The global justice movement and the rise of veganism
Image: Anonymous for the Voiceless ‘Cube of Truth’, Available online [Accessed: 26 April 2018]
post by Honor Gitsham
Social protests have been mobilised over the years to instigate political change and have often become iconic parts of history; like the protests led by the Suffragettes in the 20th century, the protests that marked the anti-apartheid movement from 1912-1992 and the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989. However, it was not until the 1990s, with the intensification of globalisation, that the Global Justice Movement began to emerge, challenging the way in which a neo-liberal model of globalisation was imposed from above, in an undemocratic way and ignored the challenges it presented to the environment, human rights and production rights. Those involved in the movement make up a group as diverse as its aims. Yet, all work towards finding alternatives to a society crippled with consumerism, in a crisis of financial capitalism, and governed by corporations. Social protests associated with the Global Justice Movement include the Arab Uprisings of 2011, the Indignados Movement, and Occupy Wall Street. They highlight global social challenges such as an increasing economic inequality – “we are the 99%”. The threat of global climate change, focusing on the role production and consumption play in the context of environmental degradation. And, thus, point to the increasing power of corporations, assessing whether it is part of the problem or a solution to these global social challenges. I maintain that today, the corporation’s power can go remarkably unchallenged and is ultimately dependant on production and profit, rather than a commitment to sustainability and ethics. Therefore, largely contributing to the challenges briefly mentioned above.
A key feature of the Global Justice Movement is an attack on culture, using the media and other information networks to protest – recognising the platforms that power usually operates through (Castells, 2004). For example, Adbusters use the media to target consumption: “THE MORE YOU CONSUME THE LESS YOU LIVE” (Adbusters, 2018). This use of the internet was revolutionary for many movements related to the Global Justice Movement because it meant that movements from all over the world were recognised globally, acting as a catalyst for others yet to come; as was the case for the Arab Uprisings, the Indignados Movement and Occupy Wall Street, which “rekindled faith in people’s power” (p. 158, Castells, 2013).
As a result of these Internet-based tactics, these movements are decentralised and rely on the internet to be organised. Meaning that they offer an alternative to the system they criticised, claiming it was undemocratic. An example of this can be seen within the Occupy Wall Street Movement in 2011, which offered a complex alternative to the current political practises in the US – setting an example of community-based democracy in action (Castells, 2013).
Other key features of the Global Justice Movement are that they exist online and outside, “linking cyberspace and urban space”, as well as emerging spontaneously, out of outrage, unearthed by social media, which eventually leads to hope, encouraging people to become more aware of the “socially unbearable situation” that exists (p. 177 Castells, 2012 and 193, Lakoff in Castells, 2013).
In this post I argue that the growth of the veganism is another contemporary example of the Global Justice Movement. Not only is the rise of Veganism a form of social protest in itself, targeting the animal agricultural industry and the corporations associated with it, by boycotting animal products – recognising that markets rely on consumption. But, like the Arab Spring, the Indignados movement, and Occupy Wall Street, Veganism has risen out of outrage and hopes for an alternative way of living.
It shares similar frustrations with past movements for the lack of transparency from corporations; research and studies have found that despite ‘eating 1 egg per day being just as bad as smoking 5 cigarettes per day for life expectancy’, “the egg industry funds studies that confuse consumers” (Anderson and Kuhn, 2017). Whilst also highlighting the severe environmental impact eating meat has on the planet; the animal agriculture industry is responsible for up to “91 percent of the destruction of the Amazon rainforest” (Anderson & Kuhn, 2014). As well as expressing further outrage towards the ways in which animals are subject to cruelty and slaughter, used as commodities rather than treated as living beings.
What is key about Veganism, which further expresses why this is a Global Justice Movement, is that, like Occupy, it is “a hybrid networked movement that links cyberspace and urban space in multiple forms of communication” (p. 177, Castells, 2012). Veganism has grown with the use of the internet; for example, through the increase of documentaries such as Cowspiracy, What the Health and Land of Hope and Glory (some which are featured on mainstream sites like Netflix) that expose the animal agricultural industry and its impact on the environment, our health and raise ethical issues. Alongside this, ‘Cubes of Truth’, led by Anonymous for the Voiceless, are organised online through social networking sites like Facebook and “take to the streets, Occupy-style” – linking this cyberspace with an urban space, organised through various social networking sites (McCasker, 2017).
These similarities between Veganism and past movements associated with the Global Justice Movement highlight how the use of the internet has transformed the way in which people protest, an attempt to create an alternative world, as well as highlighting the importance of cultural, political, and economic change to find solutions to global social challenges.
Buyological Urge. (2018). Adbusters [Accessed: 20 April 2018].
Castells, M., 2004., The Power of Identity, Volume II.
Castells, M. (2013). Networks of Outrage and Hope. Polity Press.
Anderson, K. & Kuhn, K. (2014). Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret. [Documentary]. A.U.M. Films & First Spark Media
Anderson, K & Kuhn, K. (2017). What the Health. [Documentary]. A.U.M Films & Media. United States
McCasker, T. (2017). ‘Cube of truth’: Anonymous hit streets with violent footage of animal farming’, The Guardian [Accessed: 24 April 2018].