This is the last question and answer of James Wilt’s interview with Carol Adams, the author of the vegetarian and feminist classic The Sexual Politics of Meat (1990) in the current issue of Geez Magazine:
You make it clear in Sexual Politics that you’re a cultural worker, not an academic. You’ve been involved in advocating for and helping battered women and involved in animal rights for many decades. What keeps you grounded, from getting depressed, or anxious, or saying it’s not worth it in the end?
There’s a quote from Susan B. Anthony about how she always had great company. She wasn’t doing it alone. Václav Havel said we have to do what we’re doing to change the world not because we know that we’ll prevail, but because it’s the right thing to do. We can’t measure success by some sort of end goal. We have to simply subsume ourselves in the process of it. I think that ties into an ecofeminist philosophy.
From Jonathan Safran-Foer’s Eating Animals (2010):
A good number of people seem to be tempted to continue supporting factory farms while also buying meat outside that system when it is available. That’s nice. But if it is as far as our moral imaginations can stretch, then it’s hard to be optimistic about the future. Any plan that involves funneling money to the factory farm won’t end factory farming. How effective would the Montgomery bus boycott have been if the protestors had used the bus when it became inconvenient not to? How effective would a strike be if workers announced they would go back to work as soon as it became difficult to strike? If anyone finds in this book encouragement to buy some meat from alternative sources while buying factory farm meat as well, they have found something that isn’t there.
We know, at least, that this decision will help prevent deforestation, curb global warming, reduce pollution, save oil reserves, lessen the burden on rural America, decrease human rights abuses, improve public health, and help eliminate the most systematic animal abuse in world history. What we don’t know, though, may be just as important. How would making such a decision change us?
What kind of world would be create if three times a day we activated our compassion and reason as we sat down to eat, if we had the moral imagination and the pragmatic will to change our most fundamental act of consumption.
Choosing leaf or flesh, factory farm or family farm, does not in itself change the world, but teaching ourselves, our children, our local communities, and our nation to choose conscience over ease can. One of the greatest opportunities to live our values—or betray them—lies in the food we put on our plates. And we will live or betray our values not only as individuals, but as nations.