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Mainstream Veganism: An Obstacle to Animal and Social Rights Movements

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The current growth in the veganism trend seems like a good sign for animal activism in the short-term, but it is relatively insignificant in the long-term. This is because people’s intentions behind following a vegan diet are not in line with the principles of animal rights activists. Instead of transforming people’s lifestyle and attitudes to become more animal-friendly, most people choose to follow a vegan diet because of their own self-interest and health benefits, and not because they are dedicated to ending non-human animal suffering.

ANJA VIDAKOVIC: Until recently veganism has held a negative image in the public. There was a large amount of discrimination and resistance directed towards vegans. On the systematic and individual level, vegans, which represented a small number of consumers, were ridiculed and represented as hostile extremists. On top of that, the vegan diet was constantly under attack by critics who argued that a solely plant-based diet was not only unhealthy but also unnatural for humans, and that it should be practiced only with extra caution. Such views were significantly pushed by animal product industry lobby groups which carry large power since a lot of politicians are farmers themselves who protect their own self-interest.

Today, however, the view on veganism has taken a swift shift. Veganism has become a mainstream dietary movement in the Western culture. In the UK specifically, meat consumption has declined by 20% in the last decade. Supermarket shelves are now lined with vegan products, replacing even cheese and milk with their vegan counterparts, while new trendy vegan restaurants are replacing old hamburger joints on every corner. However, this is not a result of a long-term battle made by nonhuman animal rights activists against the oppressing food systems, but a successful marketing campaign by new emerging “sustainable businesses” that took an opportunity to profit from the nonhuman animal liberation movement by making veganism the new synonym for health.

Instead of transforming people’s lifestyle and attitudes to become more animal-friendly, veganism has only emerged as a new capitalist machine centered around making sales. The new trend did not only fail to change the food industry that lives off of non-human animal struggle, but it has managed to make the same meat companies even more successful… Media has a big part in transforming veganism from its infamous ridiculed reputation to a mainstream hippie trend. Today we can see celebrities all around the world using their media platforms to speak up about their vegan lifestyles and all the benefits that come with it… Consequently, veganism seems to be present in the form of a currently popular trend of the hippy elite, just like the fringes were in the 80s, whose demand is destined to decline when replaced by something newer and more captivating…

The current growth in the veganism trend seems like a good sign for animal activism in the short-term, but it is relatively insignificant in the long-term. This is because people’s intentions behind following a vegan diet are not in line with the principles of animal rights activists. As I have previously mentioned, people chose to follow a vegan diet because of their own self-interest and health benefits, and not because they are dedicated to ending non-human animal suffering. Thus, people’s principles and moral ideology around nonhuman animals did not change with their change in diet. In other terms, this can be explained with the difference between dietary veganism and ethical veganism.

Ethical veganism is a philosophical view, considered as a religion under the U.S. law, that distinguishes itself from dietary veganism by avoiding contact with products derived from any form of animal exploitation… Considering this, a person who accepts ethical veganism changes not only their overall moral perception of nonhuman animal suffering and exploitation for human use, but I would argue that ethical vegans also change their perception of nonhuman animals themselves as autonomous individuals who deserve the same rights and treatments just like any other human. In the case of ethical veganism, it is very unlikely that a person would restrain from veganism after some time period when the trend dies out or alternative diets become more popular as it would be the case with dietary vegans…

In conclusion, even though the number of people who have identified as members of the vegan community has increased, the benefits this has on nonhuman animal welfare is doubtful. The vegan movement has been exploited by the capitalist markets that took advantage of the opportunity to earn profits from the insurgency of animal rights activist groups. Their objective does not follow those of nonhuman animal activists that fight for the termination of nonhuman animal exploitation, but centers around the consumerist goal of getting people to buy the products no matter what the reasoning behind it is or how that impacts nonhuman animals. SOURCE…