Today’s Arizona Daily Star features a positive article on the vegan market in Tuscon. Local businesses like Lovin’ Spoonfuls restaurant, Epic Vegan Treats, Epic Café, and VegetarianSite.com are highlighted. The article also points out that vegans are a growing consumer block. The market for vegan foods alone is valued at $2.8 billion and is part of a growing $50 billion dollar a year natural products industry.
While it’s awesome that small vegan-owned companies are tapping into this profitable market, the investment of large corporations in the vegan market is a point of contention. For example, Hain Celestial Group (the corporation that owns JASON cosmetics and half of the entire friggin’ vegan and non-vegan world) saw a 27% increase in third-quarter income and is looking forward to adding more natural products to its roster. I am doubtful that HCG is working towards creating a peaceful kingdom. Let’s be real, their interest in creating vegan products begins and ends with the Benjamins. Right now veganism is a cash cow and HCG and other corporations are milking it.
While some folks choose to avoid supporting large corporations by exclusively purchasing products from small local businesses, others reject the capitalist system as a whole. The current trash-themed issue of Satya contains an interview with Adam Weissman. Weissman is both a vegan and the premier promoter of freeganism, a lifestyle in which one liberates himself from capitalist culture. Here’s an excerpt:
Satya: Switching gears a bit, are you concerned that exposing this unorthodox lifestyle will hurt the vegan movement because it makes it seem fringe and crazy?
Weissman: Do vegans worry that publicizing veganism will hurt the movement for human rights in Latin America? Freeganism and veganism are two entirely different ideas. It’s true that the word “freegan” is derived from “vegan” and that confuses many people. But the word freegan was chosen largely to satirize an attitude prevalent among many vegans who seem unconcerned about the social and ecological impacts of the goods they purchase—so long as they are vegan. Sweatshop-made Nike shoes are fine, as long as they aren’t leather. Chocolate soymilk is great, despite the destruction of rainforests, exploitation of child slaves in the African chocolate trade and use of GMO plants.
The term freegan was created to express the notion that to live the “cruelty-free” lifestyle vegans advocate, we need to remove ourselves as much as possible from the capitalist economy, rather than taking the tunnel-vision perspective that we should only be concerned about animal flesh and secretions.
To many vegans, freeganism may seem marginal or extreme, but it’s important to remember that veganism seems “normal” and “acceptable” from within the context of the vegan community. Yet many vegans fail to recognize that the organized vegan community reflects bourgeoisie, white, liberal cultural norms, and to people outside of this demographic, eating tofu instead of hamburger can seem far weirder than getting good food that a store has needlessly thrown away.