Kathy, your post helps me understand why, when Duke's Women's Studies Program devoted a year to the issue of Animals, it made such a studied pronouncement that distanced itself from earlier feminist writers on animals--earlier feminist writers who had advocated a vegan diet--and why they (we) were characterized as "essentialist" ecofeminists.
This also explains why, in a year-long study, none of your invited speakers were feminists who advocated veganism as part of their scholarship (Marti Kheel, Josephine Donovan, Lori Gruen, Greta Gaard, or myself, to name a few).
What confounds me though, is why any ethical issue is determined by whether it is "hard" or not. There are many days when it is "hard" to be a feminist, and to see the world as a feminist--does that stop any of us from maintaining a feminist consciousness? After all, it was my generation of feminist-vegans who pioneered the idea that oppressions are interlocking and difficult to see.
Like Ginny Messina, a dedicated nutritionist, I am sorry that your experience of veganism was difficult and had such side effects. But your characterization of the doctors associated with PCRM is a little unfair, and I wonder if you reached out to vegan nutritionists like Ginny.
Yes, veganism can be done badly. But there are many wonderful people working to help educate the public about good vegan eating (whole foods, not Whole Foods). Vegans understand that none of us lives a pure life.
The goal of feminist-veganism is not to position ourselves as "eating well" in Derrida's terms, but as always struggling with the question of how do we do the least harm.
Your discussion of all the hidden animal ingredients that make it impossible to actually be a vegan mischaracterizes the vegan community and the ways we have addressed these issues for many years. (Even books like Animal Ingredients from A-Z" contains a foreword by Bruce Friedrich saying, "don't think you can eliminate everything.") This is really old news and a straw dog.
You say humans have been eating meat for thousands of years. Which humans? Not all societies ate meat at all. And in the Western world, it was actually mainly upper class humans and royalty who ate much meat at all. There has always been a politics to meat. And especially in the United States, where, as I argue, meat eating was democratized.
Earlier you mention subsidies--government subsidies of meat and dairy contribute to keeping their costs down. Only if you are eating a lot of vegan processed food are the costs great; beans, lentils, rice--these have always been the food of low income and poor people. As for turning back the clock and returning to small farms raising animals to be consumed, even writers like Michael Pollan admit that it is currently impossible to feed everyone from local not factory farmers.
Most people are perfectly happy eating vegan food--as long as they don't know that's what they are doing; this shows that the issue is more in the brain, and about assumptions about what is proper for them to eat (politics again) rather than about taste. I don't understand the pessimism that gives up on humanity and says they aren't going to change, before giving people a chance.
Your discussion of and justification for the locavore movement requires more space and time than is currently available. But let me ask, why do you assume all domesticated animals disappear if we don't eat them? You presume an equation between their current ontological status as edible and their existence. This seems to be a major flaw. We don't eat dogs or cats in the United States but there are plenty of them. There are many ways to be in relationships with animals.
Moreover, where does the locavore movement get their chickens? From institutional farming situations. Did you know that cows from organic farms are more likely to be killed earlier than cows in industrialized farming situation because the organic farmers don't want to use antibiotics to help them recover from illnesses; so if they get ill, they are dispatched to slaughter? As for that, if you look at the fat content of cow's milk versus the fat content of human mother's milk, it is very different. Why do you presume that it is even healthy to be consuming milk from cow's? (feminized protein as I have called it).
Finally, the feminist ethics of care has provided an alternative position to that of animal rights and animal liberation. We argue that one cannot love other animals, be in relationship with other animals, care for other animals, and then kill them and eat them. As Josephine Donovan argued in her classic Signs article on this subject in 1990, animals don't want to be eaten, and if we listen to them, they are telling us so.
It would have been interesting to have been in a dialogue with you about any of these things, but, oh, that's right--we represented the positions you were re-appropriating and massaging into... into this? Surely the new ecofeminism would at least discuss the environmental costs of meat eating and dairy production. Do we really need a muddled way, er, a middle way?