Vegan Is The New Black (But It’s Not Cruelty-Free)

Vegan Is The New Black (But It’s Not Cruelty-Free)

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. 

Vegan Is The New Black But It's Not Cruelty Free

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

The Ecologist – Salad days? Semi-slavery on the ‘sweating fields’ of Southern Spain

Channel 4 – What’s the Real Cost of Your Fresh Salad?

RT – Price Wars & Poor Ethics: UK Supermarkets Sourcing Salad, Veg from Modern Day Slaves

The Food Empowerment Project

The Guardian – “Blood Cashews”: The Toxic Truth About Your Favourite Nut

33 thoughts on “Vegan Is The New Black (But It’s Not Cruelty-Free)”

  • Wow I didn't know so much of this! It's surprising how ignorant you can be to what you eat. I'm a vegetarian because I don't like the taste of meat and I'm also lactose intolerant x

  • YES. Thank you for writing this article.
    (PS. If you consider yourself vegan, please don't be offended by what will follow. I am not criticizing vegans in particular but rather something we ALL as humans are guilty of: choosing simplicity over the often more complex truth.)
    I also find it is easy for someone to pick a box (such as here veganism) and allowing themselves to close their eyes on what typically goes outside of the said box, probably by habit and convenience. I have heard a vegan, who just promoted their lifestyle as being eco-friendly, advise taking a long drive for relaxing themselves (when there are many alternatives, such as riding your bike for example). Others do the same as they show all the exotic fruit they eat. What we should understand is that our acts are global. It is too easy to choose to label one part of the problem and forget about the rest. Our environnmental and ethical impacts come from all areas of our lives. Very often people forget that every single action of their day has an impact. Here I am talking about climate change which does certainly impact on animal (including human) lives. And as you said, human labor is another issue. Choosing to take the elevator, driving when there would be other options, buying non-local or packaged products, buying things such as clothes, shoes and electronics made in countries where the production cost can drop at the price of other human lives. And, as you said, buying in excess. All of this impacts not only on other people, but on all ecosystems on the planet. Climate change impacts on every being living on the planet.
    Being ethical is indeed something that involves all areas of our lives. That said, choosing not to consume animal products is probably a good start, but may also not be enough.
    Then again, as humans we are not perfect, but I suppose what we should aim for is to be more in line with our thoughts by our actions, this involving all areas of our lives. And for this we need to open our eyes from a new perspective and ask questions.

    Thank you Lorna for your beautiful blog and meaningful messages. Do you have an email or postal adress I could write to ? I would like to be a bit more personal but don't own any social accounts. Otherwise just accept virtual hugs I'm sending. <3

  • A very thoughtful post! Someone asked me recently whether some products that I used were vegan. I stated that they were plant-based and suitable for vegans (they also happen to be fair trade and organic… and the company that makes them supports many charitable initiatives, both environmental & humanitarian). And I also said that my husband uses them too and he describes himself as an ethical vegan. But that he admits his definition of that is a personal one. When he describes himself as an ethical vegan, he means that he became vegan based on certain personal principles, rather than health (or other) reasons. But he does not mean to imply that he is ethically superior to other people… or even that his lifestyle is perfect/perfectly ethical. I couldn't agree more that over consumption in general is a HUGE issue… and the combination of demanding instant gratification and lack of respect for produce/products (leading to a throw-away consumer culture) is positively dangerous.

  • This is very true, I'm vegan myself and simply refer to my diet as vegan or plant-based, I still believe veganism is a huuge way to lessen animal cruelty but I agree, it doesn't solve everything or completely stick to the label 'cruelty free'.

  • Can I say that I LOVE YOU right now?! I find it ridicolus that people who are vegan or vegeratian never look outside their box and are like "yeah I eat only plants, I'm a good person". I don't mean to offend anyone, but I also think that people who take up on vegan/vegetarian diet/lifestyle should at least do their homework and research about how their lifestlye actually effects everything.

  • Absolutely Marisa.
    Veganism is defined as "a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals."
    And that is admirable, so the above is in no way a dig at people that define themselves as ethical vegans like "look, you're not as ethical as you think you are!" — it's just a reminder that being cruelty free goes beyond animal suffering.

  • Hi 'Anonymous'! I hope you ticked the box to notify you of my reply when you left this comment, because I don't know how to get in touch with you otherwise!
    Thank you so much for taking the time to write this response to my post, it was really interesting to hear your thoughts. I agree, our actions have global consequences. We need to remember that we are part of an eco-system & that we can't survive outside of it.
    Of course you are always more than welcome to email me at 🙂

  • Thank you Linda. There are a lot of things to consider re: the food that we eat. Animal welfare, forced labour and the impact of our food production on the planet as a whole…

  • Of course you can say that Annie, I accept your declaration of love! Haha.
    I interact with a lot of vegans on social media. Some really have "done their homework" and the human cost and environmental factors involved in food production would come as no surprise to them. For them, being vegan is usually just a small part of trying to live an ethical, low impact lifestyle as a whole.
    However, there are SOME that view themselves as ethically superior due to absence of animal products alone & I do find that quite irritating, given the complexities of ethical living in modern society.

  • Thank you so much for your comment Vanisha. I completely agree with you, veganism has a really positive impact on animal welfare, our health and the environment. However, it's not the be-all-and-end-all & I think the human cost of food production is often something that is overlooked when we consider the ethics of what we eat.

  • Absolutely, Alice. There is growing awareness of the impact of our food production on animal welfare (though we still have a long way to go!). The human cost, however, I feel is often overlooked when we consider the ethics of what we eat.

  • I definitely agree, our society is so exploitative. We live in a society that benefits capitalism and this means underpaid workers often produce/pick/package/distribute things we consume every day. It's a horrible world but there's not getting away from it. At least veganism is a step in the correct direction! x

    |Georgia Megan|

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