Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Veganism (Which Isn't Veganism) Is All the Rage

It seems to be the standard now for online news publications to periodically -- or even permanently -- feature a column by someone who is either trying a plant-based diet for a predetermined period, or who is claiming to be going/to have gone vegan. I really wish that more of these columns would be written by folks who were actually inspired to authentically go vegan for ethical reasons involving their rejection of animal use, rather than seeing so many of them written by folks who have an interest in losing weight or have a half-hearted interest in appearing to care about the environment. Every so often, a passing reference is made to factory farms and animal welfare. There's often a paragraph with statistics about greenhouse gas tucked into these pieces and a quote from a dietician or nutritionist, but there rarely ever seems to be anything insightful or honest written about animal use. Basically, most of these columns are written by people who haven't really connected the dots and who are only interested in playing vegan for the sake of churning out some money-making words.

The UK's Swindon Advertiser, this week, offered up the same old, throwing in a few confusing spins for good measure. In "A more ethical way to go shopping", its news editor, Sue Smith, describes her dabblings in "the world of veganism". I am guessing that her "venture" into it in January was for a column describing her trying out a plant-based diet for a week or month. I haven't looked. I rolled my eyes at the very first line which includes the words "eat ethically" and "organic farm". Smith starts off in a confused mess by describing that she tried being vegan a few months ago, then decided to try to be mainly vegan (yeah, mainly vegan) moving forward, but treating herself to animal products "on high days and holidays". So, from the start it's made clear that Smith view animal-derived foods as tasty treats with which she can regularly reward herself. To figure out "where to shop" for these, she decides to go to an "organic farm".

Abbey Home Farm, her readers are told, is run by vegetarians. Although fruit and vegetables are grown there and sold in their shop, cows are also kept and killed to stock the shop with meat, milk, cheese, yogurt and butter. Long-term vegetarians who decided that they wanted "to produce food for the local people". So they took over a farm and added a shop on the premises: "
We wanted a shop where people could see the animals around them. They could see what they were eating," said co-owner Hillary Chester-Master. (I think she meant whom they were eating, but I digress... Vegetarians. Sigh.)

Then these two "long-term vegetarians" decided to set up a café on their farm. Smith calls it a "vegetarian café", adding that "
they do serve meat On Sundays – with just one choice of either chicken, beef, lamb or pork". It's ethically insignificant, of course, since there's no difference between producing dairy or meat for human consumption. But Smith has already shown veganism as being something which can make up a percentage of your diet (i.e. by being "mainly vegan"), so it should be no surprise that she would describe a café selling animal flesh as "vegetarian". I mean, why not at this point, since words and their definitions seem as insignificant to Smith as wether or not humans use or otherwise consume other animals. It's no surprise either that co-owner Hillary Chester-Master, "long-term vegetarian" would also refer to the café as "vegetarian" in the piece. I mean, she even refers to a chicken as "a week's worth of meals".

Smith then babbles about not wanting to support "intensive farming" after her "foray into veganism" and asserts that it's "satisfying (and important" to know the "origins of the animals whose lives would get taken for her pleasure and convenience and she describes herself as a kid in a candy store wandering around the shop and looking at the "food" around her. And so the rest of the article turns into an extended advertisement for Abbey Home Farm. 
Everything is 100% organic. It's up for a BBC food and farming award, the readers are told. Children are brought in to "learn about where their food comes from". The reader is basically lulled into embracing a charming, pastoral vision of what enslaving and slaughtering sentient beings can purportedly involve. The reader is presented this vision by someone who repeatedly touts vegan cred. And this is why I wish fewer non-vegans would make a buck pretending to be writing articles from a vegan-friendly angle. In the end, they're no better than speciesist endorsements for the reinforcement of the status quo. Smith is OK with that. Chester-Master is OK with that. The animals whose lives are stolen by both? Not so much.