Hello! I’m Ali Seiter – the woman behind the blog Chickpeas & Change (formerly Farmers Market Vegan). Here, I try to work through issues of anti-speciesism, anti-racism, and feminism from a burgeoning revolutionary socialist perspective.
I’m a Geography major at Vassar College, originally hailing from Madison, WI, with penchants for acroyoga, organization, cooperative living, and Harry Potter. When not fantasizing about my next tattoo, I coordinate volunteer trips to local farmed animal sanctuaries for the Vassar Animal Rights Coalition (VARC). Hop on over to my Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest for more, and read on for a more nuanced version of myself…
For five years starting in my junior year of high school, my identity revolved around veganism and working toward the liberation of other animals. And for good reason: not only did the violence of species-based oppression provide me with my first “social justice awakening,” so to speak, but the intention behind a vegan diet quite literally saved my life from a ravaging eating disorder.
With veganism and animal activism most commonly framed as a consumer boycott of goods that depend upon the commodification of the bodies of other animals, I misguidedly understood the goal of my veganism as a mere dismantling of animal-based industries (agriculture, science labs, entertainment venues, etc.). However, because this goal only replaces animal-based production with a vegan market, it operates well within the present political-economic order of capitalism, which by definition seeks to commodify anything and everything it can get its hands on – living or inanimate. By perpetuating the myth of “consumer power,” my animal activism was playing right into the speciesist idea that “human beings are superior to all of the other beings on earth, and that this superiority grants us a natural right to make use of the other beings however we like.” Sure, I practiced vegan consumption habits, but I definitely wasn’t challenging the internalized superiority that I believed I as a human held over other animals. (Read more about the connections between veganism & consumerism here.)
Of course, if I couldn’t recognize my own intellectual arrogance in regards to other animals, I certainly couldn’t recognize how that same arrogance rendered me complicit in the oppressive relationships between colonizers and colonized (colonialism), Westerners and “traditional” societies (imperialism), owners and consumers (capitalism), and the like.
After this wake-up call – instigated thanks to the groundbreaking work of feminist, anti-racist, and anti-speciesist activists (many of whom are listen on my Resources page) – the reasons behind my veganism experienced a profound shift. Once a consumer boycott at the forefront of my politics, my veganism morphed into one among many attempts to question the default ideologies – in this case, speciesism – under which I’ve operated since childhood, and that infringe upon my ability to coexist with others. In other words, my veganism has become an extension of my efforts to foster a truly anti-speciesist politics – a means rather than an end.
Today, I conceptualize my broader politics as a never-ending practice of radical humility, grounded in an ever-developing understanding of revolutionary socialism.
Because these outgrowths of the capitalist system would exist even if I did not eat a vegan diet, and my giving up vegan consumption habits would prevent me from truly challenging my own internalized speciesism, I don’t think that combating such exploitative facets of today’s vegan movement should involve dismissing vegan consumer habits altogether. However, in order to de-center vegan consumption practices in my anti-speciestist activism, I try to focus on framing speciesism as another outgrowth of the capitalist system that we must necessarily eradicate on the path toward collective liberation for all beings, to support the work of marginalized anti-speciesist activists, and to de-colonize my mind from all dominant ideologies of violence.
Of course, throughout this exhausting yet fulfilling work, I gotta eat. That’s where the chickpeas come in. So join me (perhaps by contributing a blog post?) in building up the revolutionary community, fueled by plenty of sandwiches, smoothies, and ice cream.
In solidarity, Ali.