences in a stratified and hegemonically controlled society.  Speciesism and other systems of oppression are largely a product of the economic system in which they operate. To develop this proposition, Nibert walks us through progression of human society from prehistoric times, early agricultural systems, feudalism, and to finally global capitalism. Capitalism has been particularly despicable in that it amplifies the exploitation of the oppressed and also normalizes it. When oppression is accepted as normal, natural, and necessary, that oppression is legitimated and is rendered invisible.

homelessness-and-dogs

Nibert’s solution is to move away from a capitalist society. In fact, an approach that ignores the role of capitalism is very unlikely to counter the growing level of oppression of other animals in the era of the new global economic order. Nibert warns that working for a “kinder” capitalism is not practical. Without challenging the hierarchical system, there is little hope for progress. Instead, we might use the opportunities currently available in the capitalist system to transcend it. Nibert cites successes in abolishing a significant amount of vivisection in New Zealand. Because New Zealand is a country that is not economically dependent on the biomedical industry, it exists as an example of how exploitation can be curbed when there is not an institutional reliance on that exploitation.

One major oversight in this publication is the lack of a clear vegan message.  In his latest publication, Animal Oppression and Human Violence: Domesecration, Capitalism, and Global Conflict, however, liberation politics are better emphasized.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about intersectional theory and its relevance for anti-speciesism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 1, 2013.

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A Month of Vegan Research: Identity and Effectiveness

The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.

 


Rachel Einwohner.  1999.  “Gender, Class, and Social Movement Outcomes:  Identity and Effectiveness in Two Animal Rights Campaigns.”  Gender and Society 13 (1):  56-76.

Animal rights organizations in the United States are predominantly female and middle class. What are the implications of the composition of these groups for animal rights activists’ abilities to achieve their goals?  In this article, the author examines the role of class and gender in the outcomes of an anti-hunting campaign and an anti-circus campaign waged by one animal rights organization in the Seattle area. The article shows that hunters make classed and gendered attributions about the activists, whereas circus patrons do not view activists in terms of these statuses and end up taking their demands more seriously. It is suggested that an “identity interaction” between the activists’ class and gender identity and that of their targets helps to explain these different reactions. The analysis also highlights the role of emotion in social movements, especially the ways in which targets perceive and react to activists’ emotional displays.

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Activist identity influences social movement outcome.  The Nonhuman Animal rights movement is predominantly female and middle class, and these class and gender patterns impact our campaigns.  Einwohner specifically looks at hunting and circus campaigns and finds that hunters make classed and gendered attributions about the activists. Circus goers, however, do not view activists in this stereotyped way and are more receptive to the activists’ claimsmaking.  Hunters are more likely to be from the working class and male, while circus goers are usually families from a variety of class backgrounds.

Emotion also matters, especially with large numbers of women, as women are generally stereotyped as overly emotional.  However, targets of campaigning also express emotions (frustration, anger, defensiveness, etc.) which must be considered in strategy.  Einwohner advises to pay attention to systems of race, class, and gender and how those systems influence interactions between advocates and their targets.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about effective Nonhuman Animal rights advocacy in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 18, 2013.

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A Month of Vegan Research: Manhood and the Exploitation of Animals

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The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.

 


brutal

Brian Luke’s 2007 book, Brutal: Manhood and the Exploitation of Animals, explores the gendered nature of our relationship to other animals. Humans, he argues, are not naturally inclined to be violent towards other animals, but men’s attempt to rival women’s life-giving capabilities has fostered this behavior. The idea is that men can increase their social status through animal sacrifice. Sacrificial institutions (such as hunting, flesh production, or vivisection), he argues, position men as the primary generators of human life. While women generate life directly and positively (childbirth and nursing), men are the counter. Men tend to generate life indirectly and negatively via death and violence.

Luke rightly points out that most exploitation is perpetuated by men (though male violence is often supported by women as well), while the liberation movement is dominated by women. However, the Nonhuman Animal rights movement tends to take a gender neutral approach, a curious mistake given these explicit gender dynamics. Luke also recognizes the general rejection of feminine approaches to Nonhuman Animal rights. Emotion is devalued and male-centric theory is favored instead to combat the negative feminine stereotype associated with Nonhuman Animal rights activism.

While Luke’s book is an indispensable companion to Carol Adams’ work, his critique of vegan outreach remains troubling. Speciesism, he explains, is a structural issue, and veganism is too individualistic. Exploitative industries not only supply the demand, but they create the demand. Luke explains that veganism is too focused on “salvaging one’s personal virtue” instead of working for institutional change. We need to explore advertising, countermovement propaganda, and cultural traditions. He suggests direct action, which would include purchasing Nonhuman Animals from exploitative situations and homing them in sanctuaries, destroying exploitative equipment, and blocking transportation services.

Of course speciesism is structural, but veganism is not inherently inconsistent with institutional change. Veganism is not simply a matter of personal purity, but rather a political statement that challenges taken-for-granted paradigms. For those working to end sexism, for instance, should they focus only on structurally-oriented direct action and not promote feminism to the public and movement participants? Would it not be integral to movement goals to insist that activists and the public abstain from rape or domestic violence?

 

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about gender politics and their consequences for anti-speciesism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 8, 2013.

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A Month of Vegan Research: Muzzling a Movement

animal-terrorists

The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.

 


Dara Lovitz.  2010.  Muzzling a Movement:  The Effects of Anti-Terrorism Laws, Money & Politics on Animal Activism.  Brooklyn, NY:  Lantern Books.

Animal activists have been agitating for change for some time and, for the most part, do so nonviolently.  Nonetheless, the threatening tactics preferred by some activists has created a convenient excuse for the state’s anti-terrorism campaign to protect the billion dollar Nonhuman Animal agriculture industries.

These countermovement forces also permeate the media (which is an institution created by elites to protect elite interests).  Vegan messages are either censored altogether or skewed to protect the status quo of speciesism.  Lovitz wonders that the fear of government monitoring is pressuring activists to self-censor.

animal-rights-terrorism

The book’s primary focus is the power of elites who have controlled legislation and influenced politics, ensuring that litigation to help other animals largely fails.  She gives the examples of anti-cruelty codes that exempt food animals, hunter harassment laws, and food disparagement laws.  Interfering with the business of Nonhuman Animal exploitation is legally impossible.

The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (AETA) was changed from “Animal Enterprise Protection Act,” thus giving federal agencies the authority to arrest, prosecute, and convict anyone who poses a threat to speciesist industries.  Alarmingly, the AETA criminalizes consumer-based activism (such as vegan outreach) that is intended to reduce the profits of these industries:

The sloppy and unfair use of the label terrorist in our modern society has harrowed a large group of would-be activists and discouraged them from participation in legal protests or from speaking out at all on behalf of nonhuman animals (105).

The terrorist label, she explains, gives the government a legitimate reason to violate freedom of speech.

While Lovitz applies these concerns to all activism, peaceful or not, she specifically looks at the activities of activists who utilize illegal and violent tactics.  It is my interpretation that these types of activities incite state repression, giving the state (and the public) ample excuse to label all anti-speciesists as threats.  To explain this point, she details the SHAC 7 case in which activists had been jailed for firebombing the homes of those involved with vivisection.  Repressive laws influenced by industry elites and enforced by the state work in union with the non-profit industrial complex to severely curtail mobilization power.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about state repression and its consequences for anti-speciesism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 15, 2013.

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A Month of Vegan Research: Race as a “Feeble Matter” in Veganism

race-veganism

The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.

 


Harper, B.  2010.  “Race as a “Feeble Matter” in Veganism:  Interrogating Whiteness, Geopolitical Privilege, and Consumption Philosophy of ‘Cruelty-Free’ Products.”  Journal for Critical Animal Studies 8 (3):  5-27.

Within the context of feminist geography, racial politics, and consumption studies, I have observed that mainstream vegan outreach models and top selling vegan-oriented books rarely, if ever, acknowledge the differing socio-historically racialized epistemologies among non-white racial groups. There is an underlying assumption among the white middle class mainstream vegan media that racialization and the production of vegan spaces are disconnected. However, space, vegan or not, is raced and simultaneously sexualized and gendered directly affecting individuals and place identities. Racialized places and spaces are at the foundation of how we develop our socio-spatial epistemologies; hence, these epistemologies are racialized. This paper will explore examples of how epistemologies of whiteness manifest within vegan rhetoric in the USA, and explain why a “post-racial” approach to vegan activism must be replaced by an anti-racist and color-conscious praxis.

Chris Nino, 11, carries empty pepper bags across a Plainview, Texas, field Sept. 21, 1997. Workers like Chris may earn as little as $1.20 per full bag of chili peppers. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)

Breeze Harper’s research asks activists to reexamine the meaning of “cruelty-free” in vegan production and the white worldviews that direct vegan outreach.  When major organizations define cruelty in food production as a nonhuman-only experience, the suffering of third world persons, immigrants, poor persons, and people of color are rendered invisible.

Harper’s article explores the heavy resistance to racial issues in vegan spaces.  One of the major reasons that human suffering is excluded from “cruelty-free” and vegan outreach efforts is because the Nonhuman Animal rights movement is predominantly white.  White privilege (and class privilege) reinforce the elitism of the movement, making social change piecemeal and stunted.  Harper suggests a rejection of “post-racial” ideology (the belief that racism is no longer a major problem) and a conscious awareness of the specific challenges facing vulnerable humans as well as nonhumans. Human and nonhuman oppression are heavily entangled.  A single-issue approach to anti-oppression work is not likely to be very successful.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about racism in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement and its consequences for anti-speciesism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 5, 2013.

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A Month of Vegan Research: Readability of Vegan Outreach Literature

effective-animal-advocacy

The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.


 

Humane Research Council.  2011.  Readability of Vegan Outreach Literature.  HRC:  Olympia, WA.

Increasingly, advocates are becoming aware of how whiteness, class, and privilege have shaped the anti-speciesism movement in a way that makes it almost inaccessible to disadvantaged populations.  The fact that most vegan literature reads at a level far beyond that of the average American speaks volumes to the lack of reflexivity in anti-speciesism outreach.

Literacy inequality especially impacts people of color, non-natives, people living in poverty, and others subject to educational barriers.  This report shows that the movement is shaped by well off, educated white elites writing about ethics in language and conceptual frameworks that only other privileged persons can understand.  This significantly restricts the ability of the movement to expand.

vegan-outreach-literature

Summary of Results (from report):

  • The average U.S. adult has a 9th or 10th grade reading level, and 44% of adults have an 8th grade reading level or lower.
  • HRC recommends developing vegan outreach materials at a 7th or 8th grade reading level in order to ensure comprehensibility for a large proportion of the target audience.
  • However, all of the vegan outreach materials evaluated in the current study are written at an 11th grade reading level or higher, indicating that the vegetarian movement’s most popular materials might be incomprehensible to half or more of the target audience.
  • Based on six readability tests, the average readability scores ranged from a low reading level of 11th grade for PCRM’s vegetarian starter kit to a high of 15th grade (beyond college level) for the Humane Myth brochure.
  • Additional research including focus groups (and possibly one-on-one interviews) would allow a more comprehensive evaluation of the materials beyond basic readability. HRC recommends a collaboration to conduct additional qualitative research at a cost of $8,000 to $12,000.

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about effective Nonhuman Animal rights advocacy in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 3, 2013.

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A Month of Vegan Research: Recruiting Strangers and Friends

animal-rights-moral-shocks

The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.


 

J. Jasper and J. Poulsen.  1995.  “Recruiting Strangers and Friends:  Moral Shocks and Social Networks in Animal Rights and Anti-Nuclear Protests.”  Social Problems 42 (4):  493-512.

Social movement theorists have taken interest in Nonhuman Animal rights activism for a number of reasons, one of them being recruitment.  As I discussed in my review of Elizabeth Cherry’s article, most become vegan because they know other vegans in their social network.

But what if a person doesn’t know any other vegans?  Moral shocks might do the trick.

moral-shocks

For instance, I grew up in a rural Appalachian town where the notion of “animal rights” is about as alien as it could be. At 13, I was watching a cooking show with my mother in which the host was visiting a butcher’s shop with pigs’ heads hanging from the ceiling.  Suddenly, it became clear to me where “meat” came from and what it entailed.  I went vegetarian on the spot. Soon after, I wrote to PETA and I received literature that contained even more morally shocking information and images.  I immediately decided to go vegan the day I moved out of my parents’ house and was in control of my food choices.

For a little girl living in Appalachia with no vegan-positive social networks, moral shocks were able to recruit me. Readers should acknowledge that moral shocks are not as straight forward in their effectiveness as they may appear. I explore the nuances of moral shocks in an article I published with Society & Animals, arguing that moral shocks have limited value in an environment inundated with welfare reform and “happy meat” ideology.

 

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about effective persuasion in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 20, 2013.

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A Month of Vegan Research: Sexist Imagery Reinforces Speciesist Sentiment

animal-rights-sexism

The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.


 

Carol Glasser.  2011.  “Tied Oppressions:  An Analysis of How Sexist Imagery Reinforces Speciesist Sentiment.”  The Brock Review 12 (1):  51-68.

All oppression is rooted in the same system of domination and so embracing any form of oppression reinforces all oppressions. Unless social movements recognize oppression as rooted in the same system of domination, they will not be able to reject the foundations upon which their oppression is rooted. Dichotomous epistemology and value-hierarchies are the main characteristics of patriarchy that enforce both sexism and speciesism. I illustrate this by examining two animal rights advertisements that use sexist images. I demonstrate how sexism bolsters speciesism by reinforcing dichotomous epistemology, establishing value-hierarchies and accepting that positioning women as animals is degrading to women.

Many organizations and activists support a “sex sells” notion when promoting misogynistic tactics in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement, but there is no evidence to support that objectifying women encourages people to stop objectifying other animals.

Glasser explores this irrational assumption in “Tied Oppressions,” reminding us that oppression works intersectionally.  Treating women like meat only reinforces social norms in treating other vulnerable group like meat, including Nonhuman Animals.

lizzy-jagger-naked-tuna-fishlove-jerry-hall-mick-jagger

 

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about sexism in the Nonhuman Animal rights movement and its consequences for anti-speciesism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 17, 2013.

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A Month of Vegan Research: The China Study

the-china-study

The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.


 

T. Colin Campbell.  2006.  The China Study:  The Most Comprehensive Study of Nutrition Ever Conducted and the Startling Implications for Diet, Weight Loss, and Long-term Health.  Dallas, TX:  BenBella Books.

While most people go vegan and stay vegan for ethical reasons, a common stereotype is that advocates face is the belief that humans need to consume Nonhuman Animal products for optimal health.  Research, however, warns that this simply isn’t true.

The China Study relies on decades of research conducted by Dr. Campbell that compares the diet and health of preindustrial China to Western nations.  What he finds is that Chinese people (usually rural inhabitants) who consume a plant-based diet have much better health.  As people migrate to bigger cities in China or to the West (where animal-based diets are more common), they start to accrue illnesses quickly.

the-china-study

He also explores hundreds of other scientific studies that support this dietary link.  Plant protein and animal protein are broken down very differently in human bodies.  Animal products are linked to a litany of debilitating and life threatening diseases including heart disease, cancer, auto-immune diseases (like diabetes), mental diseases (like Alzheimer’s), eye diseases, kidney diseases, and even osteoporosis.  This book is worth reading so that we can have a basic understanding of the health consequences of non-vegan lifestyles.

The immense suffering of speciesism impacts humans as well as nonhumans and the environment.  In this way, ethical veganism is as much about human rights as it is about Nonhuman Animal rights. Campbell considers the political reasons for obscuring this life-saving information and provides practical solutions for changing diet.

A glaring flaw with the piece is the overwhelming reliance on data obtained from Nonhuman Animal testing, which is counterintuitive to a vegan ethic and is usually indicative of bad science.  Considerable research demonstrates that tests on other species do little to inform human biology and can often present misleading results.

 

Cover for "A Rational Approach to Animal Rights." Shows a smiling piglet being held up by human hands.

 

Readers can learn more about the social psychology of veganism and its potential benefit to human society in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights.


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 22, 2013.

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