Animal subordination lays the groundwork for racism. The ideology of animal subordination requires that a thick line be drawn between human animals and other animals. Animals on one side of the line are considered to have rights while animals on the other side of the line are treated as objects that can be owned. Starting from this position, it is easy to shift the line a little bit, so that some humans are grouped with the animals and also treated as lesser beings. Indeed, it was specifically among the keepers of "livestock" (living beings treated like objects) that the practice of human slavery began. As long as some living beings are considered property, no group of people is safe from the possibility of also being deemed to be without rights.
Just as racism is shaped by animal exploitation, animal exploitation is sometimes patterned by racism or deployed in racist ways. Dangerous and environmentally destructive factory farms and processing plants are often located in communities of color. Local citizens must live with the pollution while working at dangerous and degrading jobs. The products of these industries are often marketed to communities of color, regardless of the impact on physical health or cultural welfare.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine and other organizations have begun to focus on the issue of dietary racism. According to Dr. Milton Mills, "the U.S. Dietary Guidelines as they exist are really a fundamental form of institutionalized racism in a rather destructive and insidious format." Those guidelines recommend heavy consumption of milk products even though up to 95 percent of adult Asians, 74 percent of Native Americans, 70 percent of African Americans, and 53 percent of Mexican Americans are lactose intolerant. Recommendations concerning meat consumption ignore the high rates of heart disease and cancer among African Americans.
The school meal programs upon which so many children of color depend are constructed on the basis of these biased guidelines. Wealthy corporations profit from those programs. But what about the children? Do stomach aches, bloating, and other results of inappropriate dairy consumption impede their academic performance and enjoyment of school activities?
The link between animal exploitation and racism has an international component. During the era of European imperialism, colonized nations in Africa, Asia, and the Americas were forced to grow vast tracts of cash crops for export on lands previously devoted to sustainable production of food crops for local and regional consumption. In the immediate post-colonial era, Europe and USA continued to wield economic power over the now impoverished former colonies. That power was used to promote the continuation of cash crop agriculture and also to promote specific agricultural practices, such as the heavy use of fertilizers and pesticides. The result was further impoverishment, hunger, and the depletion of soil and water resources. Today, the latest phase of agricultural colonialism has begun. Facing shrinking markets and expanding regulations at home, agribusiness corporations want to relocate factory farming operations in low-income nations in Asia and Africa. They also hope to convince the citizens of those nations to give up their healthy traditional diets in order to increase their own consumption of meat and other animal products.
Colorlines on the racial politics of milk
Food Pyramid Scheme
In These Times on biased dietary guidelines
Agribusiness corporations profit from the biased guidelines
A Hog Factory Comes to Indian Country
Environmental racism and indigenous resistance in South Dakota
Trouble at the Rosebud Reservation
Lakota Journal article about the Bell Farms hog installation
Native Americans and Vegetarianism
Rita Laws on myths, facts, stereotypes, and history
Food for the Future?
Mandate Magazine on agricultural colonialism and dietary racism
PCRM commentaries on US dietary guidelines:
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine
Black Vegetarian Society of Georgia