By way of introduction: Elaine Vigneault wrote a post claiming that since some people of color are vegans/vegetarians, there is no element of privilege whatsoever to veg*nism, and it’s offensive to claim there is. I responded by saying that, since it is a lot easier for some people to afford fresh, healthy produce than others, there is an element of privilege. She responded that there are cheap veg*an options — PB&J, lentils — therefore there is nothing privileged whatsoever about it. I responded to that with a story about our friend Brenden:
My best friend is at school at the big public university in our state. Even though he’s got an excellent deal on his tuition, he’s busting his ass to pay room and board. Since he has absolutely no extra money and lives on campus, eating in the cafeteria is his only option. And, having eaten there myself while visiting him, I can tell you that being a vegetarian there would be incredibly difficult (it was difficult for me to pull off for a weekend), and being a vegan definitely impossible (unless we expect him to only eat the very limited selection of fruit they provide, which would not be healthy). So, no one’s got any business tell him his situation isn’t an excuse to eat meat; he would love to have other options, but for the moments, he doesn’t. He’s white, but his family is poor. My other best friend and I are both students too, but because our families have more money, neither of us has any kind of problem being vegetarians.
. . . I think the only thing I’m trying to say is: it is one thing to ask someone who can easily access a healthy veg*n diet to do so. Asking someone for whom that would be incredibly difficult or impossible is a different kind of question. Not that we shouldn’t ask and encourage those people, but it’s not the same thing.
To which she responded:
I disagree that your friend’s lack of funds trumps his moral duty to avoid meat. Even in a cafeteria like that, there are options.
There are always some vegans at any college. I was vegetarian throughout college without trouble. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches are damn cheap. Baked potatoes = cheap. Spaghetti with tomato sauce = cheap. Bean burrito = cheap. Vegetable soup = cheap. Oatmeal = cheap…
Before college, I was in the Conservation Corps. It was a similar situation to your friend’s. I lived on campus and had to eat at the cafeteria and had no extra money for anything. So I told the head chef I was vegetarian. It took a few weeks but finally they made me special meals.(in he meantime I ate PB&J sandwiches). I ate a lot of the same things over and over because the chef wouldn’t get creative, but I survived. And other people often chose the veg option, too, all because I asked for it.
To which I responded that he has literally no extra money (no PB&J for him), and that, while it’s possible the university would listen and change their menu, there is no guarantee, and anyway, asking him to do that is asking a lot more of him than asking be to just not buy meat.
Okay, here’s where I decided I want to post that. She than said, verbatim, emphasis hers:
Really, he’s in college. College. He can’t use excuses like ‘I’m not privileged enough’. He’s in college.
He’s not a good example of the poor people you’re talking about. And those poor people? To go veg, they need education more than money. (They need money for other things, but not veganism). Veganism is NOT a money thing. It’s an education thing.
Mother. Of. God.
I can’t wait till Brenden finds out he’s actually not poor. He will be so excited.
And, an update, in which she said:
He obviously simply places a low priority on ethical eating and a higher priority on convenience.
Like I said before, there are always some veg students at any college. If he just asked the cafeteria, they will likely provide him with a veg option. His excuse is just that, an excuse. He’s just not ready to do what it takes to live a more ethical lifestyle. There are certainly social barriers, but the choice is ultimately his to make.
I’m just reprinting this here so I can figure out whether she’s insane or I am, by the way. I’m pretty sure it’s not me, but it’s good to get a second opinion.
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