Sun, 3/20 3:41PM • 33:49
veganism, vegan, people, animals, medication, ableism, ablest, disabled persons, disabled, Trudi, based diet, shaming, diet, eat, animal rights, chronically ill, vegan movement, practicable, speciesism, accessible
Geertrui Cazaux, Emilia Leese
Emilia Leese 00:09
Hello, I’m Emi Leese and welcome to the latest episode of Think like a vegan, a companion podcast to our book, also entitled think like a vegan. In each episode I’ll explore one topic related to veganism. One that might not be the focus of an everyday conversation, some we touched on in our book and here we’ll have the chance to take a closer look. I hope these short talks will inspire you and expand the conversation around veganism. veganism isn’t ablest declares our guest today Geertrui Cazaux. She writes, by calling veganism ablest they’re erasing the existence of disabled vegans and chronically ill vegans. Yes, we exist. Today, I’m delighted to welcome Geertrui Cazaux, author, blogger and vegan animal rights and inclusivity activist. Welcome Trudi. Thanks so much for joining us today.
Geertrui Cazaux 01:20
Emilia Leese 01:21
Before we hear from Trudi, here’s a bit of background about her. Trudi focused her PhD work in anthropocentrism and speciesism in contemporary criminology at Ghent University. Her books include humans and other animals, and she was co editor of a collection of essays from 34 Women animal rights activists from the Netherlands, and Flanders entitled, Een Ander Soort Zuster, which roughly translates to another kind of sister. Because of chronic illness, she’s left conventional work. Alongside her activism, Trudi now attends to her animal family and vegetable plot along with her husband, and she has really really cute donkeys, I highly encourage you to go look at her photos. Trudi has a few blogs covering different aspects of veganism, about which she’ll tell us more about at the end of the programme. Today I want to focus on her CripHumAnimal platform, which she created to address the interconnections between ableism and speciesism. And this is such an important topic because ultimately, oppression is oppression. And when it comes to veganism, well, everyone looks for an excuse not to today, Trudi will explain why veganism isn’t ablest. With that, Trudi, the floor is yours.
Geertrui Cazaux 02:40
Okay, thank you, Emilia for inviting me to speak on your podcast and giving me this opportunity. I also want to say congratulations, which you’re and Eva’s book, Think like a vegan. It’s a great book to learn about veganism, and it’s fantastic that it’s reaching so many people. So I want to talk about veganism, but more specifically about a claim that I sometimes hear people make to dismiss or brush off veganism or use as a reason for not going vegan themselves. And that claim is that veganism is ablest. Now, for those who are not familiar with the term ableism is the discrimination of disabled persons. So discrimination based on having or lacking certain abilities. Those can be mental or cognitive abilities or physical abilities. So saying that veganism is ablest a saying that veganism is discriminating against disabled persons. The argument that is used to ground this claim is that not everyone can be vegan due to disability or chronic disease. So asking people to go vegan is ableist. This mostly refers to dietary aspects of veganism, plant based eating or the use of medication. So the reasoning is that people who need to take medication, as many chronically ill or disabled persons do cannot be vegan. Because as you know, vegans avoid products that have been tested on animals or that contain animal derived products. But many people cannot live without medication. So if veganism imposes if it is a rule of veganism, that you cannot take this life saving medication, then veganism is ablest. The same reasoning is also used with respect to people who cannot fully adopt a vegan or plant based diet, for example, due to accessibility issues or medical issues. So in that reasoning, they cannot be vegan. Because veganism also means avoiding animal based products and your diet. And as these people cannot be fully vegan, the reasoning goes veganism is excluding disabled people or excluding chronically ill people, and it is a search ableist so whenever veganism is discussed in disabled circles disclaim often I would even Say always arises with a large section of people agreeing with this and such rejecting and discrediting vegan veganism and not only by disabled persons themselves, but also by abled activists for social justice, progressive activists who dismiss veganism because they consider it ablest. So the statement is made by both able bodied and disabled persons. Okay, now I’m fully acknowledging these arguments, and I am by no means ignoring or dismissing these concerns, because they are indeed very valid concerns, the medical issues, the accessibility of vegan foods, the need to take life saving medication, and I totally get where they are coming from. I am also chronically ill and disabled, I have several autoimmune diseases, and I have been taking medication for 30 years. And yes, I am vegan. So I think the claim that veganism is ableist mostly rests on a misunderstanding of the very definition of veganism, which includes the phrase, as far as as possible and practicable. So the definition as posted by the Vegan Society and the United Kingdom goes veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude as far as possible and practicable. All forms of exploitation of and cruelty to animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. The key element in this definition is the insertion of the phrasing as far as as possible and practicable. As such, everyone can be vegan, everyone can try to avoid the exploitation of other animals as far as as possible and practicable. Also disabled persons, also chronically ill persons. If for some medical reason, it is not possible to fully avoid the use of animal circled products, for example, for medication, there are many other aspects in your life, where you can still try to avoid it to the best of your abilities. Because veganism is also about much more than medication and diet. Think of the use and exploitation of other animals for entertainment, clothing, cosmetics, and everything from home decoration to Hobby material, like paint or garment or the saddle of your bike. Vegans try to avoid, avoid using animal products for all those things and look for animal free alternatives as far as as possible and practicable.
Now I know that the insertion of as far as as possible and practicable is a subjective norm, and it leaves room for interpretation. And here is of course where the discussion starts, who will decide what is possible and practicable in one’s day to day life. Let me take an example a personal example. When I bought my first wheelchair, I was surprised to find out that the straps underneath the back cushion were made out of animal skin. I asked whether the leather straps and the backing could be replaced with non animal synthetic or faux leather straps. The manufacturer agreed to replace this without any additional costs for me, but the manufacturer may not always provide that or you may depend on a secondhand wheelchair and if it require requires additional costs. Depending on social and economic situation, this might be out of reach for some disabled persons. So for me, this was possible and practicable. But it might not be for other disabled persons. Sometimes there might not even be animal free alternatives this for issues like this. Now take the example of medication. And I will expound a little bit more here because it’s an issue that also causes much debate also inside the vegan and animal rights community. Yes, medication and also vaccines to include an issue that has been discussed quite a bit recently have been tested on other animals. The system requires medication by law to be tested on animals before it can be prescribed to patients. So all medication that is available has at one point in the research and development phase being tested on animals. There’s no escaping that. So there are no alternatives. There’s no medication that has not been tested on animals. I also want to add here that all medical knowledge the whole body of medical procedures, therapies, medication and so on is not only based on an ethical experiments and tests on other animals, but it’s also gathered from an ethical experiments on humans. Throughout history there have been numerous examples of oppressed groups that have been subjected to scientific experiments to test medication or therapies, or even to explore the anatomy of the human body Do you think of medical experiments on prisoners, people confined in psychiatric hospitals, prisoners of war, women of colour and so on. I have read a horrible accounts of prisoners of war during World War Two, for example, about the effects of freezing temperatures on the human body. With POWs being placed outside to literally their limbs froze off, horrible and shocking accounts, but a body of medical knowledge, how awfully unethically it has been acquired, and I of course, condemn these wholeheartedly. But they have helped to improve the treatment of frostbite. This is also a point that I raised whenever non vegans tried to discredit my veganism or call me a hypocrite for taking medication as a vegan. And then I asked them if they know that the medication they are also taking or the therapies or medical procedures that they have had, are based on knowledge from unethical human experiments. We cannot undo this body of knowledge, even if experiments on animals were to stop now today, the medication medical therapies and procedures that will be used in a century or even later on will still be based on knowledge acquired through unethical tests on humans and other animals. There’s no escaping that. The other thing is that not taking medication, or even actively boycotting, it will not change the system, the system that legally requires them to be tested on other animals,
vaccines or medication do not follow the same supply demand logic like buying food or cosmetics do. As consumers we can more or less vote with our dollar or put our money where our mouth is. Now I know a lot needs. A lot needs to be said about capitalism and vegan Capitalism and Its excesses and its negative impact on humans and other animals. But that then can perhaps be the topic of another podcast. But the point I want to make is this when it comes down to food, cosmetics, clothes shoes, we can most often find suitable alternatives that fit our nice needs that are accessible, that are affordable, or we can demand them. And in that way, we can also steer the market and given incentive to manufacturers to provide vegan alternatives. That is not the case for medication, since all are legally required to be tested on animals. And all medical knowledge is based on animal testing. And even if all vegans would refuse to take medication that would not lead to legal changes to abolish the use of animals for experiments. If anything, it could lead to fewer people being able to advocate for animal rights, as they might not be able to do so because of the physical or mental condition. And by not taking medication, you not only put your own health at risk, but in the case of vaccines, for example, also the health of others, and especially people from risk groups. So not taking medication will not change the situation of animals, it will not bring an end to animal testing. What we can do as activists for animal rights and social justice is keep advocating for the end of the use of other animals in experiments. We cannot change the past. But hopefully we can enter a system in which animal testing is required by law. But as I said, the claim that veganism is ableist doesn’t just refer to medication, but also about food, for example. So another aspect that is often raised when making the claim that veganism is ablest is that not everyone can eat 100% plant based diet. This is a very delicate discussion. And I fully acknowledge that there are several medical conditions that can make it very hard for some people to eat a balanced, varied plant based diet. I’m thinking of for example, so not limited to gastrointestinal conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, that’s EDS and autoimmune diseases like inflammatory bowel disease IBD. That’s an umbrella term for Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. There’s also food allergies or food intolerances, which can heavily limit your options and it can be very difficult for people dealing with eating disorders as well. However, that being said, as far as I can tell, from all the medical knowledge that I have gathered, there is no medical condition that absolutely physically requires someone to eat animal products. But because of these conditions that I mentioned, and there are others too, it can be much harder to eat a fully plant based diet because they limit the possibilities for someone to eat varied and balanced. This can also have to do with for example, the lack of access to fresh food, the lack of access to supplements, not Having the ability to prepare food yourself or maybe even because of lack of dietary knowledge or guidance and making the transition to a very balanced plant based diet.
Emilia Leese 15:11
We’ll stop here for a quick break and listen to this soundscape of hippos recorded by Derek Solomon at the Chilo gorge on the Savi River in Zimbabwe at dawn after an early rainstorm. And we’re back for the second part of Trudi Cazaux’s briefing on distinguishing the claims veganism is ablest from what veganism actually is.
So here again, the phrasing as far as as possible and practice will comes in. And that is, of course, a subjective norm that everyone applies to themselves against the backdrop of advocating for justice and respect for the rights of other animals. And again, it needs to be stressed that diet is just one aspect of living vegan. So if the dietary aspect is one that you are struggling with, there are so many other ways to live a lifestyle in line with your ethics in support of animal rights. Now, I’m treading very carefully here. And I will really urge other vegans to be very cautious when they are met with a reply from chronically ill or disabled people that they cannot be vegan for health reasons. Because simply brushing it off with the statement. Oh, but everyone can eat a plant based diet without also knowing the background of that person, the difficulties they face. Also, their social economic situation will possibly just backfire and shut down the discussion and end them from being open to veganism. Because as a chronically ill person, one has met with so much maybe good meaning but nonetheless often frustrating health advice from April’s I cannot recall the number of times I had I talk dietary advice given to me, sometimes also from people who have absolutely zero dietary or medical background, and people who also can’t even say the names of the diseases that I am diagnosed with. So please be careful in such discussions, try to ask questions of others making it difficult for them to eat a balanced, varied plant based diet and acknowledge that these issues can make it really hard. Try to offer possible solutions or ask them what could help them in transitioning, don’t shame or condemn them. One must also realise that most patients get zero to no dietary guidance from their medical supervisors. And in the rare occasions that they do, the dietary guidelines given by medical staff just reflect the mainstream diet informed by a speciesist ideology that includes animals as food. So many patients are just repeating what their doctors have told them. And unfortunately, many in the medical profession are not aware of the benefits of a plant based diet and still advise to eat diet full of animal products. I would like to add a personal example here, as one of the autoimmune diseases that I have is Crohn’s disease. Now I was diagnosed more than 30 years ago, and I’ve been vegan for about 12 to 13 years on patient platforms for people with IBD. So Crohn’s and Ulcerative Colitis. I’m often met with disbelief and immediate rejection when I simply share a photo of vegan dish of what I’ve eaten that day. For example, my lunch dishes always contain a selection of raw vegetables or cooked vegetables, a slice of whole grain bread or whole grain rice, things like almond tofu, houmous, scrambled trophy, tofu, maybe some fresh fruit and so on. I have had my diagnosis of Crohn’s questioned by fellow patients because they said it is impossible to eat a dish like that when having Crohn’s disease. Many IBD patients have been told for years and years to avoid fibre and raw vegetables. And yes, I agree and certain periods and flares or after surgery, it can be advised to eat low fibre and high fat fibre can cause additional discomfort. But fibre and vegetables are essential for good gut health. And more and more scientific research is now advising more or fully plant based foods also in the treatment of gastrointestinal diseases, and when, as an EBD patient transitioning to a diet that contains more fibre, it is important to do that in phases. For example, start with blended foods or fruits and veg in smoothies so your gut can get used to it. So there’s a lot of misunderstanding to be countered among chronically ill people as also in the general population about the benefits of a healthy plant based diet. So to recap, veganism is taking a stance against injustice to other animals. It is trying to implement that in your day to day life by avoiding as far as as possible and practicable, the use of animals and all day to day aspects. And this is exactly what all vegans also disabled vegans and chronically ill vegans do in their everyday lives. It might not be practicable and possible in all aspects of your life, think of medication, but it surely is possible in a lot of aspects of your life. Vegans also disabled vegans avoid the use of animals as far as as possible and practicable given their specific situation.
I really think that saying that veganism is ableist is a sort of strawman argument. I acknowledge the issues disabled and chronically ill people can face when trying to implement a vegan lifestyle. But that takes nothing away from the philosophy of veganism and the ethics of animal rights. It takes nothing away from the fact that the way we use and abused animals for food, clothing and scientific experiments in entertainment is wrong, it’s unethical, and that we should try to change that. And by adopting a vegan lifestyle, one is taking a stance against the against the injustice that animals are subjected to. One is trying to move to a system in which animals rights are taken into consideration. To make an analogy, and I know this comparison might be flawed on several levels, but it’s just to make the point. We know that our environment is in a poor state, we know about climate change. There’s a whole body of scientific evidence that backs up the need to change the way we live and our impact on the environment. We know that we must take measures to try and improve the environment and help or minimise climate change. Some of those measures or adaptations have been criticised by disability activists for being ablest and not taking into consideration the needs of disabled people. There are discussions about the use of package packaging, like single use plastics, plastic straws, or public transport that is not accessible or inner cities becoming car free, but no longer accessible for disabled people, and so on. Those are really valid and concerning issues and they need to be addressed. But that doesn’t mean that the need for environmental measures or measures to hold climate change should be thrown overboard or dismissed altogether. We must acknowledge that some measures are not accessible for all and try to make them as accessible as possible. Now, in a similar vein, the fact that some aspects of a vegan lifestyle might not be accessible for all disabled persons is no argument to ditch veganism. That’s throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Don’t dismiss veganism. But if you are able to put your efforts in trying to make all aspects of the vegan lifestyle accessible for all and as accessible as possible for disabled people fight against ableism and speciesism you can do both they are not mutually exclusive. Advocate for the abolishment of testing on other animals. Now it especially frustrates me when I see angels use the ableist argument to ditch veganism, as I feel they are using disabled persons as a prop and their rejection of veganism without truly understanding the core of veganism and also ignoring the fact that many disabled and chronically ill vegans do exist. And they do try to avoid using animals as far as as possible and practicable. So I as a disabled person, don’t want to be their excuse for them to continue using and abusing animals. I think their rejection of veganism is more often based on the common mainstream speciesist ideologies and not understanding the interconnectedness of all operations, sexism, racism, ableism, and so forth. And yes, also speciesism now, I think I would like to add is that unfortunately, although veganism in itself isn’t ablest, yes, some vegans or vegan or animal rights organisations or campaigns or projects are ablest Some examples of ableism in the vegan movement are organising events that are not accessible, excluding disabled people from activism, or claiming that some people are not good advocates for animals based on appearance. There’s also the frequent use of ableist language in the vegan movement, for example, using mental illness diagnosis to refer to people who use or abuse animals. And there’s also medication shaming by some vegans.
And another aspect, which I want to go into some further, is the health shaming the parts of the vegan movement, presenting veganism as a medical cure all. This is especially coming from so called healthy vegans who like to present a plant based diet as a magical bullet for just about any disease or condition. And if one is not cured, it must be because you’re not eating the so called right kind of plant based diet. So basically want to shaming people about their health status and shaming people about their food choices as well. Shaming is not only ineffective to bring about lifestyle changes, but it can also have the adverse effect and simply it is wrong. Now, look, diet is an important factor for one’s health. But there are so many other factors that determine one’s health, not only diet, but also lifestyle environmental factors, think of air pollution, water pollution, radiation. Also genetics play a role, and often there is no one to one link between any of these annual health status. Now, I’m certainly not denying that a vegan diet and certainly a whole foods plant based diet is generally beneficial to one’s health, and can reduce the risk for many chronic conditions and illnesses. vegans are less likely to have type two diabetes, to have hypertension to develop certain cancers. But a vegan diet is no guarantee for good health. Even vegans can get cancer, even vegans die. A whole foods plant based diet greatly reduces the risk for many diseases and conditions. And it can stabilise certain conditions, but it is no magical bullet. So, all of these issues need to be addressed and tackled. And that is also one of the reasons why I launched the platform crip humanimal. I do interviews with disabled and chronically ill vegans in which they talk about their activism, their journey to veganism and the challenges they face. And so hopefully they can also be inspiring for other disabled people to transition to veganism. On crypto Manimal. I also explore the interconnectedness between ableism and speciesism, animality and disability by sharing resources, highlighting the stories of disabled vegans and also disabled animals. One of those issues is for example, how the animal association of disabled people have served and still serves as a tool in their oppression. I also address topics like health shaming and body shaming. So, I fully understand the concerns by disabled or chronically ill persons about being met with ableism from the vegan community. But that behaviour those ablest remarks, projects, platforms, should be distinguished from the overall philosophy of veganism, which is in and by itself, absolutely not ablest. And although there are certainly problematic sections within the vegan movement, like in any other movement for social justice, I would say, I can also say that a large segment of the movement is really advocating for inclusion of all and for total liberation. But I should also know that dismantling ableism is not only a matter of becoming more diverse and inclusive in our movement, as a social justice movement, we shouldn’t be working for Liberation and Justice of all, and ableism must be flat out condemned, and there’s still much work to be done there. So those are my thoughts about veganism and ableism. And if anybody wants to get in touch with me, you can reach out to your crip humanimal.org. Or you can send me a message through Facebook or Instagram. Thanks, everyone, for listening.
Emilia Leese 29:21
Thank you so much, Trudi. That was an absolute tour de force. And I’ve been following you now for years. And you always have such sensitivity and thoughtfulness to everything that you say, and I really admire that. You’re, you’re a remarkable, absolutely remarkable person. So thank you for being so outspoken and bringing clarity to this issue. And it isn’t an easy task, especially because it hits you on a personal level. So you’ve you’ve mentioned your website, and do you want do you have any other projects that you want to Do you want to share or give your give the handle for your Instagram as well?
My Instagram is Trudi_bugesvegan and I also post a lot on other platforms. And there’s bugesvegan.com. But that’s mainly restaurant reviews and sometimes some thoughts about veganism and animal rights as well. And then for Dutch speaking people, I post a lot on Graswortels.org. And the literal translation of that is grassroots. So it’s like grassroots activism for veganism, and animal rights.
Emilia Leese 30:36
Oh, that’s fantastic. And I’ll make sure everything goes up on the website so people can all the links will be up. Thank you again, Trudi. Really appreciate it.
Geertrui Cazaux 30:45
Yeah, thank you for having me. Thanks.
Emilia Leese 30:48
In this episode, we continue to tease out the knots of confusion beleaguer in veganism. To sum up, I’ll read something Eva wrote in our book, vegans share the common goal of removing violence from our lives, and replacing it with fairness towards animals. Understanding these goals means veganism becomes inclusive of everyone, irrespective of age, physical ability, size, or chronic illness. The important thing is we understand these goals because once we do, then we can tackle all the other issues that contemporary world throws at us. And here, I want to share something you might have noticed, although our book is written by me and Eva, I’m presenting this podcast on my own. The reason is Eva lives with a chronic illness herself. Originally, we plan to do this show together. But that’s not been possible. So hearing the perspective of chronically ill vegans is something important per se. And for us personally, Eva has been speaking out and writing more about her perspective on life with a chronic illness. That takes courage. And I admire that I’m proud of her for doing so and I encourage you to go find her work on her Instagram page, @eatinworkout. Next time, author Benny Malone joins me to share his top five favourite fallacies and counter vegan arguments. And I’ll pick my top three strategies for talking about veganism with others. That’s it from me, Emi Leese. Thank you for listening. I’ll post the transcript in due course along with links and references to the materials we’ve discussed today on our website, think like a vegan.com and the audio will also be available on Think like a vegan YouTube channel. Remember, you can get in touch by email at Think like a vegan firstname.lastname@example.org or find think like a vegan on most social media, or find me at Emmys good eating.com and on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, subscribe to this podcast, share it with others and leave us a review. And for our book, Think like a vegan it’s on bookshop.org or anywhere you buy books and on your favourite audio book platform to or ask your local library to carry it. Production credit goes to Jim Moore of bloody vegans productions. Music provided by Jenny Moore’s mystic business. The opening tune is flashbacks and we close with tear things up