We often come across the perception that veganism is a privilege. Even within the most progressive and left-wing circles, this movement is frequently criticized, and branded as alienated from the needs and resources of the lower classes. While people who adopt veganism may have privileges on an individual level, and their own political orientations can be very disparate, the movement does not inherently carry privilege, and this article will explain why. For this, it is necessary to make an initial clarification.
It should be noted that veganism is not just a diet, but a philosophy that encompasses many other areas. This is important, since many of the criticisms of the movement are fundamentally based on its food part, which, despite being the most notorious and visible, is not the only one we should focus on in order to determine if veganism really carries privileges. But let’s start with this one.
A few months ago, the feminist and anti-colonial magazine Aphrophemines published an article with the title From privilege to table, where it was stated that “being vegan is having the privilege of being able to choose what you put on your plate”. While it is true that the people who can choose to a greater or lesser extent what to eat have a privilege over those who cannot, this is independent of the diet we follow. That is, the privilege would exist whether we chose to be omnivorous or vegan, so this does not underlie veganism.
The association between veganism and privilege or high social status is truly recent. It has not been until the last decade that products free of elements from animals have become a new market. This is due to a clear boom in demand; however, this is still insufficient for prices to rise to the same level as other products. That is precisely why many of us could associate the diet itself with something more expensive, but it would be a huge mistake.
And it is that many of the most basic products that have always been consumed to maintain a balanced diet are in themselves vegan, despite lacking any marketing symbol plant-based. We are talking about vegetables, fruits, flours or legumes. But, only with this is it really possible to be healthy? Where are the proteins?
To the surprise of some, it is not necessary to go beyond the products that we have traditionally used in the past, but simply to adjust their doses. Andrea Calderón, professor in the Nutrition Degree and Nursing Degree of the European University, explains that “a well-balanced and healthy vegan diet can cover 100% of the requirements of any person at any stage of life and condition , without the need to resort to processed products, nor to the so-called ‘superfoods’ “. In addition, he assures that “legumes and their derivatives, along with other foods such as nuts or seeds, such as chia or flax, perfectly cover the protein requirements in a vegan diet.”
Taking into account that to be vegan we do not need to consume those types of foods that weigh so much in our pockets, we can see that this option is moving further away from the idea of privilege. What’s more, diets devoid of animal products have always been considered more humble, and still are today. According to data from Statista, the average price per kilo of meat and of fish It would be around 10 euros, while that of legumes is between 1 and 2 euros for the same amount.
So, no, within the field of food, veganism would not entail a greater economic cost, but quite the opposite. In fact, if we also look at the resource and environmental cost of diet, we see similar patterns.
We asked nutrition expert Andrea Calderón again, who states that “well-planned vegan diets are more sustainable than omnivorous diets, since they have a much lower environmental impact and consumption of resources than animal foods. For example, around 10 times more water, fuel, land and feed, pesticides and fertilizers are required for 1 kilo of protein from beef than from legumes “.
This is a fact unanimously supported by the scientific community in various studies. Because, although it is true that certain vegan diets may contain foods that, due to their integration or origin, are not exactly sustainable, in general terms their impact is still less. The ecological cost of our diet is essential in this analysis because a worse environmental situation will greatly harm the poorest classes. Therefore, veganism cannot be a privilege, but a position on the path to environmental and social justice.
Starting from the idea that animals should not be part of our production and consumption system, but rather be free, veganism is also obviously opposed to the use of animals for aesthetic and textile purposes. When talking about veganism as a privilege, this facet is often forgotten, since it is easily visible that the statement could not be further from the truth.
Animal skin has been in recent centuries a symbol of prestige and privilege, and it still is today. However, this does not represent the privilege only due to its high economic cost, but, as in the field of food, it also does so through its enormous environmental cost.
The fact is that the process by which the fur industry obtains its products uses many different chemicals to ensure the preservation of the hides, which, added to the tons of phosphorus released by animals when skinned, leads to the pollution of our air and our waters. In fact, this is one of the five industries that the World Bank considers that produce more toxic pollution, leaving rivers and lakes uninhabitable for various species and completely extracted from all potability.
Therefore, veganism, when it comes to fashion, is not a privilege either. In fact, most of the lower class people have a 100% vegan wardrobe.
Regarding the rest of the aspects that veganism covers, such as leisure, cultural festivals or cosmetics and hygiene, the answer is practically the same. It is true that in the latter, cosmetics and hygiene, it is still difficult to find more accessible products that are free from animal experimentation, but it is also true that more and more items are being marketed cruelty-free at low prices and in all kinds of supermarkets.
That said, the intention of a person who decides to adopt veganism will be to lead a lifestyle that is as conscious as possible with animals and also with the earth’s natural resources, instead of assuming the human privilege of carelessness and indifference. before the consequences of their actions. However, it is important that, although it has been shown that veganism is fully accessible for any type of socioeconomic profile, we do not fall into thinking that it should be carried out perfectly. We do not know the material and social conditions of all people, and it is possible that for some reason it is not possible for them to choose which products to consume.
Being able to choose is a privilege, regardless of what you choose to consume. What is not a privilege is trying to deconstruct the habits and customs that have been imposed on you since your childhood, facing being misunderstood and even getting ridiculed by your family, friends or coworkers. Because that is the difficult thing about veganism, not the fact of finding cheap products, but of facing constant criticism and questioning by society.
So, no, veganism is not a privilege, but rather a disadvantage on a social level. But a disadvantage that is worth assuming for the welfare of animals and for the planet. Humans have grown up with the idea that our superiority Genetics with respect to other living beings legitimizes us to ignore what we do with them. It is this idea of superiority that is the root from which all existing privileges and inequalities emerge. Why not cut it?