Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Elitist Veganism

     I was recently in a flame war on my Facebook page with a young man over veganism. It started when I shared the above meme poking fun at righteous vegans. A verbose vegan netizen (and another fellow with bad English) wrote insulting accusations belittling my passive share of the meme and zoned me in on the hypocrisy of people like himself who won’t lift a finger to defend workers rights but religiously support the finer lifestyle of those who don’t eat meat and dairy. My environmental biologist daughter commented with personal observation of friends who grow their own vegetables and fruit. She knows I have been a Wobbly for many years and have many fellow worker comrades who are vegetarian, but at least they support farm workers, dumpster divers who rescue discarded food, or grow their own. I can’t  print what my internet friend said without his permission, which he probably wouldn't give me, but from my side of the dialogue, you can see how it went down. He would not admit he didn’t give a shit about workers' rights as he danced around with the elitist attitude so many vegans have, if not material elitists per se, then spiritual elitists just the same: 

There is probably some truth in this. Unless the veges are home grown, the industry is just as bad, or worse than the meat industry. My only problem with vegetarianism is the low wages paid to farm workers. It seems more energy should be spent helping the farm workers (and child laborers since farm work for minors is legal in the US) have unions and get a living wage than living off their low wages. Meanwhile organic foods are more expense than the common person can afford; it is generally an elitist food

What about the oppressive child slave labor? That's okay with you?

What does being a vegan do for working-class people? Shouldn't we be fighting against exploitation of all living things, not just farm animals? FIGHT MONSANTO, FIGHT THE BEEF INDUSTRY, but don't encourage elitist edibles. Growing your own is your only way out of this argument

In looking at some of the 150 replies to this photo, almost none take into account the toll of human suffrage caused by being underpaid and overworked in the agribusiness. I see nothing against growing your own from this meme, only a poke at vegans whoreligiously believe eating meat and meat products are worse for humanity; it is simply not true as exploitation permeates both industries. Every market with an organic food section (including farmers' market in upscale neighborhoods) have food unaffordable to common workers. Maybe if we were more concerned with these workers salaries they could afford to live the healthier lifestyle you defend

Now that you got that off your chest, step back and take a breath. By calling me ignorant implies that you know better, which you do not. Go ahead and defend your lifestyle, criticize others who don't share your lifestyle, and then go get a job cutting yucca in ninety degree with the other eight year old kids who can't go to school. It is true that the entire business world has corrupted what for hundreds of generations has been realized, by most cultures in the world, that a healthy diet includes meat. You will not live any longer, healthier, or have more peace of mind than anyone else for your vegan or vegetarian diet; you only think you will and that is what elitism is. You are not any more special than the millions of workers who struggle to feed their families instead of filling your own mind and stomach with this vegan crap, why not lift a hand to help the underprivileged have better and healthier lives. Many of my fellow workers in the IWW are vegetarians, dumpster divers, Food Not Bombs volunteers, but at least they feed the homeless on the Lower Eastside and protesters out at demonstrations or marches. If you were doing that, I would respect you as I respect them

"Your understanding of Veganism is shallow,and you also fail to grasp what the actual purpose of the post is," he said. 

"This post is from a Facebook page that pokes at a variety of viewpoints," I replied, "and is not as sinister as you may think."

His link for argument's sake:

My response link for argument's sake: 

Again, it boils down to (no pun intended) are the farm workers able to feed themselves and their families with the salary and work safety that they are given? Micro-farming for one's commune or group of patrons is fair and equal. Otherwise, I will stand to my last breath supporting workers rights over animal rights. I will not rest until every food consumer can eat what they wish and be healthy, wealthy, and wise.

 "BTW," I said in response to his saying he didn't give a shit about my link, "you do give a s**t; vegetables are better for roughage."


  1. I cannot get into every point. But the first is that, because meat production requires land for growing food to feed animals, it is not true that being a vegetarian had less of an impact than being a omnivore. (Unless you are raising your own animals on grass fields or something.) Same with farm workers. Yeah, vegetarians are complicit in exploiting farm laborers, but so are meat eaters (and for the same reason, probably more so). We can compare conditions in meat packing plants and plant-based food plants, but that will not get us anywhere. We are anti-capitalist, but no one is saying our dietary choices help with that struggle. No matter what you eat (or how you get your electricity or Internet service) you are consuming products made by capitalists through the exploitation of labor.

    It is lifestylism pure and simple. Politically insignificant. Any radical who says otherwise is just being silly.

    I heard that about cost. I do not see it and I do not eat meat, but I know there are plenty of food deserts where that may be true. Being in Taiwan makes it a bit easier maybe. And as you know, most poor people in the world cannot eat meat because of its price. Historically, peasants rarely had access to meat, except a few times a years. (First world problem...our meat is too cheap and does not fully reflect the cost to the environment.) More troubling is the classism that may be involved in a vegan lifestyle. Being from Wisconsin, I understand the importance of the backyard BBQ or tailgate party in working class communities. I often let my vegetarianism slip in those circumstances, because I value community and do not want to put extra pressure on people (especially those who host me).

    All things being equal, I would still err toward veganism or vegetarianism for animal rights issues. It comes down to reducing suffering when I can. I also find the environmental argument compelling. A sustainable communist society will probably need to consume less meat. But we are not at the point where the choices of a handful of vegans/vegetarians will have much impact.

    You are right that the struggle has to take place in destroying capitalism and (more immediately) organizing the workers most negatively effected in all aspects of food production, distribution, and preparation. I am sad to see a simple moral choice cause such conflict among comrades. I hope we agree that meat production as it is currently organized is unsustainable and cruel (to both humans and animals). I say that knowing it is also true of plant based diets under capitalism.

    Now I am depressed that perhaps capitalism has made Malthus right.

  2. Your comment is appreciated. You bring up points that warrant pondering. Solidarity