Veganism, dairy, and decolonization
  • 1 University of Victoria

Plant-based diets are often perceived as being antithetical to Indigenous interests in what is today colonially known as Canada. This perceived antithesis hinges on veganism's rejection of the consumption of animals. This apparent antithesis, however, is a misperception that a reframing of ethical veganism can help correct. This article argues that veganism's objection to dairy should be underscored as a central concern of ethical veganism. Such emphasis not only brings into view the substantial alignment between plant-based diets and Indigenous worldviews, but also highlights the related goals of decolonization and reconciliation in Canada.

Veganism, in reality, rejects a practice (dairy farming) that was constitutive of settler colonialism in North America and which still promotes colonial familial ideologies while constructing Indigenous peoples and other non-Europeans (who disproportionately cannot tolerate lactose) as abnormal. Veganism – along with vegetarianism – shares the general respect for animals and interspecies relations (along with a concomitant disavowal of human exceptionalism) that many Indigenous legal orders in Canada promote. Yet, despite this shared disavowal of a principal colonial ideology, the tight correlation between hunting and Indigeneity on the one hand, and veganism and vegetarianism and an objection to killing animals on the other, makes veganism's contributions to decolonization and reconciliation difficult to see. By framing veganism as a critique of the dairy industry, however, the associations that veganism has with decolonizing ends are not clouded by these overpowering correlations, helping to bring into view even vegetarianism's contributions toward these ends.

Contributor Notes

The author would like to thank Will Kymlicka, John Borrows, Dinesh Wadiwel, and the participants at the University of Sydney workshop in September 2018 for comments on earlier drafts, and the anonymous reviewers and editors for their close and instructive readings, as well as Ellen Campbell, Nina Dauvergne, and Renee Rogers for research and editorial assistance.

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