quarta-feira, 29 de julho de 2015

Questioning the Concept of Vegan Privilege from a Critical Animal Studies Perspective

by Jessica Greenebaum


This article examines and analyzes the credibility and utility of the critique of veganism as a privileged lifestyle by those inside and outside the vegan community. While Breeze Harper critiques white privilege in the vegan movement, there are no academic articles written about “vegan privilege.” Since this debate is mostly active on internet blogs and community discussions, my goal is to contextualize and deconstruct the concept of “vegan privilege.” First, I argue that the ability to choose any diet, or any specialty diet, in this country requires some level of privilege. It is the ability to make food choices that is ultimately the privilege, not veganism or any other diet. However, veganism may not be affordable or achievable due to income or geographic location. People who live in poverty are able to make few choices about the foods they consume. There are also human health costs of the capitalist industrial food complex, particularly for those who are disenfranchised by the systems of consumption and production and its environmental impact.
Veganism should not be separated from its ethical goal of animal liberation. However, although the ultimate mission of veganism is to eradicate animal exploitation, carnism and speciesism, animals are not the only ones that suffer. Therefore, the vegan movement must adopt an emancipatory perspective that requires expanding the circle of compassion. In addition, vegan organizations’ goals and policies need to be aligned with other social movements that fight oppression, such as the oppression of women and racial minorities.
Second, I propose that economically privileged carnists frequently use the concept of “vegan privilege” to dismiss the vegan ethic and continue to enjoy an animal-based diet without questioning their own values and privilege. In fact, I offer a list of ways that carnists enjoy social privilege due to mindless eating while vegans are stigmatized as others and social deviants once they make the choice to engage in mindful, compassionate eating.
Finally, I claim that since ethical vegans challenge the ideologies of speciesism and carnism, they are more likely to be portrayed as elitist and judgmental compared to health vegans who view veganism as simply a personal, dietary “preference” or “choice.” Dismissing veganism as a privileged movement centers veganism as merely an individual lifestyle choice revolving around ingredients, the consumption of vegan goods, and food boycotts. Thus, the concept of “vegan privilege” works to reject veganism as a structural solution to address the issues that should be of concern to vegans and non-vegans alike: food justice for humans, animals, and the environment.


Jessica Greenebaum, Ph.D.
Professor of Sociology
Co-Director of Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies (WGSS)
Central Connecticut State University

My research and teaching interests are in the fields of Human-Animal interaction, Critical Animal Studies, Sociology of Food, Veganism, and Gender/Feminism. I regularly teach Sociology of Gender, Animals & Society, and the Culture and Politics of Food and I often teach Feminist Theory and The Social Construction of Sexuality. I have been vegan for 19 years and was a vegetarian for 6 years.

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