On Friday, self-described vegan feminist theorist Carol J. Adams will give the inaugural Tom Regan Lecture at N.C. State, both honoring Regan—a professor of animal ethics at State for thirty-four years before his death in February 2017—and discussing her new book with Virginia Messina, Protest Kitchen, a sort of vegan survival guide for the Trump presidency. Adams previously wrote The Sexual Politics of Meat, dubbed “a bible of the vegan community” by The New York Times.
So what do Trump-era toxic masculinity and #MeToo feminism have to do with animal rights? Everything, Adams says—and she argues that we perform these socially constructed narratives of gender hierarchy every day in the kitchen.
The INDY spoke with Adams about Protest Kitchen and how mindful dietary choices can help fuel you physically and philosophically for the revolution.
INDY: You begin Protest Kitchen by saying, “We live in an unsettled time in politics.” What about the political climate inspired this book?
Carol J. Adams: The appearance of truly repellent and regressive attitudes and politics in the United States and Great Britain and Western Europe. The resurgence of right-wing politicians who now are making decisions at a national level.
In other words, Donald Trump.
The first title of the book was The Anti-Trump Diet, but it was pointed out to us that we weren’t just talking about the United States, and even if Trump were impeached, the problem remains with [Vice President Mike] Pence and the Republican-dominated Congress, so to have a title that was too narrow would imply there was only one problem here. But certainly the election of Donald Trump, all the horrific politics from the so-called Muslim ban, and the resurgence of the affirmation of white power are all tied up with this phenomenon that has put this failed businessman and narcissist in the presidency, but it’s not only that.
Why is the kitchen your chosen battlefield?
No matter what else we’re doing, we have to eat. Think about the [Occupy] protest against Wall Street. I read about a pizza place offering to send pizza to the protesters, but all that pizza had cheese on it, and the dairy industry is not just a cruel industry in terms of cows and calves separated from their moms, but it’s a huge contribution to environmental degradation, and dairy has achieved its role in nutritional recommendation because of racist nutritional policies. So the pizza that people are eating, if it’s not a vegan pizza, is implicated in the very things we’re trying to protest.
You describe meat consumption and its reproductive requirements as inherently misogynistic. Can you explain how the lines between animal oppression and female oppression blur?
Without the ongoing control of female reproduction, there would be no meat for people to eat. So female animals as reproductively available is a trope that is constantly referred to. If you look at animal agricultural magazines, you are going to find ads like, “What would she be doing if she weren’t pregnant?” And it’s that same kind of attitude that we’re seeing reappear about women. Last year, a state representative [from Oklahoma] referred to pregnant women as “hosts.” That’s language right out of animal agriculture. So animal agriculture doesn’t just breed the babies, it is feeding misogyny and benefiting from misogyny. A barbecue ad will show a sexualized pig standing on two legs in a bikini “groaning for the bone,” as one of them says, and wanting to be consumed. It conflates human females and nonhuman females and what kind of consumption they want to experience.
And that leads you into rape culture.
What I realized about all of these images—I’ve been studying these images for more than thirty years—is that they are like the anti-#MeToo movement: “Don’t worry about me. I want you to look at me like that. Come on, big boy, please take me.” You have this whole narrative about human females, #MeToo, “Stop, my body is mine,” and you’ve got on the other side of the species line all of these female animals being presented as, “Yes, please take me. Please kill me. Please eat me.” It’s part of rape culture because even the myths are the same. Myths that focus on how the rapists experience the rape. It’s not the victim’s point of view that matters, but the rapist’s. We have that same view with meat. It’s not how the cow is experiencing this, it’s the consumer.
On a lighter note: What’s your favorite recipe in Protest Kitchen?
I have to go for comfort food. I think my tofu feta is in there, and that is a wonderful thing. It can go on toast. I eat it from the jar after I make it. You can crumble it onto a Greek salad. You can use it on ravioli and lasagna.
We want people to play with their food. We don’t have to be serious about food. Food is a joy. We need joy in our lives, so one of the things we did at the end was to create this resistance feast, and thanks to that, we encourage people to play with their food and have these resistance meals: Stop the Wall Taco Salad Bowl, Trumped Up Vegan Cutlets a L’Orange, an Impeach Cobbler, and a Drain the Swamp Kitchen Cabinet Compote. We’re trying to say, we know there are some complex ideas here, but don’t be discouraged. You can create these feasts. You can share them.