When I think about veganism, I like to consider it in terms of frames. For example, there are the commonly thought about frames of ethics, the environment, and its ‘healthfulness’ (e.g. the nutrients consumed, avoidance of cholesterol and fats, avoidance of consuming antibiotics, etc.). One of the frames I don’t hear get discussed as much is one that pervades nearly everything in society: politics. It seems to me like people talk about politics, but no one uses the word explicitly. And sure, I get why; “politics” is a dirty word and people have their ideas about what it implies. The preconceived notion is that politics means deceit, manipulating people to gain power, corruption, and “the system” – and while it is all those things, it’s also the use of social capital to bridge the gap between society and “the system”. That is a positive and profound thing, and it’s at the core of a vegan life.
I like to explore the good, the bad, and the ugly of politics because I think it’s the force that underlies virtually all actions within society. The ‘bad’ is what people’s preconceived notions are, the forces that cause some people to lose or for the peoples’ interests to be undermined. In terms of veganism it can be seen when the California state government imposed restrictions on their citizens’ use of water during their recent drought, while beef producers were free to use as much water as needed to maintain their bottoms lines. It’s also apparent the codification of dishonest and meaningless terms such as “cage-free”, “free-range”, and “grass-fed” (the last of which is no longer a regulated term like the previous two).
Even in the most basic talking points about veganism, such as the kleptocratic nature of deforestation in Latin American countries solely to benefit the beef industry, the deplorable conditions that migrant workers on livestock farms are subject to, the irony that we focus on the environmental damage of cars and factories while animal agriculture has been one of the leading contributors for decades; these are all political discussions and thinking about them as such empowers people to challenge it all. Politics ultimately is the demonstration of power and we all have power to varying degrees, which we demonstrate through our daily actions. This is broader than just choosing to contribute to such a heinous industry and unethical practice; we demonstrate our power and political will by choosing to buy hybrid and low emission vehicles, or when we buy recycled goods. On a darker note, it is also apparent when people disparage the importance of modern civil rights causes like the LGBTQI movement and Black Lives Matter, but the point is that every one of us can be a political actor.
I think if we began to think about veganism as a political statement, people can become motivated to adopt this lifestyle. It is inherently political to boycott products and industries that are responsible for so much merciless violence, incredible environmental degradation, and despicable rapaciousness. Every time we say “no” to this zeitgeist, it gets weaker and weaker. That is the ‘good’ of politics: the use of our power as individuals to change society positively, by boycotting products, practices, services that harm innocent animals and the planet. There aren’t that many situations where “us,” just typical people, can take a stand against a conglomerate, but this is one we face several times a day. Deciding to adopt a vegan lifestyle inherently means taking that stand, opposing atrocious industries, and acting with care and compassion.
Use your power, go vegan.