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[Guest Post] Veganism,, and Rape Culture

2013 May 27
  • First things first: there’s a trigger warning on this post for discussion of (and links to discussion of) sexual assault, racism, homophobia, transphobia and generally insultingly bad advertising – take care when clicking the links. We haven’t included any images which depict these things below, but we have used some viral text-based images which reference them.
  • This is another guest post from the lovely Alice Slater (we’re thinking of adopting her permanently if we can persuade her…). If you’ve got a guest post brewing in your brain, drop us a line and send a pitch to [email protected].

Everyone approaches veganism from a different angle.

Some vegans find their way into it through kindness and empathy for living creatures; others are swayed by hard facts and shocking images. Neither is more or less agreeable, and I suspect that in our day-to-day lives, most vegans use a combination of both when faced with questions from curious veggie or omni friends.

veg1But then there’s People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA as they’re commonly known. PETA’s ongoing racist, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic and fat-shaming ads and publicity stunts are frequently ripped to pieces online.

Plenty of veg*ns dislike PETA’s controversial tactics, yet many agree that at least their attention-seeking techniques shine a light on the fight and get results, regardless of the harm they cause to others in the process.

PETA are a massive organisation, and they spread a very clear message: animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on or use for entertainment – but we’ll appropriate the Holocaust (see below), slavery, women’s bodies, homosexuality and trans* stereotypes to further our cause – and we don’t give a hoot what oppression we’re supporting in the process.

One of the *less* triggering but still unhelpfully Holocaust-appropriating images one's dashboard can encounter.

One of the *less* triggering unhelpful images one’s dashboard can get covered in.

PETA aren’t the only platform for animal rights, though. Vegans rejoiced a few weeks ago when the beta version of finally went live. For you carnivores not in the loop, is a social network for vegans to exchange recipes, activist resources, articles, images and videos.

It’s similar to Tumblr and Twitter insofar as the primary purpose is to upload original content that can then be reblogged (“rebleated”) by fellow vegans. It’s a great way for vegans to connect on a micro level, by spreading awareness of local causes and events, and on a macro level by communicating with vegans on a global scale.

For the first week, it was mostly gifs of piglets, infographics of banana ice cream recipes, and cartoon avocados. With 5,500 profiles created within seven days of the site’s launch, the content rapidly improved: awesome recipes, powerful pro-vegan ads, witty one-liners and inspirational quotes promoting veganism were rife. But unfortunately, so was rape culture.

Due to the reblogging nature of the site, the same images kept popping into my feed: an illustration of an angry cow squeezing the bare breast of a lactating woman, a cartoon of a robot raping a blood-covered cow1, milk being referred to as “rape juice” and the comparison between enjoying the taste of meat to the sexual pleasure a rapist experiences (below right).

Most shocking of all was a video entitled “Women forcefully milked in the street”. The short film documents a provocative street performance in which a lactating mother has her baby snatched from her arms by masked men with bloodied hands, who then tear open her blouse to reveal her bare breasts. The rest of the content is in the title. It’s absolutely horrific to watch.

'Pretty much the same argument'. Or pretty much incredibly dismissive.

Another less visually graphic, but horrible bit of viral reblogging.

When I mentioned my abhorrence of the casual connection between rape and the dairy industry on Twitter, a vegan pal asked, “What else would you call it?”

Well, the industry term for the bench on which female cows are artificially inseminated is often the “rape rack”, so referring to the process as rape isn’t a particular stretch. But the very fact that this is a common term within the dairy industry is a product of rape culture.

The pig factory employee found forcing metal rods and electrodes into the vaginas of sows is a product of rape culture. The flagrant disregard for the mental health of survivors by flaunting these triggering images to promote veganism is a product of rape culture.

By comparing the industrialised rape and infanticide of the dairy industry to the rape and infanticide of women and children, we are asking non-vegans to project the empathy for the latter onto the suffering of the former. The problem with comparing the dairy industry to rape is that we still live in a rape culture.

Unfortunately, we live in a world in which a teenage girl is gang-raped, photographed unconscious by her aggressors and is still blamed. We live in a world in which an accused rapist’s conviction is overturned because his disabled alleged victim did not resist the attack. We live in a world in which women are threatened with rape on a daily basis and are expected to laugh when comedians crack rape jokes. We don’t live in a world that cares enough about the rape of humans for the comparison to be truly effective.

By spreading these images of women being assaulted, we are supporting rape culture, and we are appropriating the suffering and strength of survivors. It is unacceptable to hijack, trigger and traumatise to forward a cause that has so many other convincing arguments to sway potential vegans into ditching the dairy.

Do we really want to be part of a movement that, like PETA, pushes animal rights forward with one hand and shoves civil rights, women’s liberation, LGBTQI rights, issues of race and body positivism aside with the other? That is not my veganism.

To paraphrase Flavia Dzodan, my veganism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit. From dressing up as the KKK to producing pro-domestic violence ads, PETA are absolutely rancid, poisonous and unforgivable. It’s also unforgivable to use triggering imagery of women being assaulted to push the vegan agenda.

  • By day, Alice Slater is a writer and bookseller from London. By night, she is a horror film addict who always keeps the lights on. She writes for Mslexia and Drunken Werewolf, and she blogs about veg*n high jinx at
  1. Ed’s Tiny Note: We’ve not linked these two as they really are truly unpleasant. They’re definitely real, though. []
5 Responses leave one →
  1. Kirsty permalink
    May 28, 2013

    A compelling article, very well written and researched. I’m glad to be reading something that highlights the culture of rape and blame existing in our society every day, and PETA are way, way out of line!

  2. May 28, 2013

    Thank you for this. I’m a vegan and I loathe the ‘rape rack’, dairy and all the other components of our animal-abuse culture. But the way PETA uses sexism, body fascism and racism to put their point across is the most vile of ethical hypocrisies and I don’t want to be associated with it at all. Thank you for putting all this into such a coherent and well-researched article.

  3. May 28, 2013

    This needs to be said and well done for saying it so eloquently.

  4. June 13, 2013

    Have you seen my piece for Feminspire on PETA’s dog-in-a-hot-car ad? Basically sexualizing violence against women and adding to rape culture to educate us about leaving our dogs in hot cars…pretty horrific

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