It’s time to ruffle some feathers! I am going to talk about the “p” word, so if you are triggered by topics about privilege, then this is your warning. Before I dive into what I want to talk about, I just need to give a little disclaimer. I am vegan and I love this lifestyle and I am not bashing or gossiping about anyone specifically. Moving on…
When I was a new vegan, I would get really annoyed when people said that it was too hard and too expensive and all those other excuses. I used to think that any person regardless of economic status could adopt a vegan lifestyle. This is only true to an extent. Sometimes we live in a bubble. We unintentionally judge and assume that everyone has the same access to food, transportation, etc. At my grocery store, whole plant foods end up being less expensive in the long run. My area also has farmer’s markets and community gardens. However, someone living in a food dessert might only have access to convenience stores. Convenience stores typically only carry packaged foods and maybe apples or bananas at a much higher price. People that experience food insecurity usually have to drive more than 30 minutes to get to a decent grocery store. If someone doesn’t have reliable transportation then it is much harder to find fresher foods and it can get expensive for them.
Someone that is living at, below, or barely above the poverty line will not even be thinking about the ethicality of their food. Someone who is struggling to pay rent or make car payments or struggling financially in any way, will be more concerned with meeting their basic needs. There is something called, “Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs”.
Someone who is not meeting their physiological and safety needs will have trouble with the other categories: belonging, esteem, and self-actualization. I consider ethical/lifestyle choices to be in the “self-actualization” category. I think before we say that “anyone could do this”, we need to realize that basic needs come before privileges like traveling and plant-based living. There have been periods of time in which I haven’t had as much financial stability, however I still had access to necessary resources and a supportive family. I am privileged and I reluctantly consider traveling, minimalism, and veganism/plant-based diets privileges. It is totally possible to do these acts on a budget, but these are primarily things that mainly middle class and upper class individuals enjoy.
It was hard for me to accept that I am privileged because I always work hard for what I want. But the idea of privilege just means that you were born into a better position in society, it is not discrediting hard work. I think the vegan community (including myself) needs to not only fight for animal rights, but also advocate for healthier markets in low-income areas and other programs that improve food security. This is how we can make veganism and ethical food choices accessible and more mainstream. Stigmatizing someone because they can’t drive an hour to a grocery store and pay for tempeh is not the way to spread the vegan message.
Of course there will always be those people who make excuses even though they have all the resources they could possibly need and want, I am not talking about these individuals. Unfortunately, some people will never be receptive to the vegan message. But we still need to work towards making fresh food diets accessible and mainstream so that veganism isn’t a luxury that only some people can partake in. Thank you and I am sorry if I have offended you! This is just my opinion on the “privileged vegans” topic.
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