Saturday, February 16, 2008

veganism & class privilege: myth or reality?

The current issue of VegNews featured a great article, Privilege or Necessity?, which explores the viability of veganism in poverty.  

Often considered snobs or elitists, the average vegan is white, middle-class and college educated. 

But the truth is, many poor countries have staple foods that are plant-based:
  • Bangladesh--rice, wheat, lentils, beans
  • China--rice, soybeans, green vegetables
  • Ethiopia--teff, lentils, beans, potatoes
  • India--rice, wheat, beans, peas
  • Jamaica--yams, platains, legumes
  • Nigeria--rice, millet, beans, cassava
  • Turkey--eggplant, lentils, beans, tomatoes
  • Vietnam--rice, tofu, beans, sprouts

So then what gives?  In the United States, it really comes down to an accessibility issue.  Poorer communities may rely on local liquor stores for food that don't carry soy milk or quinoa. Veggie-friendly stores like Whole Foods tend not to market to poorer communities.  

The article poignantly addresses a relationship issue: the relationship with food, cooking, and convenience.  Plant-based foods need preparation, whereas fast-food can be much more appealing to those with long hours, heavy commutes, and the like. 

Education is also a crucial factor, as most people learn about the environmentalism and animal issues in college.

But despite popular opinion, cost is not the issue.  A plant-based diet (fruits, veggies, grains, beans) can actually be more affordable than meat and dairy products.  Poorer vegans may even be at a health advantage, because they are not buying heavily-processed and pricey vegan meats.


Ren said...

Yes, a plant based diet is cheaper for most people.
But it tends to not beat a $1 cheeseburger for value of calories and food to the dollar. Vegetables are healthier, yes, but the price of fast food value menus are so low (and convenient, as you said) that vegetables don't come out as an obviously superior choice.

Ren said...

energy rich versus nutrient rich