VegNews, Vegan Halloween Candy, and Marketing Neoliberal Capitalism: An Open Letter
I just read your “Just in Time for Halloween: VegNews Guide to Vegan Candy”. I was struck by this excerpt:
Here at VegNews, we make it our job to be on top of the newest products, the must-try sweets, the gotta-have-it items. And just as important as it is to know what those new items are, we want to share them with you, so that you can be the most current conscious consumer out there. (http://vegnews.com/articles/page.do?pageId=4487&catId=2)
How are you defining ‘conscious consumer’? Is consumerism + conscious an oxymoron when it exists within the rationalities of neoliberal whiteness/capitalism?
Would it be possible one day to go beyond “no animals in these ‘treats”, to discussing that even though it is made with ‘no animals/animal byproducts’, it is not necessarily ‘cruelty-free’? I ask this because the ingredients in these foods, like sugar and cocoa, for example, are greatly sourced from the cruelty of child slavery (i.e. cocoa in West Africa). A lot of sugar may be bone-char refined “free”, but thousands of Haitians are indentured and/or enslaved in the worse conditions in the Dominican Republic, to bring USA its sugar products to overdose on for not just Halloween, but everyday.
Yes, I know this is not the intention of your article, but a few sentences to let people know this information is crucial in creating a world that is more ‘cruelty-free.’
VegNews seems to promote a type of hyperconsumerism that benefits ‘modern’ , mostly middle to upper class white vegans, who have a very ‘privileged’ relationship to food and other ‘vegan’ ‘cruelty-free’ commodities that are mostly made possible through structural racism-poverty-sexism (i.e NAFTA and WTO). It is my belief that your guide is written from the privileged side of modernity/coloniality binary; from the privileged side of the geopolitically racialized production of consumer goods. Ramón Grosfoguel, a scholar of decolonial theory, employs the term ‘coloniality’ to address
‘colonial situations’ in the present period in which colonial administrations have almost been eradicated from the capitalist world-system. By ‘colonial situations’ I mean the cultural, political, sexual, spiritual, epistemic and economic oppression/exploitation of subordinate racialized/ethnic groups by dominant racialized/ethnic groups with or without the existence of colonial administrations. Five hundred years of European colonial expansion and domination formed an international division of labor between Europeans and non-Europeans that is reproduced in the present so-called ‘post-colonial’ phase of the capitalist world-system (Grosfoguel xxi, 2007).
It is clear that this international division of labor is maintained through neoliberalism and geopolitical racialized discrimination (such chocolate slavery and sugar cane slavery). It is no surprise that the periphery zones in which food sources are extracted, overlap with regions of the world that have already been colonized by the global West. VegNews, your article about Vegan Halloween candy, as a pedagogy of consumption, embodies contradictions that have always existed with neoliberal whiteness framing of ethics and morality in a capitalist society. Your shopping guide seems to approach vegan activism as a hyperconsumerism ‘project’ for privileged subjects living in space of modernity; particularly those whose choice, access to food, and ‘voting with one’s dollar’ is not impeded by environmental racism, food deserts, poverty, or enslavement. These vegan objects of desire are commodity fetishes that simply detract from understanding ‘conscious’ food and social justice from a decolonial world-systems framework.
But perhaps my suggestion won’t be taken seriously for the very fact that those who support your magazine, financially (companies making vegan food) , would pull out if we began having conversations like these (?). I ask this because of the work I’m doing which involves learning about the suffering and pain of ‘disposable’ brown and black people of the global South, for example, who suffer immensely to bring ‘us’, palm oil, cocoa, sugar to name a few.
It’s not like I’m even asking you to boycott these products that you advocate; however, I think it’s quite unmindful and ‘cruel’ to present these ‘treats’ without their full genealogy of how it gets to most USA supermarkets and convenience stores. All I’m asking you guys to do is simply admit that many of these ‘treats’ that you advocate may be ‘vegan’, but it is not as ‘conscious’ as many USA vegans may think.
What do vegan most ‘cruelty-free’ Halloween ‘treats’ look like to sugar cane and cacao slaves? Probably pretty ‘cruel’ and not so ‘conscious.’
The boogeyman and vampire masks that cover our faces during Halloween may scare us in the USA who celebrate Halloween…. but the true boogeymen and vampires that cause nightmares and suffering for enslaved cocoa and sugar human laborers are the faces behind those masks: the average USA consumer-citizen and their ignorances about the places that “commodities”, such as vegan treats, truly come from.
Grosfoguel, Ramón. “The Epistemic Decolonial Turn: Beyond Political-Economy Paradigms.” Cultural Studies 21, no. 2/3 (2007): 211-23.
Image of pumpkin sourced from: http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-S5WWdmRC_-w/UHdXiv0MKGI/AAAAAAAADEg/0PM0UAm0eig/s1600/pumpkin.jpg