Veganism, Sex and Politics

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Author: C. Lou Hamilton

Published 1 November 2019

Veganism, Sex and Politics brings debates about veganism in conversation with feminism
and queer politics through blending storytelling with popular culture, media, oral history, autobiography and the author’s own vegan voyage.

Veganism, Sex and Politics explores the dangers of separating animal rights from feminism, anti–racist movements, queer activist and class politics and ruminates on the pleasures of veganism as an ethical commitment to all life.

“This provocative and imaginative book challenges us to re-examine our usual responses to questions
of consumption, ethics, and representation. After all, veganism is not something we can arrive at; it is an ongoing process.” Rasmus R. Simonsen, editor of Critical Perspectives on Veganism.

Veganism, Sex and Politics is an original interweaving of scholarship and storytelling that deftly explores the intersecting politics of gender, sexuality, race, class, colonialism, ability and species. In this timely and engaging volume, C. Lou Hamilton draws on her own experiences of the perils and pleasures of veganism to add insight to the contemporary politics of consumption.” Chloë Taylor, author of Foucault, Feminism, and Sex Crimes.

 

Veganism and sex. We usually treat them as separate issues, but they are closely connected. Both relate to bodies — human and animal — and to our identities. Veganism and sex are also hotly contested political questions. In an era when concern about climate change and the abuses of industrial agriculture have made veganism increasingly popular, Veganism, Sex and Politics is an invigorating read that brings debates about veganism in conversation with feminism and queer politics.

Veganism, Sex and Politics addresses some of the most controversial questions in animal rights and sexual politics: Is veganism too white and middle class? Why are vegans so often portrayed as moralistic individualists? Or as skinny young white women? Is there a link between violence against women and the butchering and eating of animals? And is it ever acceptable to compare the brutality of animal agriculture and laboratories to mass violence against human beings? Is it OK for vegans to accept medicine tested on animals? Do women have a more immediate, more caring relationship to animals and the environment? Is it ever possible to eat without killing? Can veganism save the planet?

Veganism, Sex and Politics does not try to provide definitive answers to these questions. Instead, it uses them as starting points to explore how thinking about veganism can help us to think through some of today’s challenging political and ethical issues that incorporate, but go beyond, what we put in and on our bodies.

The book blends storytelling from popular culture, media, oral history, autobiography and the author’s own vegan voyage with light–touch academic analysis. Veganism, Sex and Politics shows how transnational sexual subcultures, queer feminist movements and intersectional animal rights activists are creating a new sexual politics of veganism.

C. Lou Hamilton is a writer and independent scholar. She has published academic articles and books on feminism, the history of sexuality, oral history, revolutionary movements, sex work and human-animal relations. She is a former member of Feminist Review’s editorial collective. As an activist she has been involved for many years in feminist and queer collectives, the sex worker rights movement and environmentalism. She lives in London.

Praise for Veganism, Sex and Politics

Veganism, Sex, & Politics: Tales of Danger and Pleasure is an original interweaving of scholarship and storytelling that deftly explores the intersecting politics of gender, sexuality, race, class, colonialism, ability and species. In this timely and engaging volume, C. Lou Hamilton draws on her own experiences of the perils and pleasures of veganism to add insight to the contemporary politics of consumption. The result is an accessible introduction to the social justice literature on veganism and representations of veganism in popular culture and media. While most writings on veganism are dominated by concern over food production involving land animals, Veganism, Sex, & Politics is set apart by its queer feminist reflections on sea life, animal experimentation, and leather.’ Chloë Taylor, Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Alberta, author of Foucault, Feminism, and Sex Crimes: An Anti-Carceral Analysis  (Routledge 2019).

‘In Veganism, Sex and Politics C. Lou Hamilton Hamilton offers a range of compelling insights into veganism as a practice. Mixing academic discourse with her experience as a feminist/queer activist and her personal reflections on veganism, Hamilton’s foray into what is now known as Vegan Studies has more depth and breadth than what most other texts on the subject manage. She aims her critical attention not only at society but also at the movement itself and, crucially, expands the topic of veganism to include a larger discussion of feminism and political activism more broadly. Borrowing Gramsci’s notion of “common sense”, she details the kind of anti-vegan sentiment that is often found within otherwise progressive political circles. Along the way she takes on dominant vegan voices, such as Carol Adams, to remind us that the moment we reach political consensus within the movement is when we need to start re-evaluating the meaning and telos of veganism. Hamilton’s careful attention to language, especially metaphor, is one of the main strengths of the book, as she inspires readers to examine their own “common sense” arguments that draw sometimes ill-advised and inappropriate comparisons between, for example, the Holocaust and factory farming. As such, this book calls upon readers to not only examine every oppression according to its specific socio-historical circumstances but also examine why vegan scholars and activists are so quick to turn images of past violence and oppression into reductive comparisons to present, ongoing struggles. Each chapter of this provocative and imaginative book challenges us to re-examine our usual responses to questions of consumption, ethics, and representation. After all, veganism is not something we can arrive at; it is an ongoing process. Hamilton’s book teaches us that we must keep practicing doing veganism, and continue learning how best to care for other species as well as the world we inhabit together.’ Rasmus Rahbek Simonsen, Lecturer in Communication Design & Media, Copenhagen School of Design & Technology.