Animal Rights Zone

Fighting for animal liberation and an end to speciesism

Transcript of Katrina Fox's Live ARZone Guest Chat

Transcript of Katrina Fox’s Live ARZone Guest Chat

23 July 2011

6pm US Eastern Time

11pm UK Time

24 July 2011

8am Australian Eastern Standard Time

 

 

Carolyn Bailey:

ARZone would like to welcome Katrina Fox as today’s Live Chat Guest.

 

Katrina Fox is a freelance journalist, originally from London, and based in Sydney, Australia, for the past 10 years. She went vegetarian at age 11 when her mum told her the ‘beefburger’ she was eating was once a cow, and became involved in animal advocacy in the late 1980s in London and again in the late 1990s, becoming a vegan in 1997.

 

Katrina has written several articles on animal rights and welfare for the mainstream media in Australia, including The Sydney Morning Herald, News Limited’s The Punch, the ABC’s The Drum opinion website and women’s magazines YEN and Mindfood. She has written extensively for the gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, intersex and queer media (GLBTIQ) internationally for nearly 15 years. During her year as launch editor of a queer women’s magazine from 2007-2008 for Australia’s largest GLBTIQ publisher, she ran regular articles on animal advocacy. She has also contributed articles to Vegan Voice and The Vegan (Vegan Society UK’s magazine).

 

Just under 18 months ago, she started The Scavenger, originally a monthly but now bimonthly, not-for-profit (ie unfunded, labour of love) online magazine with a strong social justice ethos (people, animals, environment), where she publishes a range of voices from within the animal advocacy movement.

 

Katrina is interested in intersectionality – how different forms of oppression are interlinked – and has presented at animal rights events and feminist conferences on this topic. As a journalist – rather than a philosopher or academic – she aims to act as a conduit to get the ideas and work of animal rights theorists and activists out to the general public in an accessible way.

 

Despite the many descriptions bestowed upon her by commenters in the mainstream media (‘crazy lesbian vegan’ and ‘mung-bean-munching hippie with an iron deficiency’ being just a couple), she thinks of herself as an abolitionist with welfarist tendencies.

 

Katrina lives with her long-term partner, Tracie, who was a bisexual carnivore when they first met, but made the transition to lesbian vegan quite quickly. A tabby cat, Gabrielle, lives with them.

 

Katrina welcomes the opportunity to engage ARZone members today on a range of topics. Would you please join with me in welcoming Katrina to ARZone?

Welcome, Katrina!

 

Matt Bowen:

Welcome, Katrina!

 

Roger Yates:

Hi

 

Katrina Fox:

Thanks Carolyn - sorry my bio was quite long!


Brooke Cameron:

Hi Katrina, thanks for being here!

 

Suzanne Barker:

Welcome Katrina

 

sXe Vegan:

Hi Katrina and welcome

 

Tim Gier:

Hello Katrina!

 

Sky:

Hi

 

Jesse Newman:

Hi Katrina.

 

Mangus O’Shales:

Hello Ms. Fox

 

Will:

Hey up!

 

Kate:

Hello Katrina. Thanks for being here.

 

Thomas Janak:

Hi Katrina and everyone in here tonight

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Katrina will be responding to her pre-registered questions first, and then we’ll open the chat up for all members to engage her. Please refrain from interrupting Katrina during her first session, and feel free to send a private message to an admin if you wish to address her at any time, which we encourage. I’d now like to ask Matt Bowen to ask Katrina her first question, when you’re ready, thanks, Matt!

 

Matt Bowen:

Hi Katrina, you became vegetarian when you were 11 when your mum told you the “beef” burger you were eating was once a cow. Could you please identify any problems you encountered as a vegetarian teenager that may be helpful to others, and how you overcame those difficulties?

 

Katrina Fox:

Hi Matthew – thanks for your question. I have to think back a long time to when I was a teenager, hehe! The only real problems were with my parents, or mostly my mother. She didn’t get it. I suppose she was worried that I wouldn’t get proper nutrition – which was ironic really because we ate out of packets during the week, so not exactly healthy! Every Sunday she’d do a chicken dinner and insisted on putting chicken on my plate. I hand-fed it to our cat, Kitty, who was pleased as he had his own separate helping too.

 

I guess for me it was just one other thing that made me ‘different’ (and I put the word in scare quotes because at the time I didn’t particularly want to be different, just wanted to fit in – nowadays I embrace the difference).

 

I didn’t really get any grief at school because I took a packed lunch, but to be honest, my vegetarianism was the least of my worries: I was far more freaked out by the growing realisation that I was probably gay! Being yelled at and called a lesbian in the local shopping centre by a nasty girl in my class was mortifying: I’m not sure I’d have felt the same if she’d shouted ‘You vegetarian!’ But you never know! :-) One area I guess my love of animals was an issue was during biology class when we were supposed to dissect rats. I ducked the class. Looking back I wish I’d have done something more radical like liberating the rats (not that I’m inciting any teens to do this, but if you do – good on you!). During my teens (1979-1984 if you must know), I was quite lonely and tended to retreat into my own fantasy world rather than deal with confrontation. Nowadays with the internet, I’d recommend seeking out groups, or starting one yourself, of other young people interested in animal rights.

 

Matt Bowen:

Thanks for that, Katrina!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks Katrina, Tim Gier would like to ask the next question now. Thank you, Tim.

 

Tim Gier:

Sometime ago you wrote about how raising the issue of vegan food at a particular conference was met with some criticism. As I recall, it had to do with aspects of traditional cultural uses of other animals as food as well as what some might have seen as a devaluing of the people in attendance (by way of perhaps elevating the vegan issue compared to the “human” issues.) Would you talk about how those issues were intertwined, how the difficulties arose and played out at the time, the progress (if any) that’s happened since and any advice you might have for other vegans involved in similar kinds of conferences?

 

Katrina Fox:

Haha, three questions in one, I like your style Tim! :-) Ok, so the first time it came up for me was when a group of women (working as a collective) put on a feminist conference here in Sydney in 2010. It was the first of its kind in more than 15 years, so there was a bit of a buzz to it. I put in to do a workshop, along with Jacqueline Dalziell of Animal Liberation NSW, on the links between animal rights and feminism, and was told by one of the collective that these issues were probably not the most important that people would want to discuss, which I suppose set alarm bells ringing.

 

Anyway, to cut to the chase: The catering was full of meat and dairy, and they had stalls selling cakes as well as veal. Jaq and I brought our own soya milk. They also had a dinner in which a vegan MP (Lee Rhiannon) talked about abortion rights, at a non-vegan restaurant. Anyway during a plenary panel I raised the issues and pointed out the irony of talking about women’s reproductive rights while actively supporting the exploitation of female non-human animals’ bodies and reproductive systems by consuming meat, dairy etc. At the end of the day they passed some motions and Jacqueline put one forward to have future conferences catered entirely vegan. A shitfight then occurred! Some women argued that having only vegan food would be disrespectful to Indigenous and women of colour and it would put them off coming, as meat is an important part of their culture. A lot of discussion ensued online afterwards, with no real resolving of anything.

 

However, almost a year later, a group of Melbourne feminists decided to put on a feminist conference. They’d heard about all the dramas of the Sydney one, so invited me to do a workshop and to be on a plenary panel on intersectionality talking about non-human animals. So there’s a bit of progress already in that they saw it as an important enough issue to be included in a plenary discussion. Also my talk was received really well, with many women open to the issues. But they decided not to provide catering all together! I wrote an article with the differing viewpoints here: http://www.thescavenger.net/animals/racism-versus-speciesism-a-moral-battleground-575.html

 

It’s one of those things that will constantly come up. For example recently here in Sydney and Melbourne a group lobbying for the rights of sex and/or gender diverse people held a picnic and the Melbourne crew advertised theirs as a vegan one in order not to have an event celebrating equality for one oppressed group while supporting the oppression of another. Predictably, the Facebook event page went off, with people complaining about it being vegan, not making the connections between human rights and animal rights, or human oppression and animal oppression.

 

As for advice to other vegans involved in social justice conferences, it depends on who is involved in organising them. Personally I can’t stand collectives (too many bad experiences in the late 80s with feminist collectives). They seem all nice and democratic but it’s hard to get anything done! Sometimes a ‘benevolent dictator’ (or two) is the way to go! :-)  I guess all we can do is politely, calmly and respectfully point out the arguments for why vegan catering is actually the most inclusive since everyone can eat – as American blogger Kelly Garbato said in my article: “While meat may play an important role in certain cultures and diets, we all eat and enjoy vegan foods to some extent. That is to say, fruits, vegetables, grains, nuts, etc. are not morally offensive to cultures xyz (xyz being the meat-centric cultures) – and  in fact, cultures xyz probably consume a fair amount of each. “In contrast, meat, dairy, and eggs are morally offensive to many feminists, including some feminists of color – the idea that veganism is necessarily "white" or "elitist" seems to be at play here as well. Taking the beliefs and feelings of each side into account, vegan catering may very well be the least offensive choice. “Also, implicit in the anti-vegan argument seems to be the assumption that the cultural significance of meat is unique to these communities of color and thus asking everyone to abstain from eating meat at the conference places an undue burden on feminists of color, or otherwise discriminates against these cultures. “Clearly, this is false: diets heavy in meat, eggs and dairy are the norm in most Western/industrialized nations, and various animal-based foodstuffs hold special meanings in assorted, predominantly "white" cultures. “So to me, this is less an issue of white privilege than it is human privilege.” (end of Kelly quote) But it can be a bit of an uphill battle. This is why I’m so interested in intersectionality ie looking at how oppressions interlink and constantly trying to point those out so that eventually it becomes second nature to social justice advocates organising urban conferences to have vegan catering as the default.

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Katrina!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, again, Katrina! Jason Ward is up next, but is unavailable, so I’ll ask his question for him.

You’ve written articles for mainstream media, including the Sydney Morning Herald. Have you found that the general public are accepting of challenges to their own beliefs and lifestyles, or are they generally dismissive of topics which ask them to reflect on themselves as perhaps having been acting in a less than favourable way?

 

Katrina Fox:

Hi Jason. Well, if you go by the comments left on most of my mainstream media articles, the answer would be a big fat no LOL! But I don’t think the comments section is necessarily indicative of the broader public. I know if I look at my own media consumption – which is predominantly online nowadays – if I read an article that gives me the ‘wow’ factor and challenges my thinking, I don’t generally leave a comment to that effect. Most often we leave comments when we’re incensed about something. So a lot of people who are affronted by a challenge to their behaviours or consumption habits come out of the woodwork defending them. Some leave nasty or stupid comments and call me names. But I hang on to the hope that, just as my own thinking is challenged when I read certain articles, that others might have a bit of a shift when they read mine. No one likes being called out on our oppressive behaviour (and we’re all guilty in one way or another, none of us is perfect) and the knee-jerk reaction is to defend yourself and your lifestyle/actions etc. But things only change with cultural change and the media plays a huge part in shifting collective consciousness.

 

In the 90s for example, the trans liberation movement took off, and during that time you could see the change in media coverage of trans (transsexual, transgendered, transsexed) people from complete disrespect/parody to more respectful, to the point that the latter became more accepted and nasty articles are the exception rather than the rule. I hope that the more veganism, animal rights, speciesism and human privilege gets exposure in the mainstream media, the more people will eventually engage with the issues and have an epiphany!


Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Katrina! Barbara DeGrande has the next question. Please go ahead, Barbara.

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you Carolyn. Your work has encompassed a wide array of various types of exploitation in a social justice context. Is there a single type of exploitation that might be most significant in helping non-vegans understand the connectivity of domination and its effects on all of us?

 

Katrina Fox:

Hi Barbara. I’d say that it depends who you are trying to engage as to what analogies or connections are best suited to make. Some may in fact have the opposite effect – eg when PETA did their ‘Holocaust on your plate’ campaign, it backfired. But while each form of oppression is unique and experienced differently by marginalised groups, the key aspect common to all oppression is ‘othering’ – making someone ‘an other’ ie not like you, ‘less than’, therefore it’s ok to do cruel things to them or exploit them.

 

So for me it’s about breaking down those hierarchies of who’s more important, rather than continually adding new groups into the ‘cool club’, because as long as societies function with structures that have any kind of ‘other’, there will always be the potential to oppress. I think constantly examining and pointing out the various ways that privilege and oppression work is a really important task that vegans can do when engaging with non-vegans but of course we also have to be willing to take on others’ criticisms of ourselves: vegans can be just as racist, sexist, homo/transphobic, ageist, whorephobic, ableist, sizeist (did I miss anything out?!) as non-vegans.

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you, Katrina!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Katrina. Next up is Brooke Cameron. Thanks, Brooke.


Brooke Cameron:

Thanks! There is a call from many in the animal advocacy community to look seriously at aligning with other communities which advocate for the end of the oppression of others. How do you feel about “alliance politics” and do you think it’s ethical to align ourselves with those who understand the oppression others often have to endure, but continue to actively participate in it in regard to other animals. Done, and thanks!


Katrina Fox:

Hi Brooke. I’m all for making alliances! That’s the short answer to your question :-) There’s a perception that AR activists don’t care about people or human rights – most of us will have this accusation thrown at us during our campaigning efforts. I’ve found that many people in the animal advocacy movement do care deeply about human rights issues and justice for all. I’ve been involved with the feminist movement and queer liberation movement over the years, because both of these things affect me and my life. As a lesbian, I don’t have equal rights, and regardless of some progress, we (Australia, UK, US) still live in a misogynistic culture.

 

Is it ethical to align myself with a group that is campaigning against ‘corrective rape’ of lesbians in South Africa, even though they may not be vegan? Hell yes! We have to remember that unless we were brought up vegan as babies, we’ve all actively participated in animal exploitation (and still do to a degree because it’s impossible not to 100%). Somewhere along our journeys we’ve shifted our thinking and adjusted our actions accordingly. I read somewhere on Facebook that everyone is a potential vegan or ‘pre-vegan’. And the more time they spend with AR folk – especially chirpy, nice ones who continually make the connections between different forms of oppression and still support the human rights cause that’s dear to them the more chance there is of them eventually becoming open to your message.

 

Social justice advocates are already part of the way there in that they have compassion, so some gentle nudges (and the occasional metaphorical whack with a sledgehammer!) has the potential to open minds and I don’t think we should shy away from that. If they are planning a fundraiser, offer to organise/make delicious vegan food. Check out Pattrice Jones’ article for Satya magazine in which she sets out ways to successfully engage in alliance politics: http://www.satyamag.com/jun05/jones_bridges.html

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks for that, Katrina.   

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Next up is Roger Yates. Roger, when you are ready.


Roger Yates:

In May 2009, in the Sydney Morning Herald, you write approvingly about using law to advance “animal rights.” For example, you report that the Australian Capital Territory Government and 39 Australian councils have banned circuses using “exotic” animals, that Marrickville Council has banned battery eggs from its catering, and that mulesing was due to be phased out by the end of 2010. The critique of using law to bring about meaningful change for animals comes from the first law professor to teach animal law, Gary Francione, who essentially suggests that cultural not legal changes are needed at this early stage of the animal rights movement.

 

The Australian wool industry, going back to your last example, did not meet the 2010 deadline, and appears to claim that it will still phase out mulesing but will do so “in its own time.”) Do you not feel that there is something in Francione’s critique? – that without cultural change, what “bans” are likely to do is simply force people to not do things that they still want to do rather than persuade them of the immorality in the practice in question.

 

Another major issue is who will monitor the effectiveness of these laws when speciesists remain in charge of animal use processes and institutions So far, the history of such monitoring is not encouraging. For example, the RSPCA in England say they cannot afford to monitor their own Freedom Foods scheme. I predict the same will be said when PeTA’s Controlled Atmosphere Killing system is introduced in Canada. Is there not a case for encouraging rights-based animal advocates (not lawyers particularly!) not to spent a great deal of their time, money, and effort in bringing about changes in law when they can engage in vegan education instead?

 

Katrina Fox:

Good question, Roger! I agree that a change in cultural thinking is essential and probably the most powerful. But I also think that legislation can be a useful tool to effect some change. For example, as I noted in an earlier answer, we still live in an incredibly sexist, misogynistic culture – despite much legislative change for the benefit of (some) women (and some men) having been enacted over the years – BUT having those laws in place are important because, quite frankly, if we waited around for white, middle-class men to willingly give up their privileges, I still wouldn’t be allowed to vote!

 

I’m all for the carrot approach, but sometimes the stick is necessary. If companies, for example, are forced to comply with legislation that outlaws sexism, it can act as a wake-up call to the fact that certain actions are not acceptable and will be costly to them if they don’t adhere to the laws.

 

Would it be nice if they ‘got’ it instinctively? Sure. Should we wait around for it to happen? I don’t think so. It’s definitely problematic when speciesists are responsible for enforcing the law and I absolutely agree with you that the animal advocacy movement needs to spend more time and much more money on vegan education campaigns, but I think legislative change can be a step on the road to bringing people around to veganism. If animals are given certain ‘rights’, first people may laugh or be outraged at the very idea but they get used to it and may start to see animals in a different (ie better) way. It’s one argument.

 

And as for lawyers, I’m not sure how much time they have to engage solely in vegan education. Is Gary Francione a practising lawyer with a busy practice? I thought he was an academic and academics have plenty of time to philosophise and think about stuff, which is great. But if lawyers who are also animal advocates can make some changes that actually do benefit animals (even just some animals) – your critiques of the RSPCA etc notwithstanding – I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing.

 

Roger Yates:

Can I have a follow-up please? 

 

Katrina Fox:

Oh dear. If you must LOL :-)

 

Roger Yates:

First, you write, "Should we wait around for it to happen? I don’t think so." That is not the issue - no-one who advocates for other animals suggests we simply wait around. I did excuse lawyers in the question! The issue is whether - in a speciesist society it is even possible to benefit nonhuman animals e.g. - you write rights in inverted commas because, in reality, we can get merely the "right to welfare" and that does not address the monitoring issue. 

 

Katrina Fox:

Well if you replace 'speciesism' with 'sexism' in your question, do you get the same answer?  In terms of right to welfare - I address welfare v abolitionism in a later question As for monitoring, as I said I agree this is problematic & I don't know the answer; it's something that needs to be addressed and worked out, but I don't think we should completely discount legislative change.  

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks Katrina - next up is Carolyn Bailey

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Hi, again, Katrina! The live export of cows from Australia to Indonesia has been quite an issue here in Australia in recent times. Almost all advocates are calling for a total ban on sending live cows to Indonesia, in favour of either killing the same cows in Australia and sending their frozen bodies to Indonesia, or Indonesia sourcing live cows elsewhere. The outrage this issue has provoked has been an opportunity to educate the entire country of the fact that in order to eat cows, they must first be killed, but this campaign has chosen instead to focus on the treatment accorded these cows in Indonesia giving the false belief that cows killed in Australia are “the lucky ones.” Are you in favour of live export being banned in Australia, and if so, what do you anticipate the benefits being, for these cows?

 

Katrina Fox:

Hi Carolyn. Yes this issue has had a lot of media coverage and of course it’s all about the welfare versus abolitionist perspective. You’ll note in my bio that I said I’m an abolitionist with welfarist tendencies, which I know some people think is a contradiction in terms (and apparently I should have said ‘new welfarist’ tendencies). But humans are a maze of contradictions, and while it might be good to come down solely on one side of an argument and stick with it, believing you are 100% right, things are rarely that cut and dried.

 

Recently I posted an article on my Facebook page which compared the rhetoric used by the British anti-slavery movement with the current AR movement and someone commented that it was the difference between minimising suffering and promoting justice, and implying that you have to do one or the other, you can’t do both because by going the minimising suffering route you are suggesting that animals have no chance of emancipation from exploitation. I get both arguments – I’ve read the Francione and Garner book which sets out the rights v welfare positions very clearly and I recommend the book for this purpose. And while I absolutely believe in abolition and anti-speciesism and the promotion of veganism as a boycott against animal exploitation, I can’t condemn certain measures that aim to minimise suffering. And I guess that’s what happened with the live export issue. As I wrote in my op ed for News Limited’s The Punch website, of course Australian slaughterhouses are gruesome places where animals suffer terribly and that the best outcome is not to kill animals at all. But in addition to suffering unspeakable cruelty in those Indonesia abattoirs, Australian cattle also have the horrific journey on the ship, so there’s ‘extra’ suffering on top of everything else, so to minimise even just that could be seen as worthwhile.

 

Of course the campaign to ban live exports is problematic – for one it allows many in the west to express racist sentiments that all this terrible cruelty is only committed by ‘uncivilised brown people’ in ‘backward countries’ and allows us to feel superior that all is well in our back yard when of course it isn’t. So I guess I can see reasons to ban live export from a ‘minimise suffering’ angle (ie the long journey abroad), but, like you, I would like to see animal advocacy organisations capitalise on the media coverage by promoting messages about the need to reject consumption of animal products all together. The fact that it seems many people went at least vegetarian after viewing the Four Corners footage suggests there is potential to spread the vegan message further and I would really like to see animal advocacy organisations embrace this and not shy away from it.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Katrina. I agree with almost all of that. I don't think many others would have used the term "new welfarist" either though. It's not a term that's very widely known, or used. Thanks! Next question is to be asked by Sky, thank you, Sky.

 

Sky:

Hi Katrina, can you talk about the objectification of the nonhuman body as it relates to the objectification of the female form in a patriarchal society?

 

Katrina Fox:

Hi Sky – this is a big one! :-)

 

Sky:

:-)

 

Katrina Fox:

And as I said in my bio, being a journalist, I act as a filter to disseminate the ideas and works of academics, theorists, philosophers and activists, so I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the work of Carol Adams and in particular The Sexual Politics of Meat, as she and other ecofeminists have written extensively about this.

 

Let me say first of all that I like Carol - we’ve had some really good conversations and emails, I’ve published her on The Scavenger, and I think she makes some truly excellent observations on the links between the consumption of animals and the consumption of women. However, I don’t subscribe to the blanket generalisations that all porn is bad, all consumption/commodification of sex is bad, or all sex workers are ‘prostituted women’ who are either victims with no agency or have a ‘false consciousness’ by which they collude in their own oppression by working in this industry. That’s an oversimplistic radical feminist ideology that I find very problematic. Nevertheless I recommend you read Carol’s work, because some of the points she makes in regards to your question are pertinent. For a brief overview, check out her article here: http://www.thescavenger.net/fem2/the-sexual-politics-of-meat-73645.html 

 

I have to say I’d really like to see liberal feminism engage more in the links between the consumption of women and animals, especially the kinds of ads that sexualise animals to sell meat, which position the sexualised animal as female. Many of the big feminist blogs like Feministing, Feministe, Jezebel etc are very quick to condemn many of PETA’s ads that they deem sexist, but sexualised meat ads or the recent ad by the Dairy Board of California which was misogynistic and speciesist tend to be ignored or overlooked.

 

Sky:

Thanks!!!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, again, Katrina. Tim Gier is up next .

 

Sky:

:-)

 

Tim Gier:

In some ways, the LGBT community can be a silent witness to discrimination and prejudice. It simplifies matters too much to say it this way, but women generally can’t help but to be seen by others as women & people of color are recognized as people of color. LGBT folk can remain “in the closet” (at least as far as their sexual orientation/gender identification is concerned) if they choose. I wonder, do you think that this somewhat unique status leads the LGBT community have any greater affinity with the nearly invisible speciesism which divides human and other animals? 

 

Katrina Fox:

Interesting question, Tim. I hear what you are saying in terms of some queer people being able to remain in the closet or ‘stealth’ if they so choose (but glad you acknowledged the over-simplification of being read as a woman or person of color!). Addressing the final part of your question first: even though speciesism may be invisible to the extent that it’s simply not acknowledged as such ie the oppression of animals is taken as the ‘norm’, I don’t think that’s the case in regards to homophobia or transphobia, which is in many instances quite overt. So I’m a bit unclear as to the connection you seem to be making between closeted queer people who ‘pass’ for straight in a heteronormative world and non-human animals, who are, after all, generally recognised as such (not sure a pig could ‘pass’ as a human, hehe!). But maybe I misread or misunderstood that part of your question. Of course homo/transphobic comments may be made to a closeted, ‘passing’ queer  person with the other person not knowing they are queer, but I’m not sure that’s the same as animals’ experience of speciesism.

 

What I would say is that the AR movement has traditionally and continues to attract queer people (and I’m using queer as a big umbrella term to include people of diverse sex, gender & sexualities, so gay, lesbian, bisexual, trans, intersex, androgynous, without sex and/or gender identity) and many are quite prominent in the animal advocacy organisations. I think there’s definitely an affinity with being ‘othered’ (which I talked about in an earlier question), and being attacked for who you are, or if you are in the closet, that fear of being attacked because you are different or perceived to be ‘less than’.

 

For example when I interviewed Dan Mathews, VP of PETA, a few years ago for a gay mag here in Australia, he said he made the connection between the oppression of animals and queer people at a young age when his dad took him fishing and he watched the fish struggling for air and it reminded him of being bullied for being gay. For me as someone who is a lesbian but easily passes for straight, even living in a queer-friendly urban city like Sydney (or London where I’m originally from), there’s always the possibility lurking that someone will attack you either verbally or physically (or recoil from you) when they learn you’re gay.

 

I don’t know that there’s anything particularly unique about queer people getting into animal rights, other than as mentioned above an affinity with being othered – and that can apply to anyone who feels like an outsider. My best friend when I was a child was my cat, Kitty, so I think that had an impact on how I related to non-human animals. 

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks Katrina, I think you got the heart of what I was trying to explore, and that is whether the LGBT community can see the speciesism that is invisible to the rest of the world, because they experience the homophobia that is so taken for granted.

 

Katrina Fox:

Some do... But many unfortunately don't. But now you've put it like that, I shall try to frame it in those terms When speaking to them - so thank you! :-)

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks Katrina - and thanks for bringing your very interesting perspective to ARZone. Next up is Brooke Cameron with another question

 

Brooke Cameron:

Hi again, Katrina! In your essay from the ABC's The Drum Unleashed site [http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/39790.html] “Fight for Animal Rights, Not Welfare”, you state that: “It’s time to reject speciesism and acknowledge that animals deserve rights - the right to live their lives free from exploitation by humans - not welfare reform that only serves to perpetuate and justify their oppression.” Could you explain, in your opinion, why spending our advocacy time asking for the exploitation of other animals to be regulated, as opposed to abolished, is letting down the other animals who continue to be imprisoned and enslaved, and if you feel there are some welfare reforms which may be in accordance with abolition?

 

Katrina Fox:

Hello again Brooke. My aim in writing these kinds of articles for mainstream media is to get the concept of animal rights out there, to get people thinking about it in terms of rights not welfare. It’s to shake up the thinking of the masses.

 

That doesn’t mean I’m necessarily completely anti-welfare reform (see my earlier answer/s). What I’m saying is for true animal liberation, we need to challenge our thinking and embrace the concept of how we relate to animals and question our right to use them. I have to put it in very simple terms when writing for the mainstream media, because while some AR people will read it, it’s really aimed at a non-specialist audience, who have probably never heard the word ‘speciesism’ and have all kinds of misconceptions about veganism. I don’t think that some welfare reforms are necessarily letting down other animals who are imprisoned and tortured.

 

I guess my question would be, what if it were you suffering in agony day after day and there was the chance of a tiny little bit of relief, would you want it or would you say no, I’ll carry on suffering until all my people are free? Maybe some would, and that’s perhaps admirable, but I reckon the majority of us would want our suffering to be allieviated, even if only in some small part. The animals don’t have that choice – we have to make it and I get why some people want to minimise suffering even if just a little. I hear and understand both the arguments for rights v welfare and what I do agree on is the need for many of the big animal advocacy organisations to spend a lot more time and money on vegan education (in addition to some welfare reforms).

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks very much, Katrina.

 

Katrina Fox:

You're welcome :-)

 

Tim Gier:

Next up with another question is Barbara DeGrande, please go ahead when you are ready Barb

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Would you comment on the recent HSUS agreement with the UEP regarding improving conditions for battery hens? Do you see these types of agreements as positive, negative, or neutral in the overall work towards ending exploitation?

 

Katrina Fox:

I think I’ve probably answered this in the question above and earlier as it falls under the ‘welfare v rights’ thing. Karen Dawn wrote a good commentary on the HSUS egg agreement, which resonated with me. This pretty much sums up how I feel: “I do support efforts to ban cages in favor of cage free operations in order to alleviate some suffering for billions of animals. But what a shame to waste the opportunity to suggest that consumers start to move away from egg consumption." Read Karen’s full commentary here: http://www.dawnwatch.com/cgi-bin/dada/mail.cgi/archive/dw1000000daw...

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thank you, Katrina.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Katrina! Next question is from Jason Ward, which I'll ask on his behalf. Hi Katrina, could you please elaborate on why you began the online magazine “The Scavenger” 18 months ago, and what your goals were in doing so. 

 

Katrina Fox:

Ah, a chance for promotion – thank you Jason, hehe! :-)

 

Well I was working at the queer press for around 3 years and the last year of that I was asked to launch and edit a monthly print mag for queer women and was told I could put whatever I wanted in it. So I had an activism page and ran interviews and articles on all kinds of social justice issues including quite a bit of AR stuff. All was well until the Global Financial Crisis hit, money was tight and they wanted to make changes to keep the advertisers happy ie more advertorial written by advertisers, more ‘safe’ lifestyle stuff and I was told the activism page was a ‘dead page’ because it didn’t bring in any money. It became too stressful and untenable to stay, and it was obvious they wanted to turn the magazine into a nice, safe lesbian lifestyle mag, so I left.

 

But it gave me an idea of what was possible. So after about a year I decided I wanted to start up something online as online is definitely where journalism is and will be in the future. I thought about doing something niche eg a queer site or even an AR site, which are easier to promote as you’re focusing on one thing. But there are so many good niche sites and blogs out there already and what I wanted to do was try to get people to read things they wouldn’t normally read – things that are out of their interest or comfort zone. So I decided on a generalist site with different sections to attract a broad range of people: feminism & pop culture; media & technology; sex, gender & sexuality diversity; arts; health; and social justice (people, animals, environment), as well as recommended reading, viewing and listening.

 

The site has a strong social justice ethos and particularly animal rights/advocacy. What happens is that someone – say a white, heterosexual male vegetarian – comes to the site, checks out the section they are interested in (in this case AR), but while they are there, see other articles that may pique their interest. So in the case of the male vegetarian (and this is a real person), he may spot an article or two in the feminism or queer sections  and will read them. He’s not going to rush off to the feminist or queer blogosphere and consume feminist media every day but once a month (or every two months now as we’ve gone bimonthly), he gets exposed to feminist articles. And this also applies to others who may not have any interest in AR, but may click on an article or two while they are on the site perusing other things. The aim is to publish articles that mainstream media rarely run. This includes layperson’s versions of academics’ articles who are doing some really interesting work but the only people who see it are other academics working in the same field. I want to get some of this out in accessible language to the general public. I’ve done it about 3 times with academics who’ve had articles in the Journal for Critical Animal Studies (JCAS). Both the authors and the very lovely JCAS editor Richard White have been very keen and happy for this to happen.

 

What it means is that really interesting concepts are made available to the public as edited versions of the original article (so instead of 20,000 words it’s 2,000) and at the end it states the full article is available at JCAS and a link to their site, so those who are interested in reading the full piece can and if not, at least more people have been introduced to some innovative thinking in the edited form. Also I get to write articles that are too niche or radical for mainstream media. I don’t maintain a personal blog so this is an outlet for me too, plus I enjoy curating other people’s work. So I guess The Scavenger is advocacy journalism in action. We run mostly features or commentary pieces rather than news, although we do get the occasional exclusive. It’s all completely unfunded and a labour of love and something I (and my associate editors) do in my ‘spare’ time outside my paid editorial gigs, so no one gets any financial remuneration unfortunately including me, but it is taking off with readership growing consistently, which is great.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Katrina. Do you mind if Jason asks a follow-up question?

 

Katrina Fox:

Sure!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks! What are the biggest challenges in running an online magazine which focuses on social justice issues and other topics away from the mainstream?

 

Katrina Fox:

Funding! As I noted above, it’s a labour of love, so there’s only so many resources and limited time I can commit to it and have a bit of a life too. That’s one of the reasons it’s just gone bi-monthly. When I edited the queer women’s mag I mentioned earlier that was monthly and it was my full-time job and full on, so doing an online monthly outside my paid work was even more so.

 

I recently came back from a holiday in the UK and realised that I have very little ‘down’ time as I’m always on deadline, so I hope that by going bi-monthly it will give me time to write and source/commission more good-quality articles. A lot of people who like the mag keep asking me why I don’t turn it into a business and try to get funding for it. But that’s easier said than done.

 

I dislike the advertising model intensely – see my answer to an earlier question. Advertisers wield too much power, they can censor stories by threatening to pull their ads and generally dictate what you can or can’t put in your own mag. I don’t want to be in that position again. Sites like Kickstarter or Indiegogo are interesting but I think they are more for start-ups rather than long-term sustainability. But I’m interested in looking at these new kinds of models and if any ethical business consultants have any tips they would be gratefully received! :-)

 

It’s difficult funding something that most people don’t really want – ie if you run a niche blog on computers or mobile phones, it’s easier to attract funding via ads or even exclusive articles that readers pay for. And media is going in the direction of tailoring content to consumers’ desires. But with social justice, you want them to read things they probably would rather not hear about (especially when it comes to non-human animals), so trying to get them to pay for that is near impossible  (pay for content) and I wouldn’t want to do that anyway, because the idea is to share the information widely to help change the world! Another challenge is getting regular, strong, solid original articles – because there’s no fee for writing, it can be difficult. Also academics – aside from JCAS and a couple of academic writers (Richard Twine, Carol Adams, Breeze Harper – thank you! :-) ) – are quite hard to pin down to write up shorter, accessible versions of some of their papers. They’re busy teaching, thinking, writing for academic journals and paying the rent, but they have such good ideas, I would really love to feature their work.

 

I’m particularly interested in a piece on meat-eating and gender. Hint hint, people! :-)  And time of course – doing it in your ‘spare’ time means it can be quite stressful and you don’t have much down time. But I do love it and am hoping that going bimonthly will alleviate at least that part. If anyone would like to write for The Scavenger, email me at editor@thescavenger.net  If anyone knows any nice, rich philanthropists who’d like to invest in radical media, please send them my way! :-)

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks for your insightful reply, and a fantastic magazine too!

 

Katrina Fox:

Thanks :-)

 

Roger Yates:

Thanks again Katrina (do people call you "Cat" or "Kat"?) - next up is Jesse Newman - Jesse...( a rich philantropist I hear)

 

Katrina Fox:

Sometimes Kat.

 

Jesse Newman:

Katrina, people have told me that I'm not really doing the vegan thing right. I guess there's rules I don't follow right. Whatever. Then I saw something you wrote about being a Bad Feminist because you don't follow the rules right either. Are we okay, or should we be on the lookout for the vegan & feminist police?

 

Katrina Fox:

Hehe, you read *that* article, then Jesse! http://www.thescavenger.net/feminism-a-pop-culture/when-the-personal-contradicts-the-political-618.html Yes, I’ve been told I’m not a ‘real’ feminist, not a ‘real’ lesbian (my long-term partner is a trans woman), and some would say I’m not a ‘real’ abolitionist either! :-)

 

As far as veganism goes, there seems to be a distinction between dietary vegans who eat a plant-based diet for their health or for environmental reasons, and ethical vegans for whom veganism is a boycott of unjust systems that oppress non-human animals (as well as other humans and the environment). The motivations are different, so I guess just being clear about that is useful. I think we are all judgemental – it’s a human trait. And we can try not to be, but I challenge anyone to say they are never judgemental. And there’s certainly a whiff of “I’m a better vegan than you” in the AR movement.

 

We each come to veganism in our own ways and own time. If you can’t afford to immediately replace every animal product in your home, that doesn’t make you a ‘bad’ vegan and those who say otherwise are generally unaware of their own privilege if they have the financial means to do this. For me veganism is about boycotting animal products wherever you possibly can. So checking ingredients when you’re buying packaged food, asking what’s in a dish at a non-vegan restaurant if you eat at them, sourcing animal-free cosmetics, household products and so on. But if you have to take pharmaceutical drugs for a health condition, then that’s what you have to do. It doesn’t make you a ‘bad’ vegan.

 

Every vegan who ever gets into a car, as driver or passenger, or on a bus, or plane is making use of something that has involved animal cruelty and exploitation (the car’s brake fluid will have been tested on animals for example), so it’s doing our bit as much as is reasonably possible. Now that doesn’t mean having a bit of cheese now and then because you miss the taste, or buying a wool jumper if you can afford an acrylic one – being vegan requires a bit of effort and planning. I can see how it’s difficult when someone says they are vegan then eats a piece of fish (even more so when they are a celebrity) as it can confuse people, but I’m wary of any kind of ‘police’ especially as I mentioned earlier my politics and sexuality have been and continue to be judged and questioned by others.

 

A cat lives with me and my girlfriend. She’s not vegan (the cat, I mean, not the girlfriend!). I die a little inside every time I feed her and am fully conscious of what I’m giving her and feel very guilty about it. Does that make me a ‘bad’ vegan? Some would probably say yes, others no. I’d say just try to do whatever you can to boycott all animal products, keep reading about veganism and educating yourself on all forms of animal cruelty.

 

Jesse Newman:

Thank you Katrina, I feel better now!

 

Katrina Fox:

:-)

 

Roger Yates:

The last “formal” question for today will be asked by Tim Gier. If others would like to address Katrina, please feel free to send a private message indicating you’d like to ask a question. Thank you, Tim.

 

Tim Gier:

In your article “Animal rights, human rights: Interlocking oppressions and finding allies” you say “When we talk about feminism as ‘equality for women’ and that women must not to be discriminated against, we have to ask, ‘Which women?’” This is an important idea and it reminds me of something Derrida says about the violence we inflict upon individual nonhuman beings when we speak of “animals” as if nonhumans were a monolithic entity of “others”. Would you please explain the idea behind your question “Which women?” and say something about it in relationship to what Derrida says? http://www.thescavenger.net/animals/animal-rights-human-rights-interlocking-oppressions-and-finding-allies-720.html

 

Katrina Fox:

Damn, I thought I’d get through this chat without anyone asking me to comment on Derrida LOL! :-)

 

Roger Yates:

:-)

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Hah!

 

Katrina Fox:

I’m not an academic so I’m not overly familiar with Derrida. I have heard him quoted a lot of times, but it tended to be in ‘academese’ so I haven’t always ‘got’ it. I did see a Youtube clip of a short interview with him that did the rounds on Facebook though, so I’ll try to answer your question.

 

In terms of generalisations, I’d say there are some universal concepts we can apply when talking about social justice; for example ‘All women deserve the right to be treated with respect, not to be abused or seen as ‘less than’.’ And the same for animals ie as an animal rights movement, our goal is that all non-human animals should have the right not to be exploited or abused. But what ‘liberation’ or ‘equality’ means for white, middle-class women in the west is very different to what it means for women of colour living in poverty in the west or in non-western countries.

 

Smashing the glass ceiling and becoming CEO of a capitalist multinational corporation isn’t going to be high on the agenda of women struggling to feed their children or dealing with horrific sexual violence in war-torn areas. So when we say ‘women’, we have to ask ‘which women’ as in ‘Which women is this action we’re taking going to benefit?’ If it’s only white, middle-class feminists, then it sets them up as the top of the hierarchy of ‘women’ and once gains have been made that benefit them, then the tendency is to say ‘feminism has succeeded’ and those women who have gained nothing are relegated to ‘others’ and not important and this keeps those hierarchical structures in place, even within our social justice movements.

 

The same can be applied to animals, although the rhetoric is somewhat different in that we don’t often talk about ‘equal rights’ for animals (which allows the public to ridicule the idea of animals being able to vote), but when we talk about ‘animal liberation’, we need to look at what that means for different non-human animals. Because it will look different for minks kept in cages for fur, who may be able to survive in the ‘wild’ if released on masse. (Or they may not), than for say domesticated dogs and cats, who probably would not survive if we just turfed them out onto the streets. We share the planet with so many other beings that ‘liberation’ and how we interact (if we do) with them will look different depending on the species. And that’s not about prioritising or elevating particular species, it’s about practicalities of how the end goals are achieved. I guess this is what Derrida is referring to when he criticises lumping ‘animals’ into, as you put it Tim, a monolithic entity of others. But I’m definitely no expert in Derrida so I’m reticient to comment anymore on him. Ask the academics LOL! :-) 

 

Will:

Waste of time :-)!!!

 

Tim Gier:

May I ask a quick follow-up?

 

Katrina Fox:

Oh, all right then! Don't make it too tricky though :-)

 

Tim Gier:

What do you make of the idea that, for example, white middle-class women in Ivy League colleges ought not to be "speaking for" women of color, or transgendered folks, etc?

 

Katrina Fox:

I completely agree with the sentiment. What they should do is create and give over their platforms so that women of colour and trans people can speak for themselves! Otherwise it's just a colonialist action setting up white people as the experts who need to 'rescue' the poor WOC and trans folk. 

 

Tim Gier:

Thanks again Katrina, I agree.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

At this point, I’d like to sincerely thank Katrina for some great responses to these “formal” questions. I’d like now to open the chat up to others who may wish to address Katrina, but ask that you let one of the admins know of your intention. First up will be Matt Bowen with another question. Thanks, Matt!

 

Katrina Fox:

Thanks Carolyn :-)

 

Matt Bowen:

Hi Katrina, there has been a suggestion this week that the NSW Government will be supporting a move to bring back shooting as a school sport. Do you have an opinion on this and what are some of the possible consequences if this occurs?

 

Katrina Fox:

I know! I posted this on FB which instigated a good discussion

 

Matt Bowen:

:-)

 

Katrina Fox:

I don't think it's a good idea at all. One person said it's good to help kids with discipline, but there's other ways to do that. I think it's about the Shootes & Fishers Party wanting to promote their end game, which is to overturn the ban on hunting in national parks and go out killing non-human animals. I so hope it doesn't get through. Putting a gun (whose only purpose is to maim and kill) into the hands of kids is a disaster. I'm not totally anti-gun. Sometimes we have to defend ourselves ie our country (wars over oil notwithstanding) But the army is there for that.

 

Matt Bowen:

It's an appalling situation when a party like the Shooters and Fishers party can bring in such a thing. Thanks for your response! 

 

Katrina Fox:

I know. They're a horrible party. You're welcome.

 

Carolyn Bailey:

Thanks, Katrina. Will would like to ask a question now, thanks, Will.

 

Will:

TA! There’s a lot of talk by some about 'aliance politics' but that its hard cos people are adicted to using animals and you seem to be on about this about feminist and queer groups and that. So how do you start a conversation with groups that we wanna be connected with but they don’t get the animal issue? Thanks.

 

Katrina Fox:

Thanks Will. I recommend you read Pattrice Jones' article that I posted in my formal response as it sets out a whole raft of ways to do this. It's really frustrating, I know. Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras held a marriage equality fundraiser at a zoo here in 2010. I was furious. I raised it with the co-chair who said she'd never thought about the connection and now would. They didn't do it the following year. So you've just go to start the conversation - but read Pattrice's article for how.

 

Will:

Ta! :-)

 

Carolyn Bailey:

sXe Vegan would like to ask a question now.

 

sXe Vegan:

Thanks Carolyn :-)

 

Carolyn Bailey:

:-)

 

sXe Vegan:

I was condemning a new vegan website for using bitch (the slur, the context was that 'filthy bitch' directed at the audience reading a suggested sexual innuendo seemed trendy) I didn’t get a chance to get to the 'filthy' part, before all comments got removed but in essence their response was that "the happy people weren't offended when the gays stole their word" which is of course no good analogy. Some young women and partly-female I have asked this to, simply think the use of 'bitch' in particular has evolved - it is not a word they would ever use towards their female dog companion. I'd love to know what you think, as a writer, about this alleged language reform, Katrina

 

Katrina Fox:

Hmm, interesting one Sxe. It's all about whether words that have previously been used as insults can be reclaimed Of course in this instance, speciesism is involved since as you note a bitch is a female dog so to use it as an insult is not cool. I guess it depends on the context and sometimes bitch is used affectionately even though it's a kind of insult but it's like a reclamation of the insult. And of course there's a feminist mag called Bitch and they have their reasons for naming it that. I don't know the exact context that it was made in your example but 'filthy bitch' sounds like a condemnation of someone's active sexuality? If so, then I probably wouldn't be comfortable with its use. It's a tricky one. I'm all for reclaiming words and removing their disempowering effect - eg dyke, queer.

 

sXe Vegan:

May I ask a quick follow-up?  

 

Katrina Fox:

Sure.

 

sXe Vegan:

Thanks :-)

I can't recall the details about Bitch, the magazine - but would that be speciesist even though not sexist?

 

Katrina Fox:

Technically probably yes, although arguably if a word has changed so much that it's now considered to have a different meaning to its original one, then you could say not necessarily. I reckon mostly dog breeders are the only ones who associate bitch with dogs. Then there's the derivative 'Beeeatch'! LOL

 

sXe Vegan:

Ok thanks for your answer :-)

:-D Indeed

 

Carolyn Bailey:

I'd like to sincerely thank you, Katrina for being so generous with your time today, and giving us some really useful information. Thanks, Katrina!

 

Katrina Fox:

Thanks for having me Carolyn and for everyone who turned up :-)


Matt Bowen:

Thanks for being here, Katrina. This was a really useful chat!

 

Carolyn Bailey:

My pleasure! :-)

 

Suzanne Barker:

Thank you so much, Katrina!

 

Barbara DeGrande:

Thanks for  your time, Katrina!

 

Sky:

Thanks Katrina!

 

Jason Ward:

Thanks Katrina

 

Lisa Viger:

Thanks Katrina! :-)

 

Brooke Cameron:

Thanks, Katrina! Great chat!

 

sXe Vegan:

Thanks Katrina

 

Tim Gier:

Thank you Katrina!

 

Roger Yates:

Thank you Katrina.

 

Katrina Fox:

Aw you're all so sweet :-)

 

Will:

Thanks Buddy

 

Katrina Fox:

I'm feeling the lurve... :-)

 

Jesse Newman:

Thank you!

 

sXe Vegan:

have a gr8 day :-)

 

Roger Yates:

:-D


Mangus O’Shales:

Thanx Ms. Fox

 

 

 

ARZone exists to promote rational discussion about our relations with other animals and about issues within the animal advocacy movement. Please continue the debate after “chats” by starting a forum discussion or making a point under a transcript.

 

 

 

Views: 217

Tags: ARZone, Australia, Katrina-Fox, Scavenger, Sydney, Transcript, abolitionism, bisexual, gay, intersex, More…lesbian, media, queer, trans, vegan, welfarism

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