|Friday, 12.09.2014 15:30-16:20 Room B
|"I am skeptical of veganism, but I respect it" - Estonian feminists encountering animal rights/veganism
the presentation is based on a paper written by Kadri Aavik, Tallinn University and Dagmar Kase, Estonian Academy of Arts
By now, many ecofeminist and critical animal studies (CAS) scholars have drawn attention to the interconnectedness of various oppressions. Contemporary feminist theory and practice increasingly embrace intersectionality as a theoretical-methodological approach aiming to understand social inequality more comprehensively. In their efforts to see various forms of oppression, such as sexism, racism, classism, homophobia etc. as interlinked, most feminists however have been reluctant to challenge speciesism as a form of subjugation and injustice.
In this paper, we use intersectional CAS and ecofeminist perspectives to explore ways in which Estonian feminists understand and explain ways how feminism as a theoretical perspective and as an everyday discursive and material practice relates to animal rights/veganism. We are interested in whether and how they see sexism and speciesism as interlinked and what explanations and justifications they use to embrace and/or distance themselves from veganism as an ethical practice. We draw on written responses by 20 self-identified feminist academics and/or activists in Estonia whom we asked to elaborate on these issues.
We situate our analysis in the particular local context of contemporary Estonia as a post-socialist state embracing a neoliberal agenda, where feminism has remained a contested topic in the public discourse. Our results and discussion might be relevant to other post-socialist contexts, as well as to small societies or communities, where close connections between different social movements and individuals/groups working for different forms of justice as activists, academics and policymakers create good conditions for the exchange of ideas and practices.
Our initial results suggest that our respondents do not either dismiss or embrace links between sexism and speciesism. On the theoretical level, connections between feminism and animal rights are admitted, yet several dominant discourses such as the necessity of animal products for human health, as well as human exceptionalism are not challenged, but instead reproduced and used as justification for consuming animal products.
While none of our respondents are vegan, several claim to have minimized their meat consumption and prefer "free range" or "ethical" meat. The latter choice can be explained by the increasing visibility of the green movement in Estonia, which advocates for a more "natural" and "closer to earth" lifestyle. The mainstream of this movement however originates from health and/or environmental motivations, while concern for animal rights is absent. Rather, local and organic food is promoted and the use of animals is seen as inevitable and "natural".