“Wow! The vegan revolution in Israel is undeniable” claims one of the world’s largest animal advocacy organizations Mercy for Animals. Like other animal advocacy groups in North America, Mercy for Animals has been quick to announce “Israel Goes Vegan” – sharing news stories and information from vegan activists within Israel charting their “victories.”
Although the organization frequently faces backlash on social media for sharing these articles, and completely ignoring and erasing the existence of Palestinians, they continue to chart and mark this ‘progress.” I have written about how hollow this trend is, and others have consistently followed this narrative illustrating how harmful and dangerous this brand of green washing is against the backdrop of occupation.
While a panel was organized weeks ago at the National FARM Animal Rights Conference, the largest international animal rights conference, on the “Success of Israel’s Vegan Movement” – many developments in Israel pointed to the absurdity of exclaiming Israel the “most Vegan nation.” While animal rights organizations were celebrating vegan options in Israel, Israel was facing international criticism for passing laws allowing for the force feeding of Palestinian prisoners. A move that has lead to brutal deaths in the past, and many believe will again. At the moment that panel took place, celebrating the fact that Domino’s Pizza in Israel offers vegan options, around 200 Palestinians were hunger striking in Israeli prisoners in protest for basic human rights.
Recognizing the wall, apartheid, occupation, or any of the basic rights denied to Palestinians isn’t possible for these groups yet though as they won’t even recognize that Palestinians exist. They won’t mention Palestine, won’t talk about Palestinians, and certainly will not talk about animal liberation organizing that takes place within Palestine. Groups like Palestine Animal League organize on the ground for animals in the context of a brutal occupation. When animal rights activists in the West recognize that Palestine exists, it is usually to blame them for the way Israel treats animals in Palestine. Although Palestinians slaughter and eat a fraction of the animals Israeli’s eat per capita, and although they have a booming animal liberation community, it seems they cannot claim praise from these organizations as they lack a Domino’s chain that offers vegan options in Gaza or the West Bank. Absurd.
Much of the focus in countering vegan washing has been on a movement level, with specific organizations named, but never individually pressured. It is time for activists to start increasing pressure upon these organizations – like Mercy for Animals – to recognize the plight of Palestinians and also hold up their efforts to advance animal advocacy. Withhold your free labor, hold back your donations, and keep your t-shirts and sweaters in the closet until these corporate brands in North America actively start to reverse this trend. Better yet, tap in and engage instead at the grassroots level with activists already doing this solidarity work. Animal advocacy should not be so easily co-opted to advance the narratives of nation-states and also should not serve as an apology or legitimacy for settler colonialism here, in Palestine, or anywhere else. Mercy, compassion, justice and all other trademarked brands tags within corporate animal advocacy, should not, and simply cannot, be limited or controlled.