Veganism Means Reclaiming Our Power From the World's Most Destructive Industrial Powers
In a tragic misunderstanding of global climate change’s causes, many folks are bemoaning veganism as another ‘plastic straw fad’ and wondering why we aren’t collectively focused on something like overthrowing capitalism instead. First I think it’s important to clarify that this is not an either-or issue. We are all perfectly capable of supplanting both capitalism and animal agriculture with more ethical choices.
Secondly, we must stop equating boycott and divestment from animal agriculture with the absurdity of refusing plastic straws. 46% of plastic in the oceans is from the commercial fishing industry. Animal agriculture is a leading cause of rainforest deforestation, fresh water use, and ocean dead zones. Animal agriculture produces more greenhouse gas emissions than all of the transportation sector combined, and is responsible for more than half of all global greenhouse gas emissions. Plastic straws represent less than 1% of the ocean’s plastic.
These are not vegan political fantasies. They are scientifically founded facts about the world we live in and the destruction we are causing to it.
The Power We Gave Them
As correct as we are to dismantle the horrors capitalism creates in the world, this is not a problem we can place solely on the feet of abstract economics or even the capitalists profiting the most from this economy’s existence. Truthfully, we have a powerful role to play in every economy—both as workers and as consumers. We have a powerful role to play in creating something different, and that process, I believe, begins by remembering and reclaiming the power we have given the capitalist powers that be.
‘Corporations’ do not exist in a vacuum. The Amazon is not deforesting itself for the hell of it. There are two central components to economies—supply and demand—and we cannot blame supply (or the structure of supply) alone for creating a world we now don’t like. We must change our own consumer habits whether in this economy or in the economic system we create to replace it, or we will simply be left with more equitable production of ecological devastation.
Blaming ‘corporations’ alone is just a modern ‘the Devil made me do it’ excuse. People have been living on vegan diets for generations. These people work jobs, raise children, have disabilities and other health concerns, and otherwise live busy lives. No corporation is holding a gun to our head and forcing us to consume animal products. We are the demand for these industries to exist. Our investment in an ecologically destructive economy sustains its existence.
The Power it Will Take
The above image shows how superficial in some senses a purely production-side economic shift would be. We can and should move from capitalist to classless living, but changing the value distribution of an industrial world is of little consequence to the planet and all those with lives affected by the industry in question.
Shifts in economic management must accompany shifts in ecological participation, and vice versa. The remaining wildlife of Earth do not care whether capitalists horde profits for themselves or if the value of their destruction is equitably distributed among all human workers. Farmed animals do not care if the people slaughtering them earn a living wage and have access to adequate healthcare or not. Greenhouse gas emissions will continue to drive global climate change whether the industries responsible are owned by capitalists or the people.
Economic equity and an end to class are critically important causes, there is no doubt about this. But if we care about slowing or even just surviving climate change, we cannot afford to segregate pursuing these ends from the community- and individual-driven choices we can make, such as going vegan, choosing to completely divest from industrial agriculture and plastic, or other related lifestyle changes.
With even conservative news outlets reporting around a decade left to prepare for severe climate change, our strategies to change the world cannot afford to restrict themselves either purely to production-side or demand-side economics. The unchecked pollution of the industrial world must be halted, and the demand for production that creates those externalities must be shifted elsewhere. We can no longer afford to fight the existing world without simultaneously applying ourselves to the creation of another.
And the world we create must be one in greater harmony with our wild planet Earth.
Pat Mosley (NC LMBT #16882) is a licensed massage and bodywork therapist in the Winston-Salem area. His work is rooted in compassionate touch, permaculture, and deep ecology with the resilience of all Earth's children in mind. Connect with him via email to email@example.com