While veganism is, and will always remain a movement centered on nonhuman animals, with the rise of social justice awareness in the current political climate, it is no longer possible to embrace a veganism that ignores human rights. “As practicable and possible” is a key part of the Vegan Society’s definition of veganism, and although I always interpreted that portion of the definition as a guide with regards to choices in which we do not have ethical options in a very non-vegan world, it has become key to understanding that human oppression prevents many groups of people from being able to embrace veganism. Human rights and animal rights are undeniably connected, and importantly, different groups of people experience veganism and even access to it in completely different ways than the mainstream vegan majority. While vegans of color exist, the movement behind the term has primarily developed within a single lens that has continued to advocate to a majority that leads it. This has meant that veganism has lagged behind in being able to reach as many people as it could.
What if I told you that spreading veganism farther than ever before would be as simple as making a commitment to consistent anti-oppression and that it would be possible to raise the voices of nonhumans even higher if mainstream veganism embraced insights into the oppressions faced by Black, Brown, Indigenous, and other marginalized people?
Accepting human oppression within vegan spaces and the lack of awareness of other cultures, makes it difficult for vegans of color to help extend veganism to their own communities. UK animal rights activist and vegan of color, Shashi K. described vegan spaces as “… rife with their own forms of oppression…” including “…colonial and racist messaging in campaigns and from ‘vegan celebrities’, inaccessible pricing of goods, culturally appropriated food, and clothing are real barriers.” Shashi added that veganism and its claims of anti-oppression, justice, and compassion are difficult to make convincing to non-vegans of color “…when they can see the racism, sexism, ableism, transphobia, classism, etc. a mile off.” And that’s just it, those that experience the world through intersecting oppressions, carry those oppressions with them wherever they go. Should veganism, as a movement, not take care to ensure that ALL humans fighting for nonhumans feel safe in spaces that are consistently against all forms of oppression, including those they face every day of their lives?
Why does it matter? Because when vegans do not take care to learn about different cultures and their struggles, when they ignore the need for diverse perspectives, and when it does not make the effort of working with marginalized communities and against the root oppressions that prevent them from embracing vegan lifestyles, they end up further marginalizing, othering, and excluding whole groups of people. Vegans of color are already actively working on nonhuman animal rights issues within their own communities. What they need from the mainstream majority is to actively educate themselves on how to support the work vegans of color are already doing through dialogue and to ensure that the movement becomes one that does not excuse any form of “-ism”. Only then will vegans from all walks of life be able to accomplish our common goal of achieving justice for nonhuman animals.
Start your path towards consistent anti-oppression by learning from and about vegans of color themselves in the book “Veganism in an Oppressive World”, a Vegans-of-Color Community Project edited by Julia Feliz Brueck.
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About the Author:
A decade-long vegan, Julia Feliz Brueck is a published author and illustrator. Her published book titles include “Libby Finds Vegan Sanctuary”, the first ever vegan-themed board book for babies and toddlers, the “Baby and Toddler Vegan Feeding Guide,” and “Veganism in an Oppressive World.” Julia is also the founder of Sanctuary Publishers, a new vegan book publisher dedicated to raising the voices of nonhuman animals and all other marginalized communities through every book sold. Get to know Julia on Facebook under Julia Feliz Brueck and learn more about Sanctuary Publishers via www.sanctuarypublishers.com
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Note: Text originally published on the Vegan Society blog in December 2017.