Is Vegetarianism a Privilege?

Who comes to mind when you imagine a vegetarian?

If you envision someone who is white, wealthy and buys 100 percent organic and GMO-free produce at Whole Foods, you’re not alone.

Although folks of all backgrounds go cruelty-free, it can be easier for some groups to make the switch than others. This World Vegetarian Day, consider how vegetarianism and privilege collide.

1. Money plays a role

According to a 2015 poll, people who make less than $50,000 a year are significantly more likely to be vegetarian than those with higher incomes. Furthermore, people of color more often forgo meat than white folks.

These statistics can make it easy to claim that low incomes don’t stop people from becoming vegetarians. However, they don’t tell the whole story.

As psychologist Hal Herzog writes in the Huffington Post, the sample size may be too small to represent the whole U.S. population. Furthermore, a Harvard study shows that a healthy diet costs $1.50 more a day than an unhealthy one.

This cost is harder for poorer families to handle, especially if they happen to live in a food desert where fresh options aren’t as available.

2. Certain people have more choices

People who don’t worry about the cost of food often decide to eat meat or not. However, others don’t get that freedom.

Take the homeless. As Care2‘s Danielle Corcione notes, food banks often rely on non-perishable donations, which are usually processed foods other people don’t want — and they may or may not be vegan or vegetarian. Furthermore, even though exceptions exist, many programs don’t serve meat-free meals.

School children don’t always get an option. No laws say that kids need a vegetarian offering in school lunches. And that particularly limits the diets of low-income children on free and reduced-price lunches.

3. Perception matters

It is possible to go meat-free on a strict budget.

Staples like rice and beans are cheap, and food stamp recipients in some states can buy twice the fresh, local produce they’d otherwise buy with Double-Up Food Bucks programs. At the same time, many critics frown on people who spend public assistance money on more expensive health foods.

We need to redefine who a vegetarian is. More importantly, we must fight an unequal food system that makes it harder for some people to adopt vegetarian diets than others.

If we want to liberate animals, we need to liberate people too.

Photo Credit: Thinkstock


Dave f
DAVID fleming15 days ago

It should not be .

Chrissie R
Chrissie Rabout a month ago

For most people, yes, it is. Where do you find viable produce in upstate NY in winter that doesn't cost more than your paycheck?

Anne F
Anne Fabout a month ago

do think that rice and beans are cheap to buy

DAVID fleming
DAVID flemingabout a month ago


Amanda M
Amanda M3 months ago

Thanks for sharing

Amanda M
Amanda M3 months ago

Thanks for sharing

AL Lim3 months ago

luckily where I live, vegetables, fruits and vegetarian and vegan cooked food are readily available and affordable, often less expensive than meat.

Kathryn I
Kathryn I3 months ago

Petition signed - Noted - Thanks

John W
John W3 months ago

The term privilege is very overused

David Anderson
David Anderson3 months ago

It seems that another significant factor is being overlooked. A healthy diet, vegetarian or otherwise, is much more time consuming than simply eating what is readily available. This is particularly true of those who travel a lot and cannot afford to eat every meal someplace with a tablecloth.