Why I’m a Social Justice Vegan
Why am I a social justice vegan? At it’s most basic, social justice is about creating a just and equitable relationship individuals and society. Of course, there are probably as many definitions of a “just and equitable relationship” as there are people on earth. The United Nations defines social justice as follows:
Social justice may be broadly understood as the fair and compassionate distribution of the fruits of economic growth
Social Justice in an Open World: The Role of the United Nations, New York, 2006: 7
I am sympathetic to the UN definition because the “fruits of economic growth” are not equally distributed. The hand of the market may eventually lift up nations in distressed circumstances. But it takes too damn long for most people. As a result, many nations have decided to give people a hand up, not a hand out. Access to education so that young people have the chance to change their futures. Universal healthcare, so that people don’t live in fear of illness wiping out their savings and leaving their families destitute.
I’m also in favour of Universal Basic Income, but that’s something I will discuss at a later date. Suffice to say, I believe the profit motive is a wonderful thing, and I appreciate much of what capitalism has given us. But I have also seen that unless we maintain transparency, selfishness and corruption will thrive. And unfortunately, those within the halls of power often shrink from having light shone on their activities.
My background is in Colombian history, so I have spent a great deal of time studying a developing nation with tremendous promise, that nonetheless suffers from extreme social injustice. I believe that remedying these wrongs is essential. Injustice hinders our progress, and legislation that encourages basic rights for all is a help, not a hindrance to economic growth. One only has to look at the nation of Canada, where citizens are twice as likely to achieve the “American Dream” than their US counterparts. Checks and balances are the source of our greatest strength. They are not a weakness.
What Does Social Justice Have to Do with Veganism?
But what does social justice have to do with veganism? Of course, enslaving non-humans animals and treating them as objects is unjust. But aside from granting them the freedom to live their lives in peace, it’s admittedly difficult to know what else we can do for the animals.
However, we do know that animal agriculture is a tremendous injustice to the people of this world. Even in the US, The Bureau of Labour Statistics reports that the mean wage in animal processing and slaughtering is $12.76 an hour (this does not include undocumented workers, who receive a fraction of this wage). At least 1/3 of meatpacking employees are immigrants, but this statistic is likely much higher, since companies under report undocumented workers.
Factory farms and slaughterhouses are not only the site of gross animal abuse, but of human abuse, as well. Workers in these facilities receive far less money than would compensate them for the risks they face on a daily basis. And of course, it’s not just workers in factory farms that suffer because of animal agriculture.
Oceans and rivers are destroyed by the runoff from concentrated feed operations. In the developing world, droughts and floods destroy crops and ruin lives. Much of this destruction is due to global warming, to which animal agriculture related greenhouse gases is a major contributor.
Ultimately, it’s not about the labels
I consider myself a social justice vegan. And I think many of you share that label, whether or not you choose to put it on. And that’s okay. As I mentioned in my post on intersectional veganism I support the principles of intersectionality. However, I don’t use that label to describe myself. What really matters is that we care about social justice, and accept the principle that a more just and equitable world is always our goal.