Saving the animals, the planet and building a healthier future sound like things to be applauded. So why do vegans make some people angry?
In 2015, Cara MacInnis and Gordon Hodson conducted a study that discovered vegetarians and vegans are subject to the same discrimination as other minorities. There is actually a colloquial word for hatred directed towards vegans now, termed “vegaphobia”.
In 2018, not long after Good Morning Britain, once home to public vegan hater Piers Morgan, chaired a debate called “Do people hate vegans?”, Vox also ran a story titled “Why people hate vegans so much?” In the same year, then-editor of Waitrose Food Magazine William Sitwell was at the heart of major controversy when he suggested a program about “killing vegans”. And in 2019, The Guardian ran a Long Read, “Why do people hate vegans?”
It’s evident that this anger and hatred exists and has been bubbling away for a while, but where does all this hatred come from? We explore the reasons why some people get angry towards vegans.
Being uncomfortable with the truth
One possible reason for the hatred comes from being uncomfortable with the truth and the perceived cruelty, as it brings with it a fear of judgement from vegans upon meat-eaters, as found by neuroscientist Dr Dean Burnett.
Burnett believes vegans are easy targets often thought of as “snowflakes”, largely down to the workings of media including Piers Morgan and Katie Hopkins, both of whom have talked on numerous occasions about their disklike of vegans and vegan products.
Author Tobias Leenaert also sits in this camp. He thinks that the hatred comes from meat-eating folk not being happy to consider themselves as being immoral, which causes them to go into defence mode, as they consider vegans to be taking the moral high ground.
Leenaert also offers a lot of advice in his book, How to Create a Vegan World, to try and minimise the chances of causing this discrimination. It generally covers a softer approach to communicating about being vegan in life.
It’s also suggested that some of the angry behaviour from anti-vegans stems from cognitive dissonance, where carnivores try not to associate meat with animals and thus get ill-tempered when vegans remind them of this fact.
Lack of awareness and knowledge
Another reason for hatred and anger boiling away may well be linked to a real lack of understanding about the overall movement. When the media reports on the minority of those vegans committing vandalism and crime, more often than not, it can tar everyone with the same brush.
Vegans are then perceived as a bunch of noisy, destructive, badly-behaved souls, which couldn’t be any further away from the historic view of vegans being Earth-loving, tree-hugging, sandal-wearing, peaceful hippies (an outdated but nevertheless humorous perception).
Within this area, there is also the belief that vegan food tastes fake or bland or nutritionally inferior, which pushes meat-eaters away from trying or incorporating plant-based options into their diet, instead adding fuel to the fire of cognitive dissonance.
This can be down to refusing to accept or actually having a bad tasting experience with vegan food, which is easy to experience with the plethora of products that have been spilling onto the shelves over the last few years. Sadly, not every manufacturer has quality and taste at the centre of their product development.
Misjudging passion for pushiness
The core reasons why some vegans tend to be loud is because they are united with their views on animals being voiceless and thus, their voices need to be loud in order to be heard effectively by the masses and in the hope that people will listen, adapt, take notice and consider eating from more ethical sources.
This is dedication to a worthy cause and it’s a strong and growing movement steeped in kindness and passion. But this can sometimes be perceived as preachy and sanctimonious. People can assume vegans are militant, repetitive and self-righteous, which can lead to those all-too-familiar arguments at the dinner table, which most, if not all, vegans have no doubt experienced.
This passion can sometimes be misconstrued as pushiness and may even lead to defiant behaviour in the carnivore’s corner.
Determined to hold on to tradition
Not wanting to break away from tradition, history and old ways of living can also be a factor that determines angry sentiments towards the vegan community. Humans are fairly habitual characters and tend to get attached to things like family roasts, BBQs, steak and ale pies, pub lunches, et al.
The thought of these moments, which fabricate big parts of people’s lives, changing is sometimes too much and something they are not willing to try. Thankfully, the boom in restaurants offering vegan menus will play a big part in breaking this barrier down over the coming years, and it’s likely to be a slightly easier job with the younger demographic, as those who are older may still recall days of food rationing, making them think you shouldn’t be so fussy with food.
Others may still believe the old-school thoughts of meat being a status symbol of wealth and don’t want to let go of that. In essence, it can make carnivores edgy that they may have to change a big part of what they and their ancestors have known and practised for decades.
Fearing change on any level here, coupled with a fear of poor tasting products, can hinder any transition to even flexitarianism, let alone veganism.
Given that veganism has been proven to be the single-most effective action for reducing our impact on Earth, if the dreaded anger has to exist, then, at the risk of stating the obvious, wouldn’t it be better directed at those who either refuse to believe, accept or act on this founded fact to build a brighter future?
Veganism is a definitive part of what happens next. Whether we argue with each other or not, one thing looks pretty evident: we are much closer to greener days than we think, judging by recent discussions on future meat taxes, meat rationing and maybe even meat bans. The future is going greener, whether it’s what everyone wants or not.