Is vegan shaming the new fat shaming?

'People are hostile towards veganism because it's not the norm'

Kashmira Gander
Friday 30 September 2016 11:41 BST
Some vegans say they are being shamed for shunning meat and dairy
Some vegans say they are being shamed for shunning meat and dairy (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Veganism is officially mainstream. Beyonce and Jay-Z have tried it, Sainsbury's has unveiled coconut-milk cheese, and the number of vegans in the UK alone has spiked by 360 per cent in a decade.

But that doesn’t mean it’s accepted, and recent articles in the US have sparked a debate into vegan-shaming, and comparing it to fat shaming.

There is a special vitriol reserved for this group who have given up animal products. Hundreds of 'I hate vegans' listicles and think pieces can be found online, accusing vegans of being self-righteous and - like a "skinny" person might lecture a "fat" person - acting like missionaries trying to convert anyone who will listen.

But the vegans we spoke to take a different stance: rather than seeing themselves as shaming meat eaters, they are confused by the hostility towards their lifestyle choice.

Vegan shaming is most definitely a real thing,” says Sophia Najafinejad, a 25-year-old marketing associate based in Los Angeles who became a vegan in 2013.

For her, the animal-product-free lifestyle improved her physical health and helped her to hone her culinary skills and explore the food of different cultures whose culinary traditions are less focused on meat and dairy. Convincing others to do the same didn't factor in. Instead, she found that others suddenly took an interest in the tiniest details of her diet.

Adam Connett has been vegan for almost a decade.
Adam Connett has been vegan for almost a decade.

“People would definitely tease me about the fact I was vegan. They would tell me it's not healthy or they would think it's stupid I gave up meat and dairy. I would compare it to fat-shaming in that people make you feel bad about yourself for who you are and your choices.

“People are hostile towards veganism because it's not the norm,” she argues. “Western society is taught that meat and dairy are a staple in any meal and that without them, you're going to be unhealthy and end up sick. I agree that meat and dairy can have some beneficial effects and I don't judge those that choose to eat them, but I don't think it's the end-all-be-all of nutrition."

On this side of the pond, Adam Connett, a 27-year-old who works in video and lives in south London, has been vegan for almost a decade and has watched the movement change. He decided to go vegan on his 18th birthday because he was put off by the meat and dairy industry, and spurred on by the hardcore punk scene and “straight edge” friends he hung out with.

"I guess at that age you feel like you can change the world and it was just a no brainer for me," he says. He has no interest in converting others. In fact, others barely know he's vegan unless it comes up in conversation.

"You get a few people who want to start a debate or a detailed breakdown of my diet, including my protein intake, but it just bores me,” he adds. “People who want to argue about personal choice and diet probably aren't really worth talking to."

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