This article was originally published in the October/November issue of PosAbility. If you’d like to read more like this, consider subscribing to PosAbility Magazine.
By Katie Campbell
Veganism is a hot topic right now (see our latest issue’s article on Greta Thunberg for one of the biggest reasons for and proponents behind ditching animal products), but for some members of the disabled community, it’s not the most intersectional movement on the planet, despite it being very for the planet. Just how accessible is veganism, and what can you do instead to help the planet if your needs and requirements aren’t met through veganism’s tenants?
Veganism is not a Cure
As silly as it is that we need to point it out, it nonetheless needs to be stated in black and white: it’s absolutely absurd to suggest that veganism can cure your disability. It can’t; there are some diseases and problems that veganism can be beneficial in helping to manage, such as type 2 diabetes, but your leg will not grow back because you’ve ditched beef. One of the biggest hurdles disabled people feel prevents them from going vegan is the sanctimonious belief pedalled by some that veganism is a cure.
“If I can do it, anyone can”
Amazingly, this approach, often made by non-disabled people, is not helpful to everyone. The “well I’ve cut out [animal product], so why can’t you” approach is not a blanket one that everyone can just crawl under. Some medication, especially those which come in gelatine capsules, aren’t vegan, but if you need it, well that’s a stumbling block, isn’t it? In fact, many vegans operate from the ethical standpoint that veganism should be accessible to all, and if that means you have to take part in practices that involve animal products because you require it to sustain yourself – like taking medication or being on a keto diet for epilepsy – you absolutely should. In this case, if veganism is an approach you’d like to take, you can certainly make other choices which will benefit the wider world, like cutting out red meat or ethically sourcing your toiletries.
Substitutes are Common Allergies
A lot of vegan products, recipes and foodstuffs rely on substituting products out for non-animal derived ones, which is great but comes with its own subset of issues for people who have dietary restrictions or allergies. If you have a soy allergy, you might struggle with dairy substitutes, and an allergy to peanuts is going to cause you significant hardship given the massive presence of peanuts and peanut butter in vegan recipes. Again, if you’re looking to go vegan (or even just cut down on animal products), you can make other changes that benefit both your diet and the wider world.
Texture and Sensory Issues
For people who live with autism and other sensory processing disorders that affect the way that you interact with food, veganism might be tricky for you. This is an absolutely valid reason not to want to change your diet, and you shouldn’t feel forced into changing your diet because someone else doesn’t think it’s a good enough reason. Red meat is, overall, not great for the environment, so if you feel like you could cut out your red meat consumption or swap it for something of a very similar texture, you could make a terrifically large impact on the environment around you.
There are a lot of vitamins your body doesn’t produce naturally, and if you live with conditions related to IBS, anaemia, or any number of other health concerns, veganism might exacerbate your deficiencies. That’s not to say at all that you can’t be vegan, you just need to consult with a doctor or nutritionist before you do it. It’s important to remember that vegans need to supplement their diet with vitamins and minerals that plants do not give them (or do not give them in abundance) like B12 and iron, so you need to be able to factor in the extra expenditure of vitamins or nutritional yeasts.
Veganism Can Be Expensive
Veganism absolutely has the capacity to be expensive, and it can also result in an increased expenditure of emotional and physical labour to prepare because let’s face it, vegan food is very rarely fast food. Many a vegan will argue that the diet isn’t expensive so long as you survive on rice and beans, but that is not sustainable, and “health food” comes at an increased cost. For people who are on a reduced income or using foodbanks, it might not be feasible. Of course, like everything, there are workarounds: if you have the spoons you can get really into meal prep and learn how to make some amazing vegan meals, or as with all of the above, just make choices that are better for the environment, like reducing your red meat intake and opting for local produce.