Here’s Why Being Vegan Isn’t Elitist

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© 2007 SaraJane, Flickr | CC-BY-SA | via Wylio

An excuse for not being vegan accusation often thrown at vegans is that to be vegan is ‘elitist’; that it’s a white, middle-class, bourgeois thing to be.

Apparently some think it’s a first-world luxury, and a privilege only rich and pretentious types can afford.

This is so easy to ‘out’ as an excuse for, at best, not wanting to go vegan, or, at worst, an uninformed, ignorant jibe, that this post is gonna write itself.

Here’s why this is BS:


1. Is veganism a first world luxury?

Lots of the countries that we call ‘third world’, by default eat very close to a vegan diet. Meat is rarely eaten – maybe at a religious feast or celebration, but is way too expensive to eat on a daily basis.  The RICH people in these countries may eat more meat, but the poor certainly don’t. It’s MEAT that is considered a luxury, not plant foods.

In most of Africa, most of Asia and most of the Middle East, meat is an occasional luxury, and everyday staples are made up of grains, veg, beans, legumes and fruit. The demand for meat is on the rise in developing countries, precisely because people are becoming richer and aspire to live in what they see as a more ‘western,’ i.e. affluent, fashion.

Thus – in most of the world meat equals luxury; beans equal poverty. Veganism would definitely be thought of as a peasants diet by most of the world, so HOW is it considered elitist here?


2. Is veganism a ‘white’ lifestyle choice?

This couldn’t be a more insane point of view.

Being vegan makes even more sense, health-wise, for non-whites. About 75% of the world’s population lose their lactase enzymes after weaning. This mean they are forever after intolerant to lactose and ideally should not be eating anything that contains it. This is especially applicable to the vast majority of Africans and Asians. Only some (very white!) Northern European and some Mediterranean peoples are thought to retain the lactase enzyme into adulthood, meaning they are more able to digest lactose (this DOESN’T mean dairy is good for them, it just means they have less trouble digesting it than others).

MANY people of non-white ethnicities are vegan for ethical reasons. Veganism is a tenet of the Rastafarian religion, Jainism, which originated in India, prescribes a cruelty-free diet; and just check out the work of A. Breeze Harper and Bryant Terry , (whose book Vegan Soul Kitchen has been a favourite in my kitchen for years).


3. Is veganism just for rich people?

Many, MANY of us have written about the fact that it’s cheaper to eat a plant-based diet than a meat and dairy strong diet. I’ve even done it myself. Meat costs more than beans, always has, always will.

So we shouldn’t expect people to spend money on healthy food, but we SHOULD expect them to spend huge amounts of money on healthcare when they get diseases that could have been avoided by buying healthy food (WHICH IS ACTUALLY CHEAPER THAN UNHEALTHY FOOD) in the first place? Have you seen how little beans and grains cost from bulk bins???

This is absolutely frickin’ bonkers.


4. DO vegans think they are better/more superior/of higher status than anyone else?

A few seconds of critical thinking will help anyone see that vegans don’t eat animals precisely because they do not think they are superior to any other living being.

Meat eaters, by the same token, must think they are of a superior status to animals – otherwise they couldn’t have them killed in order to eat them. In truth, it’s meat eaters that are elitist.


5. Is it a luxury or privilege to devote time to thinking about what you’re going to eat?

No. As I’ve said before, if you are healthy, happy and strong in every way, you can better and more optimally serve.

Most diseases can be prevented with a whole food, plant-based diet. If you are ill, you are not able to contribute to, or help others because you are suffering. When you are in pain or discomfort (whether physically or mentally), your focus is inwards, on yourself, because you are hurting.

When you feel good in mind and body, you naturally think less about yourself and more about what you can do for others, even if it’s just exuding joy or radiating positive energy – which can have an amazing effect on those around you.

If you really think that looking after yourself is elitist, you are not seeing the big picture. When you’re sick – someone has to look after you; you’ll take sick days from work, putting more of a load on others; you won’t be able to look after your kids properly; you’ll miss appointments etc.


6. Is it really elitist to care about the planet?

Meat and dairy consumption is the worst thing for the planet. If you think it’s elitist and middle-class to care about this and want to do something about it, I can’t even….you’re crazy, that’s all.




To be absolutely fair, I can see how some might get the idea that a plant-based diet is elitist, with all the instagram pics of smoothies containing the hideously expensive chia, maca and lucuma, and the oh so pricey coconut water and coconut-related products.

But these are just extremely fashionable superfoods right now. While there is no harm in them and they are great to include in your diet if you have a pretty penny or two, there is absolutely no need to include any of them on a healthy, whole food, plant-based diet. My theory about their popularity is that people see them as a quick fix – as the super-quick route to health; they are marketed to us in such a way that we think they will dramatically rejuvenate us and protect us from all evil. It’s not surprising that the world has gone crazy for chia et al.

I can assure you, you don’t need expensive shizz from the peaks of the Peruvian Andes to have an optimal vegan diet.

The less glamorous truth is – long-term health is really built on solid, consistent quality nutrition. That is to say, meals of ‘plain old’ vegetables, grains, beans, legumes fruit and nuts, These are what will sustain you long-term. They are less sexy to be sure, and maybe beans don’t look so hot on instagram, but they will see you right, and won’t drain your bank account.

I’ve NEVER ingested a single chia seed (nothing against chia, I’ll no doubt try it soon), and I wouldn’t know lucuma if it smacked me in the face, but I’m doing great without them.


7 thoughts on “Here’s Why Being Vegan Isn’t Elitist”

  1. Thanks for posting this article. I’ve stared my transition to plant based foods and I’m excited.

  2. God this is so pretentious. When people talk about vegans being classist, they’re referring to the U.S., specifically urban areas. The United States has the largest concentration of vegans, first and foremost. Nine of the ten countries with the highest percentage of vegans are wealthy first world countries, and the U.S. is one of them.

    Statistically, the demographics most likely to be vegan are whites, liberals, and women aged 20-40. Keith Sellars has said outright that Whole Foods takes education level heavily into account when choosing locations- hence the scarcity of stores in notoriously low income areas like Appalachia.

    Also, people eating animals and animal biproducts are not the chief cause of damage to the environment. 71% of global emissions are caused by only 100 companies. Cowspiracy is not a reputable source, and “damage to the environment” is too nebulous and vague to be chalked up to one issue.

    People shouldn’t have to come up with “excuses” (as you so considerately phrased it) for their health choices, because, to put no too fine a point on it, it’s none of your fucking business. Nobody needs to hear your food preaching unless they’re your patient, spouse, or family.

    If vegans genuinely don’t do what they do to be “better” than others, then why do you guys constantly preach about how your subjective views on health and moralty make you *objectively* better and healthier than other people?

    1. Hi Wendy. I’m sorry my blog post so upset you. In answer to your claims:

      I’d need to know where your statisticians are getting their figures from. I’ve been vegan a long time and I’ve never been ‘counted’ or asked if I am vegan for any statistics chart.

      There really are MANY vegans of colour – look at my IG followers list (and check the people I follow). Only last night I used a recipe from Viet Vegan (a Vietnamese vegan, if this wasn’t obvious). Also – did you read the blog post all the way through? Veganism is a tenet of Rastafarianism and Jainism, so your argument holds barely any water. Sure, some of the demo you mention may be doing it as a trend, but it’s just not true that most vegans fit that description.

      As for Whole Foods – this is NOT a vegan shop. I’m not sure why you think you need to shop at WF AT ALL if you are vegan. Most of my US vegan friends are not fans of WF because it’s so expensive, and they shop at Costco and Aldi, where there are plenty of vegan options. I have travelled extensively in the States, and while I sometimes visit WF, most places we go don’t have one, so we’ll use Kroger, Food Lion etc, which again, have PLENTY of vegan choices. I’ve also travelled extensively in Appalachia (again, see my IG account) and had no trouble eating well as a vegan. Come to that, neither did I in Mississippi, West Virginia or Louisiana.

      Again, I would need to see an indpendent, peer-reviewed source to back up your comment ‘people eating animals and animal biproducts are not the chief cause of damage to the environment.’ I suggest you check out the Cowspiracy ‘facts’ page. They rigourously checked that the statements on this page were from trusted, independent sources, and update them as they learn more. You’d maybe also like to check the works of Dr Richard Oppenlander.

      As for the rest of your comment, being vegan isn’t a ‘health choice.’ Writing a blog post on my website is not ‘preaching.’ If I was a butcher writing about the supoosed health benefits of eating meat, would you call that ‘preaching?’ Probably not because it would fit your agenda. However, it is a scientific fact that a whole food, plant-based diet IS the optimal diet for health. Let me know if you’d like references for this and I’ll provide you with a shedload.

    1. You DO know that by being vegan we are helping combat world hunger, right? Grain and cereals are being grown in developing countries (where people are starving) to export to the west to feed cattle – for the cattle to then feed humans. This isn’t right, or sustainable. If fewer of us ate meat, we could feed those crops directly to starving people; or where those crops may not be fit for human consumption, we could use that land to grow other vegetables on that were.

  3. Thanks Karen, for sharing this excellent article. I’m curious about Wendy’s reply to your elaborated reaction. I’d like to ask her to add her view on the endless suffering of sentient beings in the meat- and dairy industry in her comment. To turn things around: for those who are in the position to inform themselves about the detrimental effects of products derived from animals -for the animals, for our heath, for people being exploited because of these industries, for the environment, for our planet (I suppose all who ended on this blog are, which can indeed be considered as a privilege:-)), wouldn’t it be elitist to continue consuming them out of habit, cultural upbringing or convenience?

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