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Trendy Veganism Gone Wrong

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There’s a growing trend amongst the younger generation to treat veganism as a means of bolstering one’s social identity. In the age of vine stars, instagram addicts and selfie morality, kids are delving into veganism as part of an overall worship of nothing but themselves.

A recent article in the Metro titled How My Friends Sabotaged My Veganism takes this self-worship to the extreme. Author, Stephanie Barett, maintains that veganism was “too hard – not on my wallet, or my tastebuds, but on my social life.” What Barett hasn’t considered is that veganism represents a recognition of fundamental rights – the right of all sentient beings not to be used as property – and cannot be denigrated to a “lifestyle choice” or “personal choice” any more than a recognition of fundamental human rights can be denigrated to either of those things. In doing so, Barett merely confirms that she has no idea what she is talking about.

To put this in some context, I’m going to take some of Barett’s words and replace the non-human injustice with a form of human injustice:

I knew racial equality was going to be hard, so I prepared.

I’d already clocked seven years of racist joke-free Mondays, during which heckling black people on the bus was my primary energy source and racial profiling was like my bread and butter.

But this was the age of equality. The epoch of social justice. I was ready.

But my friends weren’t.

Everybody knows that racial equality isn’t a sport, it’s a lifestyle choice.

What nobody tells you is that you don’t make that choice alone – you make it for your friends too.

When I picked up this new lifestyle, I didn’t realise I’d need new friends to go with it.

Because telling racist jokes isn’t just funny. Racist jokes are social, racist jokes are tradition; racist jokes are love.

Racism punctuated my social life.

I expected my friends to adapt to my change, but they did not.

‘When are you going to give up?’ My best friend asked, as she resentfully read the civil rights pamphlet I had given her. ‘I’m not inviting you to my wedding if you’re still doing this.’

‘Can’t you just go back to racist joke-free Mondays?’ Another complained. ‘I’m bringing wine over, but it was made by child slaves’

‘What about Christmas racial slurs?’ My sister said. ‘You’ll make an exception for that right?’

I’d had fantasies of my friends merrily joining me on my new social justice journey.

I’d imagined us making Black Lives Matter posters and protesting against Trump.

Not so.

My friends weren’t ready. While racial equality wasn’t easy, I had weeks to prepare, and a warm sense of moral superiority to bolster my resolve.

I liked my new civil rights identity – they didn’t.

They didn’t want to give up our traditions, or change their habits, and so while they tried to support me, I could tell their hearts weren’t in it.

And when my resolve faltered, they were there, racist joke book-in-hand, ready to welcome me back into the fold.

I’m not for racial equality anymore.

At home I make fewer racial slurs than I used to.

I prefer the Black Lives Matter movement, the Trump protests are fabulous, albeit expensive, and fair-trade coffee is both fairer and tasty.

But I no longer want to give up racial-profiling, racist jokes and racial slurs entirely.

It’s too hard – not on my wallet, or my language, but on my social life.

I wish I’d started with something like ‘racist joke-free hour every other Wednesday’ or, with respect to my feminist views, Feminibuary – something flexible, so one joke about racism or the denigration of women didn’t make me feel like giving up.

Being just at home and unjust while out might have been more sustainable.

I didn’t miss being racist as much as I missed fitting in.

The problem in the human context above is clear; it is no different in the non-human context. When we are talking about violations of fundamental rights, our trivial interests do no trump (no pun intended) the fundamental interests of the exploited. Our social life is no more relevant as to whether we exploit the vulnerable than whether the type of underpants I’m wearing should dictate whether I engage in speciesism, or any other form of human injustice.

We must reject this characterisation of veganism as nothing but a “lifestyle” choice for the hip and trendy. Respecting the moral value of animals has absolutely nothing to do with your social status, just as respecting the moral value of humans doesn’t either.

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