Vegan People
Respecting All Animals
touchy. touchy. 
1st-Dec-2007 09:34 am
What do you say to comments like "you're lucky to be able to pick your diet" and statements like "veganism is just another white privilege". I tried to have a rational discussion, but I ended it after that last comment, I was seeing red by that point and didn't want to come off as the "pushy vegan" and make things worse... fucking lame.

On a lighter note, spell check on eljay recommends "vulcanism" in place of "veganism".
Comments 
(Deleted comment)
1st-Dec-2007 04:00 pm (UTC)
I second this. If we weren't feeding all of our grain to livestock, world hunger would be less of an issue. (Though, honestly, it shouldn't be an issue anyway.)

But, you know -- being able to be choosy about what you eat IS a privilege (though being white has nothing to do with it; there are vegans of every ethnicity). So, to comments like that, I would just ignore the fact that the person is clearly being an asshole and say, "you're right, and i'm grateful for it." :)
1st-Dec-2007 04:03 pm (UTC)
Wow, we posted our replies to this at the exact same time!
1st-Dec-2007 04:00 pm (UTC)
I usually reply to the "you're lucky to pick your diet" comments with "Yes! I really am!!" but the whole "white privilege" thing is usually used as some sort of "attack". No one can make me feel guilty for my veganism, no matter how hard they try. I just want to be able to defend a comment like that (but hopefully it'll never be aimed at me again) without emotions being dragged into it.
1st-Dec-2007 04:01 pm (UTC)
In response to someone saying veganism is white privilege, I would say something like.

"First of all, it's class privilege, not white privilege, so if you're going to read the world in that way, get that straight. Beyond that, oh, I'm sorry, do you have a problem with me making compassionate and ethical food choices? Yes, I have ability to make that choice--and from my worldview, a RESPONSIBILITY to make that choice. "
1st-Dec-2007 04:58 pm (UTC) - Class privilege?
How is class privilege involved, if it's less expensive? My grocery bill dropped when I went from vegetarian to vegan. People of any income/"class" can go to the library to go online or to get books to learn about veganism. How does class-based oppression play into one's ability to abstain from animal-derived products?
1st-Dec-2007 05:04 pm (UTC) - Re: Class privilege?
I don't really believe that it has to, but in response to what the OP was dealing with, I think there is a greater argument to be made for it being class privilege than racial privilege...

Because what if you have so little money you go to food banks or soup kitchens? Or you live in a shelter where they feed you? You don't really have the options then. It can be a class issue. I know people who have had to stop eating vegan because they were getting their food from places like this, where they really didn't have the money to turn down a can of vegetable soup that had chicken stock in it.

But like I said, I only think it is a class issue in the most extreme of cases--I am not arguing that it is a class issue on a widespread scale. So I mostly agree with you
1st-Dec-2007 05:08 pm (UTC) - Re: Class privilege?
Well I for example was vegan in college, until I became too poor to go to the store and get vegan goods. Then I was vegetarian as I did not want to just eat rice and potatoes. I seriously had no money and was eating at the food bank-where most things were vegetarian, but not vegan. It was eat the stuff they gave me, the breads weren't vegan, the other foods might have some dried milk in them or something, things like that, or just the rice and I chose to eat what I could-though sticking to vegetarian things only and it worked out (i figured it was way healthier to eat what I could than just one or two things for every meal). Once I graduated and got a better paying job and such and had money then I could go back to being vegan, but not when I was dirt poor. So you would be fortunate to have enough money to purchase whatever food you would like, where as the really poor people who eat at food banks and get free food at places and such do not have that luxury.
1st-Dec-2007 05:14 pm (UTC) - Re: Class privilege?
Have you ever heard of a vegan decrying someone for accepting animal-based foods from a charity. I have never. I can't imagine any vegan I know doing such a thing. Hell, most of the vegans I know would be more likely to work at a charity than the omnis I know. The only people I have heard decrying veganism as a class-based privilege are those who do have autonomy in regards to what goes on their plate.
1st-Dec-2007 05:40 pm (UTC) - Re: Class privilege?
I think the implications of class privilege are larger if you look at a global scale, as is probably obvious from my comment below about electricity - most Americans (I realize that not everyone on this community is American, but I am and the arguments I deal with are primarily from Americans, so, uh, that's my bias). Even so - if you are poor, you may not have the opportunity to turn down free food. You may not get to say "I don't eat X" unless you're allergic to X. (I'm going with may not because I've known homeless vegans, but I do think most people would rather not be homeless, and given a choice between homelessness and consuming animal products will choose the latter, especially people with kids.)

I think it's harder to make the change if you have fewer resources. It's harder to learn about veganism. It's harder to implement it, especially if you're in a group living situation and the other people aren't interested in doing it - two sets of grocery bills could be a real problem. It's also extremely culturally normative to eat certain foods, and a rejection of that can be a really big deal socially. If you're reliant on your sister for other things, you don't want to insult her by not eating her cooking, for example, or start trouble by saying it isn't healthy.

A lot of prepackaged foods are not vegan, and a lot of them are very, very cheap. Fruits and vegetables aren't cheap - I've known a lot of people who ate a lot of meat and starch (bread, pasta, potatoes) because they perceived fresh fruits and vegetables as being too expensive, and that's not illegitimate.

Also, the library may not be close by, and if the books are written to an audience that's really obviously not you, that can be alienating. A lot of people don't know about interlibrary loan, so if they can't get the book off the shelf, that may be the end of the inquiry.

This is not a great answer, but the best I've got is that inertia is a powerful force, and being poor can really serve to entrench a lot of things that it might be easier to reexamine otherwise.
1st-Dec-2007 07:20 pm (UTC) - Re: Class privilege?
Excellent comment.

And you're right about the prepackaged food thing--pasta roni are three boxes for a dollar and chicken breasts can be several pounds for a couple of bucks--yes, a pound of lentils is less than a buck, but you don't eat lentils by themselves!

This is not a great answer, but the best I've got is that inertia is a powerful force, and being poor can really serve to entrench a lot of things that it might be easier to reexamine otherwise.

That nails it, right there.
1st-Dec-2007 07:28 pm (UTC) - Re: Class privilege?
Somebody here finally fucking gets it. THANK YOU.
1st-Dec-2007 09:33 pm (UTC) - Re: Class privilege?
This is something we discussed quite often in my nutrition class because so many people in this country are sick because of their diets, but solving this problem goes far beyond saying, "change your diet."

When you can get 5 hamburgers for $5 at McDonalds and feed your whole family or get one salad for the same price, there is simply no choice here. And I'm not saying people don't have the choice to not eat at McDonalds, but the same goes for grocery stores, etc as you've said. Prepackaged food is cheaper and often feeds more people than fresh foods for the same price. And if you're working 10+ hours a day, or trying to hold down multiple jobs, coming home and cooking meals isn't always realistic.

I do think socio-economic status plays a big role in what people eat (and not just lower income, higher income people are more likely to indulge themselves with things like caviar and fois gras), so when it comes to veganism, it plays a role as well. Since we need to buy our food, or accept what others give us, money will always influence what we eat.
1st-Dec-2007 05:59 pm (UTC) - Re: Class privilege?
This is ignoring the fact that many lower income workers are working during the hours that libraries are open, or in some cases, do not know how to use the internet, card catalog, or even in some cases, read. And are I am sure in many cases incredibly intimidated by asking for help to learn how to use these things.
1st-Dec-2007 07:21 pm (UTC) - Re: Class privilege?
*nod*
1st-Dec-2007 04:10 pm (UTC)
It's class privilege.

So is electricity.
1st-Dec-2007 04:12 pm (UTC)
HAHAHA! I actually snorted while laughing.
1st-Dec-2007 04:59 pm (UTC) - Re: Class privilege?
Would you weigh in on my comment?
1st-Dec-2007 04:32 pm (UTC)
....live long and prosper?
1st-Dec-2007 04:54 pm (UTC) - Veganism = white privilege? What?
I was under the impression that skin color has no bearing upon what you are allowed to buy at the grocery store. A healthy vegan diet is no more expensive than a vegetarian or omnivorous diet. The premise that white people somehow have better access to vegan dietary choices is completely bogus.
1st-Dec-2007 05:38 pm (UTC) - Re: Veganism = white privilege? What?
I agree. I eat the same stuff omni's eat when it comes to veggies, grains etc. just in bigger quantity. The cost of my grocery shopping actually dropped because I wasn't buying expensive meat and cheese. The only pricier thing I buy is probably rice milk. Other than that, fruit, veggies, tofu and bag rice/beans/lentils/etc. are about $1 and change each per pound. That seems pretty damn cheap to me and you can get them ANYWHERE.

Oh, and white privilege my @$$. Like the commenter said above, so is electricity.
1st-Dec-2007 05:35 pm (UTC)
The white privilege part sounds off. Class privilege? And as for the whole cost aspect, think about the fact that class differences also result in culture differences - it's not as easy as scratching your head and wondering why poor people aren't buying quinoa in bulk. Tenuous example? Rich people in the US ride bicycles for different reasons poor people in India ride bicycles. Same goes for who eats vegan food.

But I would just agree with them. I feel extremely lucky and extremely privileged to be able to choose the kind of food I want to eat. Privilege isn't this bad, awful thing to have - it's only bad when it goes unrecognized. And this is coming from someone who DID grow up eating little more than venison and corn bread whatever canned things my family got from the food bank.
1st-Dec-2007 05:36 pm (UTC)
P.S. Of course, oppressions have a huge degree of intersectionality, so maybe the person commenting just meant privilege in general, considering class and race are still unfortunately pretty correlated.
1st-Dec-2007 06:00 pm (UTC)
This is a good comment. I find that people mistake racial privilege for class privilege all the time, and sometimes I bother to point it out, but usually find it meaningless to do so as the two occur along the same lines most of the time.
(Deleted comment)
(Deleted comment)
2nd-Dec-2007 01:21 am (UTC)
Google it.
1st-Dec-2007 06:29 pm (UTC)
Okay, but even if it IS class priveledge, isn't it important for those people in society who have the upper hand to act as an example and change the system for the better until the point where (extremely idealistically) everyone else can eat a healthier, more ethical diet, or in the case of world hunger, there is more food available, period?
1st-Dec-2007 06:43 pm (UTC)
As to veganism being a class privilege thing - this has been dealt with on the community before, and I'll say now what I said then:

A) Many of the poorest people in the world actually eat a vegan diet because it is more affordable, lower on the food chain, etc. Beans and rice is a staple dish in many third world countries. This diet actually is easier on the planet and would allow more people to eat if it were adopted by everybody, since it requires fewer resources. That's what pamphlets mean when they say we could "feed the starving" if everybody went vegan. In fact, we would have the resources to feed the world's starving, but since starvation has more to do with unequal distribution of resources it probably wouldn't happen. But with everyone eating a LUXURIOUS Western PRIVILEGED diet of meat, dairy and eggs which requires more resources, land, etc. to produce, it's never going to happen.

People who consider veganism the diet of privilege have not done their homework, or are maybe only thinking of this in terms of the United States where many vegans buy the more expensive packaged foods.

Ironically, organic food is also better for the health of the planet as a whole, and really does much more to help underprivileged people everywhere by not destroying the planet and its future growing capabilities, but it also costs more and ends up seeming like the "privileged" choice.

Tell your friends that if they give a shit about the poor, they'd be doing a lot better to eat a vegan organic diet.

2) Oh yeah - and global warming. Since vegan diets are the number one easiest thing to do to stop global warming geosci.uchicago.edu/~gidon/papers/nutri/nutriEI.pdf and since global warming is going to hurt the poorest people and countries first and most severely, they would also be doing more by going vegan.

3) What was said above about slaughterhouses. The rich sure as hell don't work in them. Your friends are assuming the very definite "privilege" of making other people kill animals they wouldn't kill themselves. (Unless maybe they're hunters. I have slightly more sympathy for people whose families hunt, ostensibly because they're too poor to eat another way.)

4) Even if veganism was a privilege on some level, it is still kinder, better for the environment, etc. It's also a privilege to own a Prius, to be able to choose not to work for evil corporations, to have enough time to volunteer because you don't have to work all the time. But these are all things that it would be GREAT if rich people did. Should they not do kind things because they're rich? That would be stupid. Just because someone is lucky to be able to do something nice, doesn't mean they shouldn't be doing nice things. That's ridiculous.
1st-Dec-2007 06:52 pm (UTC)
Part of it could have been the fact that vegetables really are hard to get in some urban areas. So that has some significance, and I'm glad I have a wild oates down the road.
I don't know that it makes veganism a class privilege though.
2nd-Dec-2007 06:43 am (UTC)
Just wondering: how are vegetables hard to acquire in urban areas? Most urban areas do harbor grocery stores...
2nd-Dec-2007 05:24 pm (UTC)
Some of them only have convince stores that don't carry fresh produce. It was on tv so it's totally ture.
2nd-Dec-2007 11:48 pm (UTC)
Okay, I suppose that would be possible. I apologize. I was basing on the fact that all urban areas around here have a Stop & Shop or something.
1st-Dec-2007 06:59 pm (UTC)
Yes, I've heard this type of thing before from a former LJ friend (she also referred to the environmentalism movement as being... I forget what she said exactly, basically like it was an elitist thing pushed by the wealthy to the detriment of the poor). She would periodically bash animal rights as being "ridiculous" in her journal, but we'd been watching each other's journals for six years now, so I was still curious about her life.

My girlfriend (also vegan, and friends with her longer than me) took her off her friends list over a year ago because of this (the girl said "animal belong... IN MY BELLY"), and the girl got upset and said something along the lines of "every time I express my opinion I lose more of my friends"...

Anyway, towards the middle of this November I posted in my journal that I thought everybody who ate animal products should watch Meet Your Meat or Earthlings and be aware of what they're participating in every day, and linked to the videos. Shortly afterwards she commented on that entry, told me she had taken me off her friends list, and to take care of myself, bye.

ANYWAY, my point is that I think that when people are calling veganism a privilege, it's not just about you and what you're doing with your "privilege" or not - it's about how vegans generally hope and sometimes gently push or openly/covertly criticize people who AREN'T vegan, and the idea of "judging" them for not participating in a "privilege" that they're too poor to have. And I'm not talking homeless food-pantry, because that's a totally different arena - I mean working poor, who work full time but don't have technical skills or whatever (which is like my former friend here), who may have to have a roommate but who may still be able to afford internet, etc.

Honestly - I know veganism CAN be super cheap. Base ingredients are practically nothing. For me, personally, though, it's ridiculously expensive. It's a bit terrifying how much I spend, at Whole Foods mostly, and it makes me feel a bit queasy when I try to total it up. (Let's just say - probably equal to my rent?) I used to literally almost have panic attacks at the register when I saw how the total was looking, so I just had to shut that part of my brain off.

Why? I lived cheaply as a vegan for a year - not even super-cheap, as I still bought veg lunchmeat, but that was about it. And between being too depressed/tired/overwhelmed to cook (I'd grown up on prepackaged food, cooking was totally foreign), my picky food habits, and my disorganization causing me to always be busy and late everywhere.... I didn't ate hardly enough because I couldn't make it taste that good and because it wasn't easy. I lost a lot of weight (and I was skinny to begin with) and I was really dizzy and shakey and nauseous all the time.

Then I moved out with my girlfriend, who is even a WAY pickier eater than me, and even LESS inclined to make food, and insistent that we eat the way she had been able to when she lived with her mom, who had paid for her food previously. So the first year and a half we lived together, we ate tons of prepackaged vegan food (frozen dinners, etc), plus lots of vegan specialty snacks (chocolate bars, energy bars, cookies, crackers). And I got back to a normal weight, ate regularly, felt much better, and holy CRAP did I drop a whole lot of money (and I'm 21 currently, and I completely support myself, and my gf and I live in a studio apt).

I guess it's like... it's not that easy to transition from the eating habits you have when you're middleish-poor to what to do when being vegan. Personally, I see my inability to feed myself both properly and cheaply as my own fault, and so I'd rather be malnourished and sickly and still be vegan because it's not the animals' fault that I've got issues (though I hope I'd improve over time!!)... but it is a privilege that I can indulge my issues WHILE staying true to my morals. I guess the part that bothers me is that because it's difficult, it's deemed impossible, which is a totally different thing.
1st-Dec-2007 07:28 pm (UTC)
On your grocery bill: I'm having issues right now too. I work full time and go to school part time and on top of that, I take medications which have appetite suppression as a side effect. So if I'm not careful, I forget to eat/don't have time to cook and eat, and then I lose weight and get all shaky.

I finally had to tell myself, "It's okay to buy prepackaged foods, it's okay to go out to eat a few times a week, the priority here is to FEED YOURSELF," but I still get wide-eyed when I look at my total food budget each week.

I had become used to cooking 95% of my meals and almost never buying processed foods, when I was living with my vegan boyfriend. It's hard to get used to the situation being different.

Cross your fingers that I get financial aid for next year and can cut back on my work hours!

2nd-Dec-2007 05:56 am (UTC)
I'll be crossing my fingers for you! It's nice to know I'm not the only one who has trouble fitting cooking into their schedule/life. :)
1st-Dec-2007 07:09 pm (UTC)
I guess to clarify, since this ended up really long - I wonder if the "privilege" argument often comes into play because many vegans feel that:
+ everybody who has the option of choosing their own food, should choose vegan food
+ there's a feeling of expectation and that that is the "right" thing for them to do, and that morally they are doing something wrong

...rather than from the standpoint of a person choosing to exercise their money-privilege by being vegan. (Although really, I'm sure the argument comes from both or either, depending on the person saying it.)

I am one of those "many vegans", though... I think that being poor could be a valid excuse for it taking longer to figure out and stick to consistently; but I don't feel that it's a valid excuse for giving up on it entirely and not trying at all. It obviously can be done for cheap, and that should be the goal. (And even me, with all my "privilege" - it's my goal, too, and I am working towards it.)
1st-Dec-2007 07:18 pm (UTC)
I know that "vulcanism" is the study of volcanoes or something like that, but if you read it as referring to Vulcans on Star Trek, it's almost a synonym for "veganism." Vulcans are vegetarian and possibly vegan. There's one episode of Enterprise where they go back in time and T'pol (the Vulcan) is annoyed that the fast food restaurant they visit doesn't have any foods without animal products. They also mention her vegetarianism a lot; the reason that Vulcans don't eat animals is because they are too "logical."

/nerd
1st-Dec-2007 07:29 pm (UTC)
This comment wins. *LOL*
1st-Dec-2007 07:45 pm (UTC)
I've actually considered making a full post about Vulcans. I kind of want to make a teeshirt that says "vulcans don't eat honey either."
1st-Dec-2007 07:33 pm (UTC)
Hahaha. that's great!
1st-Dec-2007 10:08 pm (UTC)
LOLZ. I heart that I'm not the only dork in this comm. I totally used a Battlestar Galactica reference here the other day. :P
2nd-Dec-2007 04:14 am (UTC)
Yeah, it is the study of volcanoes... but I thought "Star Trek!" right away, too!

I'm all about original series, though. Spock <3
1st-Dec-2007 07:29 pm (UTC)
Education is a class privilege, that doesn't mean I'm not going to go to school!
1st-Dec-2007 09:39 pm (UTC)
Higher education is a class privilege. ETA: In the US.

Edited at 2007-12-01 09:40 pm (UTC)
1st-Dec-2007 09:56 pm (UTC)
*nod*

Although I've known people who'd dropped out of high school because they had to work in order for their family to eat. It's less common now, but it still happens.
1st-Dec-2007 10:05 pm (UTC)
Oh, I completely believe it. And public education isn't anywhere near equal throughout the country so class does still play a role...but, regardless of quality, it's there. :/
2nd-Dec-2007 12:27 am (UTC) - ramblings of incoherence
As others have said, eating meat is actually a 'privilege'. Go to the poorest countries. They won't be eating a steak for dinner.

However, I can kind of see their point in that in OUR society, it can be a bit of a privileged thing to be vegan. A lot of cheaper foods have animal products so to get something vegan, you'll have to fork out some more $$$. But really, that is for most of the things you don't need (pre-packaged things etc), so it's really more the omnis who are privileged in that they can eat ANYTHING and have the luxury to eat whatever the hell they want. They can have their fancy microwave foods, but we can't.

My SO was vegan but stopped because we couldn't afford it with the specialty vegan foods (vegan cheese, fake meats etc) and even friggin BREAD was expensive if we wanted it without animal.
Now we eat stuff that's not only healthier (not pre packaged shit), but also cheaper and there's a lot of little family-owned shops that sell vegan bread cheap.

Though, ask the people who say it's a privilege how much the veg options at restaurants are. In my experience meaty things are at least $4 more expensive.
2nd-Dec-2007 03:58 am (UTC)
the world's most dangerous (physically and health-wise) jobs are in the animal product industry. eliminating slaughterhouses is a human rights issue, also.

veganism frees up more food for people instead of wasting it through an inefficient animal product industry. getting people to go vegan means more food for starving people. that is a human rights issue.

you cannot learn to treat one species well without learning to treat all life well. respect for other species is a human rights issue.

human, animal and earth liberation cannot be separated.
2nd-Dec-2007 05:06 am (UTC)
i would laugh at them for being so stupid as to actually believe such a thing, tell them i feel sorry for how shitty they must feel walking around thinking that everything bad in their lives and good in other people's lives is due to race, and suggest that they get their vision checked, because i'm vegan and not white. there is no arguing with people like that.
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