In 1908, 15,000 women marched through New York City demanding shorter hours, better pay and voting rights, an action that mirrored similar campaigns taking place around the world. In 1909, came the first National Women’s Day and two years later, it became a global initiative. Today, governments, NGOs and charities use the day to celebrate women, bring to attention achievements that have been lost in a male-written history, and talk about issues of importance, including gender parity, equality of representation, education and opportunities, health, reproductive rights, and the levels of violence against women around the world. International Women’s Day is perhaps as relevant today as it was in 1908.
Relevance to Farmed Animals
While the day, quite rightly, focuses on women, we see clearly the links with female animals who are exploited for their reproductive capabilities on farms. Cows, sheep, pigs, turkeys and chickens are penned or caged and forcibly bred from because people want to eat their young. In societies that have normalized meat-eating, many never question this but if we spare a moment to think about these mothers, we can start to imagine the suffering they endure and the loss they feel.
Most dairy cows are forcibly impregnated via artificial insemination. This benign phrase disguises the invasiveness of the reality: one hand is inserted into the cow’s rectum to manipulate her cervix into place while the other introduces semen into her vagina. Cows bear their calves for nine months, but after they have given birth, their young are taken from them so they don’t drink their mothers’ valuable milk. This separation is devastating for both.
On pig farms, the device used to hold pigs down while they are inseminated is known by some as a ‘rape rack’. Neither can sheep farmers leave animals to breed naturally. They are ‘fitted’ with hormone-rich vaginal sponges or have hormone implants inserted to bring them into estrus all at the same time and at a date convenient for the farmer. Often insemination is done surgically as it yields better conception rates.
On March 8th, we will think of their exploitation, while we celebrate the women who are actively working to change the lives of animals for the better.
Sexism, racism and animal exploitation grew from the same rotten root: the historic categorization of living beings with a sliding scale of worth assigned to each. Those who devised the system and used their power and privilege to defend it inevitably put themselves at the top. Below them came women, people of color, people of other faiths and cultures, and animals.
Today, we are starting to join the dots and unpick the centuries of indoctrination that have taught us that this is the ‘natural order’ of things. And as the full force of historical and cultural vandalism are laid bare, and the very foundations of this system starts to crumble, we can see how fighting for the rights of humans and animals go hand in hand. Here, we are indebted to the work of Aph and Syl Ko who argue that dismantling this hierarchical belief system benefits us all – women, people of color and animals.
Million Dollar Vegan is proud to be part of a bold, creative and dynamic movement that has women at its heart. Women are out there leading NGOs, speaking in schools, driving academic discourse, conducting undercover investigations, making films, writing books, running sanctuaries, winning campaigns, and using their political, creative and social platforms to fight for a better world for animals. There are too many incredible women to mention but we would like to pay homage to two: Jill Phipps, who was killed when hit by a truck in 1995 as she protested against the live export of calves for the veal trade, and Regan Russell, killed last year while peacefully bearing witness to pigs who were on their way to slaughter. We will hold your courage and integrity inside us, and promise to continue your fight for a just world.