Quite often, anti-vegans are saying "Any consumption under capitalism is unethical." or some variant thereof. Can somebody explain to me what they mean by that? How can every consumption under capitalism be unethical? Why would, for example, eating bread under capitalism be unethical?

  • Over many decades, I have suffered or witnessed attacks on vegetarianism or veganism but never that one. The most common criticism from the far left that I remember is that worrying about animal welfare is a distraction when various groups of humans are suffering.
    – badjohn
    Jan 14 at 10:45
  • seems more of an philosophy question. Is it anti-vegans saying this or just anti-capitalists, and any consumption presumably includes cars, houses, holidays and lots of things that almost everybody does whether they are vegan, vegetarian or omnivorous.
    – Robert Longson
    Jan 14 at 11:01
  • Your title says "anti-vegetarians" but your explanation says "anti-vegans." Do you mean "anti-vegans?" And what is an "anti-vegan?" Feb 9 at 21:47

1 Answer 1


The idea here is that exploitation is inherent in capitalism, and that buying or using (i.e. consuming) a product marketed as ethical, such as vegan sausages or fair trade chocolate or organic cotton, is not worthwhile, because, according to this argument, it does nothing to bring down the exploitative structure of capitalism.

One might hear elaborations of this argument, such as that the wealthy middle class who can afford 'ethical' consumption are blaming the less well off classes who can only afford cheap products manufactured in the most exploitative conditions for the prevalence of that exploitation, which they distance themselves from through their choice of products.

The person who makes this argument might propose that instead of trying to consume more ethically, one should avoid buying things altogether and work towards bringing down the unjust and exploitative capitalist order.

Personally, I would like to bring down capitalism, but I don't know how that is going to be done, and in the meantime I will have to eat and wear clothes and things like that, and I will try to reduce the exploitation of others in doing so, for example by being a vegan.

  • 1
    The stretch in the reasoning that I do not agree with is that some people say this as if the fact that any consumption is unethical justified the fact that we keep consuming even what we could avoid. As if they said "violence exists in the world" so we should depenalize domestic violence. It seems to me that if consumption is unethical, then reducing it goes in the right direction.
    – CaroZ
    Jan 22 at 0:07
  • 1
    @CaroZ I agree with you. In one of Doris Lessing's Martha Quest books, someone says that one should act as if the revolution has already happened :)
    – Zanna
    Jan 22 at 19:11
  • So you're sympathetic to the communist anti-capitalism philosophy behind it, but disagree with their conclusion that being a vegan for ethical reasons is pointless? acti-veg.com/there-is-no-ethical-consumption-under-capitalism Feb 14 at 6:35
  • 1
    @PaulWalker of course. Reducing suffering is never pointless.
    – Zanna
    Feb 15 at 3:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.