Vegans: Cool Your Cucumbers


Emma Komar, Managing Editor

Veganism is one of the fastest growing trends in America. We see blog posts with before and after pictures praising it for a 10lb weight loss, hear the “oh no thanks, I’m vegan,” conversations from the break room, and even notice protesters with animals’ rights t-shirts and megaphones marching through San Francisco.

Two of these scenarios are okay. One is not.

I have no problem with people who choose to be vegan. It’s an honorable commitment that I definitely wouldn’t be able to do myself, so I respect those who can dedicate to this extent.

But I do have a problem with vegans who try to force the same commitment on others.

Like it or not, the ability to be vegan stems from having enough privilege and financial stability to afford fresh fruits, vegetables, and otherwise pricey food choices. And while this may not be a problem for some, expecting others to have that same ability is classist and unjust.

According to a survey done by the Federal Reserve Bank, 46% of Americans say they would not be able to cover an emergency $400 expense from their existing savings. When things like medical costs and family emergencies prevail, buying the freshest lettuce available probably isn’t a pressing concern.

Yes, some vegan products like pasta or cereal (milkless cereal anyway) can be cheaper, but blogs like Your Daily Vegan assume that just because a food is cheap, it’s desirable: “[one can buy] three pounds of dry lentils for around four dollars at your local supermarket, and it will yield fifteen cups of cooked. That’s thirty servings of lentils. Is anyone out there willing to tell me that’s too expensive? Do you know how many meals you can incorporate that amount of lentils into?”

Listen, just because I could in theory live off of lentils for the rest of my life doesn’t mean I’m about to weigh down my Safeway cart with an abnormal amount of soup beans. Also, this argument assumes that I have both the cooking ability to make more than two meals and the time to do so.

And the vast majority of Americans don’t have time. According to CNN, Americans work the longest weekly hours (34.4) out of the world’s largest economies, and many full time employees report up to 47 hours per week. This equates to roughly six working days per week. And when you add commitments like taking children to school, housework, and social engagements on top of these heavy work hours, the prep time for even the cheapest vegan foods still keeps the working class at a disadvantage.

Some of the poorest renting families don’t even have appliances like refrigerators or stoves, as Matthew Desmond writes in his book, Evicted. You can’t exactly hop on the veganism train without the basic means to store or cook a meal.

Also, some people genuinely can’t make the commitment due to food allergies. Some of veganism’s greatest staple products come from nuts, soy, and wheat, which are also consequently the world’s most common food allergies, according to Food Allergy Research and Education. Even if you’re only allergic to one of these foods, that still cuts out a pretty good chunk of options.

Perhaps the most common argument vegans use to shame non-vegans is that we’re animal killers. Wouldn’t going vegan ultimately be worth it in the end because you’re saving the animals on the farm?

I guess they’ve forgotten who’s running the farm.

Child labor, back-breaking work, and intense hours under the sun are all commonplace in the lives of farm workers. U Roberto Romano’s 2011 film The Harvest points out that “nearly 500,000 children as young as six harvest up to 25 percent of all crops in the United States.” The unregulated child labor on top of the exploitative wages make the farm work necessary for veganism’s crop choices far from cruelty free.

But hey, I guess the 6-year-old with sunstroke who’s growing your quinoa isn’t as important as that cow.