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“We’re here, we’re queer, we’re NOT going shopping!”

In the early 90s, activists associated with Queer Nation and other organizations that promoted LGBTQ liberation by means of nonviolent direct action sometimes stormed shopping malls chanting that slogan. Of course, our “kiss-ins” and exuberant expressions of non-conformity with gender norms were roundly condemned, both by homophobes and by liberals who claimed to be our allies, as unduly flamboyant. And, of course—as always becomes clear in retrospect—those who had been condemned for being too extreme in their demands paved the way for those with more modest requests. And so it was that screaming queens and unabashed bulldaggers  (not to mention genderqueer teens mouthing Madonna lyrics) opened the door for the M&M (marriage and military) folks to march through.

But notice: We weren’t going shopping. Most participants in mall actions understood very well that consumerism (which substitutes plastic objects for our most heartfelt animal desires, impoverishing us while enriching capitalist profiteers) was one element of the matrix of intersecting oppressions that diminished our lives.

All of which brings us to “Buy Nothing Day,” celebrated by anti-consumerist activists—some of whom are taking some pretty creative mall actions of their own today. (I especially like the Zombie Walk and the Whirl-Mart.)

What’s all of this got to do with animals? Here at the sanctuary, we’ve always said not only that “green means vegan” but also that “vegan means green.”

Since aggregated animal agriculture (including both small-scale and factory farms) is responsible for more greenhouse gases than any other economic sector and since meat, dairy, and egg production collectively deplete and pollute more water resources than all other human activities combined, anybody who is serious about “going green” has got to quit eating animals.

And it goes both ways. Anybody who cares about animals has got to care about the planet upon which all animal life depends. While captive animals endure abuses ranging from aquariums to zoos, free animals scramble for survival in diminished and depleted habitats. So, ethical vegans—people who are vegan due to ethical or religious devotion to the liberation and well-being of animals—are obliged not only to eschew animal products but also to use all means available to lessen the pollution and depletion of resources for which they are personally responsible.

How? The three Rs (reduce, reuse, and recycle) go a long way. Why? Because they all add up to one key precept: Quit buying new things. How does that help? Because most new stuff is made by fossil-fuel burning factories from resources taken from the earth and then trucked (by fossil-fuel burning vehicles) to stores. When you reduce your overall consumption, in part by participating in both sides of reuse (both reusing your own old stuff or somebody else’s old stuff and making your old stuff available to others) and recycling (both by recycling whatever you can and by buying recycled products whenever you can), you quit buying so much new stuff. Yes, it’s factories rather than individuals that spew the most pollution, but if we quit being the market for junk we don’t really need anyway, some of those factories will shut down. What will their workers do instead? Join the green economy! (It takes labor to recycle and also to refit many items for reuse.)

(Side note, it’s always funny to me when environmentalists who don’t have a qualm about suggesting that oil refinery workers be retrained to join the green economy fall all over themselves with outrage whenever a vegan suggests that dairy farmers learn to grow plant crops instead.)

But let me not get off track. It’s Buy Nothing Day today, and we wholeheartedly support those who are staying away from stores–or, even better, standing in front of malls with scissors, offering to cut up credit cards! We also salute anybody who has decided to replace a day of shopping with a day of volunteer work. And we especially value everybody who has decided to devote Black Friday to pursuit of more substantial pleasures than can be gotten at any mall.

Here are a couple of Buy Nothing Day texts from our archives:

Buy Nothing for the Animals” (2003, includes list of things to do instead of shopping)

Conquistadors of the Senses” (2006,  links homophobia to consumerism, by way of colonization and factory farming)

14 comments to “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re NOT going shopping!”

  • anitat
    Welcome to active paganism.
  • jennifer
    Walked with the dogs two miles (got my Vitamin D). Made tempeh bacon which worked really well on a BLT sandwich. Making vegan cheese. Doing laundry. Getting ready to return a few library books. Signed this petition for Animals Asia this morning and recommend that everyone else do it also.
    http://www.animalsasia.vn/en/the-eviction.html?&UID=HNL6E4VTP0D
    Of course, it is my day off and for those who have to work today (especially in retail), I do feel for you. It is really ugly out there today and I hope you are getting paid extra.
  • Rebecca Stucki
    Love this post!!
  • CQ
    Have you heard of #GivingTuesday? See http://givingtuesday.org. It’s November 27th.

    Jennifer’s mention of returning a few library books brings to mind what I spent a portion of today doing: taking notes on both of Joan Dunayer’s books — “Animal Equality: Language and Liberation” and “Speciesism,” which I’m so glad I finally borrowed from the library and am reading. They’re fabulous. She calls aquariums (which you mention in your post) and marine parks “aquaprisons.” Zoos, which she doesn’t think are euphemistic, remain “zoos.”

  • CQ
    Oh, meant to mention: I join Jennifer in urging everyone to sign Jill Robinson’s petition to save the moon bears’ sanctuary in Vietnam.
  • Sheryl
    Within all the other truth here, this phrase caught my attention: “consumerism (which substitutes plastic objects for our most heartfelt animal desires”. I can feel its truth. I want to know more. Do you have reading recommendations?

    This piece gave me a new, bald look at using plastic (credit cards) to buy plastic (consumer products), not just on “Black Friday,” but anytime. I am sitting with feeling ill about it, including my own complicity.

    Thanks to Jennifer for mentioning the opportunity to contact the Vietnamese Prime Minister about the possible eviction of Animals Asia’s moon bear sanctuary. I wrote a letter I will print and mail.

  • pattrice
    Thanks for this thoughtful comment (and for sitting with your feelings), Sheryl. For more on that aspect of it, please do follow the link at the bottom of the post to the essay entitled “Conquistadors of the Senses.”
  • Sheryl
    Thank you, Pattrice. Again, the juxtapositions grab me:

    In these contiguous sentences:
    “governor Vasco Nunez de Balboa condemned 50 homosexual Indians to be torn apart by dogs.”
    AND
    “Seen by both Catholic Conquistadors and Protestant Pilgrims as a sign of godless animality, same-sex pleasure was ruthlessly suppressed”
    We see those who claim to repudiate “godless animality” creating a cruel spectacle of it.

    What is it about the human impulse to negate something true inside us so passionately that we put on an explosive show of denying it, and in the process, prove its truth? Ouch.

    You named the (perhaps literally) ultimate example of it when you described the gluttony of humans consuming everything and everyone on the planet because it’s ours and because we can, which somehow proves its rightness, until it proves what’s actually true: a depleted planet with insufficient resources left for any, including the elite who perpetuated the game.

    Something that twits at my mind is that in any group — classroom, household, planet — even if most were willing to live and let live, it takes only a very small minority to cause ruination for all.

    Maybe it’s just the leading edge of the inevitable, another expression of entropy.

    Thank you for ending on a funny, uplifting moment of (word)play:
    “So, if you’re wondering what to do instead of going shopping, I invite you to come out and play.”

  • nita m moccia
    I love this POST!!!!!!! and if i do shop, i go to places that allow me to bring my pet Chicken and thats the CO-OP!!!
  • Jo Ward
    I never shop for anything other than food (if needed) on black friday………there is nothing that anyone needs to make “gift” shopping the day after Thanksgiving a worthwhile proposition……
  • Rucio
    Once again, I am so thankful that you came to Vermont! Not only was a sanctuary sorely needed, but so is such unapologetic radicalism (ie, clear and complete and immodest thought and action).
  • […] November 27th, 2012 Today is “Giving Tuesday,” the anti-consumerist antidote to “Black Friday” and “Cyber Monday.” If you can afford to do so, please do show your support for […]
  • Rucio
    “Tell you brother for me to remember us in the alley,” Malcolm X said. “Tell him that he and all of the other moderate Negroes who getting somewhere need to always remember that it was us extremists who made it possible.”
  • […] more nourishing activities, including volunteering at animal shelters or sanctuaries. In 2012, we renewed that call, reminding everybody that “consumerism (which substitutes plastic objects for our most […]

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