Transcript of the No-Bullsh!t Vegan podcast, episode 107
Veganism and abortion - a critical discussion
Karina Inkster: You're listening to the No-Bullshit Vegan podcast episode 107. Zoe Peled joins me for a very important and very wide ranging discussion about abortion and how it intersects with veganism.
Hey, thanks for tuning in. I'm Karina, your go-to, no BS, vegan fitness and nutrition coach. If you haven't yet listened to episode 104 of this show, cue that up right now as your next listen. That episode is called, “Four Truly Fucked Up Parts of the Fitness Industry,” in which my coach colleague Zoe and I discuss the kinds of messaging we see in the fitness industry and why so much of it is problematic.
Now in this episode, we promised part two with more things that are fucked up in the fitness industry, and rest assured, that is coming. We were actually going to record that next part today, but we decided to change course and address a much more pressing, in our view, issue instead. And that is abortion.
Before we dive into today's topic, I would like to address our last episode, which was episode 106 with Chef AJ and Glen Merzer.
They were awesome guests and they brought up some really good points, but I did come out of that interview feeling like I should have pushed back a bit more on some of their ideas. One of our listeners, Neringa, put it really well writing: “I was rather disappointed. It's difficult as it is eating out with friends, work-related events, traveling, et cetera, and I think we need to put less pressure on the people who already make the right choice for the animals without blaming them for eating processed foods sometimes, or not ‘healthy’ foods. Also the argument, ‘cause our ancestors did this or ate this,’ is not scientific. It's often used by meat eaters to defend their point of view. Let's not forget that our ancestors’ average lifespan was 30 years old. I appreciate the general message here, but I don't think it has to be so black and white.” Well said.
Episode 86 of this show actually is called, “Dr. China Davis on Processed Foods and Limitations of Whole Foods Only Veganism.” So I encourage you to check that out in case you haven't already. We talk about why this black and white view of all processed foods are bad is problematic. So I'm pretty disappointed in myself for not questioning some of Chef AJ and Glen Merzer's views in our discussion. They promote a very low fat, whole foods, plant-based diet. It's basically an 80/10/10 diet, and they did use that descriptor in our discussion. So if you're unfamiliar with what 80/10/10 is, it refers to macronutrient percentages: 80% of calories coming from carbohydrates, 10% from fats, and 10% from protein. It's what a lot of raw food vegans follow.
So a research article by Christine Crumbley and Anastasia Zinchenko, who was actually on this podcast in its very early days, three years ago, for episodes number four and number five, points out the potential health risks of 80/10/10 diets. This includes not getting enough protein, especially for athletic vegans, decreased bone density, problems associated with extremely low-fat intakes, like inability to absorb fat-soluble vitamins, and decreased athletic performance, and a whole lot more. So this is a great reminder to myself to get better at stepping out of my comfort zone when it comes to pushing back on others’ ideas, and I will endeavour to do better next time.
Back to our main topic for today's episode: abortion. This is timely because of what is happening in Texas at the moment. That state just banned abortions after six weeks of pregnancy around the time at which you see cardiac activity in the embryo, at which point most folks don't even yet know that they're pregnant. And by the way, when I say cardiac activity, I'm not talking about a heartbeat. It's electrical activity, but at this point, the valves of the heart haven't formed yet.
So pregnancy is counted from a person's last period. So once a person misses a period, they're considered four weeks pregnant already, whether or not conception occurred four weeks prior. And with this new law, there are no exceptions for rape or incest. Until now, Texas allowed abortions up to 20 weeks. So this new law makes Texas the most restrictive in all of the US in terms of access to abortion services. According to Dr. Daniel Grossman, a professor in the department of obstetrics, gynaecology, and reproductive sciences at the University of California at San Francisco, this bill means that, “patients only have about two weeks from their missed period to recognize and confirm the pregnancy, decide they want an abortion, find a clinic, arrange time off from work or school and childcare if needed, as well as organize transportation, since many people live far away from the nearest clinic in Texas.”
The crazy thing is private citizens with no connection to someone who had an abortion can sue anyone who performs an abortion, or anyone who aids and abets an abortion. This could even mean the Uber driver who brought someone to a clinic. So a random citizen who's successful in a lawsuit will recover all their legal fees, plus $10,000.
An opinion piece by actress Uma Thurman just came out in the Washington Post called, “The Texas Abortion Law is a Human Rights Crisis for American Women.” Here's a quick excerpt: “The Texas abortion law was allowed to take effect without argument by the Supreme court, which due in no small part to its lack of ideological diversity, is a staging ground for a human rights crisis for American women. This law is yet another discriminatory tool against those who are economically disadvantaged and often indeed against their partners. Women and children of wealthy families retain all the choices in the world and face little risk. I am grief-stricken as well that the law pits citizen against citizen, creating new vigilantes, who will prey on these disadvantaged women, denying them the choice not to have children they are not equipped to care for, or extinguishing their hopes for a future family they might choose.” We're linking to the full piece in our show notes, nobullshitvegan.com/107, and I encourage you to read the whole thing.
So Zoe and I used what's going on in Texas at the moment as a reason to have a wide-ranging discussion about abortion. And specifically, we're talking about the intersections between veganism and abortion. Can a person defend the right to abortion without compromising their dedication to sparing or saving innocent life as an ethical vegan?
With me today is Zoe Peled. She's a fitness coach with our team and has a particular affinity for kettlebells, strength training, and calling out industry BS on the regular, especially if it's about food or what bodies ‘should’ look like. She's currently taking part in a 40 boxing classes in 60 days challenge, and training for her first triathlon and a thousand-plus-mile bicycle ride. Zoe does additional work in marketing and community engagement, leads several local activism ventures, including Ban Fur Farms BC, and founded the Vancouver Vegan Resource Centre in fall of 2018.
Zoe has been vegan for almost 12 years and an animal rights activist for almost the same duration of time. Zoe also leads a women's self-defense series by donation with proceeds going to a rotating organization or nonprofit. You can sign up for the list via Instagram at ZoeMarg to receive notifications, and you can also head to our show notes at nobullshitvegan.com/107 for the direct link to her Instagram profile. Zoe's favourite vegan foods in no particular order: Cartem’s donuts, hummus, avocado, and anything that comes out of her fryer. Let's jump in.
Hey, Zoe, thanks for joining me again on the podcast. Nice to have you here as always.
Zoe Peled: Thank you for having me back. I'm ready.
Karina Inkster: Yeah. This is going to be an interesting discussion. Just so our listeners know we are going to do part two of what's fucked up in the fitness industry, but we changed gears. We were actually going to record that today.
Zoe Peled: We were. Yes.
Karina Inkster: Right. And then it was your brilliant idea to discuss something completely different. Very important though, and very timely based on what is happening in the States, namely, Texas right now.
Zoe Peled: Yes.
Karina Inkster: So we both have a lot of notes. We've done some research, which has been a little rabbit hole-esque, I think.
Zoe Peled: Completely in the rabbit hole of being equal parts amused and terrified.
Karina Inkster: And horrified. Yeah totally. So we are talking about abortion and how does it fit with being vegan? Does it fit with being vegan? And I think we should start with why the hell are we talking about this anyway, on a podcast about veganism, right?
Zoe Peled: Yes.
Karina Inkster: So I think a lot of folks either have not even considered these two constructs being related at all, or they have, and they may not have, I mean, it sounds bad, but they may not have thought it through entirely.
Zoe Peled: As if that never happens within this world.
Karina Inkster: So yeah. I mean, I guess one of the main questions is like, how can a person defend the right to abortion - and just let it be known that I am pro-choice. I'm speaking for myself here.
Zoe Peled: Likewise.
Karina Inkster: Right. So how can a person defend the right to abortion without compromising their dedication to whatever word you want to use, sparing, saving innocent life as an ethical vegan, right? And so a lot of people, I guess, would say well, you can't be vegan if you're pro-choice. So is that why we're talking about this? Or do you have other thoughts on why abortion even remotely relates to veganism?
Zoe Peled: Yeah, so I guess, and something I would like to insert as well, and I assume that this will exist in text form, is just giving folks who are listening a heads up that because we are talking about abortion, there are some parts of the dialogue that may go into certain details, or I have some quotes that offer, you know, specific descriptions of certain things happening inside the body. So just as a heads up for anyone, there will be that content. So just to be aware.
Karina Inkster: Good point.
Zoe Peled: And I believe that this conversation struck up between us as many things do, based on a Facebook - I was going to say a Facebook dialogue, but let's be honest, it was a Facebook debate as many of them become.
Karina Inkster: You can't even call it a debate sometimes.
Zoe Peled: ‘A peaceful Facebook conversation’.
Karina Inkster: Mmmhmm!
Zoe Peled: This was a dialogue I was involved with a couple of years ago. And it sprung from a member of the vegan activist community, who - I would not usually mention this point, but I feel it's pertinent - a member of the community who is male, and posted some very extreme and conclusive statements on Facebook, which stated that if someone was an ethical vegan and they were an animal activist, it was hypocritical of them to be pro-choice.
Karina Inkster: Right.
Zoe Peled: And that is something that I responded very strongly to for obvious reasons. And it's something that has come up again over a few incidents in, you know, little amounts here and there on different platforms. And it just made sense to really loop back and hone in on it and address it, especially right now because of what's happening in Texas, and the fact that that has brought up conversations about reproductive rights all around the world, as it should.
Karina Inkster: As it should.
Zoe Peled: That is our background of why we came to be here.
Karina Inkster: Love it. Yes, very good points. So it's always kind of been around. It's things that we have discussed off and on over the years, but now, especially with what's happening in the States, it's just, it's on our plate, whether we like it or not. And I mean ‘we’ as in everyone, the population at large basically.
Zoe Peled: Exactly. And especially, you know, one common response that we may see in a situation like this, and unfortunately this is a response that I've heard from several people vocal and their response is, well, it's concerning, but it's happening in Texas. It's not happening here, and they kind of speak about it in a very dismissive way. And the reality is it is currently happening in Texas. However, it's not exclusive to Texas when we talk about problematic legislation about reproductive rights and it has great potential to impact us here as it does any other place in the world where we're talking about access to reproductive rights. So we need to remember that we may have something beginning in one place that can very easily multiply and spread, especially when you have very extreme views on the table.
Karina Inkster: Absolutely. That's a really important point. Not to mention even if it weren't about to affect, you know, someone hypothetically, the case remains that this is an important human rights issue, and we should all be fighting what is happening here, whether or not it's going to affect us individually. I mean, that's what veganism is, isn't it?
Zoe Peled: Precisely. And that is a very important point and a very perfect and relevant point because just because something may not impact us directly in this moment does not mean that we should be so dismissive to turn our backs and walk away from it. Because if we all did that, we would have some severe issues happening with many major political movements all over the world.
Karina Inkster: Absolutely. Yeah.
Zoe Peled: To say the least.
Karina Inkster: To say the least! And I mean look, we could do a whole series of discussions just on why what is happening is horrifying and just wrong and terrifying on many levels. But today we're going to focus on kind of more how this relates to veganism, what our views are, debunking or perhaps poking holes in other arguments that exist out there. So it's not really looking at exactly the situation that is happening and the details of legislation, et cetera. It's really more a broad discussion about the issues, how they relate, if they relate. And yeah, just kind of seeing what comes up out of that.
Zoe Peled: So much is going to come up out of that.
Karina Inkster: Oh, I know. Now okay. So before we hit record, you mentioned that you had a couple of points that you found on the interwebs that we could discuss. I've got some notes on my end as well that I want to go over at that point. But I think to start yours were more like other viewpoints or arguments that we could look at. Is that right?
Zoe Peled: Yes. So I Googled - I actually popped into Facebook to see if I could scroll back and find that conversation and/or if I had potentially screenshot it, because I do that sometimes when things reach a certain level of intensity, but I, unfortunately, did not. So what I did was Googled the phrase, “why vegans should be pro-life,” which led me to a very expansive pool of articles, some of which were very beautifully written and in fact, refuted that point. However, it also brought me to a couple of message boards and communities, and that is where shit really starts to hit the fan.
Karina Inker: Yeah. I'm sure.
Zoe Peled: And you really start to deep dive. So I found two in particular that I found to be quite compelling in the supposed logic that they provided when offering their perspectives.
Karina Inkster: Okay.
Zoe Peled: So I wanted to share those and thought we could have some great fun jumping into them and also providing some more context as to why the logic is very, very flawed.
Karina Inkster: Let’s do it! Let's do it!
Zoe Peled: Okay. So number one, and this comes from username Brap69.
Karina Inkster: Of course! Haha!
Zoe Peled: Titled: Being vegan slash vegetarian while being pro-abortion is hypocrisy. “Many people who are vegan slash veg are also pro-abortion. This is hypocrisy in my opinion, as they claim that killing animals just so we can eat them as morally wrong, while also believing that killing a three-month-old fetus is totally fine because the mother forgot to take her pills the other day. “
Karina Inkster: Good God! we will come back to that point specifically.
Zoe Peled: Yup. We will come back to that point specifically. Brap69 continues, “You can hopefully see the hypocrisy. Why is the life of a fetus that will one day become a fully-fledged human worth less than the life of say a cow that has been bred for this specific purpose, and has no chance in hell of one day becoming sentient?”
Karina Inkster: Oh, there's a lot going on there. The cow not being sentient, the female being entirely responsible for birth control, the aborting a three-month fetus. Where do I even begin with this?
Zoe Peled: Okay. So your response shows how similar our thought patterns are because, in my notes, those are exactly the things that I outlined. So number one, of course, and this is such a classic, classic rebuttal, is this whole conversation around sentience. And though there are some schools of thought that still debate it in non-human animals, science has confirmed that non-human animals, including cows, as referenced by Brap69, are sentient beings. So this is not a situation in which a cow is hypothetically waiting to become sentient in their life. They are. We know this, okay?
Karina Inkster: Absolutely.
Zoe Peled: Number two, the term, ‘killing a three-month-old fetus.’ We are talking, depending at what stage in a pregnancy an abortion occurs, we are not necessarily talking about a fetus. We are talking about a cluster of cells, and often pro-lifers and anti-abortion folks will create a rhetoric that indicates we're talking about a fetus or an actual baby from day one of conception. That’s not accurate.
Karina Inkster: Right.
Zoe Peled: And then as you pointed out this scathing line regarding the woman forgetting to take her pills, because thank-you Brap69, I forgot that within a sexual encounter, it is completely the woman's responsibility to be providing the reproduction. Oh, sorry! I really like when I'm reminded of that.
Karina Inkster: That was just the icing on the cake with something that was already deeply problematic. It’s the shit icing on the shit cake.
Zoe Peled: It's the icing on the shit cake. So that was the first one. And would you like me to jump into the second one?
Karina Inkster: Well, here’s just this one thing that I think relates to this whole, ‘how can vegans be pro-choice if they're killing fetuses?’ Which is again, not how it works, but what if we flip it? How can anti-choice folks take a stand to supposedly protect the - and I'm using air quotes here - “sentience” like very dubious sentience of a collection of cells? Like how can they take a stand to protect these, but be perfectly okay with supporting forcible impregnation, torture, death that occurs every single fucking day in animal agriculture?
Zoe Peled: Every day! Every day!
Karina Inkster: Of, by the way, fully formed sentient, pain-experiencing beings? So now I'm saying this as a blanket - most anti-choice folks are probably not vegan kind of assumption here. I'm fairly certain that's the case. And at some point, we're going to need to talk about anti-choice vegans as well specifically, but I was just kind of thinking this as a, okay so if these people are not vegan, let's flip it. And does that even make any sense?
Zoe Peled: So interestingly, I was just reviewing my tabs to see if I had kept it open. And I did not. I found an article written by a vegan animal activist in Ireland who was not explicitly stated, but I believe by the tone of the article, is pro-choice, and this individual went out and attended a few pro-life rallies. And as an experiment, conducted some honest interviews. You know, there was no pretending about what the intent was here. Conducted some interviews and explicitly asked, you know, given your stance and your belief system, are you vegan? Are you vegetarian? Is it something that you have thought about before?
Karina Inkster: Interesting.
Zoe Peled: And based on the number of events that this individual attended, obviously, you know, they cannot get to every single protest, they did not encounter one pro-lifer who was vegan or vegetarian. And in the interview, they also asked if they perhaps knew someone in their circle that was vegan or vegetarian, and none of them knew one person.
Karina Inkster: Wow. That really puts it into perspective hey?
Zoe Peled: Puts it into perspective. And granted, we need to acknowledge that is one article, that is one place in Ireland. However, it's quite poignant timing, the fact that you just brought up that point of the conversation and that article revealed what it did.
Karina Inkster: Wow.
Zoe Peled: And the other thing I would like to share with you is this very interesting statement from PETA.
Karina Inkster: Oh yes. Okay. Well, we all know where I stand on PETA as an organization, but bring it on.
Zoe Peled: So when I Googled why pro-lifers should be vegan, why vegans need to be pro-life rather, this quote from PETA came up. So quote, “PETA believes that all pro-lifers should be vegan. If they support violence, misery, and death at every meal of the day, they are then pro-death. The obvious pro-life choice is to be vegan.”
Karina Inkster: Well, they're not wrong. Okay. Here's something though.
Zoe Peled: Hit me with it!
Karina Inkster: What if - okay. So there's the counter-argument here from not us, but other folks, who would say yes, but the clump of cells that we're talking about, have the potential to become human down the road. What do you say to that?
Zoe Peled: I would say to that end, because we need to remember that some folks are going to be listening and not seeing the visual of this. I just kind of made it an exasperated face and gagged for a moment. My response to that when it comes up is we need to acknowledge all of the considerations that need to be looked at when we're bringing a life into the world. And for many individuals who are pro-life and anti-abortion a common response is well, have the baby and you can figure out some options after. You could give the baby up for adoption. You could put the baby in foster care, insert other, you know, illogical offering here, and insert one here. And there is a complete lack of any kind of consideration for acknowledging the fact that you are not aware of what that human is experiencing. And you have no way of predicting what that experience will be like for them. And assuming that it's as easy as you saying, oh, I have this solution, have the child, we'll figure it out after the fact. There are about a million different points that need to be inserted in that conversation beforehand.
Karina Inkster: Yes. A million plus!
Zoe Peled: If not more.
Karina Inkster: Yeah. Well, not to mention also that physiologically our bodies go through spontaneous abortion sometimes without us even knowing - and ‘us’ I mean as folks who are conceiving. So like, I mean, what's the deal there, right? I mean, it happens as part of the natural process. Sometimes, you know, there's like a genetic abnormality or it's just not a viable clump of cells. And so, you know, our bodies just get rid of it. That happens a lot with folks who are trying to get pregnant and sometimes they don't even know that they're pregnant. So it's kind of like this natural process that happens. And yeah, I don't really know where to go from that. I'm just saying it happens.
Zoe Peled: I feel like pro-lifers would have some very absolutist dramatic thing to say about that process. I can't anticipate what it would be, but I know they would think of something sensational and absurd.
Karina Inkster: Probably. Well, what you just said about you know, like if it were that easy, just have the child and then figure out what to do after, right?
Zoe Peled: Just have the child! Yeah!
Karina Inkster: That actually is a good reminder of something that I found in an article called: “Is Pro-Choice Ethical Vegan an Oxymoron?” And there's a lot of actually good pieces out there on this whole concept of like, is it hypocritical? Is it an oxymoron? And so the argument here is somebody who's not vegan has an easy fucking choice. Eat a veggie burger, right? So here's a line from this article: “Unlike someone who decides to eat a piece of dairy cheese or a hamburger, the woman who decides to terminate her pregnancy does not have an easy alternative option like rice and beans or a delicious veggie burger, but must go through months of internal occupation and then the excruciating pain of labor or surgery.” So in this sense, you can't even really compare the situations. One of them involves a relatively easy choice about what you're putting in your mouth. The other one is a major intense commitment, physically, mentally, whether or not you keep the child at the end of it.
Zoe Peled: It's true. And I’m glad you brought that up. And I think that is pertinent. And I think that's one of the reasons why I had such a strong reaction due to this individual's Facebook posts. Because I think it was somehow, despite being vegan for at that time almost 10 years, it was the first time I had heard anyone kind of bring those two things together in what seemed to me to be such an arbitrary way. And another thing that really irked me, and it did with that, and it does whenever we have dialogue around this and when people offer certain opinions. I do not believe, and I would like to be very aware of my language because I believe that when we have this discussion we need to not only word it as when women are pregnant, because we are aware that there are other folks and gender identifications who are individuals who are carrying children.
So I would like to acknowledge that. Furthermore, I would like to say that I have a particularly strong response when we have men, biological men who can never carry a child or become pregnant, when we have them offering feedback, offering suggestions, or most importantly, wanting to put into place rules, laws, or legislation around what humans who have the capacity to become pregnant should be doing with their bodies.
Karina Inkster: Oh, a hundred percent.
Zoe Peled: So it's two-tier. I am very confused on why this has become a conversation within the vegan sphere. And I am very confused as to why and at what point so many men decided that it was their right and obligation to speak so freely about what humans who can bear children do with their reproductive systems.
Karina Inkster: Yes. So well put. CIS men essentially.
Zoe Peled: Correct.
Karina Inkster: Yeah. Yep. That's a really good point. And you know, outside of the issue of CIS men who are being vocal about this issue, the whole concept of the anti-abortion movement, the anti-choice movement, it's really one of legal reform. That's basically what it is. It's the government getting involved. It's having rules about what folks who can bear children can do with their own bodies right? I actually came across this book. I started reading it. I didn't have a chance to read the whole thing before our discussion, but it's called, “Beating Hearts: Abortion and Animal Rights. Critical Perspectives on Animals, Theory, Culture, Science, and Law.” And I do want to read the rest of this book. I'll link to it in our show notes, for sure. It's by two law professors who happen to be vegan, Sherry Colb and Michael Dorf.
And so they go through all of these different arguments. It's very like intensely academic and, you know, they're going through their lens as law professors. But, you know, they're saying also from a kind of like free speech type area where people are like, well you know, free speech is a thing. They say, “constitutional democracies permit, freedom of speech, even though many instances of its exercise will be irresponsible and even harmful.” So I think the point is like, look, being pro-choice is not championing having abortions as often as possible, okay? That's not the point of being pro-choice. That should be pretty obvious, but in case it's not.
Zoe Peled: Yes. And it's often painted by the opposition as such.
Karina Inkster: Yes, yes, exactly. So the point is like, it's not something that we are trying to get folks to do at every opportunity. It's important to us to have the option, much like free speech where yes, you have the option. Sometimes that is harmful. Sometimes that's irresponsible. Maybe the same could be said for abortion. Somehow I doubt it because we're involving multiple medical practitioners, but, you know, technically I suppose there could be things that most folks would find very uncomfortable, like later-term abortions, for example. Sure. But it's kind of the same concept as this free speech thing, you know? It's important to have as an option, just morally. And I think in the case of abortion, honestly, based on at least our system here in Canada and don't even get me started on the one in the States, it's not used in a way that is like killing babies and all the things that we see from the protesters standing outside abortion clinics for example, which is still a thing by the way, which blows my mind.
Zoe Peled: Yup. Yup. It's still very much a thing. I have seen, not recently, though I haven't been spending a lot of time in that neighbourhood as much as I was when I was living on the Vancouver side, but there used to be two groups and they would frequent Commercial Broadway and they would also frequent the Women's Hospital off of Oak street. And actually, I just recalled, so I live in North Vancouver and we had out of nowhere, we had a group of young women show up at the corner of Lonsdale and 13th, which is a very busy intersection. They may have chosen that location because it's in proximity to Lion’s Gate. To my knowledge, I'm not sure what the reproductive options are at Lion's Gate.
So yes, I'm not sure why they chose that location, but these three women were standing on the corner and they had very graphic signs, which I will describe. So just as a heads up for folks, this will be a bit descriptive. So essentially they had procured photos of what I assume and know from jumping back to my biology texts of high school, are images from pregnancy very, very, very close to the due date, okay? So we're talking about images of basically a fully formed large child who is probably going to be birthed within the next week. So they had these internal images of these babies. And then the text was, “This is who you kill when you have an abortion.”
Karina Inkster: Good Lord. Wow. And who knows what the actual context was. By the way, you know, those are not necessarily aborted fetuses.
Zoe Peled: Well exactly. And you know, we look at this situation and we can point out about 20 things that are immediately problematic. But number one is the fact that if I go on the internet, I can find 100 photos of fetuses in the womb and slap it on a poster and then make that image whatever I want it to be.
Karina Inkster: Of course! And honestly, you could go even further. I mean, look, I have a really good friend who lost her baby at seven months pregnancy. She had to give birth to a stillborn at seven months. And I mean, that's a whole brutal situation of course, but how do we know that some of those photos weren't that? That's not an abortion. I mean, that’s a ridiculous misuse of basically everything.
Zoe Peled: It's a ridiculous misuse. And it's also providing a concept, and that is a false concept, which says all abortions look like this and are this because for a wide range of medical reasons, and I imagine this decision, you know, is very challenging to make, there are some folks who encounter very serious medical considerations in the later months of a pregnancy and need to have a later-term abortion. And if we shift back, there are some folks who may have an abortion within a few days of conception. And if we wanted to see an image of what that looked like, we would need a microscope cause it's literally a tiny little cluster of cells. It's a little cell party going on.
Karina Inkster: Pretty much!
Zoe Peled: So you put up this image in the public sphere and you say, this is it. This is what it looks like. This is who you're killing. And it's just not true in addition to being wildly inappropriate.
Karina Inkster: Oh, absolutely. There's a lot of things wrong with this situation.
Zoe Peled: But the happy end of that story, happy ending rather, is that a small crew, including myself, gathered and after some very passionate discussion the police were actually called and the police attended and advised that those individuals were permitted to have their demonstration. However, they couldn't use the visuals because they were very graphic. So given the fact that they do rely so much on the visuals, they left and that was actually months ago. And I haven't seen them since. I haven't seen them all summer.
Karina Inkster: Yeah. Well, that's interesting. I mean, this is case in point about the free speech situation/concept, right? Where, yeah, technically they're allowed to stand there and voice their opinions within reason and probably not with those images. But you know, I mean, it's one of those things where is it really serving their side, their viewpoint? Probably not. I mean, I feel that way a lot about vegans and how some vegans present the vegan argument and, you know, like graphic images that are unwanted, you know, kind of imposed, thrust upon people unsuspectingly and all this kind of stuff. Like there's effective and ineffective methods of going about this. So I feel like there's some parallels in just the, you know, social movement slash protesting sphere.
Zoe Peled: Yeah. Yeah. The thing for me really stood out with that incident specifically was the fact, again, that they had these images, which were saying, this is it, this is the only way it is, which is not true. And number two, they're talking about something and you know, wanting to engage with people and presumably gain support, but they have no idea who is around them, who is seeing this, and what the lived experiences are of all of those individuals.
Karina Inkster: That’s a great point.
Zoe Peled: That is not even being considered. And I would put money down because I can also guess the age of these young women. And I would say maybe they were 20 or 21. Not a lot more than that. If they hypothetically encountered individuals who were having a really strong, traumatic response to those images as some would and should, they would have no idea where to begin and even support or engage with those individuals, which means that that will probably even heighten the traumatic experience for those people seeing it.
Karina Inkster: A hundred percent. Yep, totally. That's a really good point. So what about this whole concept of flipping the script almost, you know? So often when we talk about abortion and how it relates to veganism it's just the simple, well, if you're an ethical vegan and you don't kill things, then you can't be pro-choice because you're essentially killing, let's call it a clump of cells because that's what it is right? Now, what if we look at it the other way around though, and focus on the person who’s pregnant and who is making this decision, right? And so I think that's one of the main points in this book, “The Beating Hearts” by Colb and Dorf. They were actually saying at the beginning, like, okay, so if we look at these arguments rationally and we actually decide that being pro-life is the logical step that we need to take as ethical vegans, then we'll do it. But they concluded as I'm sure is pretty obvious at this point, that being pro-choice and being an ethical vegan actually make more sense. They're not mutually exclusive and they're coming at it from the perspective of the person who is making the decision to get an abortion because that seems to be just this like invisible entity. Just a carrier.
Zoe Peled: Oh yeah. There’s no individual.
Karina Inkster: Right. Like a carrier of a clump of cells who can make no choices themselves, you know? And so I found this article, we're going to link to all these articles and resources by the way. But I found one called, “Vegans and Abortion: Are Pro-Choice Vegans Hypocrites?" So in this article, which I suggest everyone read by the way because they're doing a lot of debunking also about like when fetuses can feel pain and at what point most abortions happen.
Zoe Peled: I have some notes on that too.
Karina Inkster: Oh good! Okay. Yeah. We should talk about that as well. Anyway. So here's a point about this coming at it from the person who's making the decision: “The bodily autonomy of women is an important value that is parallel to the bodily autonomy that vegans believe all sentient beings should have. So protecting reproductive rights for women is actually in line with the vegan fight against the exploitation of dairy cows and egg-laying hens.”
Zoe Peled: Okay. So I may have came across this exact same article.
Karina Inkster: Do you have the exact same notes?
Zoe Peled: I may, because I didn't take notes on this, but I'm having flashbacks because I did quite a bit of reading this morning and that really hit it on the nail, right? Because one of the things that as ethical vegans, we speak about a lot is we want to call attention to the mass oppression that is placed upon large groups of non-human animals. We want to talk about the fact that they are not treated as individuals and that they deserve autonomy. And especially in some particular industries, as you just described, we talk about how they are taken advantage of, and their choice is removed specifically in regards to their reproductive capabilities and their lack of choices around those reproductive capabilities.
Karina Inkster: Oh, a hundred percent. Yes.
Zoe Peled: So dear ethical vegans who are pro-life: Hello. If you have said anything similar to the aforementioned, you are quite certainly putting your foot in your mouth if you don't see the obvious parallels here.
Karina Inkster: Well, and you know what, I think it's not, as crazy as it is, it's not an obvious conclusion for some reason.
Zoe Peled: It’s not.
Karina Inkster: The discussion is always just about the clump of cells and not about who's carrying it and this person's rights to choose or to do whatever they want with their own bodies, you know,? It's ridiculous. There's another paragraph here in the first article that I found. The, “Is Pro-Choice, Ethical, Vegan, an Oxymoron?” And so they're saying it is also the case of the government or non-governmental actors, deciding whether to block the woman who wants to have an abortion, whether to make it difficult or impossible for her to terminate her pregnancy, or whether to allow the woman to carry out the choice that she has made.” And by the way, woman/person who can get pregnant.
Zoe Peled: Pregnant, yes.
Karina Inkster: “Stated differently, the abortion dilemma involves two primary actors with ethical obligations: the person who wishes to terminate and the government or powerful non-governmental actors, that plan to stand in the person's way and prevent them from doing what they wish to do.” So that's basically exactly what you just said around autonomy. And isn't this what we want for all non-human creatures as well? Why would we not want this for humans?
Zoe Peled: This is painstakingly obvious to us.
Karina Inkster: Well, yeah!
Zoe Peled: It is not the same for some.
Karina Inkster: Sadly.
Zoe Peled: Would now be an appropriate time to segue, to quote number two? Because we've talked a little bit about some points, which come up in that, and it will be a brilliant jumping-off point. And I actually discovered a new term in reading this and then debunking it.
Karina Inkster: Ok. Bring it on.
Zoe Peled: So again, I would like to preface, I would like to share this specific post in its entirety, but it is very descriptive and very graphic, just so folks are aware. So this comes from Sahand. And I'm not sure if Sahand is, I'm not sure what their gender is. So: “Should vegans be against abortion. Yes, but they aren't because it doesn't fit their agenda. A human fetus is conscious, feels pain, and reacts to stimuli the same way a lobster would. Vegans think that boiling a lobster is cruel,” - wait for it - “but in abortions, the baby literally has their arms and legs ripped off and pulled out. Then they decapitate the baby while they are still alive and moving. During an abortion, the baby tries to avoid the tools. There are 60 million abortions each year. Every baby is tortured. Nobody has a right to kill a human being.”
So the reason I have many, many points and I feel like we could do a podcast episode on that passage alone -
Karina Inkster: Oh yeah.
Zoe Peled: The reason I, if it was audible that I kind of laughed or scoffed, that was when this individual describes the process. This hypothetical, you know, barbaric act of removing the limbs and the head of a living being. So if we hypothetically are talking about an individual who is having a later stage abortion in which a fetus may be more developed and have limbs and a head, I can assure you that that is not how an abortion happens.
Karina Inkster: Also, if an abortion is happening at that point,
Zoe Peled: Yes,
Karina Inkster: Very often is a legitimate threat to the pregnant person's life.
Zoe Peled: Exactly.
Karina Inkster: Or that of the fetus.
Zoe Peled: Exactly. And it's, again, it's this sensational, false bullshit.
Karina Inkster: Hey I should clarify, by the way, there's a threat to the life, which is why they're carrying out the abortion. It's not that the abortion is creating the threat to them. As you were.
Zoe Peled: Correct. And two points, which I wanted to address in response, which came up in a wonderful article on a website called Iamgoingvegan.com, which we will also include in the show notes, is on the subject of, you know, babies feeling pain. It is pertinent to acknowledge that if an individual is experiencing a later stage abortion for medical reasons, that individual is receiving anesthetic. And as a result, the baby has anesthetic. So again, we're talking about a very specific pool of abortions at a very certain point. There is no pain because there are protocols and there is medication in place to ensure that the individual carrying that baby and the baby themselves are not going to experience any pain.
Karina Inkster: Very good point. And it's a tiny percentage of abortions that happen at that point.
Zoe Peled: Like my hand is making, you know, tiny, tiny, tiny for folks who are not seeing the visual. And then the other concept that is brought in by this response article is in response to the point in that individual's quote when they say, you know, babies pull away from the tools and fetuses try and escape these tools. So there is a concept and this is a new, word for me. And that is called nociception. And this is the neural process of encoding and processing stimuli when a signal arrives at the central nervous system as a result of stimulation of sensory receptors. So we're talking about two things. When someone, when a being pulls away from something it's going to happen for one of two reasons: one - nociception. And this is talking about neural encoding. This is a response in which there is no awareness of the response that is happening. The second response is when you are experiencing and feeling and acknowledging pain. So it is possible in some circumstances, in some abortions, the body responds in a particular way, but it is almost certain that that response is happening because of nociception and not a sentient being that is responding to pain or discomfort because there is no acknowledgment of that happening inside.
Karina Inkster: Damn. That’s some good myth-busting right there.
Zoe Peled: Well, again, I really need to give credit - so again the article is on, Iamgoingvegan.com and we will post the link. And it's really, really well put together. And there are several important points that are addressed. So I don't have the author's name in front of me, but acknowledgment and kudos to them.
Karina Inkster: Absolutely. I had that exact article on my list as well. It's really good. So good. Yes. Well, here's something from another article that I found: “Because we're talking about these collections of cells that are not viable. So prior to viability the point at which the fetus can, at least in theory, survive outside the womb, terminating the woman's pregnant status.” And again, woman slash person who can get pregnant, “will have the inevitable consequence of also killing the fetus. Yet the right to bodily integrity, that the woman asserts is most saliently a right to the first and not to the second.”
So look, we're acknowledging it's not a perfect situation. Again, going back to this original point of being pro-choice does not mean trying to get folks to have abortions on a regular basis, as often as possible. It's basically just the right to bodily autonomy basically. And so, like you're saying sure, there are some later stage abortions that happen for legitimate reasons. Also, like you mentioned, there are medications and procedures in place. There are medical professionals handling these situations. They're doing everything they can, but even if there were some level of supposed pain, once a fetus, you know, down the road is theoretically able to feel pain, and there's some debate by the way about when that happens. It's later than people think most of the time. Still, the concept of bodily autonomy for the person who is carrying the fetus slash look at it as a parasite, in some cases, you know I think that's more important.
Zoe Peled: And something I'll tack on just while we're still on this specific point is also we need to remember, I'd say in most, but acknowledging that we need to consider reproductive healthcare as a worldwide dialogue. And the individuals offering reproductive health care will vary across the world. I would say it is safe to make the conclusion that the majority of medical practitioners offering reproductive healthcare have to legally abide by a very strict and specific code of ethics. And if they did anything close to what is mentioned in that individual's very descriptive and inaccurate statement, they would not be a practicing doctor anymore.
Karina Inkster: Exactly, exactly.
Zoe Peled: That’s it.
Karina Inkster: While we're on the topic also of medical practitioners, who should be the professionals who carry out these procedures, should they be needed, the folks who are fighting for ridiculous, like can't have an abortion after six weeks or whatever, which is before a lot of folks even know they're pregnant, abortions are still going to happen. They are either going to happen in an extremely unsafe method that puts the person who's making the decision in serious danger, or they're going to happen I mean, in the case of Texas, out of state. But the fact that not everyone is going to have the means to travel, not everyone, you know, has that as an option, you're actually probably negatively impacting women's health on a large scale by putting them in major danger. And you can't call yourself, pro-life doing that.
Zoe Peled: Nope. Amen. Oh, that was such a good point. It's so accurate though. It's so accurate! And let's just give a shout-out. Here's a really special moment for the pro-lifers in the crowd who speak about the financial side of it. So the fact that you know, we have places in the world and there is a great volume of money that is being allocated towards abortion. And these questionable reproductive services and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Friends, if you don't offer those services, the individuals who require them are still going to seek them out. Chances are very high, that they will seek them out in places which are not safe. That will unfortunately a lot of the time lead to great medical emergencies, some potentially that are catastrophic. And if you want to believe that that does not have a huge financial impact on your health care system, you are grossly mistaken.
Karina Inkster: Oh, mic drop Zoe!
Zoe Peled: I would actually drop it, but that would not be a pleasant sound for folks listening right now.
Karina Inkster: Probably not, probably not. But no, that's a really good point. I mean, these things are, they're going to happen anyways.
Zoe Peled: They're going to happen.
Karina Inkster: I have a couple of notes on this whole feeling pain thing. Going back to that concept like, well, vegans can't be pro-choice because they're a) killing something willingly and b) inflicting pain. So I have a couple notes. Do you have anything on this topic or?
Zoe Peled: I actually did not dive into it in its entirety. I knew we would touch on it, but when I was preparing, I really wanted to focus on pulling as many of the pro-life arguments from the depths of the internet that I could.
Karina Inkster: Well, you did good.
Zoe Peled: Thank you. Thank you. So I will let you start with this one, but then I’ll probably have a few things to say about it.
Karina Inkster: Oh yeah. Well, okay. So is my first thing is something I've already mentioned, which is even if, even if there was some level of pain involved to the innocent being, bodily autonomy of the person who is carrying it is more valuable and more important and should be protected. Now here's the thing though: the vast majority of abortions happen before 13 weeks. Vast! I saw a stat that 1% of abortions happen after 20 weeks. 1%. And so apparently there's still debate about when a human fetus can first start to feel pain. A lot of scientists feel like it's not before 20 to 24 weeks of pregnancy. And again, vast majority of abortions happen before 13 weeks, right? And so in one of the articles I mentioned before, the, “Are Pro-Choice Vegans Hypocrites?” they mention that a fetus can't live independently of the person carrying it until like 20 weeks or later. I think 20 weeks is really early though.
And so it's considered by many to be more of a parasite than an independent, like sentient being. The word is so funny, but I mean, using that as an analogy is pretty apt I think, because it can't survive on its own. It is taking resources from the human that is sustaining it. And so again, I'm going back to this point of bodily autonomy for this person is more important than whatever might happen to a clump of cells. And just so we're debunking things, probably not until 20 to 24 weeks that a human fetus can even feel pain. And the vast majority of these procedures are happening well before 13 weeks.
Zoe Peled: Yeah. And again, I mean, we need to come back to this subject of sentience, because it is often one which is one of the leading points that is put on the table by ethical vegans and animal activists. So if we have firmly established through the great world of science, which you and I are both big fans of, though not all are, that sentience is not established until at least 20 weeks, then we cannot have a logical conversation which compares a quote “sentient animal to a sentient baby.” Because unless you're talking about 20 weeks, that concept is not valid.
Karina Inkster: Well, that's a good point.
Zoe Peled: It’s an oxymoron.
Karina Inkster: Well, what about like folks who would say well, vegans don't eat clams and oysters are they really sentient? What's the counter-argument there?
Zoe Peled: My counter-argument to that is actually, this is something I have explored in great detail. And from the research I have done, And I completely welcome folks to perhaps comment on this if they have a different take. I have actually encountered some vegans who do eat those things.
Karina Inkster: Interesting.
Zoe Peled: And some who don’t, and some do eat them because they believe that there is a greater conversation around sentience and lack of sentience, and the ones that don't eat them don't do that because we have observed responses around nociception. But this, I mean again, this will be a different podcast altogether.
Karina Inkster: Hey we could do a series on this topic.
Zoe Peled: Because again, so if I'll speak for myself, nociception is that is irrelevant in the conversation of fetus response.
Karina Inkster: Yeah, the point is nociception doesn't prove that a fetus is willingly recoiling from surgical tools for example.
Zoe Peled: Yes.
Karina Inkster: Yeah see, I never really delved into the like clam/oyster related reasons for being well, not reasons for being vegan, but just like reasons to choose to not eat them. I just make a blanket statement: Well, they're not plants, so I'm not going to eat them.
Zoe Peled: And really, even in my pre-vegan days, they never appealed to me. I have to be honest.
Karina Inkster: No, same! If I really cared about eating them, maybe I would make a different choice, but no, same here.
Zoe Peled: There was nothing! And something, because I'm just kind of having flashbacks as we have this dialogue, to that Facebook post that I referenced before and kind of sprung this whole conversation. And something that comes up so much in the vegan animal ethics and animal activist dialogues, and this is something I have heard and you know, it's something you have heard. It's something that we see all the time. We see it on social media. We see organizations put it out, is that we are calling attention to the fact that when animals are oppressed in mass mass numbers, the element of choice for them is being taken away. And if animals could choose, and this actually appears in several ads, you know, if this animal could choose, they would choose differently.
So the movement utilizes the concept of choice as something that non-human animals deserve and something that needs to be afforded to them on an ethical basis. So if you are using any of that language, you need to take the exact same statement and apply it to individuals who are seeking out reproductive options, who also deserve to hold their choice and make their choice as an individual.
Karina Inkster: Good Lord Zoe! Mic drop again. So well said. Yes, absolutely. And this is the perspective that folks often, for whatever reason, forget about. They're just focusing on the clump of cells and not who's carrying it. And there are so many parallels if you look at the person who's carrying the clump of cells to veganism and what we as ethical vegans believe all sentient beings should have as rights and options. It's a way easier parallel, I think that way. And it's why abortion should be a vegan issue.
Zoe Peled: Ooh, Ooh. There was your mic drop right there. Yeah.
Karina Inkster: Just saying! Well did you have any more notes? We can wrap this up if there's nothing else that you had on your end as kind of you know, myth-busting or points you wanted to bring up.
Zoe Peled: Not really on the point around myth-busting specifically, but I would like to offer a quick bit of information about what's happening in Texas because I know that a lot of folks are privy to this information from social media. And sometimes that happens in bits and pieces and might not have all of the information.
So when we talk about quote, ‘the situation in Texas,’ we are talking specifically about Senate Bill Eight, and this is currently the most restrictive bill in regards to reproductive access in all of the United States. It, essentially, it is nearly a complete ban on abortions, and the penalties for individuals who access abortions are stricter than some of the worst crimes that we could speak about. And that includes sexual assault and rape.
Karina Inkster: Wow. Not to mention it's basically a citizen lawsuit type situation where anyone who helps an individual in any sense access an abortion, so we're talking Uber driver who drives someone to the clinic, doctors at said clinic, et cetera, anyone of those folks could be sued.
Zoe Peled: Yes. Yes. And I believe, and I acknowledge I saw this in a social media post, so I cannot speak to its credibility or great detail, but there is also, I believe, some kind of incentive or reward for individuals who provide information in regards to those who have accessed abortions.
Karina Inkster: Right. Yeah. I don't know the details either, but I feel like, you know, the lawsuit can come from anyone. I think that's part of the issue. And I think it's up to 10 grand, I think, in potential settlement, winnings, whatever. It's ridiculous. Yeah. I'm glad you brought that up actually. That's a good point.
Zoe Peled: Yeah. And the reason why I wanted to bring it up, number one was to provide context and some more information for folks and furthermore, to offer a reminder and an acknowledgment that there are many, many humans and many organizations all around the world who have been fighting for reproductive rights on the front lines and who have done that often at great risk to themselves, or they have experienced great harm or in some very extreme cases, death.
So I would like folks to remember that and take that into account, especially when we may look at where we are living and certain rights that we are afforded, to remember that they are not being afforded to folks everywhere who need to access reproductive healthcare and that we all have the capacity and the ability to contribute to that dialogue and work to better those circumstances for people in other places. Especially as ethical vegans, we have a moral obligation to do that.
Karina Inkster: Wow. Oh yes. So well said. We should do another discussion about intersectional veganism. And I mean, we've got a list of like six podcast topics and each one is a series.
Zoe Peled: We’re good for the next year!
Karina Inkster: But no, I'm really glad you're bringing that up. It's a really important point. And I'm glad that we could have this discussion at all, by the way. So I appreciate that you came on the show and we were able to tackle this. And thank you by the way, for the idea, because that was all yours saying hey, you know, maybe we should do a little switch of topics based on what's going on in the world right now. So we will do our, “What’s Fucked Up With the Fitness Industry,” episode two, for sure.
Zoe Peled: We will.
Karina Inkster: But this right now, I think is very timely. It's an important topic. It's related to veganism. It's a human rights issue. And honestly, it's something that I think all of our listeners should be thinking about if they haven't already.
Zoe Peled: And another mic drop for you right there. And I'm really, really eager and ready and hopeful to see what kind of responses come through in regards to this episode and what kind of conversations it sparks. And I have a hunch. In fact, I'm crossing my fingers and hoping, that we do get into it with some fun pro-lifers. But on the other flip side of that, I genuinely hope that this puts the conversation into consideration for folks who maybe have not thought about it before and have not realized how inherently connected it is to ethical veganism and that they become open to developing that relationship between the two subjects.
Karina Inkster: Absolutely. And I've always said on the show, even as somebody who's been vegan for a long time, almost two decades, I'm still always learning new things. And this is a case in point. So when I was reading up, when I found this book, when I was looking at articles, just in quick preparation for this conversation with you, I learned some things. I learned about some viewpoints, ways of looking at things that I didn't know before. I think that's pretty important, especially as someone who's a long-term vegan. There's never an endpoint. It's a continuous learning situation.
So Zoe, thank you so much for speaking with me, it's a super important topic. We're going to have lots of resources at our show notes, the articles that we brought up, the book, all of those things. And I appreciate being able to speak to you.
Zoe Peled: The feeling is mutual. And I have no doubt that we will be returning for not only the fucked up fitness series -
Karina Inkster: That’s what we should call it. That’s its new name right there.
Zoe Peled: But also heated subjects and conversations, which we really liked talking about because we know it's going to get a rise out of people and it damn well should.
Karina Inkster: And it damn well should! Exactly. Well thanks so much Zoe, much appreciated.
Zoe Peled: Until next time.
Karina Inkster: Zoe, as always thank you for speaking with me. And listeners, thank you for tuning into this important episode. Make sure you access our show notes at nobullshitvegan.com/107, where we're linking to all the articles we mentioned in this episode. Also, if you haven't yet left a quick rating and review of this show on Apple Podcasts or whatever podcast listening app you use, please take two minutes to do that. Now it helps others to find this show and I read every single review. Thank you so much for tuning in.