Veganism is rapidly recruiting new members, with over 400,000 people signing up for Veganuary, a promise to live without animal products for a month. For this proud vegan, it is a pleasing figure (almost double the one for 2018). As the movement grows, however, it becomes more important to consider the politics behind the label. Veganism was born out of the desire for an ethical life, particularly with regard to animal welfare, sustainability and stopping the destruction of our planet.
For this reason, it is troubling to see corporate giants cash in on Veganuary. Omnivore or herbivore, we can all agree that fast-food giants are not founded on vegan ethics. Neither is all ‘vegan’ food cruelty-free. Buying a vegan option from a mega-meat-monolith will put your money in the pockets of CEOs, and fund operational expansion which can only lead to more animals harmed, more rain forests damaged.
On the surface these corporate strategies seem a good way to introduce people to the vegan diet, showing that it’s not just salads and tofu. However, they conceal a struggle between companies for market dominance, and the aim is simply profit. These are companies with no background in sustainability, which divert customers from those smaller enterprises with sustainability plans and a desire for change.
With Australia on fire and 56 billion animals killed for food each year, people understandably want to make positive contributions. But activism is not achieved at the level of consumer choices. It is achieved through awareness of the way we eat. Sticking to a plant-based diet is the best approach for you and the planet—and by diet, I mean the kinds of food you eat, not weight-loss. Even some famous vegetarian and vegan food is unethical. For example, Linda McCartney products use a lot of palm oil, which is known to stem from deforestation.
With little being done by governments over climate change, it is essential that mindful veganism continue beyond January. Going plant-based is the single biggest thing we can do to reduce our carbon footprint. And for a vegan lifestyle to matter, we must switch to seasonal, minimally processed food sources.
A quote from Wild Food Cafe’s cookbook: “When something is grown with an agenda for profit and greed, the more it leads to ripples of imbalance and distortions in all relationships proceeding from it.”