Latest posts by Leisa Wheeler (see all)

Today as I was skimming the stories on the Mamamia website, I came across one that jumped out at me because it had the word “vegan” in it. Now Mamamia is well-known for being anti-natural medicine and seems to crusade against anyone who encourages people to live a healthier lifestyle – so I wasn’t expecting an article that said anything positive about veganism – and I was right.

The post is titled “UNPOPULAR OPINION: ‘Veganism is a first-world luxury. There, I’ve said it.’  Obviously this was an opinion piece and a dig at the writer’s vegan friend who threw a hissy fit over the white sugar she was served at a restaurant because it was likely processed using animal products (they must be America because we don’t use the process discussed in the article here in Australia) – but even in an opinion piece, surely the writer has a responsibility to have enough information about the subject matter they are writing about, to actually have an opinion?

In this case it was diabolical. The writer was attempting to argue that because we live in a first-world country and are not eating what is in our immediate environment just to survive, veganism is a luxury and therefore vegans should stop trying to assert that meat eating is unethical. But her argument is completely unsound. As hundreds of people have pointed out in the comments section of the article – it is meat eating that is a luxury in the first-world, and due to the overwhelming demand for this luxury item, inhumane practices such as factory-farming, piggeries, battery hens, live exports and environmental destruction have been the result.

In the article the writer implies that vegans only care about animals and that instead, they should be eating meat and putting their energies into feeding the starving people of the world like meat-eaters do. Except meat-eating is a major contributor to starvation. So that makes her ridiculous argument completely defunct. It is the first-world’s predilection for consuming vast quantities of animal products that leads to massive amounts of grain being grown purely for livestock consumption, the waste of millions of tonnes of water each year, and for rainforest clearing to graze animals for food. If the grain harvested to feed livestock was fed to humans instead, we could eliminate world-hunger.

The issues of world hunger are much bigger than the choice to eat a mainly plant-based lifestyle – there are politics, corruption, greed, war, terrorism and environmental events that play a huge role in third-world countries not being able to feed themselves. But the demand for eating meat is right up there as a major contributor to world hunger. I don’t think vegan activism is directed towards people in starving countries eating whatever they can get their hands on. That is not the point. The point is that we, in first-world countries who do have all the food choices under the sun with which to nourish ourselves, keep choosing foods that cause immense harm.

As the author states: “When you’re vegan in a developed country like Australia, the fact that you have consistent access to foods that nourish you  — and can therefore choose what to put on your plate — means you have a food and class privilege that others simply do not. Put that way, it’s a bit of a douche move to assert that it’s unethical for humans to consume animal products, right?” Sorry no. You are wrong, very, very wrong.