Plant-based food politics: veganism, quiet activism and small businesses in Sydney’s foodscapes

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Veganism is becoming more popular as the social, environmental, and ethical impacts of animal agriculture become better known. This is creating new opportunities and challenges as an array of economic actors seek to profit from and contribute to the movement. In this paper, we analyse how small plant-based food businesses are engaging with and influencing vegan politics through a case study of Sydney, Australia. Through interviews and an online audit, we analyse the motivations, goals and practices of small businesses; their geographies, inclusions and exclusions; and the benefits and tensions that arise from the merging of business with politics. We find evidence that small businesses are actively and creatively engaged in quiet, collaborative, affirmative and visceral forms of activism that prefigure the skills, ingredients, tastes and knowledge required to transition away from animal agriculture. However, we also find that plant-based businesses avoid the term vegan, are becoming whiter, and are producing more masculine and expensive foods, such as meat analogues, in response to market pressures. We conclude that small businesses are important but overlooked actors within vegan politics that are contributing to race, gender and class biases, and should be engaged with in the pursuit of less exploitative food systems.




McGregor, A., Houston, D., Dilworth, T. L., & Bojovic, M. (2023). Plant-based food politics: veganism, quiet activism and small businesses in Sydney’s foodscapes. Social and Cultural Geography.

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