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Anthropology: Intersectional Veganism, a Cross-Category Lifestyle Diet


a mountains, lakes, the sun are all in the small circle
Illustrated by @graphicsandgrain

“Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude. As far as is possible and practicable. All forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing, or any other purpose. And by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives. For the benefit of animals, humans, and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.”-The Vegan Society

Veganism expanded to include a diet that excluded animal-derived foods. It has grown with a movement-based. Not only ethics and animal welfare, but also environmental and health concerns. Veganism means a lifestyle that avoids consuming and using animal products as much as possible.

Nowadays, people are more serious about the negative impact which animal agriculture has made on the planet. But they are also aware of their health impact by eating processed meat and choosing saturated fats.

The history of veganism

During World War Ⅱ, in Birmingham, England, the vegan movement first came into our lifestyle. “By World War II, motorized equipment has the power in western society.And animal advocates pivoted to focusing on farms and laboratories.”- civil eats

 In 1944 Donald Watson, an English animal rights advocate who co-founded The Vegan Society explained:

“Non-dairy has become established as a generally understood colloquialism. But like ‘non-lacto’, it is too negative. Moreover, it does not imply that we are opposed to the use of eggs as food. We need a name that suggests what we eat. And if possible, one that conveys the idea that even with all animal foods are taboo. Nature still offers us a bewildering assortment from which to choose.”

“The ideologies and traditions of veganism had flourished in communities of color for centuries prior, if not longer. Eastern religions like Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism all advocate eschewing animals. And animal products in some format because of the belief systems centered around nonviolence.”- vegan race wars

The plant-based diet was developed in the 1930s in Jamaica. It developed from Hindu traditions. Indentured Indian servants brought it over. In the late 19th century,  the Black Hebrew Israelite community was established. Compliant to a strict vegan diet.

Plant-based and vegan

graph to make clear the differece between vegan diet and plant based diet
Graphic by healthline

People generally think of plant-based food as a less strict version of a vegan being. The meals may contain entirely vegan ingredients or tiny amounts of animal products.

In the 1980s, Dr. T. Colin Campbell introduced the world of nutrition science to the term “plant-based diet”. To define a low-fat, high fiber, a vegetable-based diet that focused on health and not ethics.

“Being plant-based typically refers specifically to one’s diet alone. Many people use the term “plant-based” to describe themselves. That they eat a diet either entirely or mostly comprises plant foods. However, some people may call themselves plant-based. And still eat certain animal-derived products.”-healthline

On the other hand, being vegan means not only diet but also describes the lifestyle. The study shows roughly 2% of Americans consider themselves vegan.

In addition to being vegan, people avoid purchasing products. Which were made from or tested on animals. They avoid driving benefits from animals. From accessories, clothing to makeup and bathroom items. Animal and animal-tested products are in many more places than we expected.

So what is intersectional veganism?

three circles, vegan, animal rights, plant based are all connected.
graph from Wiley online Library

Let’s start with intersectionality.

“Intersectionality is an understanding of the interconnected nature of all forms of oppression. From racism, sexism, classism, ableism, speciesism, and beyond.”-Plant Based Bride

A host of “Plant Based Bride” Elizabeth Turnbull explained that these categories are not disparate forms of oppression. But these are mutually dependent and intersecting in nature. Composing a unified system of oppression throughout society.

Kimberlé Crenshaw coined the term intersectionality. In 1989, she published an essay. “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics.”

“Intersectionality was a prism to bring to light dynamics. Within discrimination laws that weren’t being appreciated by the courts. In particular, the courts seem to think that race discrimination was what happened to all black people. Across gender and sex discrimination was what happened to all women. And if that is your framework, of course, what happens to black women? And other women of color are going to be difficult to see.”-Kimberlé Crenshaw

The complicated relationship with veganism

“Generally, when people refer to intersectional veganism, they are referring to vegans. But not the animals. This is somewhat challenging. Because it’s difficult to understand the actual oppression faced by animals. There are some small things we can do. I try to remember that as vegans we are attempting to give voice to the animals. Rather than “be a voice” for the animals. Since, of course, we cannot know their exact concerns.”-modvegan

How does intersectionality apply to animals?

The issues that dairy cows face as females are different from others since humans raised them as meat. It’ll change with speciesism, sexuality, and ageism. Speciesism impacts animals in the deepest ways. Sexuality is when humans control animals regarding their reproduction. Ageism is when humans killed animals long before they could’ve lived out their natural lifespan.

Five reasons an intersectional vegan diet is key

picture of amazon deforestration
Picture from BBC news, GETTY IMAGES


Firstly, a vegan diet is a key to reducing the destruction of rainforests, wildlife, and animals. And help to save endangered species. Rainforests control the global climate and the water cycle, soak up carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Unfortunately, humans cut rainforests down to raise cows. Every second, one football field rainforest is gone. In order to produce 257 hamburgers.

To produce one kilogram of beef requires 25 kilograms of grains. And 1,500 liters of water. Roughly 30% of the land is for agricultural use.

According to the US Department of Agriculture statistics, one acre of land can grow 20,000 pounds of potatoes. The same acre of land can produce less than 165 pounds of the edible cow.

“Two-thirds of Central America’s rainforests have been destroyed. In part to raise cattle whose meat, typically found in hamburgers and processed meat. These are exported to profit the US food industry.”-HappyCow

Environmental impacts

Secondly, a vegan diet can reduce pollution in the land and water. The factories and the farms sprayed their land with herbicides and pesticides. To grow grains to feed animals. These chemicals destroy topsoil and leak into the ground and nearby streams and rivers.

“Over 4 million acres of cropland are lost to erosion in the US every year due to plundering farmlands to fatten animals for slaughter. High contents of toxic chemicals are often found in fish in many parts of the world’s lakes, rivers, and oceans.”-HappyCow

Greenhouse gas

Thirdly, a vegan diet can reduce the production of greenhouse gas. An average car produces 3 kg of CO2 a day. Meanwhile, producing beef for one hamburger costs 75 kg of CO2.

“livestock farming contributes 18% of human-produced greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. This is more than all emissions from ships, planes, trucks, cars and all other transport put together.”-theconversation

The global poor

Moreover, making a huge amount of grain caused people’s lives to be poor. If there is no high demand for grain worldwide, we could save more humans. Approximately, extra 3.5 billion people.

“Feeding grain to livestock increases global demand and drives up grain prices. Making it harder for the world’s poor to feed themselves.”-theconversation

The risk of disease

And finally, a vegan diet is healthier and possible to prevent diseases.

According to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, a vegan diet can reduce the risk of heart disease, cancer, adult-onset diabetes. It also helps reduce blood pressure and can control non-insulin-dependent diabetes.

In 1990, The New England Journal of Medicine reported a study. Roughly 88,000 nurses at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital found double risks of disease. Those who ate meat every day, tend to get colon cancer more than those who avoided meat.

“Switching to a more plant-based diet could save up to 8m lives a year worldwide by 2050. And lead to healthcare-related savings and avoid climate change damage of up to $1.5 trillion.”-theconversation

Animal rights, racism in veganism

Little pig is standing and looking at straightly.
graphic from Jones on Pinterest

High-pressure agriculture keeps animals in overcrowded cages. Where they are not able to turn around or take a single step.

“More than 25 billion animals are killed by the meat industry each year. The average American meat-eater is responsible for the abuse and death of about 90 animals per year.”-HappyCow

In these factories and farms, people continually inject animals with hormones, to make them grow bigger. Many dairy factories use growth hormones to enhance milk production. However, the fact is that it includes chemicals. It can cause cancer and other diseases. Farmers kept chickens in small cages and kept them awake with light 24 hours a day to increase egg production.

“Hundreds of thousands of animals are poisoned, blinded, and killed every year to test shampoos, household cleaners, cosmetics, hair sprays. And other personal care and household items. Furthermore, the law doesn’t require these tests. So they often produce inaccurate or misleading results. Some corporations force substances into animals’ stomachs and drip chemicals into rabbits’ eyes.”-Happy Cow

Mainstream veganism A sentence for audiences

Designed by @soyouwanttotalkabout on Instagram

“Lists of “25 Vegan Celebrities” typically include only a handful of black and brown faces amongst a glut of white entertainers. Each entry of The Independent’s “9 Best Vegan Cookbooks” is written by a white author. And employs a strikingly similar minimalist. Spoon University’s list of “10 Vegans to Follow on Instagram” compiles image after image of healthy bowls made by white vegans. Specifically to play well on Instagram.”- vegan race wars

Last year, in the U.S., there were nationwide protests against police violence and white supremacy. Among the white vegan groups, white supremacy has revived since they only focus on animal rights. Humane Society of the United States, Mercy For Animals, the Humane League, and the Animal Legal Defense Fund. These four organizations mainly made with a white administration. And conduct the concept of white funders and priorities.

White supremacy

A black vegan organizer Gwenna Hunter told her experiences. “When I first got involved in the animal rights community, there were hardly any Black people. And never any discussions of human rights.” After she slowly changed her lifestyle to vegan, she came through one particular message.

‘“Veganism is about the animals. Because they’re voiceless. Human rights issues should not be discussed.”’

She questioned this message, especially while the Black Lives Matter protests were happening. “It’s crazy that nobody wants to have these conversations.”

Black celebrities such as Serena Williams, Venus Williams, and athletes such as Jermain Defoe, claimed themselves as vegan. Of course, there are more.

A 2016 study by Pew Research Center showed more specific numbers. 3% of American adults identify as vegan. Only 1% of Hispanic Americans. And 8% of African American adults.

“In Gallup’s latest findings on consumers’ meat-eating changes, which will be published Monday. Whites reported eating 10 percent less meat in the past 12 months. While people of color reported eating 31 percent less.”-the Washington Post

Lori Kim Alexander, an organizer of the Brooklyn-based Black VegFest, said. “anti-Blackness is wholly embedded in the system of white, ‘mainstream veganism.’”

Black vegan community

Victoria Moran, founder of Main Street Vegan explained. “A lot of white people consider themselves liberal and open-minded, and certainly not racist. We were kind of oblivious. The idea of institutionalized racism that we were part of and had benefited from. We didn’t know that until the last four or five years. I’m not proud of that, it’s just a fact.”

For over and over the years, white vegan culture became the mainstream. Though racism wasn’t seen as a relatable problem that vegans would solve.

Black communities have used this vegan movement to claim injustice since colonization. Alexander from Black VegFest described.

“Our grandparents, our great grandparents, our mothers, fathers, siblings. They’ve always brought [vegan traditions and food culture] to us. But whether we’ve been able to hear, through the white noise literally. It’s a different story.”

Finally, intersectional veganism is a revolution.

A black girl is standing in the centre, surrounded by colorful vegetables and fruits.
Illustrated by Cienna Smith

 “Intersectionality means acknowledging how various systems of oppression are entangled with each other.”- The Daily Vox

Intersectional vegan means that acknowledging oppression is multipronged. And fight against racism, sexism, speciesism, and ableism too.

There are still so many to discuss the meaning of intersectional veganism. Since many vegans think intersectionality replaces the main concept of veganism. Which is nonhuman animal suffering. Some of them claim that this allows humans to act as if they’re victims and let them excuse their speciesism.

Of course, animal right is an important topic of veganism. However, intersectional veganism demands us to think about not only animal agriculture but also farmworkers. We have to support and lead them to be cruelty-free since they are the ones who grow our foods. Their liberation matters is a part of what we eat and how we get.

For over decades, some humans have been treated animal-like. For instance, the history of slaves, colonization, and industrial workers in developing countries.

What change intersectionality can make with veganism?

In conclusion, to identify as an intersectional vegan should not just be about animal cruelty and liberation. But also there is racism spreading worldwide. The oppression is wrong in any case, whether it’s on animals or humans.

Being vegan reminds us of our food and agricultural systems with another look. This connects with how intersectionality can work, not only our day-to-day but our veganism. When people try to grow, harvest, package, distribute our food, there is the oppression of animals, including humans. In fact, farmworkers, factory workers keep working on low salaries, not well healthy environment.

The lack of understanding of oppression needs to change. If veganism can be a more comprehensive movement, it could be targeted more widely. More people and it’ll lead to being more effective.

Adding intersectionality to veganism provides us not only understanding social justice but also the change. The change that the vegan community can fight. For the rights of marginalized people from every life situation. And of course, for the rights of non-human individuals.

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