5 things you can’t expect if you go vegan
As veganism grows in popularity, researchers are documenting its positive impacts on individual health, public health, animal welfare, and even the fashion industry.
In 2018, one in six new food products in the UK was vegan, and the ‘Veganuary’ campaign has become increasingly popular. These market trends testify to the sustainability of veganism.
Beyond the well-documented health and environmental benefits, going vegan can also affect our social relationships.
In my recently published research, I interviewed 16 vegans in Britain about how veganism has changed their lives. I’ve learned that vegans are constantly discovering that their new lifestyle choices can conflict with their pre-vegan life, especially in social interactions. Here are five ways it manifests itself:
5. Your veganism could be considered a “fad”
Just a few years ago, when veganism was largely unknown, celebrities like Gwyneth Paltrow were the public face of plant-based diets.
Celebrities often cite the vegan diet as the reason they stay slim, beautiful, and feel great, but are also quick to give it up.
A widely cited statistic claims that 84% of people will give up veganism, but these claims have been refuted. A major survey by the World Health Organization and the University of Oxford found that almost the reverse was true: 85 percent of people continued to be vegans after 20 years.
So it’s no surprise, with these confusing tales, that people continue to think of veganism as a fad diet. Someone told me:
My sister calls me ‘the vegan’, and some people ask, ‘do you always do that vegan thing? “
Veganism challenges the popular belief that healthy eating requires animal protein. When people go vegans, their family and friends often worry about the impact of this “extreme” diet – it is a kind of surveillance that vegans say was never directed at. their food safety when they ate animals.
Despite these concerns, a vegan diet is considered healthy for people at all stages of life and has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, stroke, and certain types of cancer. .
4. Veganism is a time commitment
People rarely go vegan overnight. Learning more about the ethical, emotional and practical implications – researching where and what you can eat, finding animal ingredients “hidden” in common foods – can be a long adjustment.
Veganism can also have time-consuming emotional impacts. I’ve found that vegans feel guilty about eating animals in the past, or helpless that they can’t help more animals in the present.
One interviewee described the emotional adjustment to what she was learning about veganism:
I feel pain when I see animals that are in pain or have suffered. It breaks my heart. That’s the hardest part of being a vegan, that empathy, because most of the time you’re sad.
3. Vegans might hold back
Vegans are hyper aware of how they are viewed by society, the media, family and friends. Sociologists Kelly Markowski and Susan Roxburgh have called this phenomenon “vegan stigma”. To maintain your social network, you may need to make some tough decisions about how you interact socially.
One person said they no longer tell their friends about veganism:
I have a friend who really loves animals. How can you love animals if you eat dead animals? I can’t say this because it sounds aggressive so we’re just not talking about it.
In these situations, vegans feel that they not only represent themselves, but also the public image of veganism.
2. Food is not just food
Geographers Allison and Jessica Hayes-Conroy have written that eating is linked to the formation of social identities. This is certainly true for veganism, where eating is a public representation of changing beliefs.
One person told me about the spontaneous meeting at the workplace where there was no vegan food on the menu, so they fed an orange juice. Another told me that her grandmother forgot she was vegan at Christmas and sprinkled her vegetables with turkey fat.
Despite their efforts to fit in, vegans ultimately felt left out and disconnected from their previous lives. As activist Kim Stallwood notes, “I live in my vegan world… but I live in a carnivorous world. “
Dealing with the social consequences of veganism is part of this lifelong commitment to animals. Vegans often attend social events where they are not taken care of and smile and try to fit in.
1. Meat substitutes facilitate friction
Some try to mix their veganism with a carnivorous world. This has been facilitated by the proliferation of readily available meat and dairy substitutes. These are even produced by companies that also sell meat products. KFC’s vegan chicken burger or McDonald’s new “McPlant” burger come to mind as examples.
For some, it eased the tensions around veganism in their relationships. One interviewee said she had argued with friends before about her “difficult” dietary needs, but “with things like Ben and Jerry’s vegan ice cream, it feels like eating together” .
Another said that meat substitutes have made veganism more “normal”:
There is a misconception that it is difficult to be vegan and that you should deprive yourself of it. In fact, you can stand next to your friend eating a beef burger and eat something that tastes and feels the same without the cruelty.
This development can also reduce the potential for advocacy at the table. As vegan food becomes mainstream, some fear its popularity will dilute the impact of its ethical argument.
Despite these social challenges, most vegans are happy with their decision. People are willing to negotiate their relationships as part of their commitment to veganism. Often times, these relationships can even become stronger as difficult conversations improve communication.
The vegans I interviewed said they were comfortable and confident in the decisions they made. Becoming vegan makes people feel good – not just about their health, but about choices that match their ethics and make them feel like they are making a positive impact on the world.
This article originally appeared on The Conversation by Catherine Olivier at the University of Cambridge. Read the original article here.