Don’t pressure people to be vegan

It’s exclusionary and rude

In his Oscar acceptance speech, Joaquin Phoenix preached about veganism. At a Bernie Sanders rally in Nevada, vegan activists stole the mic and poured pink liquid on themselves—all in the name of being cruelty free and morally just.  

Whether for moral or environmental reasons, people often go vegan with the best intentions. Like any other eating habit, being vegan is an individual choice and honestly, vegans get a pretty bad rap. But the problem with veganism isn’t the individual choice to abandon animal products for the sake of being “cruelty free.” Eat kale, tofu, whatever; it’s no one else’s business what anyone else chooses to eat. No, the problem is that the vegan community is often highly judgmental, accusatory, and exclusionary.  

In the minds of vegans, poor people should go vegan. People recovering from eating disorders should go vegan. Children should go vegan. Indigenous people (who have been sustainably consuming animal products for centuries and who also often have a cultural relationship to animals) should go vegan.  

Guilting people into adopting a vegan lifestyle usually leads to a whole lot of assumptions. One, the assumption that a non-vegan must simply have no regard or empathy for animals; otherwise, they’d be vegan. Secondly, the assumption that an individual is completely healthy and financially stable, and therefore faces no physiological or socio-economic barriers to veganism, so their decision to be non-vegan is purely based on moral standing. All of these are thinly veiled judgments of someone else’s personal choices.  

Eating a steak takes the life of a cow. And yes, the animal agriculture corporate conglomerate capitalizes on fast, cheap, and painful methods of meat production. It’s horrible. In a perfect world, no animals would suffer, everyone would buy food from local, organic entities, and sing kumbaya at the farmer’s market. But being vegan isn’t always accessible. 

For those working multiple jobs, being able to come home and cook fancy vegan meals is next to impossible. Eating cheap fast food or microwavable meals, often not vegan, is more immediately financially possible than buying produce that can expire in days. Some people can’t afford groceries in general, instead using food banks. Goal number one should be eating, period, not eating vegan. And for those who have struggled with eating disorders, restrictive diets like veganism can be used to mask unhealthy behaviors and contribute to disordered eating habits. Veganism is simply not an option for everyone. Even if it is, not everyone wants to be vegan. And that’s okay. 

Moreover, the biggest selling point for a vegan diet is the allure of its “cruelty-free” nature. No animals are being harmed, so vegans are free from any guilt. Wrong. In a capitalist system, completely ethical, cruelty-free consumption is next to impossible. While vegans free the cows from suffering, they do continue to enable unethical, underpaid labor on produce farms. According to the most recent National Agricultural Workers Survey, which is published by the US Department of Labor, 30% of agricultural farmers live below the poverty line. Not to mention that agricultural work is often performed by undocumented immigrants who are often underpaid under the table. So no, veganism is not “cruelty-free”: wages are stolen from workers by corporate entities enabled by violent capitalism. Get off the high horse, vegans.  

No one cares that vegans have a specific moral code for themselves. Veganism is a personal choice. But please, for the love of all things holy, stop pressuring people into making decisions they don’t want to make.  

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