Is Veganuary as ethical as we think?

So, the new year is well and truly in swing and, like many of you, I have my new resolutions in hand with an injection of motivation to set it in motion. January is a good time to kick start your health, and movements such as Dry January and Veganuary are ways to fuel that fire.

In 2019 over 240,000 people signed up to Veganuary, with the number expecting to rise (Meyer, 2021). There is no denying that the vegan diet has many benefits. A 2019 study linked a plant-based diet with a reduced risk of heart disease (Marengo,2020). Other studies shockingly claim that if everyone went vegan, emissions contributing to climate change could drop by 70% (Future kind, 2020) and of course the ethical reasons too.

But is there a side to Veganism we are not considering? Just because something is vegan, it is not necessarily ethical.

Take the avocado for example, due to its popularity because of the vegan movement it has now been labelled ‘green gold’. Wexler (2021) wrote that in Mexico, rival drug cartels are exploiting farmers for a slice of this multibillion-dollar trade. Farmers in South Africa (the sixth largest avocado exporter) are resorting to security measures borrowed from gold mines to protect their crops from thieves. This reality shows that with high demand, money exploitation and social issues may occur:

“Indigenous farmers around the world are being exploited for foods that are now being appropriated by white vegans—foods they once produced and personally consumed in moderation.” (Gordan, 2021)

Is the vegan movement ignorant to the wider social impacts? Vegan centred animal rights organisations like PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) in past marketing campaigns compared the mistreatment of animals with slavery and the holocaust. This poses a problem - that the history of suffering from these marginalised groups of people are being disregarded to make a point.

From the beginning, The Vegan Society posited a white, Eurocentric view of what veganism should be. There was hardly any mention about black and indigenous cultures that have been practicing veganism and conscientious consumption for years (Betty, 2021). And they are still not being represented now. A study in 2005 found that out of the 32 animal welfare organisations featured in the study, 13 organizations were found not to have a single black employee (Brown, 2005).

I am not bashing veganism; I think it is something we can do on an individual level to make a difference. The takeaway message is to be mindful. We need to be considering who is being impacted by our choices. We need to try our best to ensure we are not creating an environment that allows people to be discriminated and exploited. We could approach this by shopping local and eating seasonal foods and buying Fairtrade where we can.  

Sian Horton (A student blogger for The Green Team)

References 

·         Mandy Meyer (12/01/2021) “This is how many vegans are in the world right now (2021 update) The Vou ONLINE://https://thevou.com/lifestyle/2019-the-world-of-vegan-but-how-many-vegans-are-in-the-world/

·         Katherine Marengo (27/03/2020) , “What to know about vegan dietsts” Medical news today. ONLINE://https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/149636

·         Future kind writer (29/05/2020) “17 environmental benefits of veganism (as proven by science). ONLINE://https://www.futurekind.com/blogs/vegan/17-environmental-benefits-of-veganism

·         Alexandra Wexler, “Thieves find money that grows on trees: ‘Avocados are the green gold’, The wall street Journal. ONLINE:// https://www.wsj.com/articles/thieves-find-money-that-grows-on-trees-avocados-are-the-green-gold-11623946316

·         Lisa Betty, (20/02/2021) “Veganism is in crisis”. Blog. ONLINE:// https://lbetty1.medium.com/veganism-is-in-crisis-36f78fa9a4b9

·         Elie Gordan , (14/01/2021) “Reminder: The roots of veganism aren’t white”, Atmos ONLINE://https://atmos.earth/veganism-history-instagram-culture/

·         Brown, S. E. (2005). The under-representation of African American employees in animal welfare organizations in the United States. Society & Animals13(2), 153-16