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Veganism: A Dietary Stance Against Sexual Violence?

May 20, 2013


The food we eat varies based on a number of factors; seasonal availability, socioeconomic status, geography, religion, cultural upbringing, or based on our interests or lifestyles. As a vegan, I’ve decided to align my food choices with my morals.

Meat eating itself is culturally a very masculine act, and is as much a part of ‘being a man’ in the U.S as is competitiveness or aggression. Culturally conditioned macho and sexist behavior promotes rape culture, and meat eating no doubt plays a role in establishing one’s manliness, as meat eating is a sign of virility. Carol J. Adams wrote an entire book about the link between meat eating and sexism, titled The Sexual Politics of Meat, in which she discusses everything from the sexist language equating women to animals, to meat eating being a symbol of the patriarchal control of animals.

The production side of meat and animal products has an even more obvious and well documented tie to sexual violence. Farmworkers across the U.S, especially immigrants, are subjected to cruel working conditions and harsh abuses. While sexual violence happens on both crop and livestock operations, the worst of it emanates from work in slaughterhouses. The emotional dissonance required to be successful at killing sentient animals for a living comes with many dire consequences. In this article in Texas Observer, a worker recounts pigs – who are known to be more intelligent than the dogs many of us love and count as members of our families – that would “come up to nuzzle me like a puppy. Two minutes later I had to kill them. I can’t care.”

To deal with such trauma, workers turn to coping mechanisms such as drug and alcohol abuse, many develop PTSD, and they bring that violence home in the form of domestic and sexual violence. As Upton Sinclair wrote in The Jungle, “men who have to crack the heads of animals all day seem to get into the habit, and to practice on their friends, and even on their families”. Slaughterhouse employment has been found to increase total arrests, as well as arrests for rape, sex offenses, and other violent crimes in comparison with other comparable industries.

It’s not just meat production and consumption that is connected with sexual violence. The dairy industry – in addition to being thought the most cruel from an animal welfare perspective – is connected to sexual violence as well. Some say that consuming dairy is directly supporting rape culture, which I think is a little extreme, but I do agree that the torture we inflict on dairy cows is abhorrent; locking them up, artificially inseminating them, and immediately taking their calves away to be slaughtered for veal, all so we can consume their milk that was meant for their own babies. And the industry casually using the term “rape rack” to describe the restraining system they use to violently inseminate the cattle is desensitizing and makes light of issues of sexual violence.

People choose a vegan lifestyle for a myriad of different reasons; to take a stand against climate change and environmental destruction, to better their personal health, to support animal rights, or to support other causes they’re passionate about. Everyday we vote with our forks, and with our dollars, whether we’re aware of it or not.

If you’re interested in learning more about veganism, please check out or

By Piper, Edited by Garrett B, SVC Volunteers

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