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Veganism and intersectionality in Brazil

Véganisme et intersectionalité au Brésil
Cassandra Dalle Mulle Santos, Daniela Alves Minuzzo, Juliana de Andrade Rocha Gonçalves and Lourence Cristine Alves


Brazil is one of the largest food producers in the world and also one of the most socially and economically unequal countries. Afro Veganism, Ghetto Veganism and Feminist Veganism are associated with this fight, addressing the contradictions between food, bodies, gender, and racism. This article aims to understand how these three collective movements articulate their discourses on veganism, highlighting the similarities and differences between their narratives, and thus understand the discourses of the vegan movement, considering the symbolic dimensions of food within the context of Brazilian socio- economic inequality. For the examination of the discursive content collected, intersectionality was used as an analytical tool. The analysis of these initiatives reveals a critical look on “traditional” veganism, criticismo of the [whitened] perspective of the vegan movement, the uncritical assimilation of products from the big agro-industry, the difficulties of accessing fresh food, the exploitation of human and non-human resources, especially feminine ones, and the relationship between speciesism and racism.

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  • 1 Mixture is any meal accompaniment, aside from rice and beans, with the exception of raw salads. Mix (...)

1Brazil is one of the largest world producers of meats and animal derivatives and one of the largest world exporters of commodities, trading mainly soybeans, corn, beef, and chicken (FAOSTAT 2019). This food production scenario is connected to several cultural and geographic factors in the country. Since the 16th century, the beginning of Portuguese colonization of the territory, natural resources were identified, exploited and ransacked for exportation through the implementation of a plantation system. The basis of this system of monoculture and large estates was characterized by a large concentration of land and compulsory slave labor. This work was mainly done by enslaved people from Africa through legal means until 1888. Brazilian food culture is related to such situations and agricultural characteristics historically developed and consolidated in the country. Despite this, it stands out for its diversity and regional specificities. However, rice, beans, and the mixture1 can be considered references of this regional food plurality.

2It should be noted that meat consumption in Brazil is a possible marker for the analysis of social distinctions and cultural identity. Once the economy was structured around export agriculture, focused on the demands of international trade and, although the colonial period officially ended in 1822, coloniality (as the logic of colonial relations centered on knowledge, being and power) continued to deepen and consolidate social inequalities, especially of race, gender and class to this day (Quijano 1992). In addition, the environmental preservation of biomes, respect for the land and the guarantee of dignity for the population have historically been in the background.

3Brazil is the 9th most unequal country in the world, with the second highest Gini index (1% of the richest have 28.3% of the country’s total income) and whites earn, on average, 42% more than blacks (IBGE 2021). Since 2018, the country has returned to the United Nations hunger map and during the Covid-19 pandemic the situation got worse. Income, race, and gender have repercussions on these inequalities, especially in food acquisition and food insecurity. The monthly family income per capita is the most impactful variable in the analysis of food security. A recent study revealed that one in every three households where the head of the house identified himself as black (a) (29.8%) faced food insecurity, while only 14.4% of the households where the head of the house identified himself as white were in the same situation (Rede Penssam 2021). The households where the head of the households were women, black people and people lacking some specific consumer goods, (like a stove and refrigerator) are facing the highest prevalence of food insecurity (Marin- Leon et al. 2011).

4Food can serve as a metaphor to explain the relationships between social structures of the groups and societies being researched, based on different types of knowledge (scientific knowledge, common sense, religions) that surround the act of eating with prohibitions that exclude culturally harmful foods from the menu. Mary Douglas, at the beginning of ‘Deciphering a Meal’, states that: “if a food is treated as a code, the message it encodes will be found in the pattern of social relations being expressed. The message is about different degrees of hierarchy, inclusion and exclusion, boundaries, and transactions across the boundaries” (Douglas 1999:61).

5According to Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge (2020), intersectionality is the concept that the identities of gender, race, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, nationality, age, and other forms of identity are inter-related and exist to create unique and complex experiences. Intersectionality recognizes that people are affected in different ways, per different forms of oppression, and these forms of oppression cannot be understood separately. In the Brazilian context, we perceive the most latent impacts of these interactions when we corelate socioeconomic indicators with historical-cultural factors of formation and permanence. We can observe that race, class, and gender oppressions cross the population in a specific way, such that black women are the most impacted by such violence, especially with regard to food. (Silva et al. 2022).

  • 2 In the original work, the expression Peripheral Veganism is used, signifying the adopted veganism f (...)

6Over time and around the world, marginalized populations have organized around social movements in an effort to change their realities and combat these oppressions. In the Brazilian scenario, social movements like Afro Veganism, Ghetto Veganism2, and Feminist Veganism connect to the agenda of struggles, addressing the contradictions between food, class, gender, and racism. In this context, this article’s objective is to understand how these three collective movements articulate their discourses about veganism, highlighting the similarities and differences of these narratives, and understand the discourses of the vegan movement, considering the symbolic and narrative food dimensions in the context of Brazilian socio-economic inequalities.

7In the last decade, we have observed an increase in the use of social media on the internet as a form of articulation and visibility of agendas and struggles of political and social mobilization. Social media networks became another space of symbolic dispute of concepts and information based on user interactions. The discursive actions developed on these platforms shape collective identities (Soon and Kluver 2014), with a structure that allows different users to express their political positions, connect with other similar perspectives and organize new forms of expression, both in a virtual environment and outside it. For these reasons, social media networks were the chosen space for the collection of data used for this research.

8That being said, we selected collective articles that articulated issues of race, class and gender within the Brazilian vegan movement for the case studies of this article (Schwandt and Gates 2018). A number of media profiles is associated with the intersectional perspective (Winker and Degele 2011). For this article, three initiatives were selected and analyzed. They are: AfroVegan Movement (AVM), Ghetto Veganism (GV) and Feminist Vegan Union (FVU). The methodological procedures consisted of the content analysis of the collective posts on the social media profiles, initially restricting the official pages of the three initiatives on Instagram (MAV 2021a; VP 2021a; UVF 2021a). After the analysis of this primary sources was done, other pages and social media platforms included interviews, podcasts, videos, reports, official websites and Facebook were added to complement the material. Finally, the context extracted from social networks was processed and analyzed. To examine the discursive content collected, we utilized intersectionality as an analysis tool by mobilizing race, class and gender as analytical categories (Winker and Degele 2011). We conducted a thorough reading of the published content and selected the main topics addressed by the movements, which are discussed later in the article with the help of the theoretical and bibliographical references searched. Due to the pandemic situation and the need for social distancing, the data collection was conducted entirely virtually.

9Data collection occurred during January 2021 and April 2021. In relation to AVM, we analyzed 174 Instagram posts, (dated from 10/24/2018 to 2/04/2021) (MAV 2012a), 335 Facebook posts (dated from 5/07/2015 to 4/07/2021) (MAV 2012b), the official website, (MAV 2012c), a rehearsal (Flor 2018) and a podcast (Miranda & Goldkorn 2019). From GV we analyzed 484 Instagram posts (dates from 10/8/2017 to 4/21/2021) (VP 2021a), a documentary (Farias 2020), a podcast (Kateriny 2021) an interview (Bernardes 2019) and the official website (VP 2021b). And, in relation to FVU, we analyzed 33 Instagram posts (dated from 10/30/2020 to 4/28/2021) (UVF 2021a) and the official website (UVF 2021b). The reports used and reproduced in this article are only direct speeches or writings from the participants of the respective movements. Content edited by third parties were not used, although sites where such interventions may have occurred were visited. The content of the comments also was not analyzed, in order to concentrate on the discussions produced by the groups.

About Brazilian veganism

10Since the 1970s, vegetarianism started gaining strength as a conscious social movement becoming more popular amongst Brazilians in the beginning of the 1990s. The first Brazilian vegetarian society that we have news of is the Sociedade Naturista Brasileira, created in 1913. Vegetarian activism at the time was centered on the defense of the life of animals, along with the recognition of similarities between humans and animals, but also the denial of these similarities. The activists had an ideal perspective of nature, believing that nature only favored life and did not need to be killed in order to feed (Ostos 2022). Just recently, as a phenomenon of the 21st century, debates about vegetarianism and veganism in Brazil are being associated with larger social debates, like those mentioned in this article, although they are in deep tension with the more liberal perspectives of veganism.

  • 3 This percentage refers to the sum of the 8% who declared that they 'totally agree' with the stateme (...)

11According to a survey by IBOPE (2018) conducted in April 2018, 14% of the Brazilian population declare themselves vegetarian3, with no specific data on how many vegans there are in the country. This number represents a 75% increase in supporters in the last six years, which follows a global trend (Révillion et al. 2020). This high number of adherents may be related to the prominence that vegetarianism gained in the media, with television programs, famous personalities and books on the subject. Currently, vegetarianism is increasingly being accepted in Brazil. There are many vegetarian and vegan restaurants spread across the country, and many people opt for vegetarian food, especially in metropolitan centers (Ribeiro 2019). We have observed in recent years the emergence of individuals and social movements organizing and adhering to veganism in the outskirts of large Brazilian cities. Since the Arab Spring, it has become more evident that social networks are an important means for the dissemination of ideas and for people with similar interests to meet and organize socially. This organization via social networks is reflected in the vegan social movements in Brazil, and in this article we establish a dialogue with three of these movements.

12According to the Brazilian Vegan Association, veganism can be defined as “a philosophy and lifestyle that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practically, all forms of exploitation of, and the cruelty to, animals for food, clothing and other purposes” (ABV 2021). The meanings and practices that involve veganism are not homogenous and are in constant dispute between groups that follow this way of life. Despite the adoption of heterogeneous discourses, some concepts and ideas are fundamental to understand this ideology. These include speciesism, abolitionism, and animal well-being. Speciesism, a term created in the 1970s, deals with the differences of values between individuals based on differences between species. Peter Singer (1975) makes an analogy between speciesism, racism, and sexism in the perspective that all of these ideas are established in arbitrary characteristics based on a biological approach, used to justify unequal and violent practices aimed at the subjugation, exploitation and objectification of beings. Animal abolitionism and animal well-being are similar ideas, but are not synonymous. Animal well-being defends the regulation of possible actions of animal exploitation, in the reformist perspective. Animal abolitionism, on the other hand, advocates the complete abolition of animal exploitation and rejects regulation or negotiation. Although Singer does not use the term intersectionality, we can notice the analytical nuances of the relationships between the categories of race and gender in the development of his theorization of speciesism (Singer 1975).

13The three movements we presente here are: The AfroVegan Movement (Movimento Afrovegano, in Portuguese) emerged in 2015, from a meeting of young vegans over the internet after the denunciation of an episode of racism in a vegan commercial establishment in São Paulo. Initially formed by black women and some men from different Brazilian states, the AVM is currently organized exclusively by black women. Like other vegan movements, the AVM is aligned with the understanding that veganism is “a way of life that seeks to exclude, as far as possible and practical, all forms of animal exploitation and cruelty, whether for food, clothing or any other purpose” (MAV 2021a).

14The Ghetto Vegan page (Vegano Periférico, in Portuguese) has been managed since 2017 by two twin brothers who work and live in a peripheral region of Campinas (25 km from the center), a city in the interior of the state of São Paulo. With a reasoning based on the debate of social classes, they claim to believe in an “accessible cause for everyone”, stating that “it doesn't matter where you live, it matters how you think” (VP 2021a).

15Although the members of the Feminist Vegan Union (União Vegana Feminista, in Portuguese) do not claim to be from the periphery, they present themselves as “an independent initiative created with the aim of unifying the feminist and vegan struggle in Brazil, highlighting the relationship of patriarchy with the consumption of meat, milk, eggs and derivatives, in addition to its responsibility for the destruction of our environment” (UVF 2021). They are also associated with other grassroots groups that, through activist and militant publications, seek to promote veganism. During the research period, the group consisted of 20 women from different regions of Brazil, represented by four white women in the image that presents them. The objectives are the total abolition of “animal and human exploitation” through ideas, concepts and theories linked to ecofeminism. They appeal to the notion of “intersection of agendas”, with a central focus on veganism and feminism, in the search for the construction of what they call “popular, feminist, anti-capitalist and anti-fascist veganism” (UVF 2021).

16We can observe that one of the main anchoring concepts of Brazilian veganism is the speciesism agenda. The vegan philosophy practice is based on an ethical feeling and is contrary to speciesism, represented by boycotting the consumption of products that cause death, suffering or mistreatment of animals. Next, we will present how the three vegan movements analyzed here manifest themselves in line with the guidelines of intersectional categories (race, gender and class).

AfroVegan Movement (AVM)

17The AVM brings in its structure the racial and social profile aligned with debates guided by different aspects of the Black Movement. This tendency can be noticed in the construction of its logo, built from the image of a black woman with black, power style hair, surrounded by the phrase: “Combating racism and speciesism”. Reflecting on this, we know that there are some aspects of veganism and movements linked to animal ethics that propose an argument on the analogy between racism and speciesism. Carlos Naconecy (2010) exemplifies the meaning of the relationship racism / speciesism when he says:

“By alienating and marginalizing the oppressed, racism and speciesism share a system of oppression, class stigmatization, group victimization, and degradation of its members. Broadly speaking, the aspect shared by racism and speciesism is that “they” are essentially different from and inferior to “us”. In both forms of alterity discrimination, the “other” is excluded because he lacks something that is possessed by the excluding group and considered as a measure of value. This gives rise to a dualistic logic of hierarchization. The core of racism is a blindness to what constitutes shared humanity between whites and blacks, just as the speciesist is blind to the animality distributed between humans and pigs.” (Naconecy 2010:14)

18The approach of this discourse seems to be one of the paths chosen by AVM to strengthen the anti-racist agenda. The group gathers and promotes various events open to the community, such as fairs, learning meetings and lectures, seeking to strengthen networking and foster debate on veganism and racism. During these events, the hashtag #estamosvivos (#wearrealive) is constantly used as a way of resisting and celebrating life, since in Brazil, especially in the favelas and outskirts of large cities, black bodies are perceived as killable bodies. This hashtag can be compared to #BlackLivesMatter, part of an international movement against violence directed at black people.

19The AVM presents a critique of the “traditional” vegan movement as a predominantly white space based on “animal well-being as an absolute to the detriment of other beings like us, the black population.” (MAV 2021a). An example of these practices, pointed out by the group, would be the ease of awareness regarding the slaughter of certain animals (cows x dogs/cats), to the detriment of mobilizations and commotions regarding the genocide of the black population in the country:

  • 4 The publication referred to cases of violence against black people in the city of Rio de Janeiro. M (...)

“Society in general is not moved by our black bodies. It is not surprising, therefore, that this same society is more moved by a dog than Marcos Vinícius, killed in a police operation, or even the boys shot 111 times in Costa Barros, who died while celebrating one of their first jobs, Roberto, as a supermarket assistant4.” (MAV 2021a)

20It is noteworthy that, in 2018, 75.7% of all homicide victims in Brazil were black people (IPEA, 2020). There is a historic struggle by the Black Movement to combat the various forms of violence from the state, access to decent living conditions, historical social reparation and food security. AVM is in line with these guidelines and offers a space for support and dialogue, welcoming black people who have their bodies and ideas excluded from the “traditional white” vegan movement.

21There are frequent reports of black vegans who, when starting to participate in vegan fairs, do not find other blacks in these places or realize that black businesses sell less than white businesses, impacting their financial income. All these factors are reflections of what Silvio de Almeida defends as Structural Racism. According to him:

“(..) racism is always structural, that is, it is an element that integrates the economic and political organization of society. In short, what we want to clarify is that racism is a normal manifestation of society, and not a pathological phenomenon or one that expresses some kind of abnormality. Racism provides the meaning, logic and technology for the reproduction of the forms of inequality and violence that shape contemporary social life. (Almeida 2019:15)

22The construction of a shared social ideal around the figure of the vegan is also the agenda of the movement. For them, people on the periphery would have less identification with this way of life, since advertisements and information about veganism mostly show middle-class white people who talk about recipes with inaccessible ingredients. According to them, black people do not recognize themselves in these practices and, on the contrary, see a whitened image:

“(..) that image of the good vibes white woman/man, with pictures of waterfall/ permaculture, peace and love, who only eats organic food, and who does yoga/meditation - and who are nothing more than white people who claim to be superior, and who treats part of this construction as ‘uplifting the spirit’, but who ends up being just another little racist in the world who holds her bag when I pass by her on the street” (MAV 2021a).

  • 5 Quilombola is the term used to designate enslaved people who, deprived of their freedom, took refug (...)

23With this, the issue of rescuing ancestral black values and dietary practices, based on references from African matrices and with plant foods as the protagonist, emerges as one of the central points of the AVM. They report that it is essential to think about food together with the black population because, according to them, “Western food is not our thing, our ancestry, it is not what we did. The European culture that brought all this destruction of animal husbandry” (MAV 2021a). It is known that Brazil was a territory colonized by Europeans, marked by the economic exploitation of monoculture for export, through the institutionalization of forced labor by enslaved people, mostly black Africans. Antônio Nego Bispo, a quilombola thinker5, proposes an interpretation of this process aligned with the ideological bases of the AVM. He defends the need for a different look at colonizers and counter-colonizers, understanding the cultural complexity of Afro-American populations systematically silenced throughout Brazilian history (Santos 2015).

24For the women of the AVM, talking about an ancestral diet brings black people closer to the vegan movement. This ancestral/spiritual connection is in line with the discourses of the Black Movement current of thought that defends the understanding of African origin ancestry originally linked to Ancient Egypt or Kemet (the original self-denomination of this people). According to this line of thought, vegetable foods traditionally make up the Kemetic diet. On the subject, Day Pedrosa, one of the AVM associates, defended that despite the commonly accepted idea that veganism is a movement “created” by a white man, it, in fact, is part of the food culture practiced for centuries by different peoples of Africa (MAV 2021a). And that, once again, there would have been a colonizing appropriation of black knowledge, removing authorship from a culinary tradition already practiced in Africa.

25We could also observe the refusal, by members of the movement, of using the word 'veganism' to designate plant-based diets. The reason is the understanding that the centrality of the consumption of meat and animal products was no longer part of the food culture in most traditional African cultures. There is also a spiritual and medicinal aspect related to this diet: “it is a moment of healing, it is not just about the taste, you are feeding your soul, [it is a moment] of taking care of yourself" (MAV 2021a).

26The AVM also discusses the term nutricídio, coined by Llaila Afrika (2013) and proposed as a synonym for food genocide. Afrika develops perspectives that show how, over the years, colonization processes have impacted the diet of Afro-descendants, leading to various health problems associated with a diet that would not be suitable for ancestral African food cultures. The concept of nutrition can be applied to the dietary reality of the black Brazilian population, as there is an increase in the consumption of industrialized and genetically modified food products, which differ from traditional forms of food. Several factors can be identified as motivators of this contemporary eating behavior, such as the lack of access for black and peripheral people to healthy food options, especially raw and whole foods. When analyzing this phenomenon historically, we realize that there was a restriction of access to land by the black population. For the organizers of the AVM, this would be deliberate, “since the government would like the black population to get sick” (MAV 2021c).

27One of the most controversial points of the Brazilian vegan movement concerns the ritual sacrifice that occurs in Afro-Brazilian religions. The sacralization of meat (or slaughter) is a practice of fundamental importance for these religious groups. The blood of the sacrifice is seen as a potent sap that drives axé (vital energy according to Candomblé). According to Sidney Nogueira (2020) the sacrifices are made in the name of life and all sacralized meat comes from animals that make up the traditional sacred diet. The person responsible for carrying out the sacrifice, the Axoguns (sons of Ogun, deity of the Afro-Brazilian religion, responsible for handling the knife in animal sacrifices), do so with specific techniques for each sacred animal species. Animals that are immolated in sacrifice are fully consumed and need to be in perfect health, they cannot be stressed, so great care, respect and attention is required before and during the process (Alves 2019: 23-24; Nogueira 2020).

28The question of the sacralization of meat in religions of African origin in Brazil is an issue that generates a lot of controversy, not only among vegan and vegetarian movements, but being the target of legal sanctions and prohibitory bills driven by conservative politicians. The final decision about allowing sacrificial practices in Afro-Brazilian religions reached the highest level of the Brazilian judiciary, where it was established that religious freedom, guaranteed by the country's constitution, guarantees the maintenance of such practices.

  • 6 Terreiros are spaces for cults and religious practices of the Afro-Brazilian religion.

29On the subject, the AVM is against initiatives to curb this type of practice in terreiros6. For them, the population does not question the killing practiced by other religions, such as the Christmas turkey and the Catholic religion. They argue that the fact that this turkey slaughter is carried out by the industry does not mischaracterize it as a religious slaughter. For them, this selectivity is based on the racism present in the traditional vegan movement. In addition, practitioners of Afro-Brazilian religions have a spiritual, affective and ancestral relationship with these rituals, the result of an ancestry that was denied them. Due to its controversial content, this subject is usually based on social networks related to the theme of veganism. Ghetto Vegan also takes a position on the subject, defending respect and tolerance for religious practices of African origin. Only in the networks of the Feminist Vegan Union did we find any mention of this theme, up to the date of data collection.

30Therefore, the religions practiced here are part of the resistance of black people who survived and live in the diaspora. To deprive them of the right to fully practice their religion would be, once again, to violate the culture of black people. Analyzing how the criticism of practices, rites and consumption habits in religions of African origin in Brazil are incisive when compared to other religions, we realize that, in addition to characteristics of religious intolerance, the problem surrounding Afro-Brazilian religious practices is configured as religious racism. As Nogueira points out:

“Religious racism is yet another way of allowing them, the uncritical and racist whiteness, not to worry about how the animal was killed or where it passed or what energies were involved in its slaughter. They don't know that the meat can be marked by great tension linked to the moment of the animal's death, but they eat it without hesitation. The people of Axé know exactly how to avoid this negative tension and benefit from meat full of life force with all due respect to the life of the animal, which is elevated to the position of divinity.” (Nogueria 2020: 103-104)

31Finally, when we analyze the content of the set of posts by the AVM, we notice the intersectionality between race, gender and class. It should be noted that we start from the conceptual approach of intersectionality proposed by Patricia Hill Collins, who understands that intersectionality is a tool that allows us to converge race, class, gender, sexual orientation, among other categories of analysis, as a path to understanding and elucidating of the plurality and complexity of human experiences in society. These categories are inter-relational and correspond to each other in the form of affectation in the subjects' lives (Collins & Bilge 2020).

32In addition to the correlations between food and black cultural identity, the content posted by AVM also resonnates with other agendas in Brazilian society, which are directly related to gender and class guidelines. The group aligns with Popular Veganism, which "does not believe in the possibility of freeing only non-human animals without the need to also combat oppression against human minorities." In addition, they believe that it would not make sense “to stop being speciesist while continuing to promote racism, sexism, LGBTphobia, elitism, xenophobia, ableism, fatphobia and other prejudices, maintaining social inequalities and the exploitation of the working class and marginalized people” (MAV 2021c). They report that in a society where people living in favelas already face different types of oppression, talking about anti-speciesism becomes even more difficult. The vegan movement that does not think about social issues often “ends up wanting to destroy the grocery store [in the small neighborhood] before going through the mall [the big company] first” (MAV 2021a). And they understand that this perspective ends up further strengthening the large companies, which have the economic power to continue operating and changing their production line, without incurring major economic losses, unlike the owner of the small local market. This power relationship between commerce and the food industry is one of the points discussed by Ghetto Veganism, which we present below.

Ghetto Veganism (GV)

33For the two brothers responsible for the Instagram page @veganoperiferico, veganism is a political act and not just the act of not consuming any animal products. Unlike the AVM and the FVU, which already constituted themselves as a movement, with a well-defined political agenda from the beginning, the brothers' first posts on social networks were mainly focused on photos and the dissemination of vegan dishes and preparations with some questions about the structure of the capitalist system. Over time, there has been an evolution in the questioning of the social phenomena involved in the consumption and production of meat: discussions now bear upon racism and the environmental impacts of meat production.

34One of the main topics discussed by GV on its social networks is the relationship between veganism and masculinity. They discuss how meat is linked to male identification in our culture, raising questions such as:

“What does eating meat have to do with being a man? Go eat a steak, you're a man. The guy thinks he's more of a man or less of a man for consuming brown rice” (Farias 2020).

35This link between masculinity and meat consumption is explored by Carol Adams (2010). The author argues that this thought is based on the idea that white men are superior to white women and racialized people, in the same way that meat is a superior food in evolutionary terms when compared to vegetables. Thus, the man who eats vegetables announces that he is not a man, as he is approaching the so-called “female diet”. And therefore, according to this reasoning, when you give up eating meat, you give up your manhood.

36Brazilian culture is structurally sexist and patriarchal. In several regions, traditional foods are linked to the consumption of animals. Barbecue, for example, is very popular, both as a traditional food at rodeos and at post-soccer gatherings with friends. The culture of meat consumption reinforces a hegemonic sense of masculinity, through the creation of an identity that associates meat consumption with masculine behavior. These men, by changing this eating practice, give up sharing eating habits in several of these communities.

37It is also important to highlight that meat consumption in the periphery is linked to a hierarchy within the community: who may or may not have money to consume this product that was a marker of social ascension obtained during the Workers' Party governments. As we can see in the excerpt:

INTERVIEWER: "Having meat on the plate was a form of status. I know I'm poor, but at least I could eat a piece of meat. At that time not all the poor had access. (...). You don't have to have much, but you do need to have a piece of meat there so you won’t be classified as a poor person. To take a lunchbox without meat was shameful. A fetish has been created about this product, and this is also a sale. Where it comes and where it goes doesn't matter, but I have to show that I'm capable of having that product."

Leonardo (GV): "Our generation can already get out of this place a little more with more information. But for the generation of our parents and grandparents, to say that there is no meat for my mother is to tell the neighbor that she is starving." (Kateriny 2021:27').

38Based on Marx's concepts of alienation and exploitation, GV questions the connection between the consumer mentality and the influence of the capitalist system in shaping people's way of thinking. According to them, an “industrialized mind” leads to the consumption of industrialized vegan products, which are therefore more expensive and less accessible to populations on the periphery. This is a thought reinforced in the slogan of its website: “it doesn't matter where you live, it matters how you think”. Contrary to the argument of the AVM (which understands that black people do not have access to natural food in the periphery and this absence is akin to a deliberate project of genocide of this population), Ghetto Veganism believes that the population of the periphery has access to these healthy foods, but their “industrialized mind” prevents them from realizing that this is a possible choice. Thus, GV questions what types of vegan products people can have and how the consumption of expensive industrialized products is elitist and exclusive. This class conflict, about what is consumed by elite people and what is consumed by peripheral people, separates vegan individuals between first-class and second-class vegans.

39By presenting photos of daily preparations, they demonstrate possible alternatives to being a vegan “in the ’hood”. The complexification of meals can be observed over time. Starting from simple and easy-to-prepare foods (rice, beans, raw fruits and vegetables), evolving to more complex preparations with the application of other culinary techniques (sautés, frying, use of seasonings) and recipes from other cultures (guacamole, ceviche). The creation of all these dish, not typical of the region's diet, shows that research on the subject took place and that there is a need to expand the repertoire of recipes and to offer more diversified dishes. The elitism of veganism, also addressed by AVM, is one of the main concerns of GV, appearing constantly in the posts. Here we see the category of class being mobilized, intersecting with the political agenda in the group's discourses. The language used by the elite to talk about veganism is criticized, as well as the price charged in vegan restaurants and events that would be excluding the ghetto population:

“Where we come from, on the outskirts, we are already afraid of going to these peaks, even if we are white. [At this establishment] most of the food had a different name, the price was expensive, the people who were consuming in the place were promoting a cause in English.” (Bernardes, 2019)

“Veganism is very centered on the privileged classes. These classes have much more information. If you have money, you can think. If you don't have money, you need to think about survival. (...) On the periphery, people are preoccupied with taking care of several children, paying the bills, living with a slave's wage and they can't think of anything except this suffering life they live. The privileged classes, on the other hand, have a whole structure to be able to think, it is quite different. (...) the privileged class, when they have information, when it comes to the periphery, they think they will understand the same way the privileged learned. They use a language that is quite far-fetched, totally formal, something that the periphery doesn't really understand.” (Bernardes 2019)

40Class differentiation and the feeling of belonging are recurrent issues in the brothers' discourse. GV points out that there are vegans who “have access to English, information, the university, industrialized products and those who are from the ’hood”. For them, veganism is a political act and not just something related to “depoliticized consumer fashion”. In addition, GV shows awareness of the racism present in Brazilian society, represented by the comment expressed in the quoted passage (“Even though we are white”). This comment implies that places like vegan restaurants are not places that black people should go, even if they practice this diet. Considering that veganism is a movement that seeks to break with hierarchies, these reports present the contradictions of this social movement.

41The concept of alienation is another theme explored by the group in their social networks. Both in relation to the food industry that hides the processes of creation and slaughter, and by consumers who opt for intentional ignorance. The cruel and intensive practices in the production of meat and its by-products are widely documented. This distancing from the productive process on the part of the population living in large cities is called by Carol J. Adams (2010) ‘absent referent’. That is, when we find ourselves distant from the process of slaughter and production and do not need to kill the animals we eat, we can see this protein only as a food and take no responsibility for the process that occurs before this meat reaches the supermarket. The mother of the siblings we mentioned above exemplifies this process of alienation when she reports: "if I start watching the videos, I won't want to eat [meat]" (Farias 2020).

42Of course, there is a partial awareness that the process of slaughtering these animals is cruel, but the individual chooses to ignore this reality. In another excerpt from the documentary, it is commented: "the alienation is deep, people do not want to see. We become reproducers of ideas, reproducers of behaviors. Eating meat is cultural, we reproduce without thinking" (Farias 2020). It is important to emphasize that this type of alienation is partially possible because this movement occurs in the peripheries of large Brazilian cities/capitals. Outside of large urban centers, where most slaughterhouses and breeding farms are located, this willful ignorance becomes more difficult, as many work in these locations.

43In the favelas there is also an environment of information insecurity. Information is still precarious due to the structure and lack of opportunities in the system in which these individuals are inserted. However, in the process of becoming vegan, the slum dweller acquires knowledge about previously forgotten eating habits and more associated with popular knowledge (seasonality of vegetables, diversity of foods and popular dishes). And just as AVM members rediscover their ancestry, GV members turn to the ancient knowledge of their parents and grandparents. In a way, we are talking about the same individuals, since most of the Brazilian population living in favelas is made up of black and brown people. Ecofeminist theory addresses this issue by denouncing the denial of local knowledge by a dominating and colonizing culture. This dominant culture transforms local knowledge into something unscientific and of reduced importance, since, theoretically, it has neither productivity nor economic value to become relevant within the dominant capitalist schema (Shiva 2002).

44The GV movement also promotes a natural proximity with the producers of these foods, especially those who sell at local fairs, participate in community gardens, are family farmers and participate in popular land occupation movements, such as the MST (Movement of the Landless Workers). In contact with these different actors, GV realizes that it is possible to link different modes of production: one practiced by large industries and another practiced by small producers.

45Finally, the GV movement links the mode of production of the slaughter industries with the actual exploitation of their own bodies: “We are poor and from the periphery. The peripheral population is exploited daily, in different ways” (VP 2021a). In this quote, there is an awareness of the oppression experienced, of being part of a larger system that oppresses the poorest population and exploits them both to produce and consume meat: “When you look at animal exploitation, you see that it is capitalism that looks at animals as an object, treats them as objects, teaches the population that this is how it works and will always be like this and we are opposed to that. It is part of the political game not to look at organic and familiar [agriculture], because it is not so profitable” (VP 2021a). This relationship between bodies and the treatment of animals as objects will also be addressed by the Feminist Vegan Union (FVU), which we will discuss below.

Feminist Vegan Union (FVU)

46The main point raised by the FVU is the relationship between the patriarchal system and the production and consumption of meat, having as a central reference the book The Sexual Policy of Meat by author Carol J. Adams (2010). By promoting this discussion on their social networks, FVU members address the issue of food relations in capitalism, also discussed by GV. The FVU points out that in our society there is food segregation based on gender, for two reasons: (1) the modern Western belief that associates women as closer to nature and men to culture and (2) the division of labor that directs women mainly for private spaces and men for public spaces.

47They understand that these reasons are linked to a process of hierarchization and inferiority of women, who historically have been more restricted to taking care of the home and family and preparing food, consuming more grains, fruits and vegetables, while meat was primarily destined to men. Thus, FVU understands that meat was constructed as a symbol of virility, and that male sexuality is questioned when meat is not consumed. This same argument was also raised by GV.

48The interrelation between the oppression of women and animals is deepened by Adams (2010), who presents vegetarianism as a feminist demand. The author argues that the way we relate to and eat animals is based on a patriarchal and androcentric view, prevalent in modern Western societies, relating meat consumption to a normative ideal of masculinity: “Manhood is constructed in our culture, in part, by access to meat eating and control of other bodies. Everyone is affected by the sexual politics of meat” (Adams 2010:26).

49The FVU also discusses the issue of the process of dehumanization of women and non-human animals. They argue that both bodies exist as absent referent and that in order to exist they must be compared with a close referent so that they are worthy of empathy. To exemplify, it would be the case of bringing together animals used for slaughter (absent) with domestic animals (close) and the attempt to raise awareness about cases of violence against women (absent) from the comparison with beloved women (close):

“All these examples of an appealing and humanizing approach only reinforces that women and animals in the patriarchal, western capitalist society are not seen as beings with their own particularities and who deserve respect just for existing, but absent referent who need to be constantly assimilated so as not to have their bodies violated by patriarchy and speciesism.” (UVF 2021a)

50This point dialogues with the criticism of “traditional” veganism made by the AVM, which would be more concerned with animal well-being (close) than with the ongoing genocide of the black population in Brazil (absent).

51Another topic addressed by UVF is the logic of capitalist production and its relationship with the destruction of the environment. They defend the promotion of “ecosocialism as a way of overcoming oppression and combating environmental genocide” (UVF 2021a). In the 1980s, ecofeminism (a branch of ecosocialism) emerged, showing historical, cultural and symbolic parallels between the domination, oppression and exploitation of women and nature, while also seeking the convergence of feminist and ecological struggles. One of the aspects of this movement, which Vandana Shiva (2002) discusses, situates women's relationship with nature in the social and historical construction of genders. According to her, the ecological awareness of gender, which varies between different cultures and times, would be linked to the divisions of labor and social roles established in societies (Barragán et al. 2016). Monoculture, within the ecofeminist conception, is not only harmful to biodiversity, but also to the diversity of thoughts, recognition and complexity of knowledge, originally recognized as feminine, in the case of cooking or planting. Thus, ecofeminism seeks to defend biodiversity and less predatory modes of production, as opposed to environmental exploitation and the privatization of profits in the capitalist system (Siliprandi 2000).

52Still related to patriarchal oppression, the women of the movement took a position on rape and the right to legal and safe abortion (which in Brazil is criminalized, leading many women, mainly poor, black and from the periphery, to die when trying to abort in inadequate conditions) . This theme relates the violence suffered by women with the violence experienced by non-human females, based on interventions on their bodies. In this case, the FVU cites the dairy industry and the need to raise cows to produce milk, thus understanding that the industry “exploits the uterus of these animals” through artificial insemination. They attribute the high production of milk in Brazil to the use of technologies applied to the body of cows, such as insemination and mechanical milking, graphically described to illustrate the suffering conditions of these animals. We would also like to mention that the preservation of women's sexual and reproductive rights, the awareness that it is necessary to change the logic that validates and authorizes unique forms of knowledge without considering other cultural dimensions, as well as the stimulus to critical thinking that reflects on the forms of exclusion and domination, are understood as the role of ecofeminism (Oliveira and Kuhen 2019).

53Food and nutrition security is also addressed by the FVU. In this sense, some social markers stand out, such as purchasing power, the number of residents in the household and access to food outlets, as determinants of food security, regardless of individual choices. They refer to food deserts (Shaw 2003; Long et al. 2020), although they do not use this terminology, highlighting a study in the city of São Paulo that shows that regions with better socioeconomic conditions have a greater concentration and variety of establishments that sell food, while peripheral regions have smaller stores, with less variety of fruits and vegetables and greater availability of ultra-processed foods. In their discourse on class and food, they defend the need for issues such as income, access to housing and basic sanitation to be connected with veganism. These factors would be related to health and well-being, and are close to the guidelines brought by AVM and GV regarding access to foods considered healthy.

54The group criticizes vegan industrialized products and what they call “the co-option of the movement by the markets”. They address the fact that many people seek to replace animal products (called “dead animals in the meal”) with other similar products, attributing this fact to the affective memory built with these foods and the difficulty of “imagining other possibilities and flavors ”. They criticize the use of terms like "meat", "sausage" or "hamburger" to refer to preparations with products of vegetable origin. And they accuse the food industry of using claims of healthiness, practicality and financial savings to convince people to consume preparations that “resemble the taste and texture of that old standard we were used to” (UVF 2021a). These commercial relationships, marketing strategies and forms of consumption are common themes addressed by the three movements analyzed.

55Finally, we would like to point out that only one UVF post addresses the racial issue as its main focus. In this post, the group indicates the reading of two works by the intellectual Angela Davis and uses an image with the following quote from the author: “In a racist society, it is not enough not to be racist. It is necessary to be anti-racist”. Angela Davis, who identifies as vegan, has already stated in an interview that she believes that being vegan is part of a revolutionary perspective, in which we must develop affectionate relationships not only with other human beings, but with all the beings with whom we share the planet, claiming that this would mean challenging the entire form of food production in a capitalist industry. In another post, the UVF points out that black women receive lower salaries on average and that there are differences in the regional distribution of income within the country. They associate poverty with less power of choice, understanding that many Brazilians are “hostages of the current model of production and consumption” and pay attention to the need to “contextualize alternatives that enable an accessible and collective vegan transition”. In this way, they timidly approach issues of race, guided by the AVM, and class, guided by the GV.


56The analysis of the three initiatives presented here points to the importance of deepening debates on veganism, understanding it as a political movement linked to dietary patterns, operating and articulating debates far beyond the selection of what is eaten. Food, conceived in a systematic way, comprises macro political issues that structure and are structured by the modes of social organization in the perspectives of race, class and gender. In Brazil, a country with an agricultural economic base and deep marks of socioeconomic inequality, it is essential that debates on food include political issues that question and challenge these structures.

57Among the points presented by the groups we discuss here, the critical look at “traditional” veganism is a great sign. The notes around the whitened perspective of the vegan movement highlight the uncritical assimilation of products from big industry, the problems of access to fresh food, the exploitation of human and non-human bodies, especially female ones, and the relationship between speciesism and racism. It is worth mentioning that for each researched group, we observed a specific focus on the theme, points of debate and choice of discussions that form the identity of that group in the discussion spaces. This is how we perceive the protagonism of racial issues in the AfroVegan Movement, the focus on gender relations in the Feminist Vegan Union, while Ghetto Veganism is linked to the economic perspective approaching Marxism to understand class inequalities and their consequences in vegan food.

58In fact, there is not a single way of discussing and perceiving veganism and its intersectional perspectives for the researched groups, but there is, as we seek to analyze throughout this work, the mobilization of categories of analysis (class, race and gender) and the confluence among the banners of these fringe vegan movements. When we analyze the presented movements, it becomes evident how the discourses around food can be used to understand and seek to modify the social structure of groups and societies. By building collective identities in dialogue, although not totally heterogeneous, the groups present some approximations and distances in the dispute for thematic guidelines considered of greater or lesser relevance within the vegan perspective.

59As examples we can highlight and summarize some points and guidelines pointed out in the discourses analyzed, such as: the identification of nutrition as part of the colonization processes that impacted the diet of Afro-descendants; the disputes around animal sacrifice in the religiosities of African matrices; the criticism of the elitism of the movement and the consumption and valorization of vegan products from the ultra-processed industry; the precariousness and access to information in the peripheries, highlighting disinformation as one of the strategies of alienation by capitalism; the problematization of machismo and sexism by pointing out the correlation between meat consumption and the exaltation of masculinity, relating meat consumption to a normative ideal of masculinity, pointing out the need to preserve women's sexual and reproductive rights, including abortion; Finally, the critique of the logic of capitalist production and its relationship with the destruction of the environment is highlighted, presenting the idea of the need for an ecosocialism.

60Thus, although the movements presented mobilize two or more categories of analysis in their discourses, it cannot be affirmed by the data collected that there is a deep and inseparable discussion about intersectionality and meat consumption within the movements. At least not specified through explicit use of the concept. However, there seems to be an outline of action in this direction, which may indicate a breakthrough in terms of social discussions and veganism in the country, but which nevertheless needs further deepening. We thus conclude that although not all of these groups mobilize the three categories of analysis (race, class and gender) at the same time, this work highlights the approaches that each brings in cross-dialogue with at least one of these categories.

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1 Mixture is any meal accompaniment, aside from rice and beans, with the exception of raw salads. Mixture is necessarily something cooked and is traditionally made from animal protein. It is a popular expression more frequently used in the southeast of Brazil, mainly in the state of São Paulo, being common in low-income peripheral neighborhoods. The concept of using the term is not homogenous throughout the entire country, and other communities in the country can use other terms with the same significance.

2 In the original work, the expression Peripheral Veganism is used, signifying the adopted veganism for people on the periphery of society, minorities, low income groups, racially marginalized groups, socially and legally, generally living in the peripheries of larger cities.

3 This percentage refers to the sum of the 8% who declared that they 'totally agree' with the statement 'I am a vegetarian' and the 6% who declared that they 'partially agree'. Such a methodology may lead to an overestimation of vegetarians in the country, since those who 'partially agree' probably do not completely exclude meat from their usual consumption.

4 The publication referred to cases of violence against black people in the city of Rio de Janeiro. Marcos Vinícius was a 14-year-old boy killed in 2018 during a police operation while wearing his school uniform. In 2015, five young boys were murdered in Costa Barros, a neighborhood in the city of Rio de Janeiro. The police targeted the car with 111 shots, while the boys were leaving to celebrate Roberto's, one of them, first paycheck.

5 Quilombola is the term used to designate enslaved people who, deprived of their freedom, took refuge in quilombos, places that housed fugitive slaves, originating alternative forms of social organization.

6 Terreiros are spaces for cults and religious practices of the Afro-Brazilian religion.

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Electronic reference

Cassandra Dalle Mulle Santos, Daniela Alves Minuzzo, Juliana de Andrade Rocha Gonçalves and Lourence Cristine Alves, “Veganism and intersectionality in Brazil”Anthropology of food [Online], Articles Varia, Online since 17 July 2023, connection on 03 October 2023. URL:; DOI:

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About the authors

Cassandra Dalle Mulle Santos

Universidade de Santa Cruz do Sul, Departamento de Ciências, Humanidades e Educação, Curso de Gastronomia,

Daniela Alves Minuzzo

Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Departamento de Gastronomia, Instituto de Nutrição Josué de Castro,

Juliana de Andrade Rocha Gonçalves

Instituto Federal de Brasília, Campus Riacho Fundo,

Lourence Cristine Alves

Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Departamento de Gastronomia, Instituto de Nutrição Josué de Castro,

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The text only may be used under licence CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. All other elements (illustrations, imported files) are “All rights reserved”, unless otherwise stated.

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