So, first of all, I’d like to start defining the two conflicting words: Vegan and Privilege.
Vegan (as noun) refers to a person who refuses to use animals in all ways possible due moral reasons. Vegans show respect (not to confuse with love) towards other animals, and recognize them as individuals, because they have the capacity to feel pain, pleasure, etc, and to have emotions, memories, make relationships, be intelligent, etc. The fact that they can both feel physically and mentally (so to say) makes the fundamental reason why animals (non human and human animals) deserve respect and to be treated as individuals with interests which are to be considered. The opposite to veganism and animal rights defenders, is speciecism, defined as the arbitrary discrimination towards other species, considering them objects, different or less worthy than human animals. This has, too, to do with the inherent human privilege - but this has to do with our second word!
Privilege, how can we define you? This is harder to me, because I’m not really familiar with this term. Privilege has to do with hierarchies, who is over who. The one who is on top, is the privileged one, s/he holds power, which is regularly institutionalized via law, religion, culture, etc. A privilege has, too, to do with history, and how things have been (which should, in no way be the way things go on!). On the other side, a non privileged person will find institutions to be working hard to keep him/her on the place he/she was given by said hierarchy, and thus find institutional and social trammels when performing certain activities. For example, a woman will earn, on average, less than a man. Therefore, a woman is discouraged to work, since her work won’t be equally rewarded as the one of a man. (Sorry for cis genders, wanted to keep it easy to understand). But, privilege is not a particular person’s fault. It’s something we are given by society and that we can use to destroy it. We must acknowledge it and find the way to break it, so everyone is considered equal, with equal rights and opportunities. It’s not something we should feel ashamed of, just be aware of. Furthermore, a particular person may have several privileges, but, too, be oppressed in many ways.
I hope that my definitions are somehow reliable and similar to reality.
I have red several people talking about vegan privilege. So, firstly I had a hard time understanding that, because it’s like “socially power given people standing for objectified individuals”. By reading the “vegan privilege” comments, I understood what they meant: having the privilege to choose what you eat.
To this, I have to say that if somebody wants to be vegan, and doesn’t have the means to, they can anyway try their best. Cut down their meat, dairy and eggs consumptions, not buying animals’ skins (which is actually more expensive), not attending to circuses, rodeos, zoos, aquariums or other shows which use animals (also, cash saving) and preferring not animal tested products. Doing your best is all we can do. You can, too, pressure so plant based food is cheaper and accessible in your country.
Now, on another side, this is not every country’s reality. In my country it’s actually cheaper to be vegan, unless you plan to live on faux meat. Chile doesn’t subsidize meat, the industry is little. Milk does is subsidized, and that’s the reason, I think, why it’s $100 cheaper than Soy milk (which is, by the way, about 20 cents cheaper). So you can’t jump and say: “Not everyone can pay to be vegan!!!” Truth is, most people can’t pay to be omni. And most don’t even have the choice to think about buying meat, dairy or eggs. Lets say, China, for example. Poor countries do not have the money to have cows, so people eat soy, corn, etc. Or do not eat at all. So, actually, the privileged ones are the ones who live in a country where food is so abundant, that people can feed cattle and then eat them.
Another thing that I want to point out, is that the fact that some people may not be able to go vegan because they lack food access, money or etc, is not an excuse for people who do have the possibility to not go vegan. That just shows how little respect they have towards non human animals. It should, actually, enforce our ideas of equality regardless of gender, race, sex, sexual orientation, religion (or lack of), money, and species, and make our best so this people can, too, go vegan.
There may, of course, be some privileged vegans. Like everywhere. There are, too, privileged women, privileged sexual minorities, privileged POC (People Of Color). This doesn’t mean that ALL vegans are privileged, nor are all women, sexual minorities or POC. Actually, as far as I’ve experienced veganism, and the experiences of other people I know have dealt with it, vegans are not privileged. As a powerless minority, we get the machine run over us quite often. We get socially and institutionally oppressed. People make fun of us. Our family and friends make fun of us. Media tells people we’re “crazy tree huggers”, who lack vitamins and proteins. There are numberless prejudices against vegans, vegan jokes, etc. Have you tried vegan on a school cafeteria? Institutional discouragement for people to go vegan. How many “food experts” have you heard talking about the nonsense of children, adolescents and adults “needing milk”? We do not hold any power, and actually, by choosing the side of the oppressed, we get to be oppressed ourselves.
To sum up, vegans are not inherently privileged, and are actually socially and institutionally oppressed. The reasons why some people may be factually unable to go vegan are no excuse for people who can, to go vegan, and should encourage us to make veganism affordable and accessible for everyone. Food reality changes from country to country, so saying: “Not everyone can be veg on my country, so it must be a worldwide trend” is a fallacy. Poorer countries are most likely to rely on plant based food rather than animal based ones. If I can’t be a “100% vegan”, that doesn’t mean that I can’t do my best and try my hardest, and try to advocate so one day I can go vegan.
This are my thoughts on vegan privilege.
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