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Criticize veganism, but don’t discredit it

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As veganism moves into the mainstream, it’s core ideology becomes somewhat diluted and easier to swallow. With the rapid growth and wide expansion of veganism, the movement has lost a bit of focus both internally and as well in the way it presents in society. Though really a social justice movement, veganism is often considered to be a dietary or lifestyle choice.

As social justice movements tend to do, veganism has always caused controversy. And like all social movements, some of its criticism has been warranted.

There’s undoubtedly tension between many human rights groups and veganism. It seems there’s a fear amongst human rights advocates that veganism is competition. Veganism is sometimes believed to encourage placing animal rights above human rights or dismissed because of the ideology of select vegans. This is evident when we look at the most common criticisms of veganism. I’ve written before about the infamous criticism that vegans don’t care about the workers who pick their produce and how the notion itself is ridiculous in implying that one can not care about both workers rights and animal rights, as if the two don’t actually go hand in hand.

Being vegan and being a human rights advocate aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, they could be considered inseparable. It’s time we start looking at veganism, and human rights movements, as interlinked.

I’ll be the first to admit that vegan campaigns have sometimes missed the mark with problematic branding. Mainstream veganism has regularly faced criticism for participating in racist, sexist and classist behaviour. When vegans participate in harmful actions, they should absolutely be held accountable. Oppressive and harmful behaviour has no place in a movement rooted in anti-oppression.

We live in a world that fuels racism, sexism and classism. Human oppression is prevalent in every community and it is bound to appear in all social justice movements – veganism included.

Though it’s important and necessary to criticize harmful behaviour when it shows up in veganism, is it fair or reasonable to write off the entire movement?

Feminism is an example of a movement that is rooted in anti-oppression but is riddled with criticisms of racism, classism and transphobia. When we criticize a classist feminist, however, we recognize that this feminists actions do not warrant the entire premise of women’s liberation being dismissed. Instead, we recognize that this individuals behaviour was wrong and we counter the ideology.

Approaching veganism with the same mindset and nuance of thought could open up so much possibility for solidarity between social movements. It’s necessary to consider where and why harmful behaviour is fuelled within veganism, and it’s imperative that we do what we can to end it. Much like we shouldn’t dismiss those criticisms, we also shouldn’t dismiss veganism. After all, at the end of the day, the purpose of veganism remains ending the use and consumption of animals. We can choose to lose track of those roots or we can choose to honour them.

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