I was watching this video the other day that was about how not all vegans think alike. Several statements were made to five different vegans and they had to decide whether they agreed, strongly agreed, disagreed, or strongly disagreed. You could see that every statement received a variety of answers, so clearly the vegan community is not exactly a hive mind with everyone parroting the same exact perspectives. One topic that was brought up was whether or not everyone can be vegan, which you’d think would be a pretty obvious no. Apparently not everyone sees it that way, so I think this is worth addressing.
First of all, there’s the factor of geographical location. This is something that was brought up in the video, but I wanted to go into a bit more detail here.
Those who live in isolation and extreme climates have different considerations for their nutritional needs than those who don’t. Many of those living in extreme cold, for example the Inuit, likely do not have access to enough calorically dense vegan food to be sustainable. To expect them to go from almost exclusively eating meat to trying to maintain their lifestyle on berries and plants that are only available for a few months out of the year is not just unfair, it’s ridiculous.
What is a food desert?
“Food deserts are defined as parts of the country vapid of fresh fruit, vegetables, and other healthful whole foods, usually found in impoverished areas. This is largely due to a lack of grocery stores, farmers’ markets, and healthy food providers.”
For people living in these areas, their access to food is often limited to gas stations and quick marts, which offer exactly the sort of options you’d think they would. Some of these foods may happen to be vegan, but assuredly most of them are not. The idea that someone should try to restrict themselves to only vegan foods with these limited options is unrealistic. Now some people may be able to drive however many miles away to get fresh produce and other generally healthier foods, but what about those who can’t?
This is where we get into the second issue, convenience. Now prioritizing convenience is looked down upon as lazy by many people, but for I think that’s extremely unfair. For those who are disabled, elderly, working several jobs, taking care of many kids, or are otherwise stretched thin, convenience is crucial. To expect people in these positions to bend over backwards to be vegan is also unrealistic. I imagine that even if that was something they wanted to do, it would be extremely difficult to maintain long-term.
Then there’s health issues, like severe allergies, that would make being vegan extremely difficult. I would certainly struggle to do it if I had to eliminate soy and nuts, for example. People struggling with eating disorders can find the restriction required to be vegan as detrimental to their recovery. While it may still be possible for those in situations like these to still become vegan, that doesn’t mean that it’s a fair expectation.
All of this to say, I strongly believe we need to meet people where they’re at instead of belittling them for not making veganism a priority. Even someone who wants to be vegan, who is informed on the topic, may really struggle with making it a reality for themselves. But that doesn’t mean they can’t do anything. People mock Meatless Mondays and those who only eat limited amounts of animal products. They say things like, “Oh, you only eat a little meat? I guess the cow is only a little dead.” and honestly, it’s borderline obnoxious. If someone eats less meat than they did, then they are contributing less to animal suffering and that’s a good thing! Someone who lives in a food desert and still consumes animal products may still be able to avoid buying clothes with real fur or leather. That still makes a difference! I know people are passionate and I know it gets frustrating after a while to live in a world where so many people seem to not care, but I truly think it’s pivotal for the movement to celebrate the small steps people take that can lead to greater steps later on.
The truth is, there’s an awful lot of people who could be vegan and simply choose not to for their own reasons. I’m sure many people have never even thought about it, let alone seriously considered it. We’ve seen real change happening in our world already and our numbers are pretty limited. There’s more vegan options in restaurants and grocery stores, fashion brands banning fur, many beauty products no longer being tested on animals, etc. Imagine the change we could accomplish if we embraced people who are trying their best instead of getting trapped in our own pointless arguments about who’s allowed to ‘join our club’.
Not everyone can be vegan, but a lot of people can. Reach out, educate, and embrace those who are interested and leave the door open for those who aren’t there yet.
The video I refer to in the beginning- Do All Vegans Think The Same?