Beyonce and her trainer/exercise physiologist Marco Borges, have created 22 Days Nutrition, which delivers plant-based food right to your door. Meals start at $15 each with a variety of delivery plans based on frequency. Last year Beyonce and her husband, Jay Z, took a 22-day vegan challenge. Some considered it bandwagon hopping but apparently she considered it a business opportunity.
Recently, celebrities like Jennifer Lopez also did a vegan
stunt stint. Maybe the person who brought these celebrities to a place where they wanted to flirt with vegansim was President Bill Clinton who famously converted to a vegan diet after serious health and heart problems. The benefits of a plant based diet are numerous so why would anybody take issue with Beyonce’s new venture?
For one, veganism isn’t diet. It’s an overarching philosophy that requires a certain lifestyle. Vegans do not eat any animal flesh, or products derived from animals such as milk, honey, and eggs. Vegans also do not wear animal skins or fur, do not consume products made with animal testing, and do not support animal exploitation in the form of zoos, etc. The basis is generally an ethical one and for the adherents to this philosophy either you fit the definition of a vegan or you do not.
It’s also not a trend. The Vegan Society was founded in November 1944. If you care about animals, including humans, it’s difficult to imagine not killing or exploiting and animal being subject to cultural whims of a fickle few tastemakers and their followers.
Just so you know I’m not a vegan, although I like my wardrobe and personal care products to be. I hope I represented the vegan philosophy well because I do respect vegans’ discipline (it’s not as challenging as the word “discipline” implies though it is a discipline) and comprehensive prohibitions on animals and animal products.
Based on the definition above Beyonce is definitely not a vegan. She wears fur (to a vegan restaurant no less). Her approach and the approach she seems to be popularizing is one of focusing on the vegan diet, not the lifestyle, which is unfortunate because there are so many dimensions of it that can be attractive to people. For example a vegan diet reduces the incredibly harsh tax on the environment that today’s animal agriculture demands and a vegan diet can improve or some say cure Type 2 diabetes. Incidentally, you can develop Type 2 diabetes by consuming the Pepsi products Beyonce advertises.
Which brings me to another point. Both Beyonce and Jay Z seem determined to take part in charity, “veganism light”, healthy practices like yoga, opening an organic chicken restaurant, and I’m sure there’s more. They are not, however, known for these things. They are known for their cultural products, their music and entertainment. These kinds of values are consistently absent in their most influential projects so these efforts ring hollow in some ways.
It is a complex issue. Beyonce is a black woman and a move like this seems to signify black people and the meat industry respectively, have come a long way since Oprah was accused of “whipping up” an “anti-beef ‘lynch mob'” by a group of Texas cattle producers in the late 1990s. Although, perhaps Beyonce has learned from that incident and decided to keep any prohibition on meat out of her her work that has the most cultural impact?
Personally, this venture doesn’t mean much to me. Maybe she will have a cultural influence, maybe she will not. I’m not holding out for her fans to become vegan or for the wonderful things discussion of this philosophy in the black community might produce. I know it’s not a numbers game. Real change does not need to come from the masses of people going along with an idea eventually. A committed few can make long lasting change. And they don’t have to be celebrities to do it.