Is Being Vegan Really A Luxury First-World Phenomenon?

It’s no secret that vegans are still often considered some kind of “aliens” although their intentions are more than noble. In most cases, they took the decision to become vegan because of ethical reasons and because of their compassion for suffering animals. However, the following article looks at veganism in a different light by floating that being vegan is actually a luxury first-world phenomenon because third-world countries could never afford to decide which food they would like to eat. Those people who use to live in these countries are chronically undernourished so they would be more than glad if they had just something to eat. Let us know about your opinion on the arguments given in the following article. We would really love to hear from you!

“When one in nine people in the world are chronically undernourished, being quite this focussed on what you won’t eat can almost seem spoiled.

“I can’t eat this. I’m a vegan,” my mate said as the waiter plonked our dessert down on the table.

I had no idea what she could possibly mean: it was raw, egg-free, dairy-free chia pudding, wasn’t it?

But apparently, that dessert contained white sugar. And apparently, some white sugar is a vegan sin, because it gets its colour from a refining process involving bone char. I know this because my friend told our entire table, very loudly, as the rest of the restaurant watched on with bewilderment.

Now, I admire my friend in many ways. But as she sat there, disgruntedly awaiting a replacement dessert, a thought crossed my mind: This is getting ridiculous.

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I’m hardly the first person to criticise vegans. Despite their typically benign intentions, their difficulty to cater for make them an easy (and sometimes unfair) target for the meat-eating majority. They’re also commonly mocked by chefs and caterers across the globe because, as Anthony Bourdain once put it, “being a vegan is a first-world phenomenon”.

Bourdain has a point.

Think about it: Across the world, one in nine people is chronically undernourished, according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation.

That means that to eat, a huge number of people on this planet are reliant on whatever they grow or sow themselves — so they don’t exactly have the luxury of deciding whether to eat animal products or not.

Many of those people, in fact, end up being “vegan” or “vegetarian” by default, because they can’t afford animal products. But others, who do have access to chicken, pork, egg, milk and the like, consume calories where they can, because the alternative is malnutrition. (And while faux-meats and dairy-free groceries may line the shelves of your nearest inner-city Australian organic grocery store, those products are completely unavailable in many parts of the world, known as “food deserts”.)

When you’re vegan in a developed country like Australia, the fact that you have consistent access to foods that nourish you  — and can therefore choose what to put on your plate — means you have a food and class privilege that others simply do not.”

Read the full article at mamamia.com!

50 comments

  1. Charles Van Horn Reply

    many third world countries are vegan, we are just not shown this aspect though. It has been made to seem 1st world and elitist, but it is really not.

  2. Annie Horn Reply

    this is why i’m hesitant to tell people my dietary preferences now. i have been doing plant based diet since end of february this year for health reasons more specifically than others as a means to combat several longstanding conditions i have, which has worked out great. but as another blogger pointed out that i read recently, it is virtually IMPOSSIBLE to eliminate all animal products from everything all the time. and for me, i’m a working mom of two small kids and so i can’t get that specific in terms of what i am eating. the idea is that you consume LESS animal products as a means to help the environment and said animals. when people get extreme like this, as with anything it is what gives said group a bad name. my husband and i went to dinner recently and told our waiter we were vegan and he got all nervous because he was all “you can’t have this breaded tofu appetizer then because its fried in the same wok as other stuff.” guess what, we ate the tofu anyway and life went on. better to do something to make things better than nothing at all…

  3. Nina Plevin Reply

    Why would anyone say its a luxury? There are so many worldly problems that veganism can fix. Its a disgrace to try and dissuade people from being vegan.

  4. Pam Hurd Reply

    Meat is more of a luxury. Kill off the land and the animals just to satisfy your personal cravings.

  5. Flitsington Gray Reply

    It was written by a meat eater trying to justify their way of life. It’s quite low of them to use the third world to justify what they’re doing.

  6. Sue Rounds Reply

    This article is designed to alleviate the guilt of those who continue to eat meat. There are far too many articles that state that animal agriculture is one of the main contributing factors of deforestation and water pollution. Third world countries are forced to grow food to feed cattle, rather than their children, and the torture these animals endure is beyond fathomable. Nice of this article to sight one spoiled brat, and not the majority. I’ve seen too many meat eaters return the steak or the fish because it’s “overcooked” or doesn’t live up to their snooty standards…and the steak that ends up in the trash was a life; carelessly discarded. The amount of food that is thrown out in, America alone, is staggering; and refusing to accept that much of that food was a living, breathing being that was stolen from its mother, tortured and slaughtered as a baby is utter denial.

  7. Amy Jacobson Reply

    How is veganism a luxury? I can buy a week’s supply of greens for less than one steak. And, have you seen the price of milk & eggs, lately? *smh*

  8. Xina Conlan Reply

    It’s actually cheaper to be vegan so I dunno how it’s a luxury.

    Lentils, chickpeas, etc are all natural foods that don’t cost the earth.

    I guess if you were to buy fancy pants vegan burgers made from mycoprotein all the time, then that could be expensive.

    This could apply to omnis too tho. A mcds burger meal could be considered cheap compared to a 5 star Michelin steak dinner.

    It’s just down to personal preferences and finances.

  9. Robin Kennedy Reply

    In some instances it can be but we don’t live in a country like that… Clothes can be a luxury as well but I’m not going to burn everything I own…

  10. Jet Grey Reply

    Daniel (in the bible) only ate vegetables and drank water. People have been meatless and dairy less for eons. This is a non story made into a story to get people to argue. Pass.

  11. Jackie Cafaro Reply

    It’s a luxury if you’re just buying expensive vegan substitutes like cheese, ice cream, and yogurt. It’s not a luxury if you’re just purchasing produce and protein packed foods like lentils and beans.

  12. Jackie Porter Reply

    It’s a very blithe article, who is to say that even if they had access to meat that they would want to? I disagree with the article writer with her point that vegans are hard to cook for, they are not, I’m a chef myself. Chefs that lack imagination may struggle to cater for vegans and when at catering collage everything revolves around meat so I understand that but it’s a poor excuse. People to quickly jump on the anti-vegan band wagon because they believe they are justified in their ridicule just because a vegan has made an ethical choice and they maybe find it difficult as they haven’t made the change themselves? I don’t know what to think to be honest, I just wish people would respect a vegans choice and not try to make them feel bad for their choice the same way most vegans don’t ridicule people for eating meat. And it isn’t impossible to eliminate all animal derived products as I have done just that, I wouldn’t eat anything or take medication or drinks that have animal derivatives.

  13. Jacqueline Briand Reply

    There is no reason for anyone on the planet to go without water or food. The powers that be want it that way. Basically they just don’t give a$#%&!@* They have been protecting the meat and dairy industry and polluting our planet for many years and telling us lies. They have thier money makers… all the people that AREN’T in third world countries. Make no mistake this is about money, greed, politics with big pharma reaping the benifits off of the sick and addicted. Veganism is standing up against greed, control, famine, lack of water, global warming, animal and human cruelty ect… They could feed and water everyone but they choose to give the water and food to cows, pigs and chickens that they have bred while people in third world countries have no food or water… well if that isn’t evil greed, I don’t what is. The article is ridiculous.

  14. Anita Hawa Reply

    I’ve heard that just over 30% of india are strict vegetarian, and I know many, many ppl here in India who are strict vegan (although not sure of the stats on vegans in India). They just don’t use the term vegan here, for whatever cultural reasons.

    And I can assure you one of the vegan family I know here are severely deprived.

    Sounds like the author has never been to the lesser developed country. A rather condescending article and one of the most ridiculous conclusion I’ve come across.

  15. Loretta Shover Reply

    Being vegan isn’t a luxury….you just eat fruits and veggies. Its a simple concept. Its just hard for people to imagine eating like that because food is made to be such a huge part of our lives. We are taught meals are supposed to be so fancy and huge, as where food is for….survival.
    I don’t tell people I’m vegan but people go out of their way at work to ask what I’m eating, then criticize me, then continue to criticize me daily like I’m stupid for how I eat. Its really annoying and ignorant. But I’m healthy, happy, and won’t need triple bypass heart surgery from clogged arteries later in life so its whatever.

  16. Caprice Insco Reply

    Nope…you could argue eating BeastBurgers and daiya cuz at every meal would be a first world luxury but most 3rd world countries easy mostly vegan and the rain they’re starving is because their agriculture land is going to feed animals for western countries to eat instead of them…

  17. Sanaa Greetings Reply

    Many people wont understand why others are vegans because they find it more easy to live in ignorance. Since they dont care for animals pain and suffering they are not able to understand why others do care. Its futile to open their eyes because for them IGNORANCE IS BLISS. You can’t wake up somebody who is not sleeping but pretends to.

  18. Lucy Stephens Reply

    omg i actually had this conversation last night. I asked questions as to what other alternatives (crops, etc.) could be possible for such people and in specific regions. Also, through research I learned of Jainism, and Indian religion that has been around since the 6th century BCE India and they are vegan.

  19. Lucy Stephens Reply

    Even if it is a “first- world luxury” why wouldn’t we choose to make the better choice for our health and the planet. Is the author’s purpose of this article to shame people who have the means to adopt a vegan lifestyle by arguing that there are areas of the world where impoverished people have a difficult or “impossible” time nourishing themselves without meat or other animal excretions?

  20. Chrys Brennan Reply

    Yes. Lentils. 1 cup = 18 grams protein and 16 grams fiber for only 230 calories; very inexpensive. Not being vegan is actually the lux first-world phenomenon: more non-vegan foods require both refrigeration and cooking to prepare (more electricity and appliances; assuming one has a home to keep such things). Also require more food to feed animals; food that humans could be eating.

  21. Sam McAninch Reply

    Meat is a luxury. Poor countries can’t afford to feed edible plant food to animals to produce less food. This is asinine.

  22. Sam McAninch Reply

    The only reason most people can afford meat and dairy in the United States is because it is so heavily subsidized! If we paid the true price of it, it would be too expensive for most!

  23. Jackie Porter Reply

    I love how people say I don’t want any animals to die for what I eat, well guess what, all that milk and butter and cheese you eat has only been successfully produced as the cow is raped to give birth to produce milk time and again, the calf will either be a veal calf, or raised for dairy or meat. Most calves don’t even get a taste of their mother’s milk before they are separated and the calf bottle fed milk replacement powder

  24. Jean Lee Reply

    I buy 10 lbs of potatoes for $1 when they’re on sale. When they’re not on sale for $1, I buy them for $2 elsewhere. 2 lbs of oats for $1 when they’re on sale. U can get a 30 lb sack of rice for dirt cheap when on sale. Beans and lentils are usually $1 per lb or less. How is this a luxury? A pound of lean ground beef is like $6-$8 a lb, and that’s after the govt subsidizes $37 billion every year to animal ag.

    People say that vegans are biased when we spout our “beliefs”. We’re biased towards truth. What a bias.

  25. Caitlin Page Reply

    Errrrr… if you live in a first world country you are privileged – regardless of your food choices.

    Usually becoming vegetarian or vegan is a form of political protest and, in time, will help inform social decisions made by both the food industry and the government. It’s not at all about class. Vegan alternatives (such as soya protein, rice, beans, lentils and tofu) are actually more financially accessible than the meat many people choose to put in their mouths.

  26. Nicco Suave Meredith Reply

    I became vegan for health reasons- it wasn’t later into my switch that it became a moral and ethical change. Almost 1/3 of the world is at least vegetarian because of poverty… So what’s the article getting at?

  27. Brie Onna Reply

    The poorest countries in the world eat little to no meat/ dairy because they can’t afford it. Many places, people eat meat only a few times a year and save up to buy it for special occasions. So actually the other way around, being an omnivore is a privilege of the wealthy.

  28. Elaine Vowles Reply

    If everyone were vegan, the crops grown to sustain factory farmed animals could feed the hungry nations and we would have a surplus along with an abundance of fresh water.
    The cost of having one’s chest cracked open because of clogged arteries could be put into the general health budget and Viagra would be out of business. Lol!
    I don’t eat at restaurants that are not vegan. I don’t eat the white death.
    I only buy grains and vegetables. That’s much cheaper than being a carnivore.
    Oh…. and when I was a single mom with three kids and very little money? Being vegetarian was economical. I could fill a carton with veggies and oatmeal etc for under $50. I did not buy processed or fast food and I baked my own bread, cookies etc as much as I could. I worked two jobs.

  29. Cat Race Reply

    I love all of these incredibly well thought out, intelligent responses. I am so proud to be amongst you.

  30. Jennifer Thompson Reply

    Well, there are cultures that have been around for centuries that are vegan. No, these cultures are in first world countries. Vegan diets are not a first world luxury.

  31. Marlene Narrow Reply

    This article could possibly be written and circulated as one of the propaganda tactics of the forces that are present who are attempting to undermine the growing Vegan evolution revolution. Veganism will, eventually, result in a peaceful, just, and abundant world for all. WCUW.org/vegannation

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