Western Verses Eastern Veganism

By Julia Kemp

When you think of veganism, I’m almost positive that you imagine those rich hippie yogis that rub their elitism in your face and eat kale for every meal. However, the Western version of veganism that you might know today is not a new concept. In fact, the earliest forms of veganism can be traced back to Ancient India in 3300 BCE. Since then, vegan diets and ideology have dominated many Eastern religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, and Jainism, each of which similarly teach a devotion to nature and a respect for animals. One of the first vegans to be identified was Arab poet Abu al-‘Ala’ al-Ma’arri who claimed that animals deserve justice just like humans, a moral that many modern vegans continue to uphold. 

While veganism has existed for thousands of years in the East, it has undoubtedly become a movement of ridiculous elitism and egotistical superiority complexes in the West. An American emphasis on consumerism has diluted the traditional and core values of veganism, and what it originally stood for. Today, veganism is mainly white and upper class health mogols—people who believe that their form of veganism is the best and who are ignorant to the cultural history of veganism in the Eastern world. These people also commonly ignore the wealth needed to obtain a truly healthy vegan diet free of harmful products masked by corporate companies Overall, I believe that it’s important that modern, Western vegans are respectful toward the history of veganism, and who don’t let white ego overtake the tradition and values that veganism originally emphasized.