Wayne Hsiung
Published on
January 12, 2014

Veg*n Consumerism: Panacea... or Pitfall?

One of the complaints we face, in campaigning against Chipotle, is that we shouldn't target a restaurant that has a vegan consumer option. "After all, they're helping people along, step by step," critics say. "Why not go after McDonald's instead?" But when you unpack this criticism, you see that even the critics -- who perversely favor vegan consumer options above all else -- should be our campaign's biggest supporters! 

First, even if one thinks the vegan option is important, our campaign is perhaps the best way to ensure that the vegan option stays. In the face of public pressure and scrutiny, the company (which markets itself as friendly to vegans) could hardly abandon its vegan burrito now, in a moment when its vegan-friendly credentials are being challenged. Indeed, it's at least as likely that it will seek to add even more vegan options to satisfy the protesters, and further prove to progressives and activists that they are a "good company." Chipotle -- which has invested tens of millions into its image as an ethical company -- and its ilk are precisely the companies most likely to respond to a pressure campaign by adding more options. 

Second, veg*n options are not a promising platform for animal liberation. This is not theoretical. We can look directly at a real world counter-example: India. The country, which probably has more vegetarians than the rest of the world combined, has doubled its meat consumption in the past 10 years.  Young vegetarians are now, in NPR's words, the new pariahs -- dismissed as needlessly traditional and excluded from a new symbol of status. 

Vegetarianism, in short, has no natural moral trajectory. When framed as a personal choice, as in many parts of India, it is not a strong platform for growth. Animal liberation, in contrast, is such a platform. Indeed, without a strong liberationist movement to culturally construe and interpret veg*n options, those options serve no function for animals whatsoever. They are not a panacea, but a pitfall. 

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