Sunday, 12 May 2013
Veganism and privilege.
Recently I've come across a lot of very disgusting comments and points of view advanced by Vegans who think that not eating meat should fall under the umbrella of social justice, I'm talking crap like comparing PoC to animals and arguing that eating meat was just as bad as slavery. Now I'm all for better animal husbandry and heathier diets that include more veg and less meat, but for heaven's sake Veganism is an inherently privileged decision.
1. It's privileged because to do it healthily and by choice?
One has to have the resources. Often Vegan food can end up costing more, the price of fruit and veg has rocketed recently, and that's for people who don't live in a food desert or don't live somewhere where their diet is restricted to "whatever I can get". So to go Vegan healthily, and avoid complications, you need to have the privilege of both class and food access.
A diet of chickpeas and rice will keep you alive but not healthily and it's really not recommended.
2. It's privileged because the average Vegan who choose to be Vegan had the information there to make the choice. Access to things like the internet and information about doing a healthy vegan diet isn't universal.
3. It's privileged because you have to be healthy in the first place to do it.
Many Vegan or vegetarian substitutes? Well to be blunt, contain major allergens. There's Seitan, made from Wheat, so Coeliacs and people with gluten or wheat sensitivities can't eat that. TVP or Quorn contains, you guessed it, gluten and soy. Beancurd, soy again and sometimes gluten.
Then there's illnesses like IBS? Which severely restricts what Veg you can eat. Some veg set it off, some don't. Basically for someone like me? A vegan diet would be impossible to do healthily. Doesn't stop Vegans from lecturing me how I'm going to get sick because I ate some yogurt for protein.
4. It's privileged because you need to have the free time and leisure to cook many ingredients from scratch.
Bunging a roast in the oven and making up instant mash is far quicker than spending two hours boiling dried beans even if the Dhal you make from them is awesome.
5. It's privileged because it's always addressed from a developed world perspective.
Basically we're always talking about Beef and how environmentally harmful it is. This ignores that in many countries they don't eat beef. Beef is not the only meat in existence as tasty as it is. For example in Peru Guinea pigs are a major part of people's diets, in sub-sahara Africa one tribe's diet staple is the blood of goats mixed with their milk.
6. It's privileged because it assumes that everyone has the agricultural land to grow all the vegetables needed for a Vegan diet and isn't Vegan because they're selfish.
For example there is Japan. They do not have the agricultural square footage needed to grow enough veg to feed an entirely Vegan population, they would have to import it. As a result like many island nations lacking agricultural footage, their diet incorporates a large amount of fish and seafood. What about hunter gatherer groups who live in dense rainforest?
7. It's privileged because the negative impact of vegan diets is often brushed under the mat entirely.
A Vegan diet is not bloodless. Countless animals are killed during harvest time. Your Seitan probably has blood in it from the animals caught up in the thresher.
Then there's hedgerows ripped up to plant more and more ground, this applies to animal farms as well, but it's a feature of any diet. Intensive farming depletes the soil, requiring the use of heavy fertilisers, not to mention pesticides, of course you could argue that going organic would skip this? Problem? A lot more food is wasted via organic farming, that's why it's more expensive. Trees are cut down to grow crops, which results in soil erosion.
Many of the foods in Vegan diets especially in the developed world travel countless miles to market, a healthy vegan diet requires variety, that means airmiles often. Stuff like Quinoa is shipped from thousands of miles away.
Then there's stuff like demand, in the case of Quinoa, Western demand for it has led to the result where the people who traditionally ate it can no long afford it. It is not the only superfood many leading Vegans get excited about that has ended up like this.
There is no diet with zero environmental impact.
8. Not so much a privilege but there's a default assumption that Vegetables = healthy.
Did you know that brown rice can contain a lot of Mercury? That's why dieticians don't recommend you eat more than a couple of portions weekly. Hell one guy died from a carrot overdose. :| Seriously: http://www.omg-facts.com/Science/In-1974-A-British-Health-Nut-Drank-Himse/17490
Then there's pesticides on the food. Not everyone can afford organic.
I am really tired of Vegans who lecture about Beef possibly containing E-coli given that the last few US outbreaks were caused by green leafy vegetables.
Ultimately living in the west we have access to diets some people can only dream about and if we're lucky to be well off in terms of money and time, access to diets the man on the street doesn't have.
Yes, there is a legitimate argument that our diet is unsustainable and that we should eat less meat and try alternatives. But the choice and ability to be a Vegan is still based in a number of privileges.