Veganism and feminism are inseparable concepts in my life.

This blog is a theoretical interpretation of the lived experiences of a vegan feminist,
and an exploration of what it even means to be one in the first place.

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What is a Rape Rack?: Why Feminism Applies to Cows

What a Rape Rack is

Rape rack is the industry term, or nickname for, the device used to artificially inseminate female cows so that they become pregnant and can eventually produce milk for human consumption. Rape racks are also used on other animals such as monkeys to breed them for scientific experiments.

Why do I have to use the term rape rack? It describes reality.

Rape rack is a term that makes no apologies. Rape rack is graphic, horrifying, and violent. Rape rack calls to mind the life mutilating experience of being raped. All of these definitions are true and I will always use the word rape rack because I want to imply these meanings and others of similar gut wrenching quality.

As Carol J. Adams' wrote in The Sexual Politics of Meat, we must not use words that mask the reality of how non-human animals are treated. We must liberate our language. Saying a cow is artificially inseminated provides no anecdote or explanation of exactly what happened; artificial insemination could be anything from a little needle to a human hand inserted into the vagina. A rape rack implies that an object was used, the device was violently inserted into the vagina, and that the animal was violated.

This is not co-opting a term that only applies to humans. Rape happened. This makes us uncomfortable. It makes people squirm in their seats or call you a hysteric. It should make us squirm; it's absolutely disgusting that anyone would impregnate any animal against their will and the rape rack specifically violates right of personhood and autonomy. That is rape.

How Milk is Produced

I want to pause for a moment and return to my original definition of rape rack as "the device used to artificially inseminate female cows so that they become pregnant and can eventually produce milk for human consumption". I worded that very carefully because I want to stress how milk is produced, which surprisingly few people know. My parents, over 50 years old each, had no clue. I didn't know about it until after I went vegan. This is the birds and the bees and people flat out just don't know. It's nothing to be ashamed of; we are not taught about how milk is made on purpose because it's basically awful and I'd like to now give the space to have that discussion.

Humans are the only mammals (and thus animals) that can produce milk for their whole lives after only being pregnant once. If you keep taking the milk, humans will keep making it. I'm sure there are exceptions and maybe this isn't as natural as I'm led to believe, but it does explain our basic ignorance of how other animals work because the rest of them don't work like this. Non-human animals only produce enough milk for the baby or babies they just had. Female cows produce milk for one year after being impregnated.

Want cow milk? This is how you do it:
Step 1) Impregnate female cow with rape rack, human hand, or male cow (in descending order of likeliness, as I understand it).
Step 2) Female cow gives birth and you take the baby cow away in 24 hours to 7 days. Some farms wait longer, but who gives a damn? You are taking the baby away. That's not humane or acceptable. If the baby is male he will usually become a veal cow (yes even love to convince you they are awesome, organic, and humane farms do this, I've asked them when I still thought you could use animals nicely) and be shipped to another farm. Girl babies became dairy cows like mom.
Step 3) Milk cow for 1 year.
Step 4) Return to step 1 and repeat because she has now stopped producing milk. Repeat again and again until female cow stops producing optimum milk, usually at 3-4 years old. Then kill her. Put her in a hamburger, as if the rest wasn't insult to injury already.

Tadah you have milk! And the reason why vegetarianism doesn't help cows. And a really messed up situation that makes me want to scream every time someone brings a milk carton into lecture.

Why Cows and This Whole Thing Matters to Feminism

The simplest reason why this matters is because you can take almost any feminist theory and apply it to cows and you can convince yourself why drinking milk is really oppressive. Let's practice with rape myths! I'll throw a few out for you. If you aren't familiar with rape myths they are basically myths a society uses to not take rape seriously and blame the victim. They also blame the victim when it comes to cows. Here they are, and trigger warning because these are unpleasant.

Rape Myths for Humans and Non-Humans:
- They like it (aren't there pictures of happy cows everywhere?).
- They are naturally like this.
- They don't deserve any better.
- They are just animals.
- They asked for it.
- They should have protected themselves better.
- It's not really that bad.
- They're lying, it never happened (which you might be saying about me right now).

Another way to look at it is just because we are oppressed, does not mean we have no power. We oppress others and we have the power to stop. Many feminists don't care about going vegan because there are more important issues to worry about. No, this is all part of the same issue. Violence is violence. I am against using and abusing humans and non-humans. They are not so very different, just extend your circle of care. If you don't, you end up sounding as ridiculous as a feminist professor of mine who told me she's not vegan because her brother is a butcher. So if your brother was a rapist, would you not be feminist either?

The line between humans and non-humans is arbitrary. They feel pain and they suffer just as we do. Want to get postmodern? Challenge the category of the human just like feminists challenged sex and gender. This is all constructed to keep some group in power and it's disturbing to realize we have the power in this case and we are the ones with privilege.

Openly saying rape rack when I talk about cows is one of the most vegan feminist acts I can participate in; I look across an arbitrary boundary and I refuse the suffering of my sisters. Even if they are not your sisters, know that they were violated. Refuse to let anyone think anything less.