Sharon Bong problematizes the conflation of vegetarianism even veganism as a prototypical ecofeminist ethic. In doing so, it aims to uncover the deeper relationality between human and animal that goes beyond the anthropocentrism embedded in Laudato Si (2015) and most feminisms including ecological feminism or ecofeminism. Within a Christian framework, the human created in the image of God is given dominion over the earth and non-human species. Within a feminist framework, human rights and women’s human rights are accorded to the human by virtue of their humanness. In this sense, animal ‘rights’ is not only oxymoronic, but also not a priority for feminists given the all-consuming battle against gender-based violence. Within an ecofeminist framework, the parallelism of the domination of man over woman and nature is foregrounded with non-human species remaining at large, an “absent referent” or not made adequately visible, as Carol J. Adams in her seminal text The Sexual Politics of Meat (2006), puts it. And where non-human species are attended to by ecofeminists, the persistent call to eschew eating meat and the produce of animals—to become vegetarian and vegan, respectively—thus engenders a vegan-cum-ecofeminist politics and spirituality. The need to problematize this standpoint is thus necessary as a radical ethics of care for “our common home”, emerges from an almost post-Christian de-centring of the human in creation. The paper offers a critical reading of Laudato Si from a queer ecofeminist lens, that situates the human not external from the food chain and organic continuum not of humanity per se but rather the creation and the cosmos.
Sharon argues for a post-Christian decentering of human in creation. She develops her argument by engaging three dialogue partners: Laudato Si, Carol J. Adams’s vegan feminism and Queer ecofeminism. Ecofeminism comes closest to the reimaginaing the relationality human beings should have with other beings. What has decentering ourselves got to do with eating or not eating meat? On one hand, at the heart of the binary of human/non-human is a relationship of humans of non-humans. This finds fullest expression in our right to kill and eat non-human other, which is bereft of speech to articulate its pain. Animals are without a soul from the Christian perspective and not made in the image and likeness of God. On the other hand, an ecofeminist standpoint says that one ought to not consume the other.
Laudato Si’ calls us to have an ecological conversion and an advocacy for climate justice. It challenges us to live a life of simplicity, sobriety, inner peace, capacity for wonder. From this, we find church support for an ethics of care. However, Laudato Si’ is not without problems. For one, anthropocentrism remains paramount in the document. It remains complicit to a hierarchically ordered relationship wherein human beings as possesses particular dignity above other creatures. Experimentation remains permissible within reasonable limits. This results to a very mechanistic worldview wherein the earth is for the use of humankind. Humankind is ambivalently called to responsible stewardship–Dominion is re-imagined to correct plunder but human beings still remain at the center of creation. Moreover, the document has not recognized the good works of feminists.
Carol J. Adams’s work is useful for where Laudato Si’ leads-off. Sharon highlights three points from her work. First is the sexual politics of meat. There is an intimate connection between masculinity and meat-eating: “Real men eat men” especially red meat (beef). A meet eating world reflects a very patriarchal world order. There is therefore a connection between gender-based violence and how animals are bread for eating pleasure of humans. In all this, animals remain the absent referent. They are talked about but are not part of the conversation. Second is animal ecofeminism. Adams is a radical feminist. Ecofeminism makes the connection between women and nature, while women have more affinity with culture since men drive progress. This celebrates a feminist ethics of care that is not humanist, in the sense that humans are cut-off from the rest of creation. Rather, non-humans are seen in relational terms. If there is a carbon footprint, there is a carbon hoofprint. Moreover, all this is not just personal. “The personal is political.” This is Christian veganism which challenges Christians to recognize the tension between objectification within the Christian framework and resistance to objectification. From all this, how can we work towards ecological conversion? This can be done by decentering the human and through conscientization, as we have learned from the Pedagogy of the Oppressed.
An particular way to move forward in a theological ethics of care that decenters the human is by building on Agnes Brazal’s Cyborg Spirituality. The cyborg which is part human and part machine redefines what is human. In the cyborg, the machine is an extension of the human body. So much is organic and machine about us. The cyborg is a creature that breaks boundaries (Donna Haraway). Cyborg can be used as an entity that breaks the binary between human and non-human. For example, as cyborgs, we ingesting animals and engage in cosmetic surgery. The queer are like cyborgs that cross boundaries as well. The very concept of human is already being redefined in the 21st century. There is no longer a “stable fixed essence with regards to human redesigning themselves,” because human essence or human nature is being decentralized.
Finally, the feminist ethics of care encounters a decentering of human relations. Cyborgs dismantles the binary between human and non-human. Eating leads to a reimagination of the ontology of creation and deconstructs human/animal, so that now, we say, “human-animal.” In the Christology of veganism, “no more crucifixions are necessary.”