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A Feminist Approach to Veganism: Is Drinking Cow’s Milk Ethical?

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at ICU (Japan) chapter.


The two movements listed above—veganism and feminism—are topics that many people have their eyes on. However, not many people seem to focus on the tight connection between the two. 

Although they seem to aim for different goals, they are working towards the same purpose: to achieve equality, but from different approaches. 

In this article, I will break down the relationship between them by using the term eco-feminism.

*Veganism refers to a holistic lifestyle that avoids exploiting animal and nature, rather than a diet alone.


Their similarity: being under patriarchal dualism

According an eco-feminist point of view, women, people of color, animals, and nature are all forced to live under the same oppressive system called patriarchal dualism, which divides two things into “superior” and “inferior,” and discriminating against the “inferior”. For example, man/woman, white/Black, logic/emotion, human/animal, civilized/savage, etc…

In this patriarchal society, heterosexual men—especially white heterosexual men—are on top. Under this oppressive system, it is justified to objectify and consume women, people of color, and animals. 


Although racism and veganism have something common too, I would not argue about racism since my understanding of the topic is relatively shallow compared to that of feminism and veganism, but I would like to gain more knowledge about it in the near future.  


A feminist approach to veganism

There are so many definitions of feminism; wide and narrow. However, in this article, I define feminism as ideology and movement fighting against discrimination and exploitation of women and female bodies. 

In this sense, buying animal products at the supermarket is problematic. This is because the live-stock industry makes profits from exploiting the reproductive systems of female animals. 

For example: cows. 

(Many other animals are hurt for human pleasure, but I will only discuss cows for the sake of word count).


It might be difficult to realize that milk is the product of a female cow’s suffering because it seems so obvious that we don’t have to kill cows to get milk. Drinking milk looks harmless and many vegetarians choose to consume milk without hesitating, and I was one of them too. 

However, cows, just like women, do not produce milk until they give birth. Humans are actually forcing them to be raped to be pregnant their whole lives, so that we can drink as much cow’s milk as we want until she dies, instead giving it to her babies. I used to think that cows produce milk endlessly and that we are actually helping them by drinking over-produced milk, but that was not true. Cow’s milk is there for a cow’s baby to drink, just like pregnant women’s milk is not there to feed men or other animals. In addition, the cow’s babies are taken right after birth and live a shorter life than they otherwise would for humans to kill and eat them. 

It is terrifying to even imagine myself and my reproductive system being exploited only to satisfy other people’s pleasure when they can get their calcium more efficiently from plants. 


A suggestion to the readers

I don’t think that being ignorant to abuse against female animals (and animals in general) is a sin and even if you are not vegan, you don’t have to beat yourself up, yet. This is because eating animal products is normalized in society. 

However, I do think that it is our responsibility to eventually stop eating animals once you know the violence behind the scenes. We need to stop thinking that animals are there for our consumption, just like patriarchy imagined that women are there to serve men and to be a good wife and mother. It might take years to change to a completely vegan diet, but it is worth it since going vegan is the only way to be kind to animals. 

In conclusion, I would like to address that eating animals is not a right that should be protected, just like killing people or bullying others is not protected or respected in the society we live in. 

Thanks so much for reading this article and I would be so happy if you start thinking about this topic. Feel free to give me feedback through my Instagram.

Rinko Nakayama

ICU (Japan) '25

Hi, I'm Rinko from ICU, Tokyo. I have lived in Arizona for a year so I'm pretty much ok with English. I'm feminist, vegan and currently studying Chinese. My purpose of writing at HC is to spread my view and lifestyle as a vegan It might sounds hard but actually so fun, easy and creative! Tell me your feed back through my instagram @delphinium2828