White Veganism


Maddie Porter, Ads Manager

Veganism is overwhelmingly trendy in this day and age, advertising the nutritional and environmental benefits of plant-based eating as the end-all-be-all of fighting climate change. When done correctly it is healthy and considerably more sustainable than omnivorous diets- A study from Oxford University provides evidence that cutting dairy and meat out of your diet can reduce your carbon footprint by up to 73%; however, the culture and rhetoric surrounding white veganism is inherently colonialist. 

The global south wields a large portion of global agricultural operations, catering to the fads and desires of the global north. The popularization of veganism led to an increased demand for crops such as lentils, soybeans, and cashews, which are major industries of South America and Southeast Asia. The surge in demand created an uptick in production, consequently cheapening the system of production through overworking indigenous laborers, child labor, and degrading the integrity of the land. 

Over many centuries South American countries have developed meat-based diets with some traditional dishes dating before colonization to the first inhabitants of the area. These dishes are often nutritionally vibrant, utilizing native food sources, and act as the centerpiece of social life. They are key to cultural identity. White veganism unintentionally invalidates this cultural aspect by condemning animal agriculture, and the use of the product in long-standing tradition. Despite the chastising, it is common for plant-based recipes to be derived from flavors and dishes of these countries, fabricating misnomers for the cuisine. For instance recipes like Asian stir fry and African peanut stew, rely on stereotypes and white perceptions of culture. Diversity of cuisine is a reflection of the diversity of people and cultures, and whitewashing it is 21st-century colonization.

Beyond cultural disregard, corporations in the global north are the main perpetrator of pollution, acidification, and deforestation. According to the World Wildlife Fund cattle ranches owned by North American corporations have accounted for 17% of Amazon rainforest loss in the past 50 years. The industrial farming that is causing this in itself is a colonial master plan. Modern industrial farming did not appear until the 1960s, developing in the US, which in turn began increasing the size of farms but decreasing the number of them. The desire for capital overshadowed ethics in agriculture, and industrialization has shifted geographically with diet trends. 

Arab writer Juliana Yazbeck puts it perfectly, “For a colonizer to occupy a land, murder its people, replace them with more colonizers, impose colonial laws, and create an irreversible eco-crisis, then to turn around and point a finger at indigenous ways of hunting, gathering, eating, and living is no more than a 21st-century manifestation of white people’s colonial mindsets.”

I am not anti-vegan, I even lead a primarily plant-based lifestyle, but under the overbearing desire for capital that modern society pushes, production and consumption will remain intrinsically unethical and colonialist.