What Veganuary Taught Me About Class and Privilege

I feel conflicted about veganism.

On the one hand, I’ve never felt better.

At first, I wasn’t sure it’d do anything. Perhaps it’s my own cynicism getting in the way, but I was convinced it was a placebo.

As someone who suffers from IBS, a plant-based diet has reduced my symptoms. Turns out vegetables are really good for you, after all…

I It isn’t a miracle cure or medical breakthrough. But I haven’t had to lay horizontal for hours or guzzle peppermint tea since.

I don’t even need to mention the ethical and environmental arguments. By now, the case for veganism is obvious.

So, why do I feel so weird about it?

It isn’t to do with the food.

If anything, vegan food (in general) is nicer than vegetarian food.

A dollop of cheese and a few leaves tastes meh compared to the vegan dishes I’ve tried.

Rather, it’s how veganism has been sold that bothers me.

Cooking meals from scratch at home is easy. I can cobble together a curry, chili, tofu dish, stir fry or vegan burger no questions asked.

But when I go to the supermarket or out for dinner, frustration creeps in.

Picture this: it’s 3pm at work and you’re ready for a snack.

Sure, you could get some nuts or fruit. That’s fine. But sometimes you just need some crap to get you through to the end of the working day.

Mostly likely, you’ll fork out £3 for three cereal bars. There’s no more nipping into Poundland or Fultons for a bargain.

Instead, you’re plunged into the world of Graze, Deliciously Ella, and Naked…

Now, don’t get me wrong, they’re all delicious. But they’re all aimed at an obvious market: the middle class.

As a young professional who works in marketing, it’s not left a huge dent in my wallet. But it’s by no means cheap.

I grew up in a working class family. I can’t imagine my mum, who worked part time with two kids, forking out £3 for three cereal bars.

I was already fussy enough as a kid. If we had to buy expensive vegan alternatives, it would’ve only added to the pressure. There’s no way I would’ve eaten fruit and seeds all day.

The way these products are branded clearly caters to a certain ‘type.’

It’s the yoga-loving mums, the hipster dads, or young millennials with a bit of cash to spare.

When I went to get a meal deal from Boots the other day, the vegan options were all branded with the word ‘wellness.’ It’s a word that immediately associates veganism with ‘health’ products and ‘clean eating.’

In short, veganism has been branded as a middle class pursuit.

To be fair, there are more options available than ever before. KFC, Subway, Pizza Hut and more have introduced fast food alternatives.

But most of them are ‘Veganuary’ specials. Come March, they’ll be long forgotten.

Supermarkets like Aldi are doing great work. Their vegan pizzas are some of the best going. Plus they have an extensive plant-based burger range and the usual meat alternatives.

No matter your budget, it’s the supermarket that’s best catering to the market.

On a basic level, I agree with veganism. It’s one of the best things we can do to reduce carbon emissions.

I urge anyone to try it, even if it’s just to experiment with new flavours and ingredients.

But disentangling it from its capitalist trappings can prove difficult.

The overriding message from brands is that veganism the most ethical, environmentally friendly diet that will help you eat ‘healthier’ – but only if you can afford it.

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