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Friday, May 29, 2020

Coronavirus

Shaming non-vegans is not the solution to coronavirus pandemic


Coronavirus graphic

Jiselle Santos/The Cougar

During any major event affecting public health, people tend to think about prevention. It is no different for a pandemic, but some messages are harmful.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals on March 21 tweeted “COVID-19 wouldn’t exist in a vegan world.” Not only is this idea misleading, but it is also insensitive to socioeconomic situations that prevent people from going vegan.

Diseases often arise when animals are in close contact with humans, such as farming or hunting. For example, the 1918 Spanish Flu is thought to have started on a chicken farm in Kansas. 

Coronavirus is thought to have started at a wet market in China, where live animals are sold for food. Here, there can be a lot of cross-species transfer with the animals being close.

It is true that meat-borne diseases can lessen when fewer people eat meat, but saying that a pandemic would not happen if we all stopped eating meat today is misleading. 

In addition to being misleading, blaming meat-eaters for the new coronavirus is classist and ignorant. While veganism has its benefits, it can be hard on the wallet. Over 47 million people in America live on food stamps, which give families of four $649 to spend on food for a month.

That is about five dollars per person per day. 

Additionally, there are food deserts in our country where grocery stores are far away leaving the community without easy access to fresh vegetables and fruits. These people rely on convenience stores for groceries, which often lack produce.

It is ignorant to look at the working class and lecture them about going vegan. 

When talking about veganism, we should always think about the sociopolitical and economic contexts. Yes, eating less beef is less harmful to the cow, but eating more vegetables is supporting an industry that barely pays farmers and leaves them in terrible working conditions. We’re substituting one cruelty for another, and we cannot ignore that.

Buying fresh vegetables is great, but we cannot expect a family on food stamps to do that. We can’t expect the most vulnerable people in our society to make these unnecessary sacrifices. 

If you want people to eat less meat, you need to be advocating for farm laborer rights and support their strikes and unions. You need to advocate for workers’ rights so that a family has the budget for a healthier diet. You need to advocate for more generous government programs so families can use their food stamps for more expensive foods like vegetables. 

There are a lot of conversations happening during this pandemic. Blaming poor people for not being vegan should not be one of them. Let’s look at capitalism and why it makes being vegan so difficult. Then we can talk about people eating less meat. 

Anna Baker is an English sophomore who can be reached at [email protected]

For more of The Cougar’s coronavirus coverage, click here.

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