The Vegan Privilege
Life as a vegan will definitely come with its fair share of misconceptions spewed from the mouths of carnists especially in regards to the high cost of being vegan:
“Veganism isn’t accessible for low income communities!”
“Fresh produce is so much more expensive!”
“Fancy fake meats and cheese are delicacies for RICH PEOPLE!”
While valid arguments for some, these are not the end alls of arguments against not going vegan. Yes, one could argue that when it comes to lifestyle sustainability, mastering discount shopping and coupon snipping isn’t going to be the key turned to start the ignition down a path toward veganism. Would it be practical to expect everyone to learn their local grocers shipping times and when they’ll be tossing all the leftover fruits and vegetables? Most certainly a daunting task for anyone within the constraints of modern society that has transformed time into a commodity. A system that keeps us perpetually swaying back and forth as we attempt to grasp any sense of balance between survival and comfort.
We must then lend ourselves to examine the pitfalls of our food system that feeds into the illusion that a sense of financial privilege is a nomenclature for going vegan. Consider that only 42% of all farms in the United States produce fruits and vegetables while the majority of farm practices are centered around the commodification of animal flesh, animal menstruation and animal lactation in a variety of forms. Besides agriculture being concentrated more around slaughter than growth, we must recognize that the two largest producers of organic produce in the country are California and Florida which are positioned as the furthest fringe states within the continental United States. From raw almonds to strawberries, if your plan is to forage through the grocery store with a cart packed full of colorful plant sex organs be prepared to pay with your first born child.
Availability is another concern raised with the existence of food deserts. The 2008 Farm Bill defines a food desert as an “area in the United States with limited access to affordable and nutritious food, particularly such an area composed of predominantly lower income neighborhoods and communities.” Factors of food deserts include low number of grocery stores, distance between grocery stores, lack of transportation and low-income families who cannot have limited food options available. The 23 million Americans, who are disproportionately found in black and brown communities, without access to more nutritional food are constantly hoisted up for crucifixion as martyrs against veganism opposed to be identify as a consequence of an unchecked oppressively racist system that aims to keep these communities out of reach of any form of prosperity. To use these individuals’ strife as validations for your dietary choices is pure classism and ableism, especially as it is found as a popular talking point amongst middle class white people. A false dichotomy that sings, “ Well, this sector of the population does not have the means to go vegan and therefore since it is not possible for everyone to go vegan then I do not need to follow suit and remove death from plate.” Their all or nothing approach not only permeates the misconception that veganism is expensive but also removes the focus that food deserts are tangible proof that this archaic system birthed from white supremacy is still the predominant player in the game.
An examination of the cheapest foods available reveal beans, lentils, oats, potatoes and rices to be atop of the mountain. Foods that have long been associated with being dietary staples throughout the world. All grown from the ground, picked from a vine, bush or tree with endless possibilities for preparation. No shooting or gassing or raping or stealing from non-human animals required. In the case of spinach and bananas, these are some of the cheapest and most nutritious vegetables available fresh. While fresh fruits and vegetables aren’t always the cheapest route, frozen produce is some of the most inexpensive items you can buy while still being considered rich in nutrients. Pasta, bread and tortillas are relatively inexpensive and with little preparation and time can be made from scratch to even alleviate more cost.
The modest truth of going vegan is illuminated by those people who have actually taken a stance against the exploitative murder of animals. A 2015 study by the Vegetarian Resource Group compiling results from both Vegans and Vegetarians found that non-meat eaters are far more likely to be living below the median US household income level. A collection of data from Gallop states that the majority of vegans actually make less than $30,000 a year. A beautiful slap in the face of the myth that celebrities and their estate-inherited kin are the only vegans out there.
You can call veganism expensive to perpetuate the lie you tell yourself to justify your own palette pleasure. Yet when the bill comes due for future generations, the environment and animals to pay, the debt owed will be astronomically grim. A price tag that will continue with the longest bloodbath in history that equates to trillions of animal’s being murdered for the sake of humanity and our desire to eat them, wear them, steal the substance away from their children and scramble their ovulations as part of a balanced breakfast. As we move towards foreclosures on our most precious ecosystems from the extinction of coastal communities to the threats to life in the arctic that we will not be able to afford the continued onslaught demand of most developed nation’s food choices.
The cost accrued by the ceaseless indoctrination by a capitalist system that exploits humans, animals and the earth with reckless abandonment gives birth to limited scope thinking. Those allies who denounce veganism as white privilege, their focal point hinges on the exploitation of agriculture workers. Yet they’re merely painting a mirage in their own minds that this exploitation is caused by the only vegans, a sliver of the global population, in a futile attempt to remove their own guilt. Evident as they feign ignorance and practice deafening silence in discussions centered around the plight of slaughterhouse workers because this revelation has no room in their narrative. The fact is that the psychological agony of these workers is eagerly masked behind four walls to the same effect as the suffering they are forced to inflict on countless animals 5 days a week, 50 weeks a year is hidden from the general public, all for peace of mind while eating a piece of animal flesh. To remove themselves as far as possible, not only for the murdered animals they demand but the consequences for these workers that spills over into their communities. As demonstrated by the increase in alcoholism, domestic violence and suicide drawf those of other demographically compared communities.
The fabled cost of veganism pales in comparison to the blood spilled and generational oppression that results from animal agriculture. We all need to take action to relieve low income communities of violence and exploitation. We all need to raise our voices against the oncoming climate apocalypse. We all need to take a stand against the greedy anthropocentric conceptualizations of society from which all evil is born. Going vegan is a step in the right direction and it takes no privilege at all.
Originally posted to salutetothev.com