Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Cows Have Vaginas, Too!

Vegan Feminist Network, The Vegan Vine
Forcible insemination (rape) of a dairy cow.
When I tell people new to animal activism that veganism is also a feminist issue, I usually get some quizzical looks. Did you say feminism? What do women have to do with farm animals? This typical response is reflective of speciesism. When we think of animals as others, we are acting speciesist.

There are female nonhuman animals just as there are female human animals. And yes, cows have vaginas, too!

Is it really that incredible to believe that a cow loves her calf as much as any human loves her baby, or that the calf with whom she also spent nine months nurturing in her womb is just as precious to her as any infant to its human mother? Sadly, our anthropocentric society conditions us to dismiss the lives and feelings of nonhuman animals in order to justify the horrendous acts committed against them. We don't want to hear about mothers bellowing for their calves for days on end after having them ripped away after birth or their desperate attempts to jump fences and evade captors to reunite with them. Wouldn't any human mother do the same for her child?

The majority of animals exploited for human consumption are females for their feminized protein: milk and eggs. Dairy cows are inseminated against their will using what the industry candidly calls a rape rack. “Rape rack is a term that makes no apologies,” said Talia of the Vegan Feminist. A rape rack restrains a cow while a human violates her by forcibly and violently penetrating her vagina with an object or device in order to impregnate her. The rape rack is utilized to make it easy and efficient for humans to inseminate cows in order to produce more animals for milk and meat.

In a recent exposé, the New York Times reported on taxpayer-financed experiments on farm animals for the meat industry in which re-engineered cows were bred to have twins and triplets, often resulting in weak and deformed calves, and operations on the ovaries and brains of pigs were performed to make them more fertile. One grisly incident involved a young female cow who was put into a rape rack and left with six bulls. Dr. James Keen, a scientist and veterinarian who worked at the facility said "The bulls were being studied for their sexual libido and normally you would do that by putting a single bull in with a cow for 15 minutes. But these bulls had been in there for hours mounting her . . . her back legs were broken. Her body was just torn up." Too much for her to bear, she died a few hours later.

As with humans, cows cannot produce milk without having babies, however none of their milk goes to their calves. Instead, their milk is given to humans—the only mammals on earth who voluntarily ingest milk from another mammal.

Calves are taken from their mothers usually within 24 hours of birth—newly born females will be raped just like their mothers before them, and males will be prepped to become veal or cheap beef (hamburgers). And when dairy cows have outgrown their usefulness and their (re)productiveness ends, they will be slaughtered just like the others. This is the suffering contained in a glass of milk, a block of cheese, and a pint of ice-cream. 

The raping of female animals to produce more animals so people can consume the products of their reproduction is ubiquitous among the meat, dairy, and egg industries. The sexual assault of both male and female nonhuman animals is viewed as an economic necessity for these industries to profit off the mass production and exploitation of other animals.

A breeding pig spends most of her life in a metal crate so small that she literally cannot turn around and can barely move her legs. After giving birth, she is locked in a 2 foot by 7 foot gestation crate for a month. Her piglets are deprived of maternal comfort as they nurse through metal bars. After three or four years of these repeated cycles of giving birth only to watch helplessly as her piglets are taken from her one by one, is she then killed. 

Feminism, Cows Have Vaginas, Too
Turkeys have been genetically manipulated to grow so abnormally large in order to sell more of their flesh to consumers (larger breasts) that it is impossible for their reproductive organs to naturally come in contact; therefore, workers are paid to masturbate male turkeys (toms) and forcibly insert the toms’ semen into the females’ vaginas using a rubber tube.

Rape is a crime of power. This is no exception for the animal-industrial complex in which humans wield their dominance over other sentient beings simply because they can. To wit: animals are sexually assaulted even when it has no bearing on production. In “Does Eating Meat Support Bestiality?” Bruce Friedrich described just how routine sexual abuse is in the meat industry:
  • At a Hormel supplier, a supervisor rammed canes and gate rods into the vaginas and anuses of pigs while another employee told a PETA investigator to beat a pig and compared the pig to a "voluptuous little fucking girl." He also urged the supervisor to expose his genitals to the pigs.
  • At the world's leading poultry breeding company, a worker pinned a female turkey to the ground and pretended to rape her. He told police he'd done the same thing to dozens of other turkeys.
  • At a Butterball slaughterhouse in Arkansas, a worker repeatedly jammed his finger into a turkey's vagina, and another worker simulated the rape of a bird whose legs and head he had secured in metal shackles.
Similarly to human females, nonhuman females are an oppressed group controlled and dominated by a system that uses sexual abuse and violence as common practices to promote consumption. Carol Adams illuminated this more than twenty years ago in her landmark book The Sexual Politics of Meat: "Whereas women may feel like pieces of meat, and be treated like pieces of meatemotionally butchered and physically batteredanimals actually are made into pieces of meat (p. 57). . . . When asked about their sexual fantasies, many men describe 'pornographic scenes of disembodied, faceless, impersonal body parts: breasts, legs, vaginas, buttocks.' Meat for the average consumer has been reduced to exactly that: faceless body parts, breasts, legs, udders, buttocks. Frank Perdue plays with the images of sexual butchering in a poster encouraging chicken consumption: 'Are you a breast or a leg man?'" (p. 69).

Our social structure maintains its power through the literal and figurative consumption and commercialization of female animals—both human and nonhuman. This reality was clearly illustrated in a recent episode of Undercover Boss featuring a sports bar named Bikinis. When asked about his business of employing women in scantily clad bathing suits, Bikinis CEO Doug Guller said “We’re a breastaurant. It’s obvious what gets our fans in the door. It’s our breasts. Not necessarily our chicken breasts.”

When people purchase and eat animal products, they’re not only condoning violence and the taking of lives for something so unnecessary as meat, dairy, and eggs, but they’re also excusing and contributing to a repressive, patriarchal system that condones the sexual abuse and rape of others.

Bodies are not property! By exploiting and eating other animals and their secretions, we are effectively participating in our own denigration and in the commodification of other females, irrespective of species.

"As a feminist, I couldn't hide from the fact that what we do to animals to fulfill our consumer demands is profoundly un-feminist," wrote Marla Rose in "Becoming a Vegan Feminist Agitator." "We impregnate the animals against their will, breeding them into captivity, we imprison them, we control and violate their reproductive sovereignty and organs so we can take what we want out of them, and, when they have given us most of what they have, we toss them out to make room for more fertile ones. This is what feminists approve of and directly cause when we consume animals' stolen milk and eggs. We take the babies we have forced into them so we can have the products we want. . . . Even in the rare cases where babies and mothers aren't separated and are allowed something resembling a decent life, we still decide how they live as well as how and when they will die. None of this challenges the status quo of ownership, of our 'right' to their very physical bodies. How can an avowed feminist [or any woman] accept these terms imposed on another female?" 

Veganism and animal rights are not about women verses men or males verses females, but of right versus wrong. The victimization of any powerless group is unjust; therefore, we must awaken our own consciousness and that of others to the knowledge that no animal, under any circumstance, is property. It’s that simple and it begins with a commitment to veganism.

Photo courtesy of Vegan Feminist Network.

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1 comment:

leeann broad said...

A great blog, Bethany!!