Today veganism is presented as the panacea
for anything from exploding inequality levels, stagnating starvation rates, to the growing
rate of antibiotic resistance and environmental crisis threatening to destroy our planet.
Go vegan they tell us, and we will solve climate change and end world hunger.
Before I begin critiquing mainstream veganism, I first want to say that
I am a vegan myself and I view veganism as a political stance – meaning I’m against
the commodification of animal lives and bodies, and I fully recognise that veganism tackles some
of the most pressing issues of our time, and I am very aware that reducing animal consumption
is one of the best things we can do to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today at a pivotal
time in our climate crisis. However, what I am criticising in this video
is the idea that is being propagated throughout mainstream veganism and society that veganism
is simply a consumption choice, we can simply consume our way to animal liberation.
That animal liberation can be brought about by creating more demand for vegan products,
and that simply purchasing vegan products is the end goal and can solve the worlds problems. As I’ll argue in this video, centering our
veganism and vegan activism around our individual lifestyle choices does a couple of things. First of all, it promotes the myth of consumer power and voting with your dollar. Secondly, it sells us the
lie that we can solve the environmental crisis purely by going vegan. Thirdly, it promotes the lie that we can solve the hunger crisis purely by going vegan. The fourth point I want to make is that animals will always be commodities under capitalism. Fifth, it perpetuates
an individualistic understanding of the world obscuring the need for revolutionary organizing. And finally, it ignores intersectionality and the importance of having an intersectional approach to animal liberation. So the first 3 points I’m going to focus on in this video, and the final three points I’m going to talk about in the next video I’m going to upload next.
I am taking veganism lifestylsim as an example but the corporatisation of activism and the
expansion of lifestyle politics, where people organise political and social meaning around
their lifestyle choices, is becoming increasingly prevalent every day. We see it in feminist
movements, in LGBTQ+ movements and in environmentalism. My intention with this video, is not in any way to make anyone feel bad if they ever believed these things or currently believe these things. I for a very long time bought into lifestyle veganism, just because the whole movement is dominated by these ideas, so it’s really difficult to get away from it. But my intention with this video is to show that we need an anti-capitalist political stance in our veganism if we are to have any hope of bringing about animal liberation. Part one, the myth of consumer power and voting with
your dollar. In a capitalist system we cannot consume our
way to animal liberation. Even though there has been a huge increase
in vegan products and vegans throughout the world, with a 600 per cent increase in the
number of people identifying as vegan in the US alone. This has done nothing to decrease
the slaughter of animals. Meat consumption has grown more than 5 times between 1992 and
2016. To many of us, this probably doesn’t make
any sense, as vegans we are always taught to use vegan calculators to calculate how many animal
lives we’ve saved, and we are always taught that according to the laws of supply and demand,
if there’s less demand for animal products, the producers would reduce the supply of animals
being slaughtered. However, unfortunately this is quite naïve thinking. If a company has invested billions of dollars in killing a certain number of animals a year,
our choices aren’t going to stop that. They’re still going to figure out a way to profit
from those animals whether we consume them or not.
There are many ways in which companies are able to get around the rules of supply and
demand. Marine from A Privileged Vegan goes into much more detail on this in her video that I’ll link below.
But essentially there are 7 main ways this can be done.
Companies can make up for the lack of money coming in, by spending less money
in producing the good. For example, they can sack workers, outsource labour to developing
nations where prices are lower, neglect worker and factory conditions, cut the cost of production
through concentrated animal feeding operations referred to as megafarms.
Second, they can manufacture demand elsewhere. For example, animal agriculture companies
are increasingly spending money figuring out how to artificially increase the demand for
meat in developing nations through marketing and lobbying. We saw the same thing happen
with cigarette companies. the cigarette industry got heavily taxed, and had restrictions placed
on it in America because Americans pushed back against it. But cigarette companies have
simply gone to other developing nations where there are less restrictions and sold the product
there. Our personal choices won’t disrupt this. The less we consume meat in developed
nations, the more they are outsourcing products to developing nations. Third, they can come up with new trading strategies,
importing and exporting products in new ways in order to reduce costs.
Fourth, animal agriculture industries also lower production costs by forcing slaughterhouse
workers to work in progressively worse conditions. A recently published article shows that amputations
from dangerous conditions lead to an average of 2 amputations a week in US meat plants.
And the majority of slaughterhouse workers in the US and Canada are refugees and undocumented
workers, or come from prison labour who have no choice but to work there.
Sixth, companies get governments to buy up surplus animal agriculture products. For example
in 2018 it was reported that he U.S. Department of Agriculture bought up 11 to 13 million
gallons of milk from dairy farmers, citing surplus due to record-low
consumption. Seventh, these industries are smart. And if they are losing money they will get us to
spend money in other ways in order to fund their recovery. For example, the modern supply
chain is so dense that it’s hard to find a pretty popular vegan brand that isn’t
owned by a larger parent company that is doing harmful things. Vegan products such as Alpro
or Swedish Glace and Daya are owned by multinational corporations who exploit animals on a daily
basis. Alpro is owned by the largest dairy company in the world. Likewise other vegan
companies have sold out to nonvegan manufacturers. To name just a few examples, there’s Silk, So Delicious, LightLife, and most recently Field Roast. This is the problem with the consumer focus of mainstream veganism. It’s clever branding giving us the illusion of choice, when in reality companies don’t
care about what animals they are oppressing, they just want to make a profit. So even if
you’re buying the vegan alternative, you could be funding an animal agriculture business.
So these animal agriculture businesses can use veganism which should be a threat to its
existence and turn it into new opportunities for investment to fund its continued existence.
So in short, instead of veganism causing their to be a reduction in the amount of animals slaughtered, animal agriculture businesses are just coming up with cheaper ways to kill animals, they are coming up with new markets to sell its products to, or they’re just going to sell us new products like the vegan ranges of things, in order to get us to fund the recovery of the animal agriculture businesses. Part two, vegan lifestylism sells us the lie that veganism can solve the environmental crisis without tackling
systemic issues. So consumerist veganism or lifestyle veganism or vegan lifestylism, whatever you want to call it Often presents veganism as the way to solve the environmental crisis, the thing that
can prevent climate change above everything else. It is true that animal agriculture is
one of the most polluting industries on the planet. But it’s a symptom of our system
the disease we must eradicate and address is capitalism.
A really great example of this is the now somewhat famous documentary Cowspiracy. I
think the documentary is great in many ways, but a very key way in which it falls short
is that it places all blame for the environmental crisis on animal agriculture, without linking
animal agriculture to our capitalist system at large.
In an interview the director Kip Anderson explained “The solution is really simple…It
doesn’t take billions of dollars, it doesn’t even take necessarily widespread transformation with the legal system and our politics. It’s basically just switching our diet. Switching our diet to a plant-based lifestyle. It’s by far the most powerful thing we can do”. But, it’s not eating animals inherently that’s
disruptive to the environment. Communities have done this sustainably for millennia,
and some continue to do this sustainably today. The thing that has made animal agriculture
unsustainable is a relatively recent capitalist system of production that turned animals into
sources of profit. This is because capitalism is predicated on
infinitely expanding growth, which simply cannot work on a planet of finite resources.
In order to continue to grow, it must continuously exploit animals, the earth, humans. Anything
goes as long as you make a profit. You want to fill the oceans with plastic, chemicals,
oil, toxin, totally fine as long as you make a profit. Want to displace hundreds of people
from their land and destroy the environment, that’s fine as long as you make a profit. Want to pollute the air, the water and land with toxic greenhouse gas emissions,
sure go ahead, but make a profit. The fact of the matter is, we are heading
towards 6 degrees of warming by 2100, which would mean extinction, and the mass exodus
of animals. We only have less than 60 years of fertile soil left before we can no longer
grow crops to eat. There’s an issue which almost nobody writes about or talks about and yet it’s perhaps more fundamental than any other issue at all, which is soil. Soil is the basis of human civilisation, soil is the basis of human existence. We do not exist without soil. Everything we eat. Everything which contributes to our body mass comes from soil. According to the UN Food and Agriculture organisation we have 60 years of harvest left at current rates of soil loss and degradation. Yet this is a marginal issue. It doesn’t feature in politics, it doesn’t feature in debate. It’s not in the news. No ones talking about
this, yet it is the most fundamental issue of all. Even if we somehow convinced everyone to be a vegan consumer and not eat animals, and
that would be amazing and would have a significant impact on the planet, we would still be living
in a capitalist system based off of the destruction of the planet and veganism alone isn’t going
to stop this from happening. This focus on animals also ignores the carbon
emissions from capitalist agriculture in general. Yes plant agriculture is a lot less destructive
than animal agriculture, but plant agriculture is still incredibly detrimental to our environment.
Our food system is not unsustainable because it includes animals, it’s unsustainable
because of capitalism. Not only this, but by hyper focusing on animal
agriculture as the solution we forget about other environmental issues we must focus on.
What about the decline in pollinating insects, pesticides, palm oil, and supporting indigenous
communities fighting against fracking. Part three, vegan lifestylism sells us the lie that veganism can solve world hunger without tackling systemic issues A similar argument to everything I just said about the environmental crisis can also be said about vegan lifestylism and world hunger.
For years vegan activists have been telling us that if everyone went vegan and we stopped
feeding grains to farmed animals instead of to humans, world hunger would virtually disappear.
There’s even been research conducted to back this statement up. Research at the
University of Minnesota’s Institute on the Environment found that if the crops currently
used to feed animals in animal agriculture were instead redirected to feed humans – it
would be enough to feed an additional 4 billion people.
But this is based on the logic that the reason we have 870 million people suffering each
day from hunger – in the world today is because of a lack of food. Yet millions of people
are hungry despite surplus food. In reality we have 2 to 3 times the amount of food needed
to feed the number of people in the world. This is because in a capitalist society food
is not produced to feed people, it is a commodity bought and sold by mass corporations, intended
to make a profit. If the world stopped eating animals and a profit on the grain fed to animals
could no longer be made, the grain fed to the animals would simply stop being produced
or the product would simply be destroyed. If the problem of hunger were a problem of not enough grain, we’d have solved the hunger years ago since we have 2 to 3 times the amount of food needed
to feed the number of people in the world. Aside from all of this, even if we were all
to go vegan and were to redistribute all the left over grain and it were to feed all the
hungry people in the world. How do we expect to continue to feed all the people in the
world whilst our capitalist system is exhausting the resources that remain in the world. And
in less than 60 years we will have no fertile soil left.
So no matter what way you look at it, food is political. The way it’s produced, controlled,
distributed and consumed has everything to do with systemic of power. Consumerist, lifestyle veganism fails to recognise this. Whilst I do think veganism is an important
element of addressing world hunger as cycling crops through animals is extremely inefficient,
and whilst I do think that veganism is an important element of addressing our climate
crisis, as animal agriculture is the biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. We
are kidding ourselves if we think we can transform the food system and prevent climate change
in isolation from the larger economic system. The point of this video is not in any way to tell people it’s pointless to be vegan. If you are able to do it I would highly encourage
it. However, if we want to bring about animal liberation, simply getting more people to buy vegan products and consume less animal products is not going to work toreduce the slaughter of animals, if anything focusing so heavily on trying to get people to go vegan probably helps the continuation of animal slaughter because we are all kept distracted thinking our individual choices and it prevents us from tackling systemic issues. No matter how much
we attempt to boycott animal products, animal agriculture businesses will simply use all the strategies
I mentioned to continue business as usual. Under a capitalist system of production, we
will never achieve animal liberation. Similarly, as I have argued we cannot solve world hunger and we cannot solve climate change without tackling our capitalist system. And that’s why I cannot overstate how important I think it is that we as vegans being to view veganism as a political stance
and take steps to challenge our exploitative capitalist system, rather than just trying
to consume better. In the next video I’m uploading, I’ll
make further points as to why we need to have an anti-capitalist stance through three more
points. First, that animals wall always be commodities under capitalism. 2, that vegan
lifestylism perpetuates an individualistic understanding of the world that obscures the
necessity for revolutionary organising. 3, that vegan lifestylism ignores intersectionality. Thanks so much for watching and i’ve just started a patreon page since my videos take a lot of time to make, and aren’t monetised in any way. So any form of support would be very much appreciated. But thank you so much for watching and please share and subscribe if you want to.