Why Does Veganism Ruffle Our Feathers?
Veganism, a lifestyle characterised by the avoidance of animal-based products, is now known to most, thanks to regular discussions in the mainstream media and the efforts of grassroots activists. Whilst the number of people adopting a vegan lifestyle is on the rise, it does still nevertheless ruffle many people's feathers. So why is that? In this blog post, I will propose 8 potential reasons why people might take issue with veganism, but this is by no means an exhaustive list. Can you think of any others?
1. Veganism demands significant change
There's no denying it, veganism affects our lives in a big way. We eat on average 3 meals a day, all of which could be impacted by a move to veganism. We may have to rethink our breakfasts, our lunches, our dinners, and even our snacks. We have to check the ingredients of almost everything until we learn what's vegan and what's not, we have to learn new ways of cooking, and we need to either adapt our meals or explore new ones altogether. It does of course get easier and a time does come when you no longer have to give a second thought to any of this, but in the beginning it certainly is a big change. And people generally don't like change.
2. Veganism affects our interactions with the community
Eating together is a common social activity. People have general expectations around what those present will eat so that everyone can eat together. In a British gathering, you would expect typically British foods, or at least foods that are not unusual - dishing up roast guinea pig would be outrageous! British gatherings traditionally include plenty of meat, dairy and egg products, so when it is known that a vegan is coming, the host, who might not be acquainted with veganism, may have to think of vegan foods and go out of their way to provide them. Otherwise the vegan is expected to bring their own food or go without. This can cause tension on all parts. The host may feel put out and view the vegan as stubborn or awkward, whilst the vegan may feel picked upon or excluded. There are of course many ways around this, but most of them involve a bit of open-minded communication.
3. Veganism isn't the most convenient
Whilst vegans, who have been vegan a while, would argue that veganism is convenient, for someone who is still learning and adapting, it may not feel very convenient at all. It's a huge learning process - what is vegan? What isn't vegan? What alternatives exist? Where can I buy them? As a result, finding suitable foods can be a challenge, as it may involve going to different shops to usual or buying from specialist online shops. This is because vegan food isn't always easily accessible, especially in smaller, corner shops, or shops out of town. And to complicate things further, vegan food isn't always the cheapest (especially if you opt for the branded alternatives). Getting hold of vegan food can therefore be a challenge, making it a less than convenient choice. But with the rise of veganism, change is rapidly coming and it is getting increasingly easier to obtain vegan foods in restaurants, shops, and on holiday.
4. Veganism requires effort
I think most vegans would agree that it is easy to be vegan, but there are still challenges, especially in the early days. What can you replace that food with? Where can you buy so and so? What options are there? What shops are best to shop in? What foods do I need to maintain good health? Do I need supplements? You get the idea. The easy path is naturally preferred, but that's not possible with veganism. We need to do our research, we need to learn, and we need to go out of our way to experiment with new foods, brands, and shops. In short, veganism demands time and effort.
5. Veganism challenges culture and rituals
Culture is a big part of our everyday life. But many of our cultural rituals relating to food remain centred around animal-based products. When it's our birthday, we often have a birthday cake, which typically is made with eggs and butter. Only a few weeks ago we had pancake day, a day where people eat pancakes, a food traditionally made with eggs and milk. The Sunday roast remains a key weekly ritual for many in Britain, and whilst there are vegan roast alternatives, the norm remains roasted meat. And what's one of the things kids love in summer - ice cream! We all get excited when we hear the music from the ice cream vans and many even rush out to get a cone, but what if you're vegan? Well, vegan ice cream vans are unfortunately hard to come by. In the case of religious traditions, meat remains a big part of the ritual - think of roast turkey at Christmas. Veganism, demanding that animal-based products be avoided, thus poses a challenge to the maintenance of these cultural and religious rituals. Of course, many vegan alternatives are now available, but for some, a vegan version is just not the same.
6. Veganism challenges dominant norms and associations
Veganism asserts that the millennia-long tradition of eating meat and other animal products is wrong. It challenges the dominant norm of omnivorous diets, it raises awareness of prejudices such as speciesism (the differing treatment of animals based on their species), and it demands societal change. It also challenges dominant associations, such as the ideas that you need meat for protein or milk for strong bones and teeth. Which can get confusing for those who have always relied on what the media or other influential organisations tell us. With a distaste for change and a belief that there's safety in numbers, many will take the side of the dominant majority and dismiss veganism as nothing more than some new fad.
7. Veganism challenges our conscience
Veganism tells non-vegans that they're doing something wrong, that they're contributing to a harm. Now, nobody likes to think they're doing something bad - we all want to think we're good people. So when we're told, or it's implied, that we're not, this is going to ruffle some feathers. And what's the most common response? Defensiveness. This commonly leads to negative perceptions of veganism and a desire to distance ourselves in order to avoid the realisation that we could be making better choices. Indeed as they say, ignorance is bliss.
8. Veganism threatens livelihoods
If the world went vegan overnight, an awful lot of people would be out of a job or business. Farmers, butchers, cheesemakers, bakers, and so on. Change is a difficult thing and not something everyone relishes. Indeed where jobs are concerned, people want stability and security, so when those, whose livelihoods depend on animal agriculture, come face to face with veganism, it can be perceived as a hostile threat. Their stability is threatened and this, naturally, is hugely worrisome for them! With high levels of unemployment already, the thought of one's industry declining is most unnerving. And veganism consequently gets the blame. Society is always changing however, so let's not forget that veganism does also create new jobs and opportunities!
I think healthy discussion and open-mindedness is key to overcoming these issues, as well as a wider availability of vegan products and continued support for all parties.
Why else might people take issue with veganism? What other points can you think of?