April 5th, 2012 by Gary Smith
I received a lot of feedback on my post about large animal organizations using fat shaming as part of their advocacy. Between the comments I received as well as reading the comments on well written blog posts on the subject such as this and this, that body image and fat shaming are a serious issue in the vegan community.
Not only are we dealing with the pressure of traditional body image issues that everyone deals with, especially women, in this unhealthy and perverse culture, but we are dealing with it within our own community. Many vegans responded by saying that they are overweight and face negative attitudes regularly within the community. Some said that they’ve been told that they should closet themselves so as to not make veganism look unhealthy. There are many reasons why someone may be overweight – some physical and some emotional. Neither may automatically disappear because one stops consuming flesh and secretions.
“As a dietitian, I can tell you that the idea that “being fat is 100% the fault of the person” is dead wrong. There are hundreds and hundreds of studies on obesity and scientists still don’t have the answer about what causes it. Please be careful about placing blame when you don’t understand the science,” said Ginny Messina, R.D., M.P.H. “The obesity research is extremely extensive and complex and the one thing that obesity experts agree on is that no one has the answers about this difficult problem. It’s extraordinarily unkind–and completely unscientific–to insist that anyone can be thin if they want to.”
Veganism is much more than what one chooses to eat, wear, entertain themselves and purchase in terms of cosmetics and household items. Animal rights at its core is about justice. It is a social justice movement that places an animal’s right to be left to his or her own devices as the center of justice.
Why am I defining veganism to vegans? Because sadly, we seem to be moving further and further away from the core of it and more towards a superficial, material definition that focuses on diet, cookbooks, trendy fashion and body images. Veganism is not superficial, nor should it give a shit about the size and shape of your body.
Which brings me back to body shaming. I read many comments about how vegans need to be thin, attractive, and healthy if we really want to help animals. Huh? Vegans need to be vocal, consistent, educated on all nonhuman issues, eloquent, patient, active and willing to fight for the rights and dignity of nonhumans. Period. Attacking someone or shaming someone over the size and shape of their body doesn’t help animals.
Shaming vegans who have made the choice to be a pariah in this culture by abstaining from exploiting other animals, is shameful in itself. It is difficult enough to cope and heal from the traumatic awareness of the animal holocaust; to be attacked because of your body shape literally adds insult to injury.
Ethical vegans shouldn’t care about what other vegans are eating, as long as they are not eating animals and their secretions, shouldn’t judge other vegans about the size of their bodies, or be concerned with how physically attractive we are to the people who are supporting exploitation and oppression. I would like to see vegans get clear about the ethics behind animal rights, and not let us lose this fight before we’ve really even started.