Review of a talk by Carol J Adams

It’s a pity that the excellent talk by Carol J Adams at St Cross Building, Oxford, on 25 October 2018, wasn’t better advertised: I only found out about it on the day it took place. The Sexual Politics of Meat by Carol J Adams (1990) is a seminal work, one of the five most important books about animal rights published during the modern era. I first heard about it via BBC Radio 4’s The Food Programme in the early 1990s, and was rather put off by the subtitle: A Feminist Vegetarian Critical Theory. However, any idea that this book was only relevant to women was immediately dismissed as soon as I started to read it.

The author’s 60-minute PowerPoint presentation underlined the fact that all the issues raised in the original book are still topical. Numerous slides of fast food adverts and menus, TV campaigns for junk food chains, and ‘chalk misogyny’ (hand written messages on pavement chalk boards) underlined a deeply rooted and shameful theme. Images of women and animals are linked together to sell meat and dairy produce, or blatantly explicit sexist text is merged within a specific promotion, such as a billboard poster of a bulging burger with the message: “Grab both buns, and eat it like a man.” During the last US Presidential election, KFC produced merchandise badges that read: “Hillary Special, Two Fat Thighs, Two Small Breasts … Left Wing.” The latter was discussed within the context of Donald Trump’s overt sexism, and illustrated with a bizarre right wing protest using milk as “a creamy symbol of white racial purity in Trump’s America” outside an anti-Trump exhibit at New York City’s Museum of the Moving Image in February 2017. A bunch of bare-chested Neo-Nazis gulped down gallons of milk to prove that it’s a symbol of Caucasian superiority. Another slide showed a poster for ‘Trump Steaks’, which Carol Adams succinctly dismissed as “another of his failed businesses.”

During the Q & A session, Carol Adams expressed her support for the Impossible Burger and told listeners that ‘mock meats’ were first devised by Seventh Day Adventists in the late nineteenth century. Afterwards I had the opportunity to talk to the speaker, expressing my gratitude for her ground-breaking work. It was a real privilege to meet this champion of both women’s rights and animal rights.

Paul Freestone

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