Animal agriculture is based on the exploitation of female bodies. Period. Full stop. Female bodies are the means of production for every food containing meat, dairy, or eggs. Every time you eat the flesh or the products (milk and eggs) of animals, you are eating the pain and exploitation of female bodies.
Take cattle for example. All cattle end up in the beef industry sooner or later. Female cattle – cows – are repeatedly impregnated for their milk and offspring. Cows (and other female livestock animals) are restrained using a device called a rape rack. While the cow (or sow, etc.) is controlled, she is penetrated vaginally by a metal device for artificial insemination. For 3-5 years, cows will be repeatedly impregnated like this to keep their milk flowing.
Calves are taken from their mother anywhere from 1 to 7 days after birth. Male cattle are sold to the beef industry and will be slaughtered as early as 4 to 5 months old as veal. Other males will be raised to full size for their meat. Female cattle will take their mother’s place as they drop out of dairy production from exhaustion. Once cows’ reproductive systems falter – uterine prolapse or a decline in milk production, cows are sold to the beef industry to be included in your hamburger or steak.
Since humans don’t commonly drink the milk of pigs, sows are allowed to nurse their young. In fact, they are held down with metal contraptions resembling clam shells, forcing them to lie on their sides so that their offspring may constantly nurse. Once again, when their ability to reproduce declines, they become bacon and ham.
This abuse of female bodies extends to other animals as well. Popular dog breeds are exploited by “puppy mills” for profit. Female dogs are kept in cages, often in squalid conditions with little to no veterinary care. They are impregnated every time they come into estrus or “heat” and their puppies sold off for profit. When they can no longer produce puppies, they are often dumped, or if they’re lucky, left at the local pound.
It is my feeling that how people treat animals, especially female animals is closely related to the reproductive and bodily autonomy wars on human females. Those with female bodies must constantly fight for sovereignty of their bodies – and stand their ground to protect the small legal gains made. Access to temporary or permanent contraception is fraught with gatekeepers whose permission the female-bodied must gain. Even purchasing condoms is seen by law enforcement as proof of prostitution, not that the individual would like to avoid pregnancy and disease. Oral contraceptives must be purchased with a prescription – permission from one’s doctor, and may be denied by a pharmacist on religious grounds. Another problem is paying for the prescription – many employers have sued to deny health insurance coverage of contraceptives, also on religious grounds. (Eden Foods filed suit along with Hobby Lobby to deny employer health insurance coverage of oral contraceptives to their female employees. I will NEVER buy products from Eden Foods, even if they were the last can of adzuki beans on the shelf!) The female bodied may be required to submit to a psychological evaluation and get the permission of their father or husband if they seek permanent contraception or sterilization – especially if the female in question is nulliparous.
Human female breasts are used to sell everything from bras to beer, but to use them for what they are for: nourishing an infant? Never. Best case scenario, breastfeeding women will be told to cover up. Worst case scenario they will be cited for indecent exposure.
If you are female bodied and find yourself pregnant, and for whatever reason you don’t want to be pregnant, getting an abortion can be difficult, terrifying, or impossible, despite being a legal and safe medical procedure.
Humans control the reproductive lives of female animals, and exploit them for profit. Humans in power also control much of the reproductive lives of human females, and will not stop until that control is total. It’s my belief that the two are correlated; that we are ruthless in exploiting the female bodies of animals for our culinary (and other) uses is not much different from controlling the reproductive lives of humans with female bodies. Being vegan is my way of responding to these attempts at authoritarianism and control. I will not participate in this exploitation. Not only is every bite of burger or cheese or bacon full of hormones, antibiotics, cholesterol, and saturated fat, it is full of abuse, misery, pain, slavery, and exploitation.