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Veganism in the eagle's* nest


Presenting veganism in the last month as somehow unacceptable and problematic and at the same time – in the seemingly open liberal discourse – as marginal and, thus, deviant supported by sensationalistic media reporting, forced Slovenian vegans into the pro and contra position and into proving that they and their children are healthy. Despite the credibility of reports about the growing number of healthy vegan children, despite the directions of all distinguished organizations for human health and nutrition, and despite the growing number of epidemiological research studies that confirm normal development of children who pursue a balanced vegan diet, the defensive stance is not enough. Namely, it does not point to the basic hegemony that stabilizes veganism as a prejudice.

The rhetoric of the Slovenian medical experts is built on socially non-plural and excluding logic. With the help of the media, it continues to maintain the image of omnivore diet as a universal norm and it selectively brands vegans as dissident others. In this way, it introduces and legitimizes a special hierarchical relationship, in which vegans are automatically branded as being subordinate and unwanted regarding the representatives of the omnivore majority. Discrimination becomes even more obvious through the exclusion and the marginalization of vegan mothers and by questioning their competency for responsible parenthood, which brings up the question of the basic human dignity.

Normativism in the context of the omnivore diet does not establish only structural discrimination regarding the dietary style, it also supports and legitimizes the dominance of humans and the system of exploitation of animals in the Western society by seeing animals as objects of the dominance with a market value. One of the ways of undermining the omnivore norm in the Western society is ethical veganism. It is not only a nutritional question, but a complex social and political occurrence, which relies on the strong ethical norm of an individual. Ethical veganism is a refusal of the idea of the human superiority over animals and the recognition of basic moral duties of humans toward animals –the recognition of the universal moral justice. Following the principle of universal moral justice, ethical vegans refuse every kind of usage of animals – for food, clothing, shoes, biomedical research, sports, entertainment, etc. The deeper the anthropocentric values are embedded in us, the more irrational, difficult and impractical this suggestion will seem. The more we understand the nature of animal experience and recognize how similar to our it is, the more we will become aware just how much we are narrowing the concept of justice when we limit it to the human sphere only.

It is definitely meaningful that social marginalization and the discriminatory treatment of vegans are strengthened there where medical experts fail to accomplish their part of the work – the part that is connected to equal consideration and equal access to nutritional information. Slovenian medical experts set the directions only for the omnivore diet and, at the same time, distance themselves from veganism by branding it as being extremely difficult and harmful; they do not provide the public with the empirically tested information on the development of vegan children, instead, they deceive the public with the results of the research carried out on non-vegan children. They do not offer professional support and nutritional advice to pregnant vegan women, but try to change their ethical principles. We can justly ask ourselves the question whether this is ethically acceptable for specialists trained in a clinical environment. The hypocrisy of Slovenian medical experts is especially visible in the case of certain deficiencies or diseases – with omnivores these are presented individually, with vegans consistently equalized with the diet. This way, a completely deceiving logic is promoted, such as: veganism is potentially harmful while, following the same logic, omnivore diet a priori benefits human health.

In the context of various practices connected with establishing marginalization and inequality, it would be interesting to imagine a public response to, let's say, homosexual vegan parents. How would the discourse look like if a child raised by two vegan lesbians came to school in torn canvas shoes? The question, whether the hole in the shoes is a consequence of veganism or homosexuality of the parents, would probably cause an unsolvable dilemma.

* Eagle is the translation of the Slovenian word ‘orel’, which written with a capital O is also a Slovenian surname. In this case a surname of a paediatrician strongly opposing vegan nutrition.