So as some of you may know, I recently gave up my meat-free diet for health reasons and while some of you have been very supportive there have been a few incidents of people lashing out at me from the vegan/vegetarian community(whatsupwiththat?!). I understand that some of these people don’t have any ill intentions and really do think that they are doing me and/or the world a favor. However toxic it may be to ‘bully’ people for their personal choices, I know that it is not the fault of any individual but rather the mainstream vegan community at large who promote misinformation. We need to remember that veganism like any ideology is bound to have propaganda to fuel it, how else would it gain support. A lot of ridiculous notions have been being promoted by the forerunners of this community and I do feel as if it’s my duty to call out issues like this when I see them. So, I’d like to start off with this thought…
Veganism is a privilege.
I know that this word “privilege” has been thrown around a lot lately and as a result it has become somewhat overused and the meanings behind it has been forgotten. However, I think it’s still necessary to think about privilege and how much of it we have or don’t have before reprimanding or perceiving certain people differently based on their ‘choices’ or inability to make choices.
I felt as though I needed to write this blog post in order to help vegans and non-vegans to understand both ends of the debate properly as well as break down some of the lies told by mainstream vegans and used to force lifestyle choices onto others. At a certain point, Vegans got the idea that everyone can and should be vegan and that any person who is not vegan is therefore evil somehow. So, I did a lot of research (because I’m privileged enough to get hold of books and have access to the internet. Hah see what I did there) and I’ve decided to break down Vegan Privilege into different arenas of thought.
Class is a massive problem in the world and yet it’s least likely to be spoken about we speak of privilege. I’ve heard a ton of vegans make the argument that a plant based diet is cheaper and more accessible than an animal product based diet. I will admit that I too believed this notion for the longest time. This very flawed argument is everywhere, consistently being promoted by the vegan community, so often when someone says they are unable to make the diet switch because they do not have the financial ability, they are shunned by vegans as liars making up excuses because they are addicted to animal products.
There are hundreds and thousands of people across the globe whom are entirely placed at the mercy of other people. These include war victims, refugees, homeless or displaced people (often youth), unemployed people, and so many more. These people are usually entirely dependent on others people or aid organisations to provide them with food each day in homeless shelters, refugee camps, etc. They don’t actively make the choice to eat meat and dairy products; they have no choice in the matter. They have to eat what they are being given in order to survive. Humanitarian aid schemes like the World Food Program that has helped over 12.7 Million people in over 50 countries by granting them seeds to plant and animals to use for milk and eggs, or organisations like UNICEF who provide impoverished infants with cows/goats milk to boost their health are really doing a lot more for the world than any vegan individual. The people receiving this aid don’t get to make dietary choices, they take whatever they can get. You need to realize that if you can afford to make choices about what you eat each day than you are in a highly privileged position.
I tried making this argument once before only to have the girl tell me that she knows a woman who maintains a vegan diet on food stamps. The problem with this argument is that it’s ignorant. Living in a country where you receive social benefits like food stamps is already a privilege. For example, where I live in South Africa, there is no help granted to people in financial crisis, people are plunged into poverty and have to rely off of the mercy of others just to get a little bit of food each day.
The second type are people that may have the ability to make some choices but are financially dependent on others. For example, disabled people, children under the age of 15, elders who have retired or live in the care of relatives, women who live in situations where they are not given the opportunity to find work, etc.
All of these people are therefore depending on other people to provide them with food. If they do not have financial freedom chances are they will not be making decisions as to what is being bought and consumed in the household.
Thousands of LGBT+ youth are displaced every year and are forced to live on the streets, in shelters or with friends and relatives which makes them dependent on others for food. Women in some countries are forced to be dependent on their husbands again making it hard for them to become vegan.
Veganism is easiest when you have the freedom to make such lifestyle decisions without any restrictions. A person needs to have enough financial freedom to feel able enough to make the switch from animals to plants. It’s probably not a surprise than that the top five vegan friendly cities in the world are Berlin, New York, Oregon, San Francisco and London all of which are in first world countries and have a large Caucasian population.
Now, I have come across a ton of vegan people that seem to believe the logic that if poor people in Asia are able to follow vegan diets as a part of their religions than any person can do the same. This is just pure cultural ignorance.
For example, most Indian people are not vegan. Indians who are practicing Sikhs and Hindus, etc. usually are vegetarian, practicing a form of pescitarianism, ovo-vegetarianism and lacto-vegetarianism. Most also consume animal products like honey, gelatin and animal fats. Brahman Hindus who make up the largest proportion of vegetarians in the country are the richest in Indian society thanks to hundreds of years of castes placing Brahmans at the very top of the social hierarchy. This means that usually richer Indians are vegetarian.
It’s also a lot easier for people in India to eat more plant based foods because it’s readily available and inexpensive. Indian society has the privilege of quick, cheap vegetarian street food which people in other places don’t have.
Another area of concern is Food Deserts. Food deserts are areas or geographic locations in which it may be difficult for a person to obtain healthy, nutritious foods; usually big cities dominated by the fast food industry. When I started cutting out certain foods from my diet it was easy to replace them with other foods. Cow’s milk to almond milk, meat to lentils and beans, vegan alternatives like vegan butter came in handy and a multi vitamin each day was useful. However, not everyone has the option of just going to a supermarket or grocery store and replacing certain items with other items. Some people don’t even have access to grocery stores at all.
Now remember if someone takes on a vegan lifestyle we want them to do it in a way that is good for their health. If you’re taking certain things out of your diet these need to be replaced. It’s not worth becoming a vegan if you are going to harm your health because you’re stuffing yourself with chips and Oreos on a daily bases.
A vegan diet can be really good for your health. It can reduce risk of a number of illnesses and can even cure some, but this is in the case that a person is eating a healthy vegan diet. If someone cannot find access to healthy vegan food or if they cannot afford to eat healthy it would be better for their health if they steered clear of veganism and kept a healthy balanced diet instead.
I’ve heard a number of vegans point out some ridiculous reasons why it would be healthier for every person to be vegan. These people don’t know every single person’s body and most of them don’t have any qualifications to be dishing out health advice. People like FreeLee are problematic because they’re encouraging unhealthy eating habits which may result in deficiencies or eating disorders. FreeLee herself has admitted to suffering from Orthorexia which is a major red light that nobody should be taking health advice from her.
FreeLee the White-Wealthy-First-World Banana Girl has a nasty habit of harassing people for their dietary choices something I refer to as “unethical veganism”. There is never a good enough reason to harass someone for eating a meat and dairy diet. Telling someone that they shouldn’t be eating meat and dairy because you don’t is like telling someone that they should give up their halal or kosher diet because you feel uncomfortable about it. Funnily enough, the Muslim and Jewish communities are often shunned by animal rights activists. It has a weird colonialist feel to it. You can’t force your beliefs onto people just because you feel overly self-righteous about what you believe; it creates a sense of superiority over others. That’s exactly what privilege is.
There is also a ton of conspiracy theory being promoted by vegans stating that medical sciences can’t be taken seriously anymore because it’s being “funded by the meat industry”. This is entirely untrue. There is no proof to back it up and it seems somewhat impossible if you consider how medical sciences work differently across the globe.
One of the biggest reasons I went vegan and continue to support the ideology of veganism is because I really despise the meat industry. I’ve done a ton of reading and I know that there are major concerns about the meat industry being unethical and harmful and I agree on some form of boycott. However, to create lies like the one I mentioned, discredits the medical sciences and medical professionals who dedicate their entire lives to the well-being of others. When it comes to health it’s important that we trust people like doctors and nutritionists instead of people like FreeLee the Banana Girl.
These forerunners and propagandists are also guilty of promoting issues with regards to body image which explains why statistically first world women make up the bulk of vegans worldwide.
The mainstream vegan community has a reputation of being insensitive with regards to things like rape, murder and especially slavery. On a number of occasions famous vegan individuals and organisations have made comparisons between animal cruelty and slavery. Not only is this insensitive, but it’s also a factually incorrect comparison. It shows a lot of ignorance on behalf of the vegan movement.
Vegans are not morally superior as much as they may think they are. Plant based foods are not 100% cruelty free. Thousands of people across the world are exploited for their labour on farms. Child labour and unpaid or underpaid labour on farms in the third world is not uncommon. The people harvesting fruits and vegetables in Latin America and Africa are practically slaves to their economic circumstance. This is why comparing slaves to animals is problematic.
I believe that the mainstream (and I mean mainstream) vegan movements are really insensitive to intersections. It doesn’t consider people of different races, people who come from different socio-economic backgrounds, sick or disabled people, the LGBT+ community, women and so much more. To say that everyone should be vegan is to say that you want to force your very white, very first world, very heterosexual, very cis gendered, very PRIVILEGED ideologies onto other people by criticizing and harassing them. Whether or not you agree with peoples decisions, you need to respect their freedom to make those decisions.
That being said I think that veganism is a wonderful lifestyle choice and much like giving in charity people should consider doing it because it’s an honorable thing to do. I know of some amazing vegans out there doing wonderful things for their health and the planet. I’m not trying to criticize or generalize all vegans with this post, but I do believe that there are some serious problems within the vegan community and that they need to be spoken about so that we can fix them. For a start, bullying and harassment need to end.