Can we talk about bodily autonomy for a hot sec? Because it’s a big reason why I advocate veganism.
So you and I and everyone around us each live in a body, and we all have different levels of comfort, safety, and ability that determine what we can do — both in the sense of being physically able to do it, and being emotionally okay with doing it — based on our different life experiences. And, if we hope to embody radical humility, then we have to understand others’ life experiences as legitimate and deserving of respect. Put two-and-two together: we as humans who strive for radical humility must respect the comfort, safety, and ability levels of the bodies of the people whose life experiences are different from our own.
That’s respecting bodily autonomy: each person’s ability to determine what they do or don’t do with their own body, as long as it does not infringe upon the bodily autonomy of others. It’s a pretty major feminist tenet. And although I would argue that it’s damn near impossible to enjoy full bodily autonomy under capitalism and state governance, I think that we can work together to ensure that we as a community contribute as little as possible to the social controls that infringe upon our ability to feel safe and comfortable in our own bodies.
That’s why consent is great and necessary, that’s why asking people before you hug them is super important, that’s why commenting on people’s size and shape is unacceptable…and that’s why I don’t eat other animals or their secretions. The body of a pig, cow, chicken, duck, lizard, or what-have-you does not belong to me, nor do any of the things that come out of their bodies (eggs, milk, etc.).
In some situations with other animals, it’s pretty clear whether or not they want me to be doing something with their bodies. For example, if Diana moseys up to me in the goat pasture at the sanctuary where I’m working this summer and starts nuzzling her head against my hand, I’m fairly confident that she’s asking me to pet her. Or if I enter Mister’s duck enclosure and he starts nipping at my legs, I’m definitely not going to bother him any more than necessary (like to stick his bowl of salad in there at dinnertime).
So unless Sweet Pea lays her egg, picks it up with her beak, and sets it in my hand, I’m not going to claim it as my own. Unless Beatrice rips off a piece of her own flesh, trots up to me and sets it at my feet, I’m sure as hell not going to take it. Otherwise, the lines of communication between me and other animals are not clear enough to ensure informed consent among all parties involved, so I’ll air on the side of caution and assume that they do not want me doing something with their bodies…including consuming it or what comes from it.
Moral of the story: please don’t do things to other people’s bodies unless they explicitly ask you to. That includes other animals. By taking this request to heart, we can work to support each other in feeling comfortable and safe in our own bodies, even when we cannot in the rest of the world.
In solidarity, Ali.