An Open Letter to People Who Don’t Think Intersectionality Is Important

This is an open letter to people who don’t think intersectionality of animal rights with other social justice issues is important.

Dear Reader,

Let me start by saying this article will only scratch the surface of what needs to be said about intersectionality. In fact, I could write books on how one social justice movement can help another.

I’ve been an activist for as long as I can remember. My Twitter timeline highlights issues such as animal rights, women’s equality, systemic racism, and immigration reform. Offline you can find me marching alongside those who feel the same way I do. But it wasn’t until I focused on animal rights as my full-time career that I became more vocal about the other issues.

Why? Because they’re all connected. How? Read on.

Environmental Justice

When it comes to environmental impacts, the animal agriculture industry’s record is disastrous. A report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change found that we may have as few as 12 years to cut global emissions by 45 percent to prevent global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius and avert a catastrophe. And one of the leading contributors to climate change? You guessed it: animal agriculture.

Raising animals for food produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all cars, planes, and other forms of transportation combined. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, carbon dioxide emissions from raising farmed animals make up about 15 percent of global human-induced emissions, with beef and milk production as the leading culprits. In fact, even without fossil fuels, we will exceed our 565-gigaton CO2e limit by 2030.

Recent EPA records for 98 large U.S. slaughterhouses found that three-quarters of them discharged toxic waste directly into nearby streams and rivers, violating pollution control permits. Factory farms have created more than 500 nitrogen-flooded dead zones in the world’s oceans. Moreover, Tyson is responsible for dumping more toxic pollution into our waterways than companies like ExxonMobil and Dow Chemical, and that doesn’t even include pollution from its factory farms.


The meat and dairy industries not only exploit our environmental resources but continually exploit female bodies in the reproduction of new animals to use and kill.

Females in the dairy industry are repeatedly and forcibly impregnated to ensure a continuous supply of milk. Their newborns are ripped from their sides within hours, with the daughters forced into the same generative cycle and the sons killed for someone’s dinner.

If that wasn’t enough to churn your stomach, consider this: Pregnant pigs are often kept in gestation crates, individual cages so small the animals cannot walk, turn around, or lie down comfortably. They are continually impregnated to produce more pigs for human consumption. Mother pigs spend their lives on concrete floors. They will never see grass or root through dirt, and they will never be allowed to bond with their piglets.

The suffering inflicted on mothers is immeasurable and indefensible.

Racial Equality

Living near factory farms is a nightmare. These farms pollute the surrounding areas so much that residents suffer a host of illnesses from breathing in the many harmful gases these facilities emit. More often than not, these facilities are built near low-income communities and communities of color.

In 2016, the Environmental Working Group released a collection of maps and data revealing that the environmental cost of North Carolina’s 6,500 factory farms disproportionately affects vulnerable communities.

Just recently, North Carolina residents sued Smithfield for “unreasonable nuisances they suffered from odors, flies, and rumbling trucks, according to the Associated Press. Those living near Smithfield’s factory farms, which hold thousands of pigs in cramped, filthy conditions, have had to deal with the facilities’ intense stench. According to a neighbor, the odor was comparable to that of rotting corpses he’d found during his career as a police officer and firefighter. Other neighbors had to flee their homes when the sickening smell became overwhelming.

Smithfield continues to use open-air pits as a low-cost method of handling waste, even though North Carolina banned this method for new factory farms in 1997. The facilities empty these large pits by spraying liquid excrement onto fields, but winds carry it to neighboring houses and communities.

According to an article by Civil Eats, North Carolina pig factory farms produce nearly 10 billion gallons of feces and urine each year. That’s enough to fill 15,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The National Resources Defense Council stated in February 2017:
People who live near or work at factory farms breathe in hundreds of gases, which are formed as manure decomposes. For instance, one gas released by the lagoons, hydrogen sulfide, is dangerous even at low levels. Its effects—which are irreversible—range from sore throat to seizures, comas and even death.
Heartbreaking and immoral.

Immigration and Workers’ Rights

Poultry processing is one of the most dangerous jobs; more than 27 workers a day suffer amputations or other injuries severe enough to require hospitalization. With high demands for how many animals are “processed per day, workers rarely get bathroom breaks. Some have even resorted to wearing diapers. Additionally, slaughterhouse workers have been found to suffer from PTSD and illnesses caused by antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

With an unknown percentage of undocumented immigrants working in the industry, Big Ag preys on vulnerable people. Reportedly, 93 percent of dairy workers in New York are undocumented immigrants. Many undocumented workers are afraid to go off the farm for fear of being caught and deported, a fear reinforced by demeaning or intimidating comments from their supervisors. Some remain on the farms for more than 11 days at a time.

Wildlife Conservation

From grazers to predators, each year thousands of wild animals, including wolves, bears, river otters, eagles, and coyotes, are killed because they are seen as a threat to animal agriculture industries.

Factory farms occupy almost half the land in the lower 48 states, encroaching on many wildlife habitats. To protect the profit interests of these enterprises, the U.S. government has dedicated an entire department, USDA Wildlife Services, to killing any animal deemed a threat to livestock. In 2013 alone, Wildlife Services killed more than 2 million wild animals, including 75,000 coyotes and 12,000 prairie dogs.

But it’s not just in the United States. As land around the world is cleared for farmed animals and feed crops, indigenous species get pushed out. Forests in Sumatra that are home to elephants and jaguars are being destroyed for palm plantations, often to make feed for animals kept in factory farms. In Tanzania, farmed animals are constantly grazing, reducing the diversity of grasses and endangering food supplies for zebras, wildebeests, elephants, giraffes, and rhinos. Large-scale cattle farming will not only decimate Tanzania’s wildlife population but encroach on the few national parks where these animals reside.

And if I went into how the meat industry is killing off massive numbers of marine animals, we’d be here all day.

Animal agriculture is devastating people, animals, and the environment.

As a vegan, I choose not to participate in a system that kills animals after years of cruelty, abuses workers, discriminates against communities of color, pushes species to the brink of extinction, and wreaks havoc on our environment.

Having learned that veganism is a form of resistance connected to other social justice movements, I now know what they say is true: Knowledge is power.