Let’s talk about veganism and the racism, classism and ableism that plagues the movement.Before we get into the bulk of this article a disclaimer I fully support veganism, as a vegetarian it’s my ultimate goal to transition to veganism. Animal cruelty sickens me and I aim to reduce my contribution to that in any way I can.
The problem here is not the concept of veganism but the people who’s vegan activism is largely un-inclusive. It’s about vegans who are vocal on animal rights but are silent about racism, classism or ableism.
Animal Lives Matter
My first encounter with racist vegans was back when police brutality become a mainstream issue in the media. I saw many vegans compare the plight of animals to the shooting of black people.
I took that as an isolated event by a few extremists but then I had a lot of interesting exchanges with vegans on my page a few months back when I pointed out that veganism isn’t viable for everyone, who have a tendency to directly compare the chattel slavery black people faced to the plight of animals today.
The lynching of black people to the hanging of animals. You don’t need to look far back into history and even to this day to see how comparing a group of people to animals has been used to justify their dehumanization. I couldn’t help but notice a pattern emerge between vegans and racism.
I understand the anger at animals being held in captivity but anti-blackness is not the solution.
Keep in mind historically black people were kept in human zoos, dehumanized and compared to animals, how black children were used as alligator bait. Stop comparing black people and their struggle to animals whatever the context!
Warped Sense of Poverty
Most people who haven’t lived in extreme poverty have a warped view of what that entails and this includes many white vegans who have class privilege.
To paraphrase a vegan commenter on my page ‘Are you saying you can afford steaks but not rice and beans’ To anyone who hasn’t lived in poverty that seems a reasonable assertion, but as someone who has it’s illuminating.
Poverty is not a choice between steak & rice and beans:
It’s a choice between eating nothing or eating the cheapest meat based ready meal that is high energy and low cost.
It’s a choice between eating nothing and eating whatever family or friends can spare you (meat based or not)
It’s a choice between eating nothing and eating whatever you’re given (meat based or not) from the food bank you were embarrassed to walk into.
There are rarely options, you eat what you can get for free or what you can buy from the money found at the back of your sofa. If steak was an option on my menu I would be a vegan tomorrow!
So I find it very revealing when people assert eating vegan is easy when your poor.
I lived without a refrigerator for a year at one point because our second hand one broke down and only had a microwave oven to cook food with.
Working more than one job and getting home late at night. The nearest grocery store was 30 minutes away by bus but fast food joints (which don’t serve vegan) plentiful within walking distance.
After a busy day, feet hurting from standing all day at a physically draining minimum wage service job the last thing you want to do is prepare a meal. A bag of apples is the same price as a filling fast food burger or a calorie rich ready meal.
Eating vegan below the poverty line isn’t impossible but it sure is difficult.
Even more so now my financial position is better I can see how easier it is to eat vegetarian/vegan. With working refrigeration, not living in a food dessert; the difference is night and day.
That’s not even taking into consideration how closely classism and racism are linked. Many people of color living in impoverished communities cannot even drink clean water. Not to mention how many of these communities are in food desserts thanks to low investment and bad infrastructure in these areas, all of which make purchasing affordable fruit and vegetables near impossible.
Finally let’s not forget ableism like many people do. Many people cannot consume a strict vegan diet due to dietary requirements on the recommendation of their doctor. Most cannot reasonably consume a vegan diet without supplements to offset the food groups they’re missing out on. Many people with eating disorders cannot physically eat a vegan diet without serious health repercussions.
Let’s not also forget the undeniable intersection between disability and poverty. By no means am I saying ALL poor and disabled people cannot consume a vegan diet but a good portion cannot directly as a result of their circumstances.
If you do not take this into account in regards to your vegan activism, you’re the type of vegan my criticisms are aimed at.
I support veganism always but not vegans who aren’t intersectional in their activism or those who are silent about the loss of people’s lives due to racism, ableism and classism but are vocal on the loss of animal lives.
I would rather be harsh on vegans than silent on those issues.
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