Does Drinking Cow’s Milk Perpetuate Rape Culture?

Short Answer: No.

Long Answer: Fuck no.

Unfortunately, it seems that we might need a more in-depth examination of this quandary, because a vegan Twitter account with over 20,000 followers tweeted this recently:

Before discussing why this tweet, which bears a sentiment I’ve unfortunately heard echoed by many vegans, is so terrible, I think it’s important to acknowledge that cows are indeed treated horrifically in dairy and factory farms. They are artificially inseminated (that’s the “AI” referenced in the tweet above), and then they have their calves taken from them almost immediately upon being born. Those calves are often sent off to be made into veal, and subjected to some of the most cruel practices in the industry. These acts are terrible, and they should be discussed.

However, a hashtag like #YesAllWomen is not the place for that discussion. Hijacking a conversation about the intrinsic violence, sexism, and misogyny that women are confronted with is the vegan equivalent of “What About The Menz?!” If a man were to come onto the #YesAllWomen conversation to say, “Yes, but men can also be victims of rape, sexual violence, domestic abuse, etc..” he wouldn’t be wrong. But that wouldn’t make his derailment of the issue at hand any more excusable. Commandeering the pain of a marginalized group to draw attention to your unrelated pet cause – no matter how important that cause may be – is unacceptable. We should demand better from our fellow activists.

Not only was @veganrevolution’s timing completely out of line, but using inflammatory language to “call out” non-vegan feminists hurts our cause as well. I’m a staunch believer in the intersections of veganism and feminism (something detailed wonderfully in Carol J. Adam’s The Sexual Politics of Meat). However, I strongly oppose the appropriation of feminist language, especially when it comes to highly-charged topics like rape culture. Comparing the rape of women to artificial insemination of cows is, first and foremost, insulting to rape victims.  It’s also insulting to vegan activists. If we can’t make our points without employing hyperbolic rhetoric, what good is our cause?

As a feminist and a vegan, I expect more from the activists I work alongside. Continuing to use cheap political ploys like the one above will turn people away from the vegan lifestyle – but in this case it also hurts victims of sexual violence. If we want to improve ourselves and convince others to join our causes it’s important to discuss failures within our own ranks and take criticism to heart.

This post was originally featured on Be Vegan Anywhere, a site Surly Amy & I founded to help make veganism accessible to as many people as possible. Shout out to Bug Girl for linking us to this tweet!

Featured Image by John McIntyre

Rape Culture Image by Chase Carter

Courtney Caldwell

Courtney Caldwell is an intersectional feminist. Her talents include sweary rants, and clogging your social media with pictures of her dogs (and occasionally her begrudging cat). She's also a political nerd, whose far-left tendencies are a little out of place in the deep red Texas.

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  1. *throws hands up in the air*
    First autism crap, now cow rape culture crap?
    Milk is just not getting a good month.

    1. Cow rape culture crap has been around for years. Before that, they were claiming milk was racist because people like me are generally lactose intolerant, so the only way to not be a racist was to go vegan. I spot at least two non sequiuntur here; are there any more?

      I can tell you, one of my Facebook friends is a former tribal president, and because he hasn’t figured out how to make it so only friends can post to his wall (or because lulz, I haven’t decided which), there’s a lot of woo on his Facebook. I know he likes whenever I link to a study debunking it.

  2. After seeing this tweet I looked up AI and researched everything I could get my hands on. I even watched that shitty Spielberg movie and I can not for the life of me figure out what milk has to do with Artificial Intelligence.

    1. Haha yes, funny how hard that is to grok for some. And by “funny” I obviously mean “terrifying.”

    2. To be COMPLETELY fair, I think it’s the other way around – it’s a consequence of imbuing nonsapient creatures with the value we place on the lives of sapient people.

      1. There are plenty of people who are perfectly capable of recognizing that we should care about animals – and they do it without making mistakes like the ones outlined in this article. This kind of thinking isn’t a “consequence” of cruelty-free living, it’s a consequence of poor empathy and privilege.

        1. And when that valuation equals the level of fellow human beings we have a problem. It’s assigning equivalent value between a cow and a human, which we acknowledge is absurd.

  3. Can we all agree that THIS is drawing out the connections to Eliot Rodgers too far?
    Veganism is no more feminist than Cross Fit or ‘assiduous mastication.’ And, vegan culture is seriously cultish and riddled with pseudoscience and conspiracy-mongering.
    (Not an unqualified endorsement, but her writing came to mind)

    1. Vegan culture has its problems – something I, as a vegan, am trying to fight – but saying it has no connections to feminism is simply inaccurate . I highly suggest you read the book mentioned in the article, “The Sexual Politics of Meat.”

  4. Ok, this MAY be a little ranty and off topic but I hope people see the connection. The author of that tweet should be careful how they do their thinking. I could see a nutter making the case that rape is “natural” because many male animals inseminate females through sheer force. So isn’t this the “natural’ way of doing things?

    There are a lot of interesting correlations we can make between humans and the animal kingdom. But not all correlations are appropriate or even very useful in the larger discussion. For instance, I go CRAZY when I see LGBTQ activists pointing to homosexual behavior in other animals as a defense of why society must accept LGBTQ people as an identity… just like I went bonkers when Christian conservatives would use the movie March of the Penguins as a defense of traditional family values. There is just no true equivalence in the larger animal kingdom with human language, psychology and society.

    1. I’ll give you the language and society ones, but a major problem crops up when you try to claim that thousands of years of a lot of really stupid ideas, during which humans have, when they thought they could manage to get by with it, or it briefly became acceptable, before some cultural shift erased it again, did things that *are* much more like, say, bonobo than like modern humans (think the Roman’s and their very very open sexual practices, for example), have no impact on the “psychology” part of that equation. My own view on the subject is that there is no way, at all, to identify the baseline of human behavior at this point, because it doesn’t matter if you are the member of some obscure tribe that lives like some people thought we should in the 60s, or a super conservative, the culture warps that behavior, by impression, via language, rules on what we do that may bare no resemblance, at all, to how we would act, without being guided by those rules.

      The only thing I am sure of is that its no where close to monogamy/nuclear family, and other fictions, which we get so much today, otherwise.. we wouldn’t be so completely defective, in general, if not always in specific cases, at following those rules, and, if anything, worse at it, the more strictly we try to enforce them.

    2. The existence of homosexual animals is actually a legitimate counterargument to the assertion that homosexuality is an unnatural thing that only exists among sinful humans.

  5. My feminism will be intersectional or it will be bullshit! And why will it be intersectional? Because it’s a fucking intersectional world. Cows, and livestock in general, are a major cause of global warming, which predominantly hurts women in developing nations. Antibiotic-resistant bacteria, environmental pollution, the destruction of indigenous’ peoples communities for grazing space, all are tied to the factory-farming of cattle. Maybe you disagree with the way that the point was made, but rather than tone-policing their “inflammatory language”, why not highlight the intersectional nature of feminism and animal rights?

    1. It’s not tone policing to ask people not to call things that are not rape “rape.” As I mentioned in the post, I’m a big fan of Carol J. Adam’s book “The Sexual Politica of Meat,” which is about the intersections of feminism and veganism. If @veganrevolution had made valid points about the intersections between the two, there would have been no issues from my perspective.

      1. Hm. Do you think that cows can be raped? If I were to gag and tie up a cow, and then insert my fist two feet into a cow’s vulva, while causing severe bleeding and abrasions, would you call that rape? Cause that’s how milk gets made…

        1. No, I do NOT think that cows can be raped! They can certainly be sexually violated, as you have described, but rape can have so many other aspects beyond just sexual violation. To equate what you describe above with the rape of a human being is to devalue to the experiences of rape survivors everywhere! I am shocked that you cannot seem to see this.

    2. Can I play this game?

      “the destruction of indigenous’ peoples communities for grazing space”

      Or, you know, oil, diamonds, uranium, palm oil…Palm oil is used a lot as a replacement for butter and cream in supermarket foods. But it’s a hydra, really. If it’s not grazing space, it’s mining or an oil palm plantation or whatever.

      And then you get propaganda like this. The author gives herself away as a wannabe with this: “When I am uneasy, surrounded by furs and hides amid my own people, I reflect on the words of Chief Seattle.” In addition to getting the century wrong, the author doesn’t even know that speech was a hoax. LOL

      But that’s just ignorant white people being ignorant and white. That’s not as bad as this. Or maybe every time you protest seal hunting, a loaf of bread in Nunavut is about $6. To spare you the trouble, I can find a constant stream of similar stories going back about 30 years. One time PETA even accused a slaughterhouse on Pine Ridge of hiring illegal immigrants. Seriously.

  6. Sorry but this is ridiculous. Forcibly penetrating a cow’s vagina without consent IS rape, plain and simple. 270 million cows are raped each year by humans and the amount of humans raped pales in comparison. Feminists should focus more on the rape of the most vulnerable and biggest group.

      1. I would hope so, but Poe’s law being what it is, I don’t think so.

        I’ve seen worse from some self-righteous vegans including racism, antisemitism, and classism so blatant misogyny does not surprise me in the slightest.

        As someone who was literally just “called out” (and I’m using a polite term for being called a monster) for daring to include posts that mentioned meat on a Tumblr that had the word vegan in it, I can assure you that most vegans are not this way but the ones that are can be quite memorable.

        I am working my way toward eating much less meat for many reasons, I could even see myself going vegan eventually (although my family is loathe to join me) but I can’t see myself ever getting to the point of comparing animal suffering to rape, the holocaust, or slavery precisely because I’m not that monster I was just accused of being.

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