vegans, book, meat, industry, splaining, rhetoric, animal agriculture industry, animals, denialism, veganism, jason, animal agriculture, devil, host, terms, explaining, seeks, men, mansplaining, women
Emilia Leese, Jason Hannan
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. Private property is central to capitalism. Those who own the factories have the power to exploit workers. But in the case of animal farms, those who own the animals have the power to exploit animal labour, and animal bodies. treating animals as property obliterates the distinction between animals and machines. That’s an excerpt from meat splaining, the animal agriculture industry and the rhetoric of denial by Professor Jason Hannan, who’s our guest today. That lack of distinction between animal and machine or object is something we touch on in our book and which we’ll return to again in this series. Today, I’m delighted to welcome to our podcast Professor Jason Hannan. He’s one of our young leading lights on veganism as a leftist political practice. And I can’t wait to hear what he has to say to us. We’ll hear Jason’s take not only on animal exploitation, but most importantly, on the rhetoric of animal exploitation. Welcome, Jason.
Jason Hannan 01:57
Thank you so much for having me.
Emilia Leese 01:58
So before we hear from you, Jason, here’s a bit of background for our listeners. Professor Hannan is an associate professor in the Department of rhetoric, writing and Communication at the University of Winnipeg in Canada. In addition to veganism, His research interests include the effects of rhetoric in a variety of contexts, including the political right, and on social media, as well as the political and historical roots of animal agriculture. He has a couple of upcoming research projects on these topics. And I hope he’ll tell us about them at the end of the show. And he’s also the chair of the Winnipeg Veg Fest, which is the largest vegan and animal rights festival in Midwestern Canada. And I hope he’ll tell us about upcoming events happening there as well. Now, I want to read another excerpt from his book to get us in the mindset for all its talk of freedom and liberty. Liberalism is a hierarchical worldview in which human subjects aren’t naturally endowed with inalienable rights, including the right to own and exploit animals, to a bourgeois liberal who obsessively clings to the idea of private property. The Animal Liberation Movement thus represents a grave existential threat. Animal Liberation challenges the assumptions on which the entire liberal worldview and political economic order are based. With that, Jason, the floor is yours.
Jason Hannan 03:31
Thank you, Emi. According to old English folklore, to mention the devil is to conjure him in person, hence the saying, Speak of the devil and the devil shall appear. This thing was originally intended as a warning against unwittingly inviting evil into one’s presence. But suppose we sought to confront the devil directly. By this logic, if we wish to see the devil in person, then we need only give them a name to speak of the devil then would have an eminently practical purpose. In the 1960s, climate scientists gave two names to the ominous problem of the anthropogenic rise in atmospheric temperatures, and the consequent disruptions in global climate patterns, global warming, and climate change. These powerful terms name the devil, they have come to haunt our collective psyche. They serve as a constant and terrifying reminder that we humans are responsible for drastically altering this fragile planet. And that if we fail to act, our sorted legacy, will be the lead behind a literal hell on earth for future generations, human and non human. More recently, we have given a name to the fossil fuel industries war on climate science, we call it climate denialism. The concept of climate denialism captures a wide range of manipulative activity sowing doubt about climate science, creating a false scientific controversy about climate change. Demonising climate scientists demonising environmental groups and framing climate action as a moral threat to freedom and liberty, coining new terms for serious problems. Naming the devil enables us to see what was formerly obscure. Naming is a necessary diagnostic tool for the scientist, the physician, the scholar, the activist, naming helps us make the invisible visible. As Animal Liberation activists, environmentalists, and health advocates engage in a long term battle with the meat industry. The time has come for us to give a name to an old devil. Here I’m referring to the seductive rhetoric, the clever talking points, the wily public relations tactics, and the out and out propaganda of the animal agriculture industry. Like the fossil fuel industry, the animal agriculture industry has become an integral part of modern capitalist power and domination. It to practices systematic denialism, to shield itself from critical scrutiny and to avoid public accountability. This denialism serves to mitigate three distinct types of public relations crisis, one outrage at the industry’s brutal treatment of farm animals to alarm over the industry’s disastrous impact upon the environment. And three, concern about the dire effects of animal products upon human health. The animal agriculture industry lacks a singular analogue to climate denialism. How then should we conceptualise its forms of denial? Through what overarching concept, in my new edited volume meets blaming the animal agriculture industry in the rhetoric of denial, I propose the term meat splaining as an umbrella concept for the multiple forms of denialism perpetuated by the animal agriculture industry.
Meat splaining, of course, is a play on mansplaining, the clever term that entered the digital feminist lexicon following the publication of Rebecca Solnit. Now classic sa men explained things to me. In her essay Solnit recounts an unfortunate experience she had while attending an upper crust social gathering at an opulent cabin on the slopes of Aspen, Colorado Solnit. Then in her 40s, felt out of place among the crowd of older and distinguished guests. As she and a friend were getting ready to leave, the host insisted that they stay for a while, himself in older men. The host had heard that Solnit had recently published a couple of books, and wanted to hear what they were about. Solnit had in fact published seven books, she began to talk about her most recent book, river, her shadows, Edward Moy bridge and the technological Wild West. The host then interrupted her and asked, and have you heard about that very important Moyer bridge book that came out this year. Solnit wondered what the odds were of two Muybridge books being published in one year, the host began telling her about this very important book, which she soon realised was hers. The host had assumed that she had not read it, let alone written it. He further assumed that he possessed the authority to lecture her about it, even though he himself had not actually read the book, but was instead merely going by a review. In the New York Times Book Review. The host had to be told repeatedly that it was her book before it finally sank in, at which point he was left stunned, speechless. Incredibly, the host then carried on as before, now knowingly explaining a book to its own author, as someone that observes the simple yet forceful and commanding act of a man interrupting and talking down to a woman functions as a silencing mechanism. By assuming the authority to lecture others, men often reduce women to the role of passive students, thereby undermining their standing to speak. In doing so. They delineate certain types of social and intellectual territory is belonging exclusively to men. This subconscious exercise of patriarchal power is ubiquitous. As Solnit says, quote, Every woman knows what I’m talking about. It’s the presumption that makes it hard at times for any woman in any field that keeps women from speaking up and from being heard when they dare that crushes young women into silence by indicating the way harassment does on the street. That this is not their world. He trains us in self doubt and self limitation. Just it is just as it exercises men’s unsupported overconfidence, and quote, the cultural norm of men explaining things to women, Solomon says, is part of an archipelago of arrogance.
Emilia Leese 10:19
We’ll stop here for a short musical break and return with more Professor Jason Hannan. This is a snippet from algorithms by Chad crouch.
We’re back for the second part of Professor Hanson’s briefing on veganism as a leftist political practice. In many
ways, the dynamic of obnoxious and overconfident men explaining things to women bears a striking similarity to the animal agriculture industry explaining things to its critics. Meat splaining functions as a silencing mechanism. The extreme condescension and patronising character of meat splaining serves to shut down critics of the meat industry, to paint them as and reduce them to petulant and ignorant children to eliminate them from the sphere of rational discourse. meets planning delineates discursive boundaries, it establishes who possesses and who lacks the credibility to speak about what happens on animal farms and in slaughterhouses. It defines what constitutes the normal, the rational and the mainstream, and what constitutes the fringe. Those who are effectively boxed into the ladder group, by definition lack credibility. If vegans are branded as irrational, violent and extremist, they will Perforce lack the moral standing to speak and to be taken seriously. Meat splaining further rests on certain reductive tropes, that vegans necessarily have poor health, that they’re ignorant about animals ecology, and human health. The vegans have some sort of scheming agenda, whereas the meat industry is somehow felicitously free of any such agenda. The vegans are too sanctimonious and lack a sense of humour, a popular trope that feeds anti vegan trolls, and even viral marketing campaigns that vegans are too angry and emotional for civilised gatherings, that vegans are simultaneously hypersensitive victims yet also tyrannical bullies, and that veganism because it is allegedly inherently violent and extremist is a threat to social order. Although the concept of mansplaining intended in this book, refers primarily to a form of industry rhetoric, the phenomenon of meat splaining also operates on an interpersonal level. Meat splaining can be understood as an extension of mansplaining. It follows a similar gender dynamic, and reproduces many of the same patterns of patriarchal power and domination. It is not a coincidence that vegans and animal rights activists are overwhelmingly women. In the United States, women make up over 80% of the vegan community that men make up only a fraction of the vegan community is a reflection of popular cultural attitudes about meat and masculinity. In many cultures, masculine identity is notoriously bound up with the performative consumption of meat, a phenomenon explored in Carroll Adams. In her classic study the Sexual Politics of Meat, masculinity is a fragile, insensitive thing. It’s easily threatened by critiques of cherished male myths, not least among them the myth that meat makes the men it’s not surprising then, that so many men should feel threatened by veganism and become positively agitated over the very idea of animal rights. Moreover, despite marketing attempts to portray the meat industry as woman friendly, it remains overwhelmingly male dominated There are then both cultural and institutional reasons why needs planners are more often than not men, men who presume the authority to lecture vegans about protein, canine teeth, and the caveman diet. This volume, my book is a first attempt to bring systematic attention to the phenomenon of meat splaining, an integral part of modern animal agriculture that has long invaded critical analysis. Like other profit driven industries, the animal agriculture industry aggressively seeks to shield itself from external threats. To that end, it employs a distinct set of rhetorical strategies by which to neutralise public criticism and shield itself from public scrutiny. My book is an exploration of those strategies, it seeks to answer the following questions. What are the recurring strategies of Persuasion by which the meat industry alleviates public outrage over the treatment of animals? What narratives myths and fantasies does the meat industry employ to sustain its image in the public imagination? How does it respond to concerns about its environmental impact?
How does it respond to concerns about its public health impact? How does it construct vegans and animal rights activists in the popular imagination? By no means a thorough and exhaustive set of analyses? My book is merely a first examination of animal agriculture industry rhetoric. Even as my book was being put together, new patterns have emerged in meat industry rhetoric. In response to declining sales. The dairy industry has launched a campaign against plant based milks, and the beef industry has launched a similar campaign against popular new plant based products like the Beyond Meat burger and the Impossible Burger. Animal agriculture has further sought to police language and prohibit the use of terms like milk, butter, cheese, and burger and the labelling of plant based foods. While the content and hostility towards vegans are nothing new. Trolling vegans has become a new marketing gimmick. And as the Amazon burns, animal farmers have rushed to distinguish grass fed beef as ecologically sustainable. Thus, even in the short time it took to put my book together, the terms and terrain of meat industry rhetoric have evolved and expanded and will likely to continue to evolve and expand for the foreseeable future. My book was designed to start a necessary and urgent conversation about the phenomenon of meat splaining, to make it explicit, to propose a basic typology, and to offer several initial analyses of meat splaining in practice, my book is just the start of a much larger and ongoing collective project of bringing one of the most powerful and ubiquitous forms of industry rhetoric under critical, systematic scrutiny. I propose the concept of meat splaining to equip students, scholars, and activists with new terminology, and new diagnostic tools for making sense of meat industry rhetoric, for deconstructing and dismantling the industry’s ever expanding list of talking points, and for challenging the manipulation of public opinion. For far too long, this rhetoric has evaded criticism, because it has gone without a name, that can change once we make the invisible, visible, if we wish to confront the devil, to bring him out into the light than it’s necessary to speak his name.
Emilia Leese 18:34
So thank you so much, Jason. This has been enlightening and inspiring, truly tremendous. And, frankly, it’s not often we get to talk with the leftists who are also vegans. So it’s a wonderful when we do. And before we go, where can people follow your work online? And do you have any projects you’d like to promote?
Sure, so I can be followed on Facebook. I just created a Twitter account. It’s not very active. And then I can be followed on academia.edu for fellow academics. I am currently working on a book called new white saviours, the colonial mythology of meat, and this basically looks at the history of animal agriculture mythology in North America, and it’s really unfortunate tendency to completely whitewash the industry’s record of ethnic cleansing of indigenous peoples in the Americas.
Emilia Leese 19:41
That’s a lot. This sounds fascinating. I’m looking forward to it. Oh, and tell us about the Veg Fest. The Winnipeg Veg Fest.
Yes, sure. So I am the chair of Winnipeg Veg Fest and in early March from March 3 to march 12. We are hosting a restaurant festival called veg out, which features brand new vegan comfort food dishes. This is local. And so it’s a way of promoting and supporting our local restaurant industry a way of promoting vegan cuisine. And we are using this as a fundraiser to support rainbow ranger station, which is a wonderful local animal sanctuary. So it’s a win win for everyone. It’s a win for the restaurants. It’s a win for the vegan community and for vegan food. And it’s a win for the animals because we will be supporting them with a very sizable donation.
Emilia Leese 20:36
That’s fantastic. Well, thank you again, Jason. Thanks so much.
Jason Hannan 20:40
Thank you so much. Thank you so much for having me.
Emilia Leese 20:43
In this episode, we’ve seen how if you already lean left politically, veganism is aligned with that, too. It always surprises me when people on the left who are so socially and fair minded, sometimes utterly scoff at the idea that creatures other than ourselves could possibly want that sort of fairness for themselves, or that we owe it to them. I also always find it amusing how they’ll rail against the ruling class or management, whatever term you’d like to use, using the working class and how couldn’t they do that? And yet, never look at themselves and how they’re being at least as oppressive to beings who have just as much right to be free from exploitation. Next time, Professor Manisha Decker will be with us to expand on the idea of animals as the means of production, and we’ll talk about her proposal for a new legal classification for animals. See, that’s it for me, me lease. Thank you for listening. I’ll post a transcript and 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. Go around