On June 19, 2017, Israeli artist Gad Hakimi released an official vegan flag that was intended to symbolize the unity of the vegan community and its promotion of a compassionate lifestyle.
A YouTube video shows the flag in protests around the world and suggests a growing and vigorous movement.
In reality, instead of unity the flag has evoked dissent. One critic contends that the flag does not focus on the animals themselves, that it “upholds a capitalist approach” to veganism, and that it assumes a unified vegan movement.
The white, blue, and green colors of the flag have also been criticized. One complaint is that the color red should have been included to represent the blood, suffering, and death of animals. The color blue is said to have possible Eurocentric cultural connotations, and the color white has been viewed by some as racist. According to Dr. Meneka Repka, who presents some of the most comprehensive criticism, the white “V” reminds us that the “vegan movement is a white movement, with the most dominant voices being those that deemphasize or ignore racism and other human struggles in the quest forward toward animal rights.” In the article, Professor Repka seeks to “further problematize the flag from a critical racial and de-colonial perspective” because it upholds Western imperialist and racist ideology.”
There is a list of concerns about using the flag itself as a vehicle for a vegan message. Historically, the flag as functioned as a claim to land and people by colonial powers. For racialized people, flags are an emblem of ownership, occupation, violence, genocide and the cultural theft that went with colonialism. Flags are also part of the military industrial complex that drove global imperialism, and thus the flag is not the proper messenger to unite vegans of color with mainstream, that is, white vegans.
And the “V” which stands for the word “vegan” represents only English and Eurocentric languages and omits the languages of the Middle East and Africa, as well as the history of veganism in those countries before becoming established in the western world.
The dissent over the vegan flag represents not only the ideological divisions within veganism but also suggests racism within the movement. The criticisms, while interesting and containing truths from a historical perspective, make the whole atmosphere around veganism more contentious.
I doubt if many people carrying the vegan flag in an animal rights parade or those watching from the sidelines would associate the flag in any way with the evils of colonialism. Concerning the colors, vexillogists (people who study the symbolism of flags) agree that traditionally white represents peace/harmony; blue stands for determination/liberation; and green indicates life/growth/hope, certainly qualities that accord with veganism. The movement absolutely does not promote or approve of racism.
The flag is an emblem of veganism now. Its design is simple, using colors with long-established meanings, to make it globally acceptable and inclusive.