Virginia Messina and I argue in Protest Kitchen: Fight Injustice, Save the Planet, and Fuel Your Resistance One Meal at a Time that your food choices offer a way to fight Trump and the rise of the repressive and regressive values. Your diet offers opportunities to impact some of the scariest aspects of these developments: misogyny, racism, and bigotry of all kinds; environmental destruction; hatred and bullying. Yes, we know it seems a little far-fetched. How could something as personal and seemingly disconnected from the world at large as what you choose to eat affect any of this? It may seem a little far-fetched, but hear us out: Your food choices are far more powerful than you imagine.
In Trump’s United States, bullying and hatred have gained strength. Cultivating compassion in the face of bullying and hatred has become even more important. A vegan diet honors your own core values of kindness and decency and models the meaning of compassion.
In Trump’s United States, those who don’t look like us are viewed as the “other” and often considered to be “animals.” Compassionate veganism removes barriers of other-ness and views all people, and in fact, all beings, with respect. Veganism puts no one behind a wall. By challenging oppression on both sides of the species line--by saying that animals matter, too, and so we won’t eat them--we are also saying anyone who is compared to an animal matters as well and is due equal treatment. Vegan hospitality refuses the othering and animalizing of the non-dominant.
In Trump’s United States, a culture of sexism is encouraged, strengthening the power of the patriarchy and normalizing misogyny. In Trump’s worldview, it’s okay to treat women as pieces of meat and to “grab them by the pussy.” As a result, women are treated like objects for his use. During the Presidential campaign, we learned how the President-elect objectified women, celebrated sexually assaulting them, and used a discourse that fragments women. These behaviors are a part of what I have called “The Sexual Politics of Meat.” Meat eating is not an egalitarian diet. Steaks from Trump’s Steak business (now closed) or lunch at Trump’s Steakhouse is not just about a power lunch, but a power-over-women meal. Trump’s appointment of Andrew Puzder to be Secretary of Labor elevated a man who makes his living selling hamburgers by misogynistic advertisements. (He withdrew.) The anxiety about meat eating and masculinity shows how it is both normative and unstable — so more steaks, more red meat, they are always needed. It becomes a marker — this is what real men do, they eat meat. Veganism is inherently feminist.
In Trump’s United States, climate change is likely to accelerate. Whether international climate accords are supported are not, we have the power to protect the environment by eating a diet that does not usurp water and land as meat eating does in the United States. Veganism reduces your carbon foot print more than any other way of eating and can protect tropical forests and prevent pollution of oceans.
In Trump’s United States, your own health may suffer. Worry over the future of the economy, individual rights, and our national security has many Americans dealing with a level of chronic stress and anxiety previously unknown to them. This not only causes daily discomfort; it can also raise your risk for chronic diseases like diabetes, heart disease and maybe cancer. The foods you eat can actually make you feel better by reducing inflammation in your body (it’s an underlying cause of depression) and by lowering risk for diseases that can be the result of chronic stress.
In Trump’s United States, resistance through political action will be important. We can learn about creative forms of resistance from animal activists who have had to challenge legislation that impedes free speech and that criminalizes work that exposes factory farms and slaughterhouses. Vegans have pursued means of educating others through local activism, and can teach others what has succeeded and what has not. In addition, attacks on mainstream newspapers like the New York Times lead to concerns about the control of news, and the role of propaganda in threatening a democratic country. Vegans can offer insights into how to work against propaganda. Until the past few decades, the United States had itself used the propaganda of “food groups” to advocate for meat and dairy consumption.
During a time when one may feel disempowered, your food choices can be a source of empowerment. Not only do they enact your values, help to protect the environment and enhance your health, they become a daily reminder that change is possible.
We know there is so much to be done each day; but we also need to eat. Make your kitchen a protest kitchen!