Is Veganism a “Cultural Appropriation”?

We throw a lot of shade here at vegans, chiefly because it has taken on the affectations of ideology, such that cow-hating environmentalists would mandate a vegan diet for all of us if they could. There’s also much truth in the joke: “How do you do you know someone is vegan? Because they’ll eff-ing tell you!”

But what will the oh-so-sensitive cultural left do when they realize that western veganism was ripped off from the oppressed of the non-western world? This is the question posed by a terrific story out from Quartz, which tees off on this tweet:

This provoked another Tritter blue-checker to vegan-shame Weinhofen in a manner that could easily be taken as parody, but likely is not (though it is nowadays impossible to tell):

Jeff Yang, a journalist, author, and podcaster, launched a well-informed critique of the vegan’s throwaway insult, pointing out that it ignored the context of privilege and abundance that many modern, Western vegans benefit from, and echoed race-based and neocolonial tropes.

Yang (who has written for Quartz) notes that many of the foodstuffs that are central to today’s meat-free lifestyles actually came from the non-Western food cultures that vegans like Weinhofen now critique. As is often the case with appropriation, the originators of such foods have not benefited from the explosion of popularity in the wealthy world (see: quinoa farmers in Bolivia).

Here are some of Yang’s responses to Weinhofen’s ying:

I can easily envision thousands of vegans starving to death from guilt and anxiety when they find out their lifestyle is yet another oppressive cultural appropriation and exploitation.

Someone pass the kale chips; I’m all out of popcorn.

P.S. A helpful reminder:

Also this:

Responses