Veganism* is in crisis.

*as an anti-oppressive social (justice) movement

Instagram @atmos
Photo by Og Mpango from Pexels
Sistah Vegan by Dr. Amie Breeze Harper, 2010

Veganism must place emphasis on access, not choice and morality — and be forthright about the unethical aspects of veganism.

Veganism as a social (justice) movement needs to emphasize access, not choice and morality. A focus on access gives representation to a diversity of vegans and plant based communities, especially those without adequate access to plant based foods living under food apartheids or people that have to take certain non-vegan medications. Understanding access allows veganism as a social (justice) movement to veer away from western based theories and ideologies about morality rooted in anti-Blackness and ableism. From the Enlightenment to the Eugenics movement, narratives of individual choice and morality require shame and perfectionism to create exclusion and exclusivity. This white supremacist logic model excludes and targets BIPOC vegan and plant based advocates as “not vegan enough” or “not vegan at all”.

“Members of the Auyu tribe of Papua, Indonesia, are demanding a halt to the operations of palm oil company PT Indo Asiana Lestari (IAL)”
Photo by Og Mpango from Pexels

Veganism must contend with the fact that NOT ALL vegans are activists, and too many vegan activists are unbridled white supremacists which is dangerous to all liberatory social justice movements. Also, representation does NOT matter, if there is no seismic systemic and ideological shift in veganism from those who currently wield power.

Being vegan does not automatically make a person an activist, thus most vegans are NOT activists. This is not to be condescending or exclusionary, but we should take the role of activists in a white supremacist death cult capitalist society very seriously — activists are fighting for our future. Making this distinction is integral in our current global context of celebrity-influencer activism, where sensationalized posts and tweets eclipse accountability and needed connection with intersecting social justice movements.

Angela Y. Davis’s Facebook
“Angela Davis in 1969. Removing her from California’s public university system was a priority for then-governor Ronald Reagan. Archive/Getty Images”

Conclusion: Black Veganism as a social justice movement rooted in an intersectional decolonial liberatory praxis (practice).

I was introduced to forms of veganism from Black people. It was always political and rooted in social justice, the environment and living beings, communal wellness and rootedness, spiritual health, decolonization, and justice. Even when placed within the framework of plant based diet and health, veganism is and was always political. I instinctively never spoke about food, conscientious consumption, plant based eating and veganism with white people. Because they would say this:

MOVE is a Black anti-oppression organization that centered sustainability, animal rights, and Black liberation connected with Black Power and Rastafarianism movements in the US and Caribbean. In addition to the imprisonment of 9 MOVE members in 1978, the city of Philadelphia bombed the townhome killing eleven people in 1985, including five children and the founder of the organization. Additionally, sixty-one homes were destroyed, and more than 250 citizens were left homeless. Ramona Africa, then 29, and a child, Birdie Africa, then 13, later known as Michael Moses Ward were the only two people to survive the bombing.
@fattishveganish, Jamaican plant-based meal — Ital.



Lisa Betty is a PhD Candidate in History and Course Instructor at Fordham University.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Lisa Betty

Lisa Betty is a PhD Candidate in History and Course Instructor at Fordham University.