A Reading List for a Vegan Left

A syllabus for understanding veganism as a coherent political philosophy committed to breaking down oppression in all forms

When so much coverage of veganism is divorced from politics, it was a breath of fresh air to read a recent BBC piece covering a boom in vegan restaurants in St. Petersburg, Russia — all run by anarchists.

“Inside, rainbow-flag tote bags, feminist stickers and vegan condoms are sold alongside plant-based Napoleon cakes and reusable straws. In the freezer, there are varenyky and pel’meni dumplings made by She’s Got A Knife, a ‘feminist horizontalist culinary project’,” the piece by Ashitha Nagesh reads. “In a back room, there’s an unassuming hole-in-the-wall restaurant called Tempeh Time. It’s dedicated to serving dishes made with tempeh — pronounced ‘tem-pay’ — a protein made from fermented soya beans.”

Nagesh covers quite a bit of vegan anarchist history in the piece, which got me thinking about what a starter reading list for a vegan left would look like. Here, some highly recommended work for anyone seeking to deepen their understanding of veganism as a coherent political philosophy that seeks to break down oppression in all its forms.

“Animal Liberation and Social Revolution,” by Brian A. Dominick

This is mentioned in the BBC piece as the piece of writing that coined the term “veganarchist” in 1997. It outlines the interlocking oppressions faced by humans and nonhuman animals, and how a liberal approach to veganism misses significant points. “It is not enough to boycott the meat industry and hope that resources will be re-allocated to feed the hungry,” writes Dominick. “We must establish a system which actually intends to meet human needs, which implies social revolution.”

“The American Left Should Support Animal Rights: A Manifesto,” by Anna E. Charlton, Sue Coe and Gary L. Francione

Here, the three writers respond to the left’s general dismissal of animal rights as a bourgeois concern. “The problem with the view that the animal rights movement finds its roots exclusively in bourgeois ideology is that it is simply wrong,” they write. “There was, of course, a bourgeois presence in the movement, but is role has been greatly over-emphasized to the detriment of socialist thought on the doctrinal level, and the important practical participation by women and the working classes.”

New Press

“Beasts of Burden: Animal and Disability Liberation,” by Sunaura Taylor

Sunaura Taylor is one of the best thinkers on human and nonhuman animal oppression. In this newer classic, she outlines similarities between the treatment of animal and disabled bodies. “Clearly we project ableism onto nonhuman animals,” she writes. “Do we also project disability itself? If the notion of disability is a social construction, what does it mean to say that an animal is disabled?”

“Soy Not Oi!” By the Hippycore Krew

One of the texts that comes up most enthusiastically every time vegan anarchy is discussed is this cookbook zine that brings together manifestos and recipes for a punk guide to life and cooking without succumbing (too much) to the Establishment. Bringing down the government with vegetables never seemed so fun.

Bloomsbury

“The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory,” by Carol A. Adams

An absolutely indispensable vegan theory text that establishes the connections between consumption of animal bodies and women’s bodies. To understand ecofeminism and the ways in which meat consumption constantly reincorporates itself into the culture through patriarchy, pick it up.

“Making a Killing: The Political Economy of Animal Rights,” by Bob Torres

Often, anarchists dismiss veganism as essentially a consumer-based boycott, thus meaningless as political action. Here, Torres breaks that perspective down through Marxist and anarchist thought to make the anti-capitalist case for animal rights.

I’m a food writer from Long Island based in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Subscribe to my weekly newsletter on food issues: aliciakennedy.substack.com

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