Doreen Akiyo Yomoah – Veganism, Sustainability, and the Global North/South Divide

TRANSCRIPT:

START

“Hi, everyone, and thanks for joining us.  We’re just going to wait a
couple of seconds, just so we can let everyone get settled in ..

“OK, so today I am going to be talking about, ‘Veganism, Sustainable
Development, and the North/South Divide.’ So to start with, I’m just
going to give a little bit of background about me, and how I came into
ethical veganism and consistent anti-oppression.

Slide: Text:  “Intersectionality: ‘the complex, cumulative manner in
which the effects of different forms of discrimination combine,
overlap or intersect.’ Merriam Webster Dictionary.”

“So, I am originally from Ghana, which is in West Africa. I grew up in
Japan … and experienced both oppression and privileges.  So: I am a
woman, I’m Black, I’m from a developing country, which means that  …
you know … my nationality provides a lot of obstacles for me compared
to someone who is from the Global North.  But … at the same time, I
also am middle class, I’m highly educated … and I think that just
being born to who you were born to is also a privilege.  I just happened to be born to people that really valued education, so they spent money on educating both me and my sister, and there are some people who – whether it’s because they
didn’t have the means, or maybe because education is not that important in their families – they don’t have the same opportunities that I have had and continue to have.

“So … I’m sure that most of you are familiar with the concept of
Intersectionality which was [coined by Prof Kimberle Crenshaw] … I
have a slightly more contemporary definition, which was added to
Merriam Webster last year, and that is: Intersectionality is ‘the
complex, cumulative manner in which the effects of different forms of
discrimination combine, overlap or intersect.’

“So … [obviously I have] … from overlapping forms of oppression. But
I also have overlapping forms of privilege, like I mentioned: being
educated, middle class, being able-bodied, being cisgender, etc. And I
realised that, pretty early on, that I never wanted to deliberately
contribute to the oppression of [other people .. without] really
understanding that I also didn’t have the right to contribute to the
oppression of animals.

“So .. next I’m going to talk a little bit about sustainable
development. Ah .. sustainable development …

Slide: Sustainable Development. Sustainable development is: “the
organizing principle for meeting human development goals while
simultaneously sustaining the ability of natural systems to provide
the natural resources and ecosystem services upon which the economy
and society depend. The desired result is a state of society where
living conditions and resources are used to continue to meet human
needs without undermining the integrity and stability of the natural
system. Sustainable development can be defined as development that
meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of
future generations.”

“I took this definition off of Wikipedia. Basically, it is development
that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability

[of future generations]

.  So, basically this is referring to social,
economic and environmental development that is sustainable, which
means that it is not harming anyone, and really the sustainable
portion of it has started to increasingly mean the environmental
effects, for example climate change or environmental degradation from
other [activities].

“Since I work in sustainable development, I realised that .. firstly,
that I didn’t want to contribute to, ah, climate change – which
disproportionately affects people in the Global South, and not only
does it disproportionately affect them, they also contribute to it the
least.  Really, this is the reason I came into veganism, but the
longer I was in it, the more I started to realise that I also – if I
wanted to be against oppression – I needed to be consistent.

“So I’m also just going to talk a little bit more about sustainable development.

Slide: Sustainable Development.  The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable
Development and the Sustainable Development goals (SDGs). – Adopted in
2015 by all the members states of the UN; – Came after the Millennium
Development goals (MDGs); – A plan for people, planet, and prosperity;
– Consists of different categories of Goals and Targets.    About the
SDGs: – Intersecting and holistic; – Focus on social, economic, and
environmental dimensions; – Specifically mention racial/ethnic
discrimination against marginalized groups.

“So … I work in international development in my day job, so this is expertise
that I’ve learned from my job and my schooling. So, in 2015, … the
United Nations members states adopted the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable
Development, and the Sustainable Development Goals, which is referred
to as the SDGs.  This was adopted after the expiration of
the Millennium Development Goals running from 2000 to 2015.  To put it
simply, it is a plan for people, planet and … pop … prosperity.
(Sorry). What that basically means is, that we want to make sure that
everyone has equal opportunities, everyone has a decent standard of
living, and that we do this in a way that is consistent whether we’re talking about life on land or life that is in the water.

“The SDGs are 17 different Goals, and there are also several ..
several hundred Targets that correspond to each of these Goals. They
are intersecting and holistic.  … So, for example, Goal 1
of the SDGs is to end poverty in all of its forms, everywhere. Goal 5
is to empower all women and girls, and achieve gender equality. Even
though these are two separate goals, obviously there are lots of
interconnections between them, because poverty is highly feminized.
One criticism I have is that they have a very binary understanding of gender, and some people argue that, well, ‘Equality for all human beings means equality for
all human beings’, but just in the same way that, you know, girls and
women are explicitly mentioned, people of racial and ethnic minorities
are explicitly mentioned, I also think that people who fall outside
the spectrum of Male/Female or who fall anywhere along the spectrum …
need to be [..mentioned].

“So, next I’m going to talk about the goals themselves.

Slide: Sustainable Development Goals. 1. No Poverty; 2. Zero Hunger;
3. Good Health and Well-being; 4. Quality Education; 5. Gender
Equality; 6. Clean Water and Sanitation; 7. Affordable and Clean
Energy; 8. Decent Work and Economic Growth; 9. Industry, Innovation,
and Infrastructure; 10. Reduced Inequality; 11. Sustainable Cities and
Communities; 12. Responsible Consumption and Production; 13. Climate
Action; 14. Life Below Water; 15. Life On Land; 16. Peace, Justice,
and Strong Institutions; 17. Partnerships for the Goals.

“So, just a quick overview, these are the 17 Goals. Number 1, No
Poverty. Number 2, Zero Hunger. 3, Good Health and Well-being. 4,
Quality Education. 5, Gender Equality. 6, [Clean Water and
Sanitation]. 7, Affordable and Clean Energy. 8, Decent Work and
Economic Growth. 9, Industry, Innovation, and Infrastructure. 10,
Reduced Inequalities. 11, Sustainable Cities and Communities. 12,
Responsible Consumption and Production. 13, Climate Change. 14, Life
Below Water. 15, Life On Land. 16, Peace, Justice, and Strong
Institutions. 17, Partnerships for the Goals.

“And, voila! You are now all experts in the SDGs.

Slide: Sustainable Development Goals. 6. Clean Water and Sanitation;
8. Decent Work and Economic Growth; 10. Reduced Inequalities; 13.
Climate Action; 12. Responsible Consumption and Production; 15.  Life
On Land; 16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions.

“But seriously, the ones which I think relate pretty strong to
anti-oppression, consistent anti-oppression, veganism and ethnic
equality are: Clean Water and Sanitation; Decent Work and Economic
Growth; Reduced Inequalities; Climate Change; Responsible Consumption
and Production;  Life On Land; and, Peace, Justice, and Strong
Institutions.

Slide: Sustainable Development Goals. 8. Decent Work and Economic
Growth; 10. Reduced Inequalities; 12. Responsible Consumption and
Production; 16. Peace, Justice, and Strong Institutions.

“Of the seven, the ones I’m gonna talk about . So, the
first one that I want to talk about is Goal 8, decent work, and
economic growth.

Slide: Decent Work. – Working conditions in factory farms, fishing
boats, tanning sites, and slaughterhouses; – Indecent for both the
animals and workers; – Done disproportionately by poor people and POC.
– Being increasingly done in developing and emerging economies like
the Philippines, Brazil.

“So … the animal agriculture industry, whether that be fishing, or
concentrated animal feeding operations, which are more commonly known
as factory farms, leather tanning sites, and slaughterhouses… But
… for example, a lot of the increasing demand for seafood in the West
has led to a lot of people being enslaved on Thai fishing boats. And a
lot of these people are those who are already oppressed. They may
include poor people from Thailand, or refugees escaping Myanmar.

The conditions in factory farms, in slaughterhouses, and on
fishing boats, and in tanning sites etc. are obviously indecent both
for the non-human animals and for the workers.

“And this work is disproportionately done by People of Color, all
around the world. Even in developing countries, .. the people who take
on these jobs tend .. I’m sorry, I meant to say, even in _developed_
countries, the people who tend to take on these jobs tend to be People
of Color.  And of course, as we know, there are systemic reasons for
people being poor, it’s not a failure of character, it’s not a choice
to be poor, there are systemic reasons such as capitalism, such as
institutional discrimination.  White people are poor.  However, even
though we tend to think of factory farms as being in the Global North,
there are increasingly visible in developing and emerging economies like
in the Philippines, Brazil and South Africa. So conditions in these …
in animal agriculture are oppressive, to both animals and to human
beings.  And I think that as People of Color, it’s sort of our
responsibility to really assess what the choices we’re making mean.

“The next goal I want to talk about is Goal 10 …

Slide: Inequalities within and between countries. Poor countries
disproportionately bear the brunt of indecent work, much of it in
animal agriculture.  Northern demand; serious, human rights-violating
consequences for people in the South in places like Brazil, the
Philippines and Thailand.

” .. which is, reduced inequalities. This Goal actually is talking
about reducing inequalities both within and between countries.  So
poor countries which are … disproportionately populated by People of
Color … well, not disproportionately .. poor countries are populated
largely by People of Color, and these countries disproportionately
bear the brunt of indecent work, and much of it takes place in animal
agriculture.  So firstly, creating or reducing inequalities means making sure that
economies are sustainable, both socially and environmentally, for
everyone.

“So, instead of shipping out indecent work to developing countries,
countries in the Global North need to .. companies in the Global North
first need to make sure that the working conditions in their countries
are decent for everyone, People of Color and [..] Making sure that
the inequalities between countries disappear means that we need to
make sure that, you know, things like structural adjustment and high
interest loans from international finance institutions, are no longer
a part of our economy going forward.  Because really, this marginalizes a lot
of people in perpetuating inequalities between countries.

“The next Goal that I want to talk about is …

Slide: Responsible Production and Consumption.  Mass-scale animal
agriculture is _irresponsible_ production – environmentally
unsustainable; damaging to worker’s well-being, violates autonomy of
other beings.

“Responsible Production and Consumption.  So, mass-scale animal
agriculture is – you know, by default – irresponsible production.  It
is environmentally unsustainable … and is harmful to non-human animals who are being exploited in these type of facilities, but also to the people who have
to do this work. It has, this work, it has serious risks physically,
as well as causing serious mental illness in people who have to do
this type of dangerous and also .. sorry, dangerous and [..].  So, for
most people, there is no need, if we were to imagine that we were in a
world where all the food that is produced on Earth is equitably
distributed, there isn’t any need to participate in mass-scale animal
agriculture.  Unfortunately, that’s not the world we live in, but I
think that we as individuals who have privilege have a bit of a
responsibility to think about what our choices are doing to other people
around the world, and to animals around the world.

“Finally … oh, sorry … before I get to that …

Slide: Black and brown people, especially those in the Global South,
are being exploited to exploit non-human animals.

“Basically I want to say that I think – I hope – that I demonstrated
that .. the SDGs are intersecting, and a connection in between
veganism and [consistent anti-oppression]. And I just wanted to point
out that Black and brown people, not only but especially in the Global
South, are being exploited in order to exploit animals.  So .. what a
cycle. Like, there are those of us, the elite few, who get to, you
know, enjoy [decent standards] of living, and people who look like us,
in other parts of the world, are being exploited.  And not only are
they being exploited, but their exploitation is the means to another
being’s exploitation.

Slide: [Right panel] Survival. Progress can kill.  “I don’t want this
life.” Bushman, Botswana. Contains images some may find distressing.
[Left panel] “Industrialized societies subject tribal peoples to
genocidal violence, slavery and racism so they can steal their lands,
resources and labor.  These crimes are often carried out in the name
of progress and development.  And yet the notion of ‘progress’ – which
grew of age with colonialism – is hardly every questioned: it is
simply thought to be good for all.” Progress Can Kill.  I don’t want
this live. Survival International 2015 p12.

“I also want to point out that ‘development’ does not necessarily mean
the same thing in every single context.  There’s this report by
Survival, called ‘Progress Can Kill – I don’t want this life’, and it
talks about how the development industry – really, because you can
call it an industry – has really .. damaged a lot of Indigenous
peoples’ way of life.  I am just going to read this quote.

‘Industrialized societies subject tribal peoples to genocidal
violence, slavery and racism so they can steal their lands, resources
and labor. These crimes are often carried out in the name of progress
and development.  And yet the notion of ‘progress’ – which grew of age
with colonialism – is hardly every questioned: it is simply thought to
be good for all.’

“And the very irony of this is, that it isn’t necessarily good for
all.  For example, when you look at, ah, forest areas that are
traditionally inhabited by Indigenous peoples being logged, how can we
argue that that is ‘good for all’. It’s detrimental to not only the
people that are living there, but also to the animals whose habitat
you destroyed – all in the name of ‘development’.

“So I think that this is something that the development community
really needs to recognise, as we push towards what I think is a noble
goal of decent standards of living and freedom for everybody, we also
need to be mindful of that fact that context matters and history
matters and we can’t do this in ways which are just perpetuating
colonialism.

Slide: Who is responsible for what? Personal – Recognizing our
privilege; Advocating for equity and rights for all people and
animals; Going vegan; Promote a circular economy.  Institutional –
Reparations (not necessarily financial); Codifying and implementing
equity and rights for all people and animals; Going vegan; Promoting a
circular economy.

“So now I want to talk about what I think are the responsibilities of
people who are invested in consistent anti-oppression. So on the
personal level, I think that first we have to recognize our privilege.
But I also think that recognising our privilege is not really all that
meaningful if we’re not willing to advocate for surrendering our
privilege.  If you are privileged, then that means that somebody else
is under privileged.  And that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are
bad people for being born how we were born, or having been given the
opportunities that we were given. But if we know that people are being
exploited in order for us to have those privileges, we need to
understand that we need to give up those privileges.

“I also think, on a personal level, for those who are able, going
vegan is absolutely necessary – not only to save the lives of animals,
but also to make sure that other people are not being exploited and
that they have livelihoods that are not dangerous, that are decent –
that are, you know, allow them to provide for their families.

“And I also think that we need to promote a circular economy.  Even
though this gets a little further away from the topic of veganism in
and of itself, I think that the same dynamics that we see in factory
farming are also visible in mass production of, you know, household
goods and everything – people are being exploited to make these goods
to feed – a lot of the time – Northern demand.  So I think we have a
responsibility, to make sure that instead of the linear .. the linear
economy that we live in right now, in which human beings and non-human
animals are exploited, we need to advocate for a circular economy.

“On an institutional level, I believe that countries in the Global
North have serious responsibilities as well, if we want to achieve a
world that is free of oppression.  Firstly, I think that they owe
reparations to former colonies.  Although colonialism in name ended
several hundred years ago, or one hundred and fifty years ago, or so,
but it doesn’t mean that the effects of colonialism still aren’t being
felt. And they are being felt by actual people, whose lives are – a
lot of the time – in abject poverty.  Now, reparations are not
necessarily financial – it could mean, helping these countries to set
up the same kinds of infrastructure that have been set up in the North
by exploiting these countries.

“I also think that it is absolutely necessary for us to put into law
equity and rights for all people and animals. There is already a
wealth of international, regional and domestic law that protects human
rights, and some laws that protect animal rights.  But laws existing
is one thing; we also need to make sure that these laws are
implemented, and that everyone has access to all of the Targets, and
the 17 Goals that I mentioned earlier.

“I also think that going vegan on an individual level is not
necessarily enough – I do think it is a responsibility .. in an
international community, individual countries that are willing to
create a vegan society. By what I mean by that is, create a society in
which there is no factory farming, in which there are no tanning
houses for leather, in which, you know, birds are not being exploited
for their down, etc. And this will also take [a lot ..] that I
mentioned in the previous [response…].

“And finally, i think that a circular economy – these circular
economies exist, but they exist on small scales. I think what we need
to do is advocate for a circular economy on larger scales.  And this
could feed into veganism, for example, instead of creating, you know,
raising for example cows who will then be slaughtered to make leather perhaps we can re-use the already existing materials that exist, and that way, people don’t have to do this terrible work of tanning, slaughtering animals in
slaughterhouses, and animals who are already – animals who are alive
do not have to lose their lives, you know, for human consumption.

“That is the end of my talk …

Slide: Thanks! Any questions? You can find me at @dyomoah
childreeafrican.cominfo@childfreeafrican.com Thank you!

“Thank you for joining me, and please join us tomorrow, when we’ll be
doing a live Q&A.  Thank you!

“Stop recording.”

 END

***

Special Thank you to AC for volunteering to create this transcript.

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