Veganism Is Not The Only Way

Veganism isn’t accessible for all people so save your moral outrage at chronically ill people.

We all know that one white cis able bodied man who is the awful stereotype of a vegan. Even the Instagram page alone is enough to want to drive people off social media. The preacher, the morally outraged and the outright racist, misogynistic, ableist smug would-be movement leader. They do more harm to vegans though. Vegans are usually way more inclusive and get abuse for their diets (despite rarely shouting about it at all) but the privileged people in the community are the ones who use their position to tear down people instead of helping.

Most vegans aren’t like the obnoxious guy who just wants to release a vegan cookbook and it’s important to remember that. Vegans are often far more likely to get abuse. However, there are elements within the vegan community that aren’t accessible or intersectional. Peta has been accused of misogyny and racism multiple times, for example. Animal cruelty is horrible but it is not the same as slavery, and it’s not the same as the rape of women.

Many people cannot go vegan. Vegan lifestyles can cost more and so arguments compelling all people everywhere to go vegan is simply classist. For some, going vegan would pose a risk to their health. Some chronically ill people have to have an intake of meat. Every time someone posts “carnivores are killers” or “everyone must go vegan” just shames many disabled people who can’t go vegan for their own health.

Flexitarian diets do work for some and they help reduce our reliance on meat. Meat production is hugely damaging for the environment due to land clearance, the production of soya to feed cattle (and erm…some vegans too, just saying…) and for the green house gases emitted. However, meat production isn’t our only problem. Those who say that giving up meat will save the world are willfully shutting out complex debate because we actually need different solutions in different areas. Cutting out meat alone is not achievable in the time span we have, and a vegan diet can also have an environmental impact.

“Cutting out meat alone is not achievable in the time span we have”

Some crops, such as the revolting cabbage, also emit huge greenhouse gases or require great resources to produce them. Tomatoes require huge greenhouses in the UK and that still uses energy. Shipping vegetables across the world also has an environmental impact. We need more than just blanket statements about veganism, but to actually look at all of our food choices, including whether our food and vegetables are really as good for the environment as they could be.

Flexitarianism can be one way to reduce the damage of meat, while not exacerbating potential issues that may arise if we all switched to veganism tomorrow.

One huge issue we could be tackling too is food wastage. Food in landfills emit huge greenhouse gases. While there are famines in many countries (usually due to our conflicts or political ineptitude), in the West we chuck food out without a second thought. We need a sustainable global food system where resources are shared, including food. While we hoard food we don’t need, there are some struggling to get access to basic staples.

The meat and dairy industries are brutal places and no creature deserves to have its fate determined by us. However, not all can participate in a vegan revolution. Where do disabled people feature in this utopia? Are some supposed to starve? It’s an argument that gets disturbingly close to eugenics.

The best movements are the ones which are inclusive, and there’s a small core within the green and vegan movement shutting out people of colour, women and disabled people. Most vegans want their movement to be empowering and yet it risks being co-opted by some on the left who are more interested in building their own platforms than a sustainable future.

Flexitarianism is a good beginning where vegans and ominvores can bring change together to reduce food wastage, emissions and meat consumption. A coherent strategy on multiple issues is needed to make real change. Yelling at people to stop eating meat won’t be enough to save the world.

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