From time to time a discussion arises involving the idea that veganism is ‘easy’, and whilst it is fair to say that we are not going to advocate veganism as ‘difficult’, we cannot neglect that for many people veganism is simpler based upon circumstances within society. But when we are talking about the ease of veganism, we are almost always talking about the vegan diet, and rarely the approach of veganism itself.
The vegan diet is part of a vegan approach that originates from the vegan philosophy (essentially a philosophy of intrinsic ‘rights’) that opposes the exploitation of non-human animals. So once we engage with that perspective we can begin to seek out those ‘vegan’ alternatives that don’t originate in non-human animal exploitation.
The definition of veganism presents the issue like this (emphasis added): “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.”
When we seek to adopt a way of living that excludes the exploitation of non-human animals as far as is possible and practicable, we can see that it is dependent on a society and culture where there are different barriers (1) toward adopting vegan practices. These barriers (which can also reinforce one another) vary for each person, so we need to examine how they restrict or prevent those initial ‘vegan ideas’ from developing into a vegan practice or ‘lifestyle’.
When recognising our different concepts of ‘ease’ within the dietary aspect of veganism, we can encourage people to do the best they can as far as is possible and practicable, and recognise that it is not straightforward being vegan in a non vegan world. We can see the importance of creating networks of support that can help people with their veganism, and which can also help to inform our own vegan advocacy in more radical ways that break down the barriers reinforced by privilege. We can then be critical of the structure of society that impedes or even prevents access to vegan food. So within our advocacy there also needs to be an examination of how we can alter society so it is amenable for everyone to access healthy, nutritious vegan food. This has been described by Carrie Freeman as an approach ‘where persuasive messages are grounded in the advocate’s ethical philosophy to promote a transformation in worldviews not just behaviours’.
(1) These ‘barriers to vegan practice’ are elements of social division that perpetuate inequality in society. So for example, sexism, racism, ageism and ableism. These barriers to vegan practice are regularly overlooked from positions of privilege, so for example, it isn’t the ‘fault’ of a ten year old that they cannot put vegan philosophy into practice, instead it is dependent on access to resources, which are determined by people in positions of power. This system is often casually reinforced (led by those that dismiss these issues as ‘not about the animals’) and creates difficulty for implementing vegan practice.
‘Critiquing Privilege in Animal Activist Circles’ with Jacqueline Morr, Amie Breeze Harper, lauren Ornelas.
‘The Hidden Cost of Patriarchy’ with Jennai Bundock.
‘Vegan Praxis of Black Lives Matter’ with Amie Breeze Harper.