Monthly Archives: March 2016

Irish Car Bombs aren’t Cruelty-Free, but Not for the Reasons You Would Expect

Content Warning: Discusses violence against civilians and children in Ireland during The Troubles.

A couple drops a shot of Baileys Irish Cream into a pint of Guiness

As St. Patrick’s Day rolls around, I notice the usual sharing of veganized Irish recipes on social media sites. As with many Western countries, traditional Irish foods tend to be heavily based on Nonhuman Animal products.1 Usually vegans at least catch a break in the alcohol department, with most popular beers and liquors being animal-free. Sadly, this is not the case for many Irish drinks like Bailey’s and Guinness.2 Even brands that are vegan in America are not vegan there. With few options, I am left drinking a lot of crappy Coors Light or expensive local brews when I visit.

I can understand the social desire to drink what everyone else is drinking, especially on popular drinking holidays like St. Patrick’s Day. One of the biggest inhibitors for vegans is that desire to fit in. There is one known Guinness variety available in America that is vegan, but good luck finding it. As for Bailey’s, the veganized recipes are drearily complicated. Then, there is the inevitable desire to combine the two to create the ubiquitous “Irish Car Bomb.”

For those who aren’t in the know, the Irish Car Bomb is a widely available American drink that is especially popular on St. Patrick’s Day. It consists of a shot of Bailey’s dumped into a pint of Guinness. The drinker must consume the drink quickly before the cream in the Bailey’s curdles the beer. Yuck.

I went vegan years before I reached the legal drinking age, so I’ve never had one. Neither do I feel as though I’m missing out. Definitely not vegan, or appealing. However, this is more than a matter of nonvegan ingredients. This drink represents an important intersection in oppression.

The thing is, Irish car bombs are a symbol of national tragedy. For a period in the 1960s- 90s known as “The Troubles,” intense political skirmishing occurred in Northern Ireland with a clear ethnic and religious undercurrent. This was a gruesome time. Cities became dangerous places; folks were afraid to go out at night. Car bombing was commonplace. People were killed, some of them children. At times, bodies of victims were so dismembered from the explosions, their cleanup necessitated a shovel.

The Troubles are part of a centuries-long history of Irish oppression, with many millions suffering, starving, and dying. Even today, Northern Ireland has the highest rate of PTSD in the world. Meanwhile in America, vegans are more preoccupied with a good time in the bar with “cruelty-free” novelty drinks.

Child stands next to burning rubble and exploded car

Veganism as a political endeavor is first and foremost about Nonhuman Animals, but it cannot end with Nonhuman Animals. Vegans must begin to recognize intersections. This will necessitate a firm rejection of any objectification or commodification of human suffering in “vegan” products and Nonhuman Animal rights campaigning. So long as the movement fails to take seriously the oppression of vulnerable humans, it will appear calloused, ignorant, and illegitimate.

The vegan movement should, by all means, encourage the creation of plant-based alternatives, but this should be coupled with a respect for the suffering of others. It will be a mistake to taint the vegan project with bigotry and ugliness. Can we call our soy-Bailey ‘n beer mix by another name perhaps? Otherwise, let’s just stick to Jameson’s.

 

Notes:
1. A detailed vegan sociological history of the Irish foodscape can be found here.
2. Guinness has announced that its production process will be altered in late 2016 to become vegan-friendly, while Bailey’s introduced a vegan variant in 2017.

A version of this post originally published on March 15, 2015 on the Academic Activist Vegan.


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

Readers can learn more about vegan intersectionality in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights. Receive research updates straight to your inbox by subscribing to my newsletter.

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Conserving What Exactly? Anthropocentrism in College Conservation Programs

Men fishing a river with a net University conservation programs often entail lethal Nonhuman Animal testing

 

Jonathan Balcombe, director of animal sentience at the Humane Society Institute for Science and Policy, has authored a book that explores the “the inner life of fishes”: What a Fish Knows: The Inner Lives of Our Underwater Cousins. I have not yet had the chance to read the book, but having listened to him describe the research involved, Balcombe’s work will be, I think, very important.  His research is indicating that fishes do feel pain and do live emotional lives.  The evidence seems to suggest that fishes are persons:  self aware, pleasure-seeking, sentient beings with intrinsic value and a right to moral consideration.

Research in this area is critical for one all important reason: when science fails to acknowledge sentience, systemic violence can be (and often will be) justified in the pursuit of knowledge. In their fish biology graduate program, for instance, my brother and his classmates were taught that fish sentience is a downright questionable concept. They also routinely stalked, harassed, and killed fishes in the process of data collection. When he shared this with me, I was personally horrified. Why isn’t the public aware of this grisly methodology?

Nonhuman Animal rights activists spend a lot of time protesting the exploitation of other animals used in dissection and vivisection in science and veterinary labs on campuses, but few take much issue with university “conservation” programs. As a student, my brother spent hours in the field “shocking” fishes (placing an electric current in the water so that stunned fishes float to the top for easy “sampling”) to determine their health as a species.  Fishes who are unfortunate enough to be included in this sample are killed in order to determine their age.  A dear friend of mine also works with free-living animals (“wildlife”) and informed me that birds of the wrong species are regularly caught in their “sampling” net.  These birds are often mangled and suffer for hours until the technicians come to check the nets.  Students are instructed to crush the chests of these birds to destroy them.

Assignments, final projects, theses, and dissertations in “wildlife,” “fishery,” and “environmental” programs encourage (or require) students to enter natural spaces and trap, stress, and even kill other animals in the name of research.

Man posing with Sturgeon on a fishing boat Sturgeon “sampling” at Virginia Commonwealth University

At my alma mater Virginia Tech, a black bear study has been ongoing for decades.  Bears are kept captive on campus property for students to measure and monitor.  The program has become so famous in the area, it has come to resemble a zoo exhibition. As with many zoo exhibitions masked as conservation projects, the bear program at Virginia Tech is well positioned to attract revenue through new students and donors.  Perhaps most telling, black bears are considered “game” in Virginia, which suggests to me that this program might serve to protect hunting revenue more than bears. I’m not sure how appealing that narrative would appear on the campus tour.

Man measuring a bear cubA bear cub is “measured” at Virginia Tech

Institutional review boards are maintained at all universities that engage research on humans or nonhumans, but the fact is that a considerable amount of violence is enacted on Nonhuman Animals in the name of science and for the benefit of the university and its faculty and degree-seekers. Conservation rhetoric only serves to green-wash anthroparchal violence. Fishes and bears aren’t just data–they’re sentient individuals.  Keep in mind that there are nonlethal methodologies that can be employed to monitor free-living species. Resistance to alternatives speaks to the anthropocentric, domineering attitudes that are legitimated under the rhetoric of environmental protection. Conservation programs may superficially claim a respect for nonhumans and ecosystems, but the violence enacted on vulnerable bodies in the research process demonstrates that the true lesson is one of human supremacy.

 

The interview with Jonathan Balcombe I have discussed above can be accessed on ARZone.

You can read more about science as an institution of speciesist oppression in A Rational Approach to Animal Rights: Extensions in Abolitionist Theory(Palgrave 2016).


This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on January 9, 2013.

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