Earlier this month when – and I still can’t believe it as I type these words – Donald Trump won the U.S. election, Hillary Clinton gave a moving concession speech the following day. As I wrote over at my other blog, not many speeches made my politicians in my lifetime have moved me to tears but hers did. It was an emotional day.
A week later, there was a protest here in Toronto to speak out against Donald Trump and I decided to go. There’s a Trump Hotel downtown and, in what must be the shortest march ever, we walked from City Hall to the hotel (it took less than ten minutes, even with hundreds of people). It may seem odd to march against the President of another country but Trump’s election will still affect us, as it will other countries. Plus, speaking out against his “victory” to the highest office in the land lets our Prime Minister know that we are not all onboard with Trump’s bullshit and to tread carefully when dealing with him on our behalf.
As we stood in front of the Trump hotel, two things struck me very clearly. One: Donald Trump, like Rob Ford when he was Toronto’s Mayor, has pissed off and polarized A LOT of people. Two: animal suffering, like a woman becoming President of the United States, remains the, “highest and hardest glass ceiling” to shatter. Here are just some of the chants I remember from that day, drawing attention to several communities that Trump had openly marginalized further during his 18-month campaign:
“Black Lives Matter!”
“Pussy Grabs Back!”
“Trans Rights Now!”
“Hands Too Small, They Cannot Build a Wall!” (funny AND effective)
“No Hate, No Fear, Immigrants are Welcome Here!”
Other groups whom were also represented through chants and signs: Indigenous people, LGBTQ, Women, Latino/Latina people, Muslims, people with disabilities, war veterans, refugees, and the 99% percent (“Pay Your Taxes!” was a chant that circled around a few times.)
If I’d had more nerve, I would have yelled, “Humans and Animals, We Are All Equal!“ because god knows, Trump is not going to be a friend to the animals with all his buddies in Big Agra business. But I didn’t. I would have been curious to see the reaction though. Because, unfortunately, as amazing and passionate and absolutely correct everyone speaking out on behalf of other oppressed groups were that day, many of them are still guilty of that cognitive dissonance between animal suffering and their food. The connection we were making with one another that day – Black Lives with Feminists, Feminists with Gay Rights, Gay Rights with Muslims – activists working on behalf of Animal Rights are still very much on their own. We do not yet even have the full support of other grassroots movements and animals are still very much ignored by the very groups who are well aware of the term “linked oppressions“. Social justice movements are often on the fringe of society, the outside of the status quo, and as I often say to my husband Julian about Animal Rights: “We are on the fringe…of the fringe.”
My friend Marisa, a woman whose been a huge influence on my life and a tremendous support to me in my vegan journey (and a faithful reader of this blog and frequent commenter), has noticed this too. Here’s what she once said about it during one of our lengthy email convos (reprinted with her permission):
“I read copious amounts of posts from my friends regarding depression, gender identity, gay issues, lesbian issues, bisexual issues, religion, athiesm, ableism, racism, sizeism, etc. and they all challenge the rest of us to look at the ways we enable negative stereotypes and abuses regarding these issues. They call people out constantly for not looking at the ways they oppress others and there is always much applause and acclamation.
Yet they all need to look at how THEY oppress non-human animals. It’s almost ridiculous how open-minded and inclusive people are yet remain completely oblivious to the wall they have erected between their inclusivity and other species. Everything they promote and believe in points directly to also extending their consideration to animals. But they stop short.”
In fact, vegans/animal activists can even be attacked and/or vilified by other groups which would never happen among any other cause. A group working on behalf of affordable housing would never be dismissed by those working to further the rights of women; a group fighting for the inclusion of people of colour are not going to ignore those working on behalf of LGBT rights. And yet, in my short experience with activism, I would say the only groups that openly welcome animal rights groups are those who also work on behalf of animals, such as dog or cat rescue organizations. Though we may still be included with other groups at large gatherings, such as Pride Parade, I would say we are still largely overlooked. While the average person doesn’t want to believe that with every animal they eat they’re participating in the systematic suffering of a living being, activists working on behalf of other liberation movements REALLY don’t want to believe it. Because that would make them guilty of the very thing they actively fight against: violence, exploitation, injustice. It’s a hard pill to swallow – believe me, I’ve taken it – but acknowledging the rights of animals by refusing to eat them will make you a better activist. If you can acknowledge the lowest of the low – and there is no one lower in our world than animals used for food – you will become more effective in the cause that is close to your heart and experience. If we can acknowledge the very species we’ve all been raised and conditioned to ignore since childhood, we will become an even stronger voice in our respective communities for the other issues that also require our attention. Nothing – NOTHING – has opened my mind and world up like going vegan has. It is a game-changer and it will not only transform how you view the world, it will transform YOU. Think you’re open-minded? Think you’re not part of the problem? Go vegan and found out for sure.
After the U.S. Election this year, everyone has been coming together to support one another’s causes and that’s been a definite win in the face of such a terrifying outcome. But that “highest and hardest glass ceiling” Hillary Clinton referred to in her concession speech isn’t the only one that needs to be shattered.
The 650 land animals killed every year in this country for food can tell you that.