Maori Communities Are Shifting to Vegan Diets

July 7, 2019

Māori communities across New Zealand are connecting with veganism.

Kirsty Dunn, a University of Canterbury doctoral scholar, has conducted extensive research into Māori people and plant-based ethics. From her observations on various social media outlets, she has concluded that an increasing number of Māori men and women are engaging with plant-based lifestyles.

She refers to Māori veganism as kaimangatanga, which, she maintains, “stands on its own as a decolonial food ethic.”

She says in her paper “Kaimangatanga: Māori Perspectives on Veganism and Plant-Based Kai” that kaimangatanga is a unique Māori response to the exploitation of animals and the environment, and can also be seen a “powerful decolonial act.”

Standing Against Dairy

Polynesian settlers discovered New Zealand around 700 years ago, developing Māori culture. In the mid-1800s, it was colonized by European settlers. Many dairy farms are now situated on confiscated Māori land, so many members of the communities now see living plant-based as a stand against colonization.

“In the Māori worldview, the rivers, lakes, and forests are our ancestors. They are part of us and we are part of them,” Lauren O’Connell Rapira, a Māori woman and vegan of four years, told The Spinoff. “Right now, our rivers and forests are sick, and intensive animal agriculture, and especially dairy in New Zealand, have a played a huge role in that.”

She added, “by not eating meat and dairy, I don’t contribute as much to the sickness of my ancestors.” 

Rapira is not alone in her belief that buying into the meat and dairy industry is a contradiction of Māori principles. Waimirirangi Koopu-Stone also spoke to The Spinoff about veganism and transitioning to a harm-free lifestyle.

“The first thing I acknowledge when I introduce myself are the mountains and sacred waterways in which I descend. I draw strength from my many waterways: my awa, Waikato; my moana, Mokau; and I source energy from my many maunga,” she said.

“These elements make up my tuakiri as a young Māori woman,” she added. “It’s hypocritical to me to hold these aspects of my being at such high stature, and turn around and consciously make a choice that is harmful to them.”



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Maori Communities Are Shifting to Vegan Diets


More and more Maori communities are adopting vegan diets for ethical and environmental reasons; it’s also seen as an act of decolonization.


Charlotte Pointing

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