As far as the health and wellness scene is concerned, vegan is the new black.
We bloggers are flooding the internet with meat-free, dairy-free, egg-free, “cruelty-free” recipes in an attempt to show that animal products aren’t really needed to make delicious and healthy meals. And, thanks to social media, the “vegan” image has started to change from ‘weird lentil-eating sandal-wearer’ to ‘trendy health and wellness influencer’.
And this is a good thing. Eating more plants is a good thing! For our health, the environment and animal welfare.
And while it’s true that many health and wellness influencers are not qualified to give dietary advice, I don’t think you need a PhD to know that eating more vegetables is good for you.
Now for the breaking news: although all of my recipes are suitable for vegans, I am actually not vegan. I don’t eat animal products very often, but I am not vegan. It’s not because I think veganism is “extreme” or because I can’t give up certain foods; it’s based on the understanding that veganism goes beyond dietary preference and is actually a whole belief system.
And I have my own set of beliefs.
Let’s be clear: animal suffering is wrong. There’s no getting away from that. But many vegans claim that what they eat is “cruelty-free”…
…and it’s not.
At this stage, I’d like to point out that this is not a dig at vegans; I admire vegans very much. All I’m saying is that there is more to being “cruelty-free” than just the absence of animal products…
…because the food we eat is often the product of human suffering.
For example, there are at least 13,000 modern slaves in Britain today (though some people believe that this is only a fraction of the true amount). These people are working in our factories and in our farms; factories and farms that produce OUR food. Despite all supermarkets claiming to source food responsibly, food that has been produced through forced labour is still ending up on our shelves.
And that’s just Britain. Zoom out to countries that provide some of our imported foods and the problem intensifies. For example, in India, workers in the cashew industry are subject to caustic burns and in Vietnam, cashew nuts are sometimes shelled by drug addicts in forced labour camps, who are subject to beatings and worse.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The sad fact is that everything we consume has consequences, whether you are vegan or not, because we live in an exploitative society.
And I believe that it’s this exploitative society that we live in that makes eating animal products ‘wrong’; because animals are treated as commodities.
The act of eating an egg is not, in itself, wrong. What’s wrong is viewing the chicken as an egg-making-machine, raising it for the sole purpose of producing eggs for human consumption and causing harm in the process. That is wrong.
In the same way, the act of eating a cashew nut is not, in itself, wrong. What’s wrong is that people are being viewed as cashew-shelling-machines and are therefore being harmed in the process. That is wrong.
Summary: it’s the way that our food is produced that is wrong, not the food itself.
And the reason it is produced in this way is because we want loads of it and we want it to be cheap.
So, what do we do about it? Well, I guess we all need to stop consuming SO MUCH.
I know that is simplified beyond belief, but that is the general idea isn’t it.
We need to stop consuming SO MUCH. Or if we are going to continue to consume so much, we need to be prepared to pay a little bit more for the privilege.
We also need to continue to educate ourselves about where our food comes from and how it came to be on our plate.
No-one can be ethically perfect (I know I’m not), but we owe it to ourselves and to others to at least be ‘conscious consumers’ and to not go about our daily lives with our eyes shut.
If you’d like to read more about this kind of thing, here’s some useful links below:
Ecorazzi – Stop Calling Vegan Food Cruelty-Free