In the February 7 issue of the Drew Acorn an article titled “Vegetarianism Isn’t for Everyone, and That’s Okay” was published. Not only was this article misinformed, it was irresponsible. Nothing is above criticism, but we must consider the political climate of what is being criticized and the violent ramifications of this criticism. Right now veganism is in a fragile place. More than just anti-vegan jokes, there are groups at large working to silence activists and keep the movement down. What we need now more than ever is articles supporting veganism,
shouting its battle cry loudly for all to hear, not articles perpetuating its stereotypes and brushing over its ethics. But I don’t blame this article––it is the result of a larger system where the exploitation of animals, land and our earth is the norm. However, I am mindful of how its rhetoric only further diminishes our chances of moving toward a more ethical, compassionate, and all together unifying world.
The article began by recognizing the significant impact of animal agriculture on the environment and its contribution to climate change, which I agree with thoroughly. More scientists and organizations are beginning to recognize the facts. Like how livestock and their byproducts account for 51 percent of all worldwide greenhouse gas emissions. And how one pound of beef requires 2,500 gallons of water. Or maybe how animal agriculture is the leading cause of species extinction, ocean dead zones, water pollution, habitat destruction and rainforest depletion.
However, the article neglected to mention another component to veganism. As a vegan, my main reason for turning away from animal products was not to save the world from climate change: it was for the animals. When the article discussed how veganism is not possible for a very small percentage of the population, the lives of the animals weren’t considered. Veganism is not targeting people who cannot go vegan; rather, it is about spreading information and education for those who can. Because at the end of the day, veganism is an ethical liberation movement working to free animals from enslavement. So the more people who go vegan, the better. We need articles talking about the suffering of these animals, the urgency of agribusiness and climate change.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ROMARIOLEN / THINKSTOCK
Moreover, the article’s discussion of those who cannot go vegan was clouded by stereotypes and falsehoods. When the article claimed it was a privilege to consume ethically, it was not taking into account how statistics show vegan food is extensively cheaper than most meat-based meals and that many of those in poverty eat majority vegan by default. Further, those who consume fast food most often increases with income, according to a study by the CDC. In fact, lower-income people are found to be less likely to consume fast food than those in the middle class. So yes, while food deserts are real and food oppression is an issue, stereotypes about fast food consumption are not helping anyone.
Even more, the article is infantilizing people in communities of low income or people of color by dismissing their activism. Why are we assuming it is the prerogative of white, wealthy people to have compassion for animals and the planet? This rhetoric is even more divisive and likely the reason why certain groups assume veganism has a class problem. In fact, the vegan movement is being propelled by people of color, organizations such as Vegan Voices of Color and Brown Vegan, activists Corretta Scott King, Dick Gregory, Omowale Adewale who founded Black VegFest and chef Bryant Terry who wrote cookbooks Vegan Soul Kitchen and Afro-Vegan. Rebel Mariposa, a woman from a historically Latino neighborhood in San Antonio, Texas, opened up La Botanica, a fully vegan and queer-friendly restaurant that will bring healthier, but still traditional, Hispanic food to the community. Countless other vegans of color have been attempting to bring this food into communities where it is most needed. Vegans of color all around the world are working hard. It’s unfair to assume that people in low-income communities are not dimensional and dynamic enough to work politics into their dinner plates.
Now, there is no arguing with someone’s personal experience. If someone has an eating disorder, clearly veganism is not an option at this moment. However, to bring up how those with eating disorders are more likely to go vegan or vegetarian for weight-related issues is a disservice to the vegan movement. Someone who uses veganism for its dietetic purposes is not actually vegan, they are simply on a diet. Veganism is not a diet, it is an act of love and resistance, of liberation and truth. It is a social justice movement giving a voice to the voiceless. To equate these is misinformed. And to abstain from meat for a single meal does not make you a vegan.
When I talk about veganism, I would never shame someone who consumes animal products because they are not in the current circumstances to make such a transition. To me, it is hopeful when someone tells me of a single meatless meal they had that week. But open discussion about the realities of animal agriculture is important to help spread information industries, corporations and lobbyists are trying to keep out of the public eye. The article is defensive about shaming, but veganism is not about shame, it is about education. I get it, food is a personal thing. But the animals, the planet, everyone deserves this information to be spoken about often and with urgency.
Rebecca is a junior Environmental Studies and Sustainability and Art Double major.