Is veganism a first world luxury?

Blogger Maya Tilley, whose article I don’t want to link to in order not to give it any more exposure (it got 6000+ shares), states that “veganism is a first world luxury“. She came to this opinion after witnessing how a vegan friend apparently made a scene about a chia pudding not being vegan because it had sugar in it.

Now, as may be clear from other posts on my blog, I’m not pro purity, and if her tirade against vegans can help some of us to be a bit less purist, she might be providing the vegan movement a service. She also writes, rightly in my eyes: “Repeat after me: as soon as you use a Holocaust analogy, you lose the argument.”

The point she tries to make is that in a chronically undernourished world, if you can choose what to put on their plate means that “you have food and class privilege that others simply have not.”

This is, of course, stating the obvious. What is less obvious is the conclusion she draws from this fact: “it’s a bit of a douche move to assert that it’s unethical for humans to consume animal products”. No idea how this follows, but logical or not, it is a popular argument amongst onmivores, many of whom are constantly on the lookout for reasons to keep eating meat.

I would argue that it is exactly because we can afford this luxury of eating vegan, that we should. It is exactly because we can choose what to put on our plate, that we should put the best food (ethically, sustainably, I mean) on our plate. All other conclusions seem weird to me.

The author almost finishes ok when she writes:

“Stop the guilting. Stop the piousness. Get some perspective. Become a little more conscious of the privilege you’re exerting by taking veganism on as “your cause”.

But then she spoils it by adding:

And remember that many of us meat-eaters have made the conscious decision to put our time and money to causes that help ensure humans have access to food. Because in our eyes, that’s more important than worrying about whether the sugar in your $23 dessert exploits animals in some roundabout way.

Puh-leaze ma’am! First of all, why focus on vegans who at least worry about something, while many omnivores have dishes that are a lot more expensive than this (though I have yet to come across the first $23 dessert) without worrying about anything?

Secondly, our reservoir of compassion is not limited. Minding one thing doesn’t mean you can’t mind something else. Veganism is not a full time job.

Thirdly and obvioulsy, bringing down meat consumption is one of the best things we can do to alleviate the hunger problem.

And fourthly, I wouldn’t be surprised if there was a really big correlation between veganism and minding other social issues of all kinds.

Let’s take some lessons from this, and discard the rest.

11 thoughts on “Is veganism a first world luxury?

  1. Exactly. I really liked this comment on the original article:

    “of course it’s a first world luxury! Just like donating to charity, enjoying and supporting the arts, being choosy with the businesses you deal with/purchase from to choose free trade options, and a million other things.

    It is our responsibility, one that comes with our privilege, to examine what we consume and the ethics behind it. we are lucky enough to have choice, so we should excercise it with the moral and ethical result in mind.”

  2. Hi Tobias,

    You agreed with her statement “Repeat after me: as soon as you use a Holocaust analogy, you lose the argument.” . I would love clarity on why you agree with this statement.


    1. brooke, a simple answer could be: becasue she says so. one can judge the value of an argument on its logical/intellectual merits, but this doesn’t mean much if, like most people, your listeners aren’t entirely rational (assuming the argument is rational here). So a better way to judge an argument is on the basis of how it “arrives” with the people you are addressing. one can have the most brilliant argument, but if people are not listening, it’s not worth much (in terms of impact).
      I think the holocaust argument most of the time is a turn off for people.

  3. Hi Tobias,

    I agree, how an argument lands with the person you are talking to is so very important.

    Hope that you will consider this in regards to my comments and email (with the video link) to your post on comparing animal rights to other social justice movements, namely slavery and racism.

    Still looking forward to your reply to my email.

  4. I’m newly vegan, but have always had a heavily plant based diet. I want to eat more responsibly by eating seasonal and local produce. I stopped eating meat /meat products for ethical reasons and definitely feel better physically and spiritually. However, I am concerned about the human lives that are mistreated and taken for granted so that we can consume our plants, vegetables,and fruit,etc. The people who harvest our bountiful and colorful produce- what about how they are treated? I’m trying to reconcile my decision for ethical reasons by including ALL animals, to include humans. I don’t know how to go about this reconciliation.
    Hope this makes sense.

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