OPINION: Veganism Isn't 'Cruelty-Free' - Here's Why

The expression to drop in 2018
The phrasing does a disservice to people and animals

I see it nearly every day - on hashtags, t-shirts, and prints from talented vegan artists. 'Cruelty-free', I would argue, is among the most overused expressions in the vegan movement.

In fact, it's my belief that it's time for it to be dropped all together.


There are a number of reasons why I feel this way - but they all link back to the fact that it's usually inaccurate.

We collectively slap this verbiage onto just about any vegan food which, sadly, emphasizes the rights of animals while marginalizing exploited peoples.

The fact of the matter is that, just because a meal or snack is vegan, doesn't mean it's cruelty-free and to pretend that it is is short-sighted, weakens our arguments, and leaves us open to criticism.

Fool-proof phrasing

As was demonstrated by the uproar that resulted when YouTuber Kalel recently confessed to regularly eating dairy despite identifying as 'vegan', language is important.

When we call something cruelty-free while overlooking the fact that it is the product of exploitive industries in developing nations we leave ourselves open, as advocates, to detracting from our own message.

Instead of having a conversation about animal liberation and reducing harm, we end up having a conversation about human rights which - while equally important - detracts from the topic at hand.

Human rights issues should not be subject to erasure in vegan discourse

Problematic notions

Using the term ultimately perpetuates the idea that once a person goes vegan, and stops investing in industries that are by-nature exploitive, they've ascended to a higher moral plane and are beyond reproach.

This simply isn't true. Capitalism is destructive, consumerism is destructive, and animal agriculture is not the only cruel industry in existence.

We do ourselves, other people, and animals a disservice by acting like it is.

Veganism is a great place to start - but it's not the finish line.

We shouldn't fool ourselves into thinking that it is.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are prepared in the author's capacity and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Plant Based News itself. 

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PBN Contributor:

Emily Court is a passionate ethical vegan from Eastern Canada. She is a Challenge 22 Mentor, Digital Writer, and experienced animal advocate driven by issues of animal liberation and social justice. She studied at Dalhousie University, where her thesis highlighted intercultural and gender relations. She is an established public speaker, writer, and world traveller with a drive to provide a voice to those who might not otherwise have one. You can follow her on Instagram @emily.j.court or on Twitter @_EmilyJCourt_.

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