Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Lactose Intolerance Doesn't Count

Note:  The following post has some serious issues with my unchecked white privilege and racist claimsmaking.  Please read this followup post, Everyday Vegan Racism:  The White Privilege of "Moral Superiority."

Over the years, I've had many of my friends and new acquaintances learn that I'm vegan and then respond with, "I'm lactose intolerant," as though that were equivalent in some way.  Of course, my voluntary choice to protest the consumption of Nonhuman Animal products is a very different action than someone who involuntarily stops consuming Nonhuman Animal breast milk because it gives them stomach cramps and diarrhea.

And many of these people will still eat dairy products from time to time, despite the illness it causes!  Please, do not conflate your lactose intolerance that you occasionally fight or ignore when you just can't say no to that cheese pizza or milkshake with my morally-grounded political position.  I'm concerned with the billions of Nonhuman Animals who suffer and die to make those dairy products, not with the sorrow of missing out on disease-inducing breast milk junk food.

Yet, many offer this quirk1 as though it puts us on the same level, as though they expect my acknowledgement or thanks.  Well, I don't thank men who quit raping because they found the bruising from the thrashing victim's fists and the penis chafing from the forced intercourse uncomfortable.  So you quit participating in a moral wrong because of a personal discomfort, okay, that's great for all the victims spared, but I'm not really impressed.  Or is it condolences they seek?  I can't be sure.  Should I be saying to the rapist, "Sorry you can't rape anymore," or to the lactose intolerant, "Sorry you can't pay others to rape cows for you"?

By the way, lactose consumption is only one of many, many ways we exploit, hurt, and kill other animals.  If the intent of declaring lactose intolerance is to resonate with a vegan, it's not going to cut it either way if they're still eating hamburgers and going to zoos.

On that note, I just want to say how absolutely annoying I find "lactose-free" cows' milk products:

Oh my gosh, just buy the healthier, more ethical soy/almond/oat/hemp/etc. version!  This is how absolutely ingrained the myth of cows' milk as an essential human food has become--for the millions and millions of people (mostly people of color and people in non-Western countries) who can't actually digest that crap, they feel obligated to buy these bizarre Frankenmilks.

1. Actually, lactose intolerance is not a quirk.  The vast majority of Americans of color and most Non-Westerners are lactose intolerant.  Because lactose consumption is largely tolerated by the socially privileged (white Westerners who developed the genetic ability to digest lactose after migrating to cold northern regions where dairy was used as a nutritional replacement to fruits and vegetables during winter months), it has been conflated with normal, natural, and nutritionally superior.  The flip side of this is that those who do not or cannot consume dairy products are considered inferior, strange, and lesser in some way.  Given the statistics, consider why we call it lactose intolerance instead of lactose persistence?  Dairy consumption is, in many ways, part of the project of white supremacy.  This is because it is used as a means to elevate white practices and otherize non-whites, but also because dairy is actually a product of cow oppression created in the largely white-owned dairy industry.