Saturday, October 03, 2009

Conflating Veganism and Vegetarianism in the Media

While scanning the internet for articles of interest, I came across a title that caught my eye this morning. "Do Vegan Fad Diets Cheapen the Vegan Lifestyle?" by Kelly Turner, a health and fitness writer and personal trainer, ends up disappointing. I'd hoped to find some earnest musing, but instead Turner mostly ends up conflating vegetarianism with veganism while briefly focusing on how some use these two "socially acceptable" labels to hide behind when they are merely seeking to lose weight.

Turner uses the descriptors 'vegetarian' and 'vegan' as if they are mostly interchangeable, although she does specify at one point that vegans avoid the consumption of dairy and eggs. She then writes:

This often extends past food into other areas of life, such as refusing to use leather products or support companies that they believe to treat the environment or animals cruelly.
The implication in stating "often extends to" instead of "always extends to" when it comes to vegans wearing animal products like leather is that veganism is primarily dietary (which, of course, it is not). Additionally, although there are definitely serious reasons why vegans should be concerned about their impact on the environment, to present environmental concerns as being driving motivators for people to choose to become vegan really misses the point altogether about veganism, which is specifically about taking animal rights seriously. (To hear a bit more about veganism and how it doesn't necessarily overlap with environmentalism, have a listen to Vincent J. Guihan's We Other Animals Radio podcast from a few weeks ago.)

It's just not a terribly well-written piece and any effectiveness she might have had in getting an answer to her question is lost thanks to the lack of clarity in her article. After all, how can one ascertain whether fad "vegan" diets "cheapen" veganism when one doesn't really have a solid understanding of the very basics of veganism? This ends up most obvious at the end of her article when she asks if "half-hearted vegans and vegetarians dilute the name down to nothing more than a fad diet". There's no such thing as a "half-hearted" (i.e. part-time) vegan and since vegetarianism has nothing to do with veganism, "half-hearted" vegetarians (i.e. omnis) should really have no bearing on anyone's perception of veganism.

The unfortunate truth is that, if anything, badly written articles about veganism are what actually dilute the meaning of the terms 'vegan' and 'veganism'.


Rahzh said...

I left a comment

M said...

Good idea. I just did, too.

c-la said...

me too.

Vanilla Rose said...

To be fair, she was spot on in saying "flexitarians" are omnivores. And I wish freegans would find a new word.