A common excuse and complaint amongst non vegans is that veganism is too expensive and inaccessible to those of us who are not privileged enough to afford a constant supply of fresh organic veggies, independently produced artisan meat replacements, and fancy creams and toiletries from a posh cruelty free company. We understand this at Vegan Norway. We understand that from the outside, changing our consumer habits to reflect our new vegan ethics can seem like it will cost us an arm and a leg.
We have noticed a lot of writing of late on how the mainstream animal rights movements, and in particular veganism, can be oppressive, ignoring the myriad problems people may face to insist that going vegan is the most, and perhaps the only important issue they face.
We understand that the vegan movement can be oppressive in many ways, as all movements can. I consider myself a feminist but I certainly don't align myself to the viewpoints of everyone in the feminist movement. There are certainly elements of the vegan movement that need to change and I'm so happy that as more and more people seem to be getting involved and offering varying perspectives on veganism and how it can fit into different lifestyles, the movement is becoming more and more accessible.
Veganism is not accessible for everyone, but is it accessible for you?
We understand that of course it is not possible for everyone in the world to suddenly change their lives and turn vegan. We know that our lives are complicated by a broad range of factors, and the issues we find ourselves facing may not be the issues that others face, and it can sometimes be hard to realise how different our situations can be from our neighbours, let alone people halfway across the world. If you live in extreme poverty, going vegan will not be your main concern. If you have recently come to Norway as a refugee, going vegan will probably be last on your list of things to think about. If you have recently escaped a violent or difficult living situation and are in the process of getting yourself back on your feet; concentrate on that. You won't feel pressure from us to go vegan. If you are suffering with a debilitating illness and are struggling to get through it, please just focus on your recovery and don't let going vegan be a main concern. If you are a teenager, and are living with your parents and they will not let you go vegan, we don't think you are a bad person.
Vegan or nah?
The fact is that for many of us our lives seem to be a constant stream of difficult problems, whilst other people seem to get by much easier with better opportunities, income and health. Many people feel like veganism is an either/or situation; you are either 100% a perfect vegan or you might as well just eat a big mac every day. We need to stop this shaming of people who don't fit into what our own version of veganism is, and just be happy for any and all efforts that they make because we don't know what else they are dealing with in their lives and it is privileged to assume that everyone has the means to do veganism like we do. Remember that the definition of veganism states that we should avoid the use of animals wherever practical. Maybe you feel like you are not able to go 100% vegan at home, because of some family difficulties, but when you are at work or hanging with friends, you can eat vegan then. Maybe you decide that you do not have the time to learn everything about veganism before making the transition and just try making some vegan food a couple of times without telling anyone, even though you worry that its probably got some weird e-numbers in it or you used the wrong bread. (This is pretty much what everyone else did before they went vegan hehe).
Let us help you
We made the Vegan Norway app for one reason: to help you. We want to provide a way that people can find vegan stuff whatever their budget and whatever area they live in. Our app features a broad selection of places from cheap grocery stores to boutique health stores. From fast food falafel kiosks to gourmet restaurants. We made our app because we know that it's hard to find your way as a vegan, and with our app its fast, discreet and free to get the info you need.
If everyone can't go vegan then why should I?
Whilst we at Vegan Norway do not look down upon or judge people who find that veganism simply can't fit into their lifestyle, we do find it strange that the people who often use food deserts and concerns over families that may not have a fridge as an excuse for the fact that they are not vegan themselves are often the people who don't live in a food desert and do have a fridge. It's quite patronising to use the hypothetical problems of someone else as an excuse for not doing something yourself. If we all did that, then there would be no progression in the world whatsoever. In many situations, we have to use the power of our privilege to make the world a better place. We know that in some places in the world, some people are unfairly not allowed to vote. That should not mean that we shouldn't vote! In fact quite the opposite. We don't stop ourselves from going online just because some people in the world don't have internet access, we don't stop ourselves from going to the gym just because many people in the world are unable to exercise or afford a gym membership. No, we do the best we can in our lives with the means that are afforded to us, whilst working hard to make those means accessible to everyone else.
We would never try and tell someone who is fighting circumstances which have led them to have no fridge, or possibly even no home that they should go vegan. However, we do know that there are many people in Norway living on a budget (myself included). For this reason we have asked two of the members of the Vegan Norway team who are currently living as vegan students to give us some helpful tips on being vegan on a budget. Read their blog post here.
Hang on, what the hell is a food desert?
A food desert is a general term which has be coined to mean a geographical region where access to nutritious food is relatively difficult. This can be due to a range of factors, such as limited shopping options, disparity between the high price of of food and low average income, inaccessibility of food shops and sources due to impediments to travel (such as poor roads, low car ownership rate, etc.) or low motivation towards obtaining nutritious food compared to the relatively high effort required to obtain it.
Whilst definitions of food deserts vary between sources, and the impact of food deserts on defined health outcomes is contestable, the existence of regions of relative deprivation of nutritious food has been well established, as has their correlation with areas of particularly low income.
We cannot ignore the ways that the food industry exploits people
Whilst there is no research on the existence of food deserts in Norway we are aware and concerned about the fact that there are so many food deserts across the world, and the devastating effects of capitalism on poorer countries. We are not just concerned with animal lives but also the human lives of the people working in these countries to produce the chocolate, coffee, quinoa and soy that we love. We worry about who the companies we fund align themselves to. We need to buy products to survive, but when we do, we are unfortunately participating in capitalism, and all of the problems that intersect with it. We encourage everyone to not only check out if their food contains animal products but also be wary of other issues surrounding the procurement of the products we consume. Of course we can't do this all the time for every little thing we pick up at the supermarket, but it's smart to have an eye on these issues. I find that being part of several different vegan communities on Facebook is a helpful resource for me in figuring out where i ethically stand on the products I consume outside of the black and white reasoning of 'is it from an animal or not.' Life is complicated, we cannot exist in a capitalist society and do no harm. We just have to do the best we can.