• Is dropping meat from your diet a political act? (Getty Images)
Debunking the myths about meat-free diets and their apparently racist links.
By
Ruby Hamad

13 Dec 2017 - 9:34 AM  UPDATED 14 Dec 2017 - 4:00 PM

One of the more frustrating things about being vegan is how often other people use the most inane arguments to discredit you. From “look at my canines!” to “mmm, bacon” to “Hitler was a vegetarian”, I’ve heard them all. 

But if Hitler was indeed a vegetarian, he wasn’t a very good one. In 1964, his former personal chef, Dione Lucas, published The Gourmet Cooking School Cookbook, in which she listed turtle soup, stuffed pigeon, and sausages as among his favourite foods. A few decades later, highly acclaimed biographer Robert Payne argued that Hitler’s vegetarianism was a myth created by his propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels.

But neither of these facts stopped this recent Vice piece from treating Hitler’s supposed vegetarianism as a done deal, using it as a springboard to launch into why white nationalists (aka present-day Nazis) are embracing veganism.

Acclaimed biographer Robert Payne argued that Hitler’s vegetarianism was a myth created by his propaganda minister, Joseph Goebbels.

Written by doctoral student Alexis de Coning, the article draws on the animal welfare laws of Nazi Germany, and a white nationalist website Aryanism.net, in order to connect white nationalism to veganism. 

While it’s true those Nazi-era laws did exist, much like Hitler’s vegetarianism, they were not particularly well-enforced; Nazis had no qualms about using animals in horrific experiments.

As for the anonymously written Aryanism website, it does indeed declare veganism “necessary but not sufficient” to national socialism, but de Coning focuses on the “necessary” aspect, glossing over the ideological motivations driving Aryan-style ‘veganism’ and how it fits in with other aspects of their attitudes to food.

According to Aryanism.net, their “most immediate priority is to take back the world from Jewish control”, and veganism plays a “necessary” role because they consider it a rebuke of Jewish farming practices, particularly dairy and meat.

The blog meticulously details that Aryans should only eat with a spoon, cook with clay pots, and eat big meals at the end of the day.

“In modern terms, the Aryan diet resembles the high-carb, low-fat diet favoured by endurance athletes,” the site modestly claims. However, lest us mere mortals get any ideas, it warns: “[p]eople with non-Aryan metabolism who consume carbohydrates in large quantities easily become obese and/or diabetic, because their bodies are biologically incapable of processing carbohydrates.” 

And here’s where things really go off the rails. As well as denouncing “corrupt” animal products, the blog meticulously details that Aryans should only eat with a spoon, cook with clay pots, and eat big meals at the end of the day.

Yes, according to this website, even a hearty breakfast is a Jewish conspiracy because it, “originated with Franz Kafka”, who was Jewish. A big meal at breakfast, it claims, is, “unknown in the animal world and wholly incompatible with Aryan metabolism”.

And if that’s not confusing enough for you, other essential aspects of the contemporary Aryan worldview include: welcoming refugees, rejecting Islamophobia, and even critiquing Western colonialism.

White nationalists avoiding animal food products does not make them vegan ... anymore than eating carbs makes them endurance athletes.

All of which is to say, just because certain movements seem to overlap, it does not follow that they are comparable. White nationalists avoiding animal food products does not make them vegan in the widespread understanding of the term anymore than eating carbs makes them endurance athletes, or skipping breakfast makes a late sleeper a Nazi.

Same actions, vastly different ideological motivations. 

In isolating the ‘vegan’ aspect of this convoluted Aryan agenda, it’s hard not to see Vice’s association of Nazis and veganism as an attack on veganism itself, and a perpetuation of the common accusation that vegans only care about food and animals (often in that order).

Sadly, us vegans must shoulder some of the blame for this. Veganism has serious problems. I am the first to admit frustration at the movement’s elevation of the voices of white men (a statistical minority in the movement), while deftly ignoring the racist implications of popular vegan cookbooks like Thug Kitchen.

If vegan philosophy can be whittled down to one short sentence it is this: do the least harm.

And, with our endless Instagrammed pictures of green smoothies, idolisation of bizarre YouTube stars, and obsession with food fads, we, too, have helped reduce veganism to just a lifestyle choice as opposed to a political movement.

Veganism is not a diet. While food is certainly an important aspect of it, if vegan philosophy can be whittled down to one short sentence it is this: do the least harm. Wherever possible, choose the option that causes the least suffering, the least environmental destruction, the least damage.

In other words, unlike Aryanism, veganism is not really about the vegan.

Criticism is like credit; it must be given only where it is due. And associating white nationalism with veganism is about as fair as tying it to the refugee rights movement or ultra-marathon running.

It may not have been the author’s intention to discredit veganism, but in a world that is always looking for new ways to do just that, this article certainly encourages people to do so.

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