The Connecticut College Animal Rights and Equality Society (CONN C.A.R.E.S.) was founded at the beginning of this academic year by Selena Sobanski ’16 and Katy Fitzsimmons ’16 to provide a space for animal rights activists to join together and raise awareness at Connecticut College about their cause. The organization is currently working to open a dialogue on campus about the intersection of feminism and animal rights—an issue that has been discussed in the arena of women’s rights and animal rights activism for a long time.
“The concept of feminism relating to animal rights dates back quite a long time, even to the 1800’s,” said Sobanski. “We would like to raise awareness about not only the atrocities of nonhuman animal exploitation, but how the issue relates to humans. The connection between animal rights and feminism creates a tangible link between human and nonhuman suffering, a link that may help us open our eyes to our bond as species and our responsibility to them.”
Several involved members of the organization, which Sobanski says is made up mostly of students who are feminists, have committed to a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle that advocates for fair treatment of both animals and women. “So far I have not seen this issue discussed on campus, but I hope to facilitate and begin a dialogue regarding the intersectionality of not only animal rights and feminism, but environmentalism, human rights and food security,” Sobanski said.
She first became aware of the overlap of feminism and animal rights activism when learning about and researching the dairy industry. “The rape rack, the confinement and the physiologically torturous separation of calf from mother after birth” are three factors that Sobanski describes about the industry that fall into the category of not only animal rights issues, but feminist issues as well.
A rape rack, as described in “5 Reasons For Why Animal Rights Are a Feminist Issue” by Everyday Feminism, is a device used to artificially inseminate female cows (and other animals) so that they become pregnant and can produce milk for humans. The article focuses on the following reasons that animal rights and feminism overlap: objectification, normalizing rape culture, domestic violence, intersectionality of oppressed groups and the spread of lies in society about animals. The article claims, “For female animals, their capacity to breed overwhelmingly dictates how their bodies will be controlled.” For feminists who advocate for animal equality, consuming nonhuman animal bodies that have been subjected to repeat artificial insemination—rape—does not align with their ideals about animal advocacy.
The confinement of animals and the separation of babies from their mothers, like cows and pigs, is also a huge part of this issue. An article from The Scavenger titled “Why Animal Rights are (Still) a Feminist Issue” describes that, “While all animals suffer under the system of intensive or factory farming, the females of the species usually experience the most heinous and prolonged abuses.” This article discusses the confinement that Sobanski mentioned—small spaces where female cows and pigs are kept for forced impregnation, as well as the inhumane separation from newborn nonhuman animals from their mothers immediately after birth.
In Carol Wiley’s article “The Feminist Connection” from The Vegetarian Times, she explains that many women think that that the practices of feminism and vegetarianism are inseparable—man of these women are ecofeminist. Ecofeminism is a political and philosophical movement in which ecological and feminist issues are combined as a result of a patriarchal society. Marti Kheel, an ecofeminist and the founder of Feminists for Animal Rights, described the critical connection between women and animals. “Women and animals became objects, valuable only as defined in their relationship to men in this culture…They are seen as instrumental for men to obtain happiness. Their function is to serve men’s needs. Objectification derives from the patriarchal worldview in which violence against animals are the norm.”
Sobanski and other members of CONN C.A.R.E.S. hope that through their research and advocacy, students at the College will be receptive to their efforts to raise awareness about these important issues.
CONN C.A.R.E.S. hosts meetings on Mondays at 7 p.m. in Bill 401. •