Being Vegangelical and the Radical Sustenance of Culture
The Cultural Studies Association of Australasia
Faculty of Education and Arts
School of Communications and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts,Technology, Education and Communications
Consumers in liberal democracies have been invited to adopt a range of new or modified behaviours—from waste recycling through water restrictions; green energy; cycling and hybrid cars. Yet there has been extraordinarily little emphasis upon our primary consumption patterns: the practicalities of what we eat. This paper addresses the claimed environmental benefits of the vegan diet: a plant-based regime that excludes animal products—meat, fish, fowl, dairy and eggs. It asks why this regime has been so little discussed as a possible response to a range of ethical, health and environmental issues. Proponents of veganism claim that contemporary practices of growing plants to feed animals—which are reared to feed humans—is one of the most wasteful ways imaginable to treat the planet's resources. Further, vegans suggest that this everyday approach to furnishing the western table has ethical implications (in terms of the Animal Liberation agenda) and general health implications (The China Study). Veganism is also promoted as an effective way to respond positively to the dietary restrictions (Halal, Kosher) inherent in a range of world religions, thus promoting cross-cultural and inter-religious harmony. Latterly there have been (less authoritative) suggestions that the two major diseases of the affluent world—heart disease (Esselstyn) and cancer (Plant)—are preventable, or even treatable—with a vegan diet. Assuming that even a proportion of these arguments have merit, why is it that veganism remains such a minority pursuit in the face of a widespread social commitment to promote cultural sustainability?