Some nonvegans argue that veganism is a personal choice. They’ll say things like “It’s my right to eat meat but if you don’t want to then I respect that. What we eat is a free choice.” But people who believe that should work to ensure that everyone truly has a free choice. If our food choices are truly free we deserve to see vegan options everywhere.
We should ALL have the right to choose veganism. When everyone has a true choice, then it might make sense to start calling veganism a personal choice. But not everyone has the right to choose veganism. A few years ago I wrote:
Many meat-eaters don’t actually have a true choice. These meat-eaters are children in public schools, patients in hospitals, people in prison, people on assistance, and others who rely on care-givers to supply them with meals. They don’t have a choice in the matter, if they want to live they must eat what’s offered. And what’s offered? Why, it’s cheap, surplus meat, rejected by consumers who have a true choice.
Animal agribusiness often dumps surplus animal products on the people who have the fewest choices:
To address the low demand emergency, the Washington DC-based National Association of State Departments of Agriculture (NASDA) has a kind of Cash for Clunkers plan.
Funded by American Recovery and Reinvestment Act revenues, its Meat the Need proposal would increase the amount that Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients receive in food assistance if they use it for animal products. (source)
These kinds of plans wind up fostering a generation of excessive animal eaters.
When the upper and middle class reject excessive animal eating and become flexitarians (or part-time vegans) – for health and environmental reasons as well as animal welfare – then the excess animal products get dumped on the lower class, who in turn develop habits of excessive animal eating and in turn develop diseases caused by excessive animal eating: cancers, heart disease, diabetes.
If a significant percentage of consumers rejected candy for breakfast in favor of a wholesome breakfast like oatmeal and there suddenly became excess candy on the market, would it make sense to stop serving wholesome food like oatmeal and start serving candy in elementary school cafeterias, hospital cafeterias and homeless shelter kitchens?
Start helping other people make free food choices.
Here are some ideas:
- Join the Food Empowerment Project and recognize that food is power.
- Food Not Bombs – basically it’s a community based vegan potluck or food fair that’s open to the public and generally feeds homeless and low income people
- Vegan Meetups – invite omnis and vegetarians out to eat at vegan restaurants. Vegan meetups are always assumed to be for vegans, but the reality is that many nonvegans who are curious about veganism attend vegan meetups.
- Vegan Outreach – pass out literature that tells people why and how to go vegan.
- Blog – that’s right, set up a vegan blog and write about food or theory.
Note: This article was originally published in 2009. After minor edits it has been republished so a new audience may read it.