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)