Vegans often suffer the accusation that it’s too expensive or that villagers in Africa can’t be vegan. I normally respond that it’s really not that expensive and that we don’t live in Africa (not anybody I talk to). But to be honest, they have a point. Vegans have so much privilege, the privilege odometer is rolled over. What does that mean exactly?
[The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] said: “The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication … How can we eat? The second by the question Why do we eat? And the third by the question Where shall we have lunch?”
Primitive cultures understood well enough what was safe to eat. Many even had preferences about what to eat. But few had any advanced understanding of nutrition. Even today many people are taken in by charlatans peddling magic supplements and protein-based fad diets. Awareness of the real condition Coeliac Disease has expanded to widespread belief that gluten is dangerous for everyone when in fact, non-coeliac gluten sensitivity may not exist. It’s fair to say that in terms of nutrition, we humans know just enough to be dangerous.
In the developed countries of the west, we have a strong understanding of nutrition, plenty of food, and often limited physical demands. We westerners can get away with bad nutrition and often do. Normally that takes the form of Cheetos, chips, cheeseburgers, beer and excesses of other terrible excuses for food. Ok… On the other hand, there are well-known cultural and evolutionary contributors to our lust for these foods. The point is we in the west poison ourselves more often than we nourish ourselves, so it’s not surprising we still argue about what constitutes healthy food.
Returning to the vegan situation, a vegan like me finds it very difficult to find vegan food. The vast majority of the population would rather question my dietary choices and poke fun at my ethics. Even when among friends, most restaurants have limited vegan options. And it is true that many vegan options are more expansive than common unhealthy food options available to meat-eaters. It makes the vegans into minorities struggling in a world that doesn’t accept us.
Feel sorry for vegans yet? Probably not. That’s probably because before we chose our oh-so-ethical and nutritious vegan diet, we had to be in a position to understand the nutrition, have the time to make such choices, and have enough money to pick the vegan options and a steady-enough diet to simply starve if the right options aren’t available. One has to be privileged in many ways to be vegan and to adopt the difficulties of living as a vegan in a meat-eating culture. Here’s hoping everyone has the privilege to one day be vegan.