I’m a POC Who Went Veg in a Low-Income Household. Here’s Why That Matters.

My mom and I always said we loved animals. We adopted or fostered dogs and cats who had been in shelters. We fed them healthy food, socialized them with other animals, and took them for walks on the beach. We lived off my mom’s single-mother income but never sacrificed our companion animals’ well-being. We would do anything for the animals in our care, and we loved them unconditionally. But we also ate meat.

I first made the connection that meat came from animals toward the end of elementary school. I realized that the blood of a rare steak was cow’s blood, and it was similar to the blood I bleed. I stopped eating meat that day.

Over the years, I chose to educate myself more on the American and global food systems. I learned that the meat, dairy, and egg industries contribute to environmental destruction, human rights abuses, and blatant animal cruelty. What’s more, these industries overwhelmingly disadvantage low-income communities and people of color by exploiting vulnerable workers and hurting our health and neighborhoods.

Low-income communities often lack access to fresh, nutritious, and affordable food. This is typically because there are no grocery stores nearby and public transportation is insufficient. In many instances, the only food available is unhealthy, highly processed meals from fast-food chains, like chicken tenders, bacon cheese burgers, and hot dogs. These options are awful for your health.

A 2018 study found that consuming super processed foods like these is linked to higher overall cancer risk at a statistically significant level. In America, animal products are cheap because they’re subsidized by the government, and they’re intentionally marketed to low-income families.

Additionally, many people of color—myself included—are severely lactose intolerant, making it uncomfortable to eat dairy products. But they are so widely available and inexpensive that low-income families are inclined to purchase them, even if they would be better off ditching dairy.

Factory farms are never in affluent, predominantly white neighborhoods. That’s because the meat, dairy, and egg industries deliberately build factory farms in communities of color that are often of low income. As it happens, a study published in the Environmental Health Perspectives journal examined 67 factory farms in Mississippi and found that the majority were located in low-income areas and areas with a high percentage of Black Americans.

Those living near factory farms have revealed that farmers spray feces and urine into the air to “dispose of” the waste, often resulting in respiratory problems for residents.

Since factory farms are located in low-income communities of color, slaughterhouse workers are often low-income people of color. These workers are mistreated and exploited. A report from Oxfam found that line workers at Tyson Foods, Perdue Farms, Pilgrim’s Pride, and Sanderson Farms were denied breaks. They also develop PTSD from killing animals, develop illnesses, and are subjected to dangerous conditions that often result in irreversible injury.

But I didn’t go vegan just because of the way the meat, dairy, and egg industries hurt low-income communities and people of color. It was also because of how innocent animals are treated. From birth to death, pigs, cows, chickens, fish, and other farmed animals are caught in an inescapable nightmare: cruelly confined, brutally mutilated, and violently killed.

It’s disgraceful that the factory farming industry intentionally hurts communities, people, and animals. This is why as a person of color from a low-income upbringing, I decided to boycott this cruel and destructive industry.

I knew it was time for me to align my values with my actions.

For tips on how to eat vegan on a budget, click here.