The brilliant writer and fierce civil rights activist Audre Lorde once said: “there is no such thing as a single-issue struggle, because we do not live single-issue lives.” In a sense, what Lorde was referring to is that every choice we make is connected to a whole series of consequences, a whole domino effect of results, or, perhaps more accurately, whole web of connected outcomes.
This web of connected outcomes applies to the food we eat, the clothes we wear, the thoughts we think, the goods we purchase, the houses we live in, the relationships we invest ourselves in, and more. This web, and how we navigate it through our choices, forms the bigger picture of how we live our lives and the impact we have in the world.
Moving Toward Wholeness
When we think about how important issues—like animal rights and climate change, for instance—relate to each other, we’re on our way to living a more whole life. And being vegetarian or vegan is a great first step, but there are other factors to consider. For example, Nzinga Young, a prominent vegan writer and model, said: “I wouldn’t buy a vegan sweater made by children in Uzbekistan to support a vegan clothing line. It’s a balancing act, but it’s fulfilling to know both human and non-human animals weren’t knowingly harmed in the making of things I consume.”
Just Because It’s Vegan Doesn’t Mean It’s Ethical
Dr. A. Breeze Harper, who has a PhD in Social Science and an MA in Educational Technologies from Harvard, studies how race, socio-economic class, gender, sexuality, and physical abilities impact the way people relate to food and wellness. In one of the blog posts on her website, Sistah Vegan Project, she describes how she often receives requests to support some new “wellness, animal rights, vegan site, organization, book, campaign or new health/food product” that completely disregard “what human beings (and non-human beings) were potentially exploited to bring that commodity’s ingredients to the market.”
Just because a product is vegan doesn’t mean it’s ethical. “There’s this attitude of, “As long as no animals were hurt, I’ll buy it!’ in the vegan community,” writes Young. “It’s hard seeing people with such a capacity to care overlook the other injustices they support.”
Thinking More Broadly About Plant-Based Living
Tracye McQuirter, MPH, works to address the ways race, class, and other factors affect people’s dietary habits. McQuirter, author of the best-selling book vegan lifestyle book By Any Greens Necessary, directed the nation’s first federally funded and community-based vegan nutrition program. The innovative, hand-on course designed for low-income residents of Washington, DC, taught participants about the health benefits of plant-based foods, and how to shop for and prepare healthy, dairy- and meat-free meals.
The program became so popular, a waiting list had to be instituted! Since then, several programs modeled off McQuirter’s have been initiated across the country. By thinking beyond mere veganism and considering the whole context of the lives of the program’s participants, McQuirter achieved tremendous success.
How to Think About Connections and Intersections
There are many ways to expand the impact of your plant-based lifestyle. For simplicity’s sake, let’s consider the way you grocery shop. When deciding what kind of chocolate to buy, for instance, try to consider the environmental impact of the product and the means of production as well as whether it’s vegan. An ideal pick would be locally made chocolate crafted from cacao beans grown and harvested by workers who receive a fair wage for their labor.
This is only one small example of the way thinking about connections can influence the way we live our lives. The world we live in is a complex one—to navigate it, we must acknowledge that complexity. When we do, our lives become richer and more whole.