Food is a weapon. From food inflation, subsidies, and government-induced scarcities to fights over regulations, labels, and genetic engineering, governments wield food against other nations, political opponents, or their constituents. Hitler and Stalin both used food shortages to control their own people, and Soviet and Eastern Bloc nomenklatura lured and rewarded camp followers with food.
Vegans know that food is a weapon. We wield it every day against the deathly industries we despise. Meat eaters wield it against animals, weapons made from the very flesh of those they target. Yet weapons are not intrinsically political. Food is a weapon alright, but it has to be imbued with a message and meaning to become a political weapon. That’s why food alone cannot rattle the speciesist system underlying and propping up our communities. The German mainstream media routinely credits a best-selling vegan cookbook author with spreading veganism throughout the country. But his books never mention animals. He promotes recipes as „low fat“ or „anti-aging,“ not as respecting other lives. His fans are not vegans, let alone anti-speciesists, but people trying to shed pounds or turn back time. Vegan foods are not innately political; we must first politicize them.
Food is a part of our movement. It has to be, because those we’re „moving“ for are devalued into food, and every human has to eat, so no one can claim to be indifferent on the issue. But food is not enough. Holding vegan bake sales or potlucks, cooking up vegan dinners for non-vegan friends, touting the deliciousness of vegan pastries, or writing a cooking blog is not political in that it does not necessarily promote anti-speciesism.
The only way to affect permanent change is to inspire a rethinking of the human-animal dichotomy currently used to justify any degree of abuse. Holding a bake sale and pitching those „as good as the original“-vegan rocky road brownies will not make people rethink their complicity in animal abuse. Uploading the ultimate „you won’t believe it’s not cheese“-mac’n’cheeze recipe will not make people concede the horrors rationalized in the name of speciesism. Only arguments, uncomfortable questions, and information will.
This is not to say food has no place in the anti-speciesist vegan movement. But food is not a tool for convincing others that animals have a right to physical and emotional integrity and liberty. Food can only show that the culinary implication of anti-speciesism—veganism—is easy, healthy, and delicious.
Food is a weapon, and it can be a political one. But only if we first give it meaning. A random shot skywards is not political. An uncommented-on vegan cookie is not political. Only when we explain why our cookie is vegan do we reconceptualize it as political. Once revamped through political sense, the cookie may itself then become part of this advocacy. But vegan food can never show veganism is right, only that it’s easy.