Challenging sexism while supporting speciesism: opinions of Estonian feminists on animal rights and its links to feminism through a vegan feminist perspective

Kadri Aavik

In this article, Kadri Aavik takes as a starting point her own everyday experiences as a vegan feminist in Estonia and dilemmas stemming from this identity. Relying on critical animal studies and vegan-feminist perspectives, she explores connections between feminism and animal liberation and veganism as bodies of thought and everyday critical practices challenging powerful systems of domination. The paper examines how 16 key Estonian feminists understand human-animal relations, whether and what connections they see between feminism and animal liberation, and how they conceptualize veganism as an ethical food practice.

As a significant finding, research participants challenged sexism while supporting speciesism, using similar discursive strategies. Feminists’ lack of interest in and motivation to challenge speciesism could be framed as strategic ignorance. The concept, originating from critical studies of whiteness, can be understood as actively and consciously produced ignorance that upholds and legitimizes species hierarchy, human exceptionalism and the exploitation of other animals.

As vegan feminism is a novel and virtually unknown body of thought and practice in Estonia, a further aim of the article was to introduce this stream of feminist thought to Estonian readers. The paper hence discusses the relationship of vegan feminism with other, more established streams of feminist thought in Estonia and considers its potential contribution to feminist research and activism in Estonia. The article is based on a paper published in English in the Journal for Critical Animal Studies (Aavik & Kase 2015).