by Leonard Sprueth
In my opinion Vegan is one of the most present keywords in our culture. Just think about walking the streets, passing by restaurants specialized on vegan food and supermarkets exclusively selling vegan products.
So far, it seems eating Vegan has established itself:
The Keyword Vegan is the result of an ongoing social development concerning healthy nutrition, animal rights and political criticism. The are several political dimensions a vegan lifestyle touches, which also are referred to as the reasons why people are living vegan.
One significant reason are the human rights, while our “western“ society lives in food affluence, millions of people in the world are suffering from hunger. Another reason is the intolerance for factory farming of animals and the misuse of animal lifes to satisfy the societys’ demand for meat. Connected to this topic, is the reason of living sustainable and saving our environment. The factory farming of animals has an enormous influence on climate change, because animals produce emissions of CO2. On the basis of these arguments, living vegan is also a political decision.
Furthermore it generated certain kinds of trends: e.g healthy living, criticism of consume, but as well some kind of alternativism. This is why Vegans and Hipsters have a strong connection. If a Hipster isn’t alternative enough anymore, his option is to become a Vegan Hipster (for instance have a look at this “Vegan-Hipster-Food Blog“: http://hipsterfood.tumblr.com).
Vegan doesn’t omit hidden relationships, but it emphasizes aspects of economical, social and political habits that are seen as unethical.
Even though the keyword Vegan has no logical connection to topics like ; animal rights, mass consumption of meat (http://www.peta.de/lifestyle) and sustainable living, it is wedded to these topics. People living a vegan lifestyle refer to them as a justification for their choice.
This is also the reason for its’ permutation. Only by mentioning Vegan it is immediately accompanied by political, social and economic criticism. That is what makes the keyword polisemic.
Historically the term vegan exists since 1944, founded by the “Vegan Society“ through an orthographic change. By getting rid of the middle part „etari“ in the word vegetarian, you are left with the word vegan.
Still, it didn’t have the same background as it has today. Then it was only seen as a purer form of vegetarianism. The “newness“ comes from the linked topics to the term, because these linked topics are highly discussed in modern society. While back in 1944 only a group of people tackled the idea of living more healthy and sustainable, millions of people are confronted with the word today, through tackling problems like animal rights sustainable living, etc.
The power of the keyword Vegan comes from its’ links to the political, social and environmental discourse. Here is an example from a significant newspaper, an article about the political dimensions of the Vegan movement – http://www.zeit.de/lebensart/2013-10/thema-vegan-leben-ethik-dogma-lifestyle. Because it relates to topics like our consume, it connects with other dimensions not logically conntected to it.
- Mass production : because it is one of the mayor problems the vegan society wants to emphasize.
- Vegetarian : because it builds the base of it.
- Veggie : because it symbolizes the it’s entrance in our society (e.g Veggie Burger, McDonalds).
- Hipster : because it refers to the alternative lifestyle people often want to express through living vegan.
- Sustainability : because vegan refers to living more healthy and only using natural resources, basically meaning living sustainable.
If vegan wouldn’t exist, a big part of well-founded criticism of todays’ culture would go missing. Vegan expresses a way of resistance and evokes over thinking. Even though some people carry out their vegan life style over the top, they are still an example of people who actively chose to not tolerate some of contemporary social habits that cannot be a long term solution for society.
The recent developments of the term vegan in our society show, that it has lost a lot of its’ political background and has become some kind of trend. The social crisis it used to evoke, diminished, and this is exactly what makes the keyword amusing. The change of the use has taken it completely out of the original context and made it into a cool and modern thing to do.
One example for the vegan trend is this “Vegan Hip Hop Movement“: http://veganhiphopmovement.blogspot.de
It is comparable with a fashion trend that it really popular for one year or two but then disappears. Nowadays it is the same with vegan, only on a social level. I don’t think I have to explain why this change of meaning is ironic.
While living vegan with its’ original political and ethical motivation seems to die out, other lines of business adopted it to take advantage of it. Food producers and suppliers have seen the potential and have flooded the market with supposingly extreme healthy and vegan products like the popular “Green Smoothie“, which is basically just lettuce and water. Today you can even find vegan currywurst or vegan steaks made out of mushrooms or similar.
Even the cosmetic industry got aware of the trend and offers vegan beauty products, just as ready-to-serve meal producers offer vegan dishes. Interestingly the meat substitute producers are the ones who benefit the most from this market, therefore it seems like Vegans don’t wan’t to get entirely rid of meat (http://www.wiwo.de/technologie/forschung/ernaehrung-wer-am-vegan-trend-verdient/9639678.html). As you can see the general economy got aware of the productive capital and has taken advantage of the vegan market. Unfortunately, the original and well profound reasons slowly disappear.
Additionally, it is ironic that the hipster is the form of cultural movement that took up an older word and put it in a new context. Even though they seem to be masters in this discipline, it is too early to exactly say what they have done out of it.
1. Über Ethik in der Ernährung und die Notwendigkeit eines Wandels – Kath Clements: This Book gives an introduction on the the vegan lifestyle and treats the ethical reasons why people should live vegan. Furthermore it deals with the thesis that our society needs to fulfil a change in its’ consume and nutrition patternst o live more sustainable.
2. Tiere Haben Rechte. Argumente Und Zitate Von A bis Z – Helmut F. Kaplan: In this book you can read why a non vegan lifestyle violates animal rights and why a vegan lifestyle supports the rights of animals. It contains a list with plenty of arguments why animals have the right to live and why we should accept that animals are not only a resource that we can exploit.
3. People hate Vegans, Freud could explain why: A Very amusing article explaining vegan hate. It contains various explanation why people are suspicious of Vegans and refers to Freud’s defense mechanism as one explanation.
4. Aus Tiersicht für die Katz – TAZ: This very interesting article explores the image of Vegans and if a vegan lifestyle really has any effects on animal rights. Additionally it discusses if living vegan is truly more healthy. A rather neutral statement that concerns the positive as well as the negative aspects of vegan.
5. Esstrend Vegan – Westdeutscher Rundfunk: A multimedia report about the vegan trend. The report treats how being vegan became fashionable and built a kind of an esoteric scene. Moreover it explores it connection to the pop culture.