when it aint a fair trade

July 3, 2009 § 6 Comments

just a thought on this conversation over at vegans of color:

…if you are vegan because you reject animal exploitation this wouldn’t even be an argument because no craving would stand in the way of your moral obligations as a compassionate person .

veganism is the practical expression of anti speciesism. and more specifically against the enslavement or murder of innocent sentient beings. and for this reason vegans boycott animal products, including leather and fur. then are also as stringently to boycott products made by human slave labor. since human beings are sentient beings too. and what if we cannot boycott products made by slave labor. (for instance i have no idea how i would buy clothes or most things that were not made by slave labor here in egypt…there is not much ‘fair trade’ market here) and thus i still wear and use products made from the enslavement and murder of human beings…does this mean that i cannot call myself vegan according to this standards set by certain members of this convo at vegans of color blog?
i am not asking that as a tongue in cheek question. i seriously want to know. to what extent are we truly dedicated vegans? to what extent are we against the enslavement and murder of the innocent?
or do we figure hey i am really against the enslavement of human beings so i try my best to not purchase slave products…but you know simply because where i am in my life and within the structural realities of the socio-economic system sometimes i do have to buy slave labor products. and it sucks. and i do it.
i mean if you are going to call yourself vegan…then you need to walk the talk.

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§ 6 Responses to when it aint a fair trade

  • prof susurro says:

    I feel the same about some people’s defense of PETA when they intentionally make light of genocides like the holocaust and slavery, or dress up as Klan during Black history month, and yet some vegans continue to excuse this behavior and/or support their organization. I find myself wondering why does speciesism trump racism or ethnic cleansing? And why is that breakdown in the ideals of veganism tolerated when the issue you raised a while back about pregnancy and diet are not? Why is the breakdown between veganism and modern day slavery overlooked (ie no wide scale organizing to end modern day slavery related to products we consumed in the same way as organizing against animal exploitation outright) when other things are not?

    As someone who is deeply committed to ending the exploitation of animals and human beings, I often find veganism to be a hard vantage point from which to argue equality in the instances you and I have raised here precisely b/c of the implications about what falls out and what does not.

    That said, I have no solution to the actual, vs. ideological, question you raise, with regard to exploitation. Living in an intentional community where you know exactly how the products are made and sold and avoid those from which you cannot know or cannot support is the basic answer.

  • Aaminah Hernandez says:

    i read that convo because i was interested in your post. i was appalled at the commentary, and frankly it was a turn off. i am not vegan but have always had the utmost respect for vegans. i am trying (and thus far failing) to be vegetarian and cut out dairy at least. the fact that people who claim to care so much about animals can be so downright mean to fellow humans really says something to me. i hate PETA. truly, i hate them. i do know vegans who also hate them. on the other hand, like prof susurro says, i know vegans who are so wrapped up in protection of animals that they do not make the link AT ALL to respect for and protection of humans. some vegans i have known were openly racist and/or misogynist… i don’t understand how it’s possible to be that way.

    not being vegan, and not even being a perfect vegetarian, i didn’t feel it was my place to comment over there. but i think you raise some really good points there and here about PRIVILEGE. yes, i’d love to be able to be vegan, love to be able to wear clothing and buy other goods that are not built on the backs of slave labor. Quite frankly, i think that even the so-called natural products that are produced by so-called “conscious” companies still are not entirely blood free… maybe they pay their workers, but do they pay them fair? do they offer them high quality benefits? do they give them good working conditions? etc etc. but the fact is: it’s a privilege to be able to choose to buy “fair trade”, not just in egypt where it may very well be impossible, but even here in the u.s. where fair trade costs at least twice (sometimes 3 or 4 times) as much and requires more gas to find the store that has what you are looking for. and the fact is also that so called fair trade products… they cost a lot more and i don’t for one minute believe that that money is going into the pockets of the producers. i’m quite certain that when we are charged this unbelievable amount of money for something the people who produced it aren’t seeing that money anyway or else they wouldn’t still be living in the poverty they live in, would they? i could give you specific examples i have seen, but i’ve probably already outstayed my welcome, LOL. 🙂

    anyway, the fact is that it is a privilege to be able to spend your time, gas, and money to find and support every correct justice way. the fact that some people are so demanding that you follow their way perfectly but are hypocrites and possibly not even trying to extend that justice to other situations is sick and twisted. the inability to respect people’s personal situations, to see where they are coming from and that they are trying is sad. expecting perfection from people, to the point that one will make a jerk of themselves (as i saw in that thread) is ridiculous. especially when it’s hypocritical anyway.

  • nakedthoughts says:

    I finally just finished reading the thread on VOC. I am a vegan, though I have only been one solidly for about a year and I am still learning about animal products in places I didn’t expect to find them.

    But I am a survivalist. people need to do what they need to in order to survive. I often feel very conflicted about this. My father is a diabetic, if it were not for beef insulin he would have died as a child and I wouldn’t exist. Now there is synthetic human insulin, but if there weren’t or if someone who was diabetic only had access to beef insulin I understand wanting to live. I think that is a reasonable reaction.

    (I also think that many non vegans confuse “survive” with “but its tasty” but I digress.)

    For me it is all about doing what you can do with the resources available. I’m not always careful about where my sugar comes from, does that mean I’m not vegan? I think I still am. I think vegan is often a process. I am learning, and adjusting constantly.

    You are talking about situations outside of your control. It is a difficult situation because there is a fear that people who are insincere will also use words and arguments like the ones you’ve made as an excuse. It is hard to tell how sincere people are sometimes, especially when an issue is as contentious as animal rights, which makes some people feel the need to argue in absolutes. (this is all IMO and why I think on that thread why there were people questioning your current vegan status)

    I think that where I currently am it is impossible to live a cruelty free lifestyle. Unless I move to a self contained self-sustaining community I don’t think I can be 100% cruelty free. I am just not at a point where feel able to do that. But I never let that fact stop me from getting as close to that ideal as possible. So I DO call myself a vegan, and I would refer to you as a vegan as well.

  • geopunk says:

    This is an excellent question, and our responsibility to our own species is something that many (most?) vegans overlook.

    Veganism, realistically, should be about harm reduction, whether that is to reduce harm to one’s own body (which is my own reason for my food choices) or reduce harm against others. It’s unrealistic and rather delusional to believe that by choosing a vegan path, one is entirely eliminating the suffering of others.

    Personally, given the choice and ability, I pick something that is fair trade certified (but may contain animal-derived ingredients) over something that is 100% vegan but not fair trade.

    But then, I’m a Bad Vegan who wears wool and leather, anyway, so maybe my thoughts don’t count, heh. ;P

  • Derek says:

    Jello Biafra made an a comment that I think is relevant here. He said (I’m paraphrasing) that within left wing activist groups and organizations there tends to be a hollier-than-thou mentality. A “I’m better than you because I am conscious of this”, whatever this happens to be.

    In the punk rock scene in the late 70’s and early 80’s in San Francisco this was certainly the case, and one of Biafra’s friends took this attitude. The result was the guy went over the deep end and because a SUV driving angry conservative Republican. The hollier-than-thou mentality drove him over the deep end and he gave up.

    The reality is that markets don’t provide products free of exploitation because that’s what markets do. Some products are less exploitative than others. Seeking out those products is a good and noble thing.

    But there’s only so much a person can reasonably do. In some cases, your needs will come face to face with exploitation, and there isn’t much one can do. You can either drop your needs or participate in that exploitation as minimally as possible.

    So that’s what I do. I try to buy products that aren’t exploitative. Some times I don’t have much choice in the matter. In short, I try to do the best I can. If everyone did, this world would be a better place. That’s worth something. And if you don’t have the financial resources to avoid such products, then you can’t be morally at fault.

  • Noemi M says:

    that thread is making me so angry I don’t know how to respond. When I was pregnant, I had no access to internet (6 yrs ago), no home phone. was sleepin on futon in my mom’s living room in a little shack house where the ceiling was caving in, mice got into our food in the fridge and i was still being visited by the abusive father of baby, where he would kick my ass in front of familia. like, um, food? wtf who cares.

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