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The Culture of Veganism Among the Middle Class Case Study

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Updated: May 20th, 2020

Introduction

The types of food taken by different people vary because of the variation in cultural beliefs, philosophies, gender, ethnicity, social class, and religious groups. What one social group may consider a normal meal may be very strange to another social group. There has been an evolution of food and drinks among the lower-middle-class members of society. People of this social class have become weary of the type of food they eat because of health-related problems. There has been a culture where foods such as fried meat, chicken, hamburgers, and even wine were very popular. They preferred such foods because they could afford them despite their association with members of the upper social classes.

However, this has been consistently changing over the years as people get to know various health issues about the type of food and drinks they take. The evolution has been motivated by the ease with which this social group can access knowledge about the foods they take. Some medical theories have closely related some of the most dreaded diseases like diabetes and coronary diseases to the foods that an individual takes. This has forced the middle class to rethink about the foods they take. As a result of this, there has been an evolved culture of veganism among a section of the middle class. According to Hooker (1981, p. 23), the culture of veganism has become so popular among the middle class that it is easy to associate it with the class. In this research, the focus will be to analyze the culture of veganism among the middle class.

The Culture of Veganism

The culture of veganism has been growing in various parts of the world because of different reasons. According to Alemanno (2007, p. 56), among British society, there has been a growing number of vegans over the years. This can be attributed to various factors. Veganism, or what many scholars currently refer to as vegetarianism, refers to the habit of abstaining from any animal products because of personal conviction, religious beliefs or cultural practices. Smith (2007, p. 34) says that veganism dates back to ancient Greece and India. In these societies, there was a strong cultural attachment that the society had towards animals. For instance, a cow is one of the widely eaten meats among varieties of cultural groupings. This is so because it is one of the easiest animals to domesticate, and its meat has been regarded as highly nutritious.

However, the Indians have religious beliefs that associate cows with some of their gods (Tannahill 2008, p. 43). This means that cows have a religious connotation in this society. It makes it impossible to slaughter a cow, let alone having it as a meal. Various other animals in this society also have religious connotations that make them sacred among the members of this community. For this reason, many Indians, especially those who practice Hinduism and Buddhism, always abstain from all types of animal products.

Among the Greeks, some animals were viewed as sacred, while others were viewed as a curse, especially the snakes (Higman 2012, p. 54). For this reason, these animals were avoided as a way of avoiding any misfortunes that may come either by eating them or killing them. In some cases, it became difficult to identify the specific animals that should be eaten and those that ought to be avoided. In order to ensure that one does not eat any of these foods by mistake, society embraced veganism culture where everyone was discouraged from eating animal products. Among British society and most of the modern world, the culture of veganism is directly related to the evolutionary activities that affected the way of thinking of people.

One of the ways through which this culture penetrated the society was because of religious penetration into modern-day Britain. For instance, it is common to find Indians in Newham who have maintained their traditional eating habits. There are possibilities that they may influence other members of this community to embrace their eating culture. Despite this religious and cultural explanation, the new vegetarian culture that is witnessed among the middle class goes beyond this.

The middle class who have embraced this culture may not necessarily be ascribing it to the same religion. In Newham, the culture of veganism has become very popular among the lower middle class in recent years. There has been a consistent rise in the number of people who have completely abstained from animal products among the lower middle class in the society. In order to enhance understanding of this trend, it may be important to analyse some of the theories that have been developed in this field (Toussaint & Blackwell 2009, p. 67).

Theoretical and Practical Perspectives

The issue of veganism among the middle class has raised massive attention among scholars who have been trying to explain its relevance in the current society. As mentioned before, the majority of the vegans in British society are not necessarily led to their vegan culture by religion. They have convictions other than religious or cultural practices that make them believe that it is important to avoid all or some animal products. Some theories have been developed in support of the vegan culture in modern society.

The Rights Theory has been used widely by various philosophers such as Tom Regan and Carol Adams to support the need to desist from killing animals for food. This theory holds that animals have feelings, just like human beings and, therefore, have the right to be allowed to live. They argue that it is wrong to kill these animals for food while there is an alternative from the vegetables. However, this theory has received a lot of criticism among scientists and other religious leaders. Scientists argue that Rights Theory is too simple and is based on lack of understanding by its proponents. Plants, just like animals, are also living things.

If these animals have the right to live, then plants should not be denied such rights because they all fall in the category of living things. Religious leaders, especially Christians, have also criticised this theory, arguing that God gave man power to eat any plant or animal in the Garden of Eden. They argue that there are only specific plants or animals that should be avoided based on religious connotations.

In practice, this theory may or may not make any sense, depending on an individual’s conviction towards rights. Many people believe that rights are entitled to human beings only, and equating animals to people is unrealistic (Dembińska & Weaver 1999, p. 87). On the other hand, some people believe that animals, just like human beings, have rights that should be protected by human beings. Depending on an individual’s conviction, the theory may mean a lot or nothing at all. Pinnavaia (2010, p. 46) argues that ethical theories may be interpreted in support of veganism. The theories encourage responsible culture when treating animals.

Although this does not directly prohibit the eating of animals and its products, it encourages a culture where slaughtering of animals is only done when it is unavoidable. This has been interpreted by some of the vegan philosophers to be direct support for veganism in society. In practice, this theory only supports rationality when handling animals for food. It would be irrational for a family of four to slaughter a cow unless they have a clear plan on how to share the excess meat that they cannot consume on their own. Instead of a cow, they should settle for something like a hen that would meet their food demand perfectly well. This theory does not just focus on animals, but also other forms of food.

The Evolutionary Trends of Veganism among the Lower Middle Class in Newham

The middle class forms the majority of the British population. The culture of veganism did not just occur suddenly in this group. In the past, it was rare to find vegans in this society. It would be necessary to critically analyse the trend that this culture took in order to be accepted by a considerable number of members of this society. This section focuses on the evolutionary trend of veganism among the lower middle-class members of the British society, especially the residents of Newham. It is important to analyse some of the factors that may be directly associated with this evolutionary trend in this region. These factors should be discussed individually in order to enable one appreciate their roles in this revolution.

Social factors

Social factors have played a major role in motivating this revolution towards a culture of veganism. Newham is a highly cosmopolitan society where people socially interact easily with those from different backgrounds. Unlike the rich who stay in their own homes where interaction with neighbours is rare, the lower middle class members of the society stay in flats where they interact with their neighbours on a daily basis. This makes it easy to share some of the beliefs amongst the members. The social structure among the lower middle class members of the society makes it easy for practices or beliefs to spread to other members. The vegans have various reasons why they abstain from eating animal products, and their philosophical or biological explanations can easily spread in the society. This partly explains why there has been a rise in the number of vegans in this society (Singhal, Kulkarni & Rege 1997, p. 78).

Cultural factors

According to Cunnane & Stewart (2010, p. 55), culture could be playing one of the leading roles in the increase of the number of vegans in the society. Cultural practices are always defined by religious beliefs. Smith (2013, p. 35) says that sometimes religion can be a form of prison where actions of people are rigidly defined and regulated. Sometimes religion may force an individual to engage in activities that are beyond his or her own wish. Among a section of vegans within Newham are people who are restricted by their religion and cultural beliefs from eating any animal products. They may be yearning to eat such products, but because of their cultural beliefs and religious fears, they prefer not to eat these foods. Because of the constant interaction amongst the lower middle class members of this society, it becomes very easy for other people to be influenced into this culture and religious beliefs. It is very likely that those who embrace the cultural practices and beliefs of the vegans will also become vegans. This also explains the increasing number of vegans in Newham.

Health factors

Some people are forced into the culture of veganism because of health concerns. According to Turner (2008, p. 42), some of the animal products have been associated with some of the current health problems such as diabetes and coronary diseases. It is common to find cases where the diet of some of the victims of these diseases, are restricted from some animal products. There has also been a major awareness campaign by the government and other nongovernmental bodies against some of the animal products. The rich can easily go to the expensive gyms and take very expensive medication that would ensure that they are safe from these diseases.

They can also go for regular check-ups to ensure that any of the medical issues can be addressed in time. However, the lower middle class members of this society lack finances that can help them conduct regular check-ups. They also have very busy schedules that do not give them time to go to the gym regularly (Hofmann 2012, p. 66). For these reasons, they have to take preventive measures to ensure that they are not affected by these lifestyle diseases. Some prefer to embrace veganism as a way of being safe.

Environmental factors

The environment also plays a role in motivating the culture of veganism in the society. According to Smith (2007, p. 69), the environment dictates the foods that one takes. There are some environments that may not support animal raring for one reason or the other. In such settings, people will tend to be vegans, not by choice, but because of the environmental conditions. In Newham, the role played by environmental factors in this evolution on food among the lower middle class is almost negligible.

Economic factors

Some people embrace veganism because of economic factors. The lower middle class members of the society are struggling to make the ends meet. These are people who are just above the poor in social class rankings (Summers 2004, p. 53). They have to budget for the little income they get to meet all their financial needs. Given that the amount is very minimal, they may be forced to adopt a lifestyle that would reflect their social status. For this reason, these individuals may find the vegan culture very attractive. The cost of greens and other products from plants are cheaper than animal products. This makes them attractive to members of this society.

Technological factors

Technology has played a major role in encouraging the veganism in the society. Pilcher (1998, p. 77) says that the culture of veganism can only be successfully practiced in a society where people get constant motivation in order to avoid the temptation of eating animal products. This constant encouragement is available in the modern society where technology has enhanced communication. Using the mass and social media, people can get the encouragement they need to maintain the faith of veganism. Technology has also made it possible to come up with ways of making plants products just as delicious as products from animals.

Political factors

Sometimes the political atmosphere may motivate an individual to embrace the culture of veganism (Albala 2003, p. 68). It is important to note, however, politics has not played any major role in the evolution in food intake among the lower middle class in Newham. The political class may use their political influence to encourage this culture for various political reasons. This has not been the case in this location.

Consequences of their relationship with food

This new culture towards food has many consequences that can be viewed from different fronts. According to Turner (2008, p. 44), veganism has a positive influence from the socio-cultural and economic perspectives. Those who embrace veganism because of culture or religious beliefs strongly show that they have respect for their religious and cultural beliefs. The middle lower class also stand to benefit from this because their expenditure on food will be reduced. Veganism also has positive consequences on the health of those who practice it. They get to eliminate some of the health problems that are associated with animal products.

However, MacIntosh (1996, p. 25) observes that veganism may have negative consequences on the environment if care is not taken. When the variety of foods that can be eaten is limited to veganism, then it means that members of the society will have more pressure to increase agricultural produce. The technological consequences are likely to be positive. There will be pressure on engineers and agricultural experts to come up with technological approaches of improving agriculture in the society. They may be forced to increase the percentage of land that is under cultivation. This will be a direct threat to parcels of land that have been set aside for tourism, preservation of rare tree species, or greenbelts.

Veganism will have positive consequences on the Rights Theory because it will be an application of the theory. It will be a scenario where animal rights will appear to be protected by members of the society. Marshall (1995, p. 79) says that, embracing veganism is a clear indication that there is power is some of the philosophical theories. It will demonstrate that actions of people can be greatly influenced by the beliefs and practices that are put forth by religion and cultural beliefs.

Conclusion

It is clear from the discussion above that there is a new evolutionary culture among the lower middle class in Newham about their eating habits. In the past, this class formed one of the most attractive market segments for the fast food industry not only because of their huge number, but also because of their love for animal products. However, this is slowly changing as this class embrace veganism for various reasons. Some of the people in the society are influenced into this new eating culture because of their socio-cultural and religious beliefs. Others believe that this is the best way of managing the increasingly challenging economic environment. Some have embraced the culture because they believe that it is the best way of remaining healthy. Irrespective of the influencing factors, veganism has had massive economic, socio-cultural, and health impacts among those who have embraced it.

List of References

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Alemanno, A 2007, Trade in food: Regulatory and judicial approaches in the EC and the WTO, Cameron May Ltd, London. Web.

Cunnane, S & Stewart, K 2010, Human Brain Evolution: The Influence of Freshwater and Marine Food Resources, John Wiley & Sons, Hoboken. Web.

Dembińska, M & Weaver, W 1999, Food and drink in medieval Poland: Rediscovering a cuisine of the past, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia. Web.

Higman, B 2012, How food made history, Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester. Web.

Hofmann, R 2012, Social construction of food risks of lower middle class in the emerging mega, Cengage, New York. Web.

Hooker, R 2001, Food and drink in America, John Wiley, New York. Web.

MacIntosh, W 1996, Sociologies of food and nutrition, Plenum Press, New York. Web.

Marshall, D 1995, Food choice and the consumer, Blackie Academic & Professional, London. Web.

Mesoudi, A 2011, Cultural evolution: How Darwinian theory can explain human culture and synthesize the social sciences, University of Chicago Press, Chicago. Web.

Pilcher, J 2002, ¡Que vivan los tamales!: Food and the making of Mexican identity, University of New Mexico Press, Albuquerque. Web.

Pinnavaia, L 2010, Sugar and spice: Exploring food and drink idioms in English, Polimetrica, Milano. Web.

Singhal, R, Kulkarni, P & Rege, D 2003, Handbook of indices of food quality and authenticity, Woodhead Publishers, Cambridge. Web.

Smith, A 2007, The Oxford companion to American food and drink, Oxford University Press, New York. Web.

Smith, A 2013, The Oxford encyclopedia of food and drink in America, Oxford University Press, New York. Web.

Summers, M 2004, Manliness and Its Discontents: The Black Middle Class and the Transformation of Masculinity, 1900-1930, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill. Web.

Tannahill, R 2008, Food in History, Paw Prints, New Delhi. Web.

Toussaint-Samat, M, & Blackwell, E 2009, A history of food, Wiley-Blackwell, Chichester. Web.

Turner, K 2008, Good food for little money: Food and cooking among urban working-class Americans, 1875-1930, New York. Web.

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