Depending on where you live in the world, you might have dealt with some hate or negative reactions to being vegan or while trying to become vegan. Younger activists who still live with their parents tend to have a harder time becoming vegan due to their families not being supportive and even refusing to buy vegan options. Those who live in parts of the world where being vegan is rare or non-existent, have a harder time finding support and are more likely to deal with hate from family, “friends” or the rest of their community.
Even though “Vegaphobia” is enough of a real word to have its own Wikipedia entry, it is important to state that the negativity vegans get is a micro-aggression and should never be compared to racism, sexism, or bigotry against the LGBTQIA+ community. We can and should choose to be vegan, but we cannot choose our race, gender identity, and sexuality. We can talk about vegan hate without blowing it out of proportion and causing even more hate by trying to compare it to what marginalized groups face every day.
I posted a poll on r/vegan asking users if they have ever received hate for being vegan. 69% of the 417 users who have responded to the poll said they have received hate for being vegan.
In a psychological report for the University of Kent, titled, “The vegan resistance,” Kristof Dhont and Joachim Stoeber’s survey had similar results. It’s important to note that Dhont and Stoeber surveyed both vegans and vegetarians, that’s why they use the term “veg*n” in their report.
“A recent survey of hundreds of veg*ns found that over half of them had experienced situations of everyday discrimination because of their veg*nism (MacInnis & Hodson, 2017). Almost 10 per cent reported that at least one of their family members broke off contact after respondents revealed they were veg*n, and a similar percentage reported not being hired for a job because of their veg*n lifestyle.”
So why do people hate vegans anyway? Here are the main reasons.
1) Meat-eating Guilt
Most people you talk to consider themselves animal lovers but still eat meat, buy animals as pets, go to zoos, and ride horses. More than half of the human population lives with non-human animals. We can assume that those people consider themselves “animal lovers.”
When an animal-loving meat eater comes across a vegan, they’re forced to think about how they’re contributing to the suffering of animals even though they claim to love animals. This can be upsetting for people, and instead of changing their habits and going vegan, they will lash out at vegans and try their best to “debunk” veganism, and regurgitate the same tired anti-vegan talking points that any seasoned vegan has heard or read thousands of times. Those who are stuck in their ways and do not like change, tend to react negatively when forced to face how they are contributing to suffering in the world.
This doesn’t just apply to veganism. The environmental movement, which is connected to veganism, also receives a lot of hate and backlash, especially from conservative people. But within the environmental umbrella, most environmentalists aren’t vegan and would rather take the stance that veganism is not better for the environment rather than stop consuming animal products. When vegans point out this hypocrisy they get hated on since it’s easier than self-reflecting and changing harmful habits.
There are also tens of thousands of “animal lovers” who will sign a petition to stop the dog meat trade in China but won’t stop eating cows and chickens. This cognitive dissonance is annoying to animal rights activists and harmful to all the animals being exploited, but all we can do is continue to educate people, speak up for the animals, and help normalize veganism in order to help more people transition to a vegan lifestyle.
2) People Assume All Vegans Are Like PETA and That Vegan Teacher
If you mention the name “Peta” anywhere online or in IRL, you will be met with a very visceral reaction from omnis and vegans alike. Peta is the largest animal rights organization in the world. This “non-profit organization” has been around since 1980 and made $68,433,815 in 2021 alone!
Because Peta is such a massive organization, they have done a lot to raise awareness on animal rights issues and help animals around the world, but they also spend most of their millions on troll campaigns to get exposure in mainstream media rather than using that to help even more animals.
Controversial campaigns like comparing animals in slaughterhouses and factory farms to the Holocaust, and saying that drinking cow’s milk causes autism, are why so many people have such a negative reaction toward Peta. Peta’s campaigns are very in-your-face and that upsets people, especially defensive omnivores.
Peta also euthanizes cats and dogs who are sick or cannot be adopted. Peta euthanizes as a last resort and does a lot to help homeless animals in low-income areas. They campaign against the pet industry and breeding animals so that less animals need to be euthanized, but meat-eaters will use Peta euthanizing animals as an excuse to disregard all the valid arguments for animal rights.
That Vegan Teacher has been making waves on TikTok and YouTube but not for a good reason. Similar to Peta, she makes valid arguments about the cruelty of factory farming and the importance of going vegan, but then she says extreme things for attention and gets a lot of negative backlash. She’s been accused of being racist, homophobic and ableist. I have only seen a few of her videos since they’re pretty cringe, so I can’t say if any of that is true, but if she’s upsetting that many people and making the conversation about whether or not she’s a bigot rather than on animal rights, then she’s not helping the cause.
She’s been banned on TikTok and seems to be making relatively normal videos on YouTube now. But because of all the negative attention she received when she was trolling on TikTok, most of her comments are now filled with anti-vegan sentiment.
A lot of vegans don’t 100% agree with Peta or That Vegan Teacher’s tactics and controversial stances, but because those are the most vocal examples of veganism, people assume that all vegans are like that and they will start getting prickly and defensive as soon as they hear or read the word “vegan.”
3) Moral Superiority
Because meat-eating guilt causes people to project their insecurities, those who hate vegans assume or want to assume that all vegans act holier-than-thou and look down on people who eat meat. As vegans, we feel strongly about our beliefs bacause many animals are suffering needlessly. Most of us were not born vegan and had to make that transition from animal consumer to animal rights activist. Since most of us were once omnivores too, we don’t feel superior at all, we just want to save animals.
I think most vegans understand that the best way to get people to go vegan is through education, communal support, leading by example and understanding people’s perspective rather than shaming people. There are a small number of vegans who might take the guilt and shame approach but these tend to be younger vegans who are new to veganism. Anyone who has campaigned for animal rights for several years knows that tactic doesn’t work. If the goal is to get more people to become vegan, you want to do what works and not waste your time starting fights that don’t accomplish anything. Most vegans are being attacked for their beliefs rather than the other way around.
In order to be a good vegan ambassador, it’s best to present veganism in a calm, educated, and respectful way. I always refer to Earthling Ed in my vegan articles because he is such a good vegan ambassador! I’ll never have his level of patience, but watching his videos helps me see what the most effective way to reach meat-eaters is, especially when they’re being defensive and argumentative.
If you’re receiving hate for being vegan in real life, try to distance yourself from the people giving you hate. Even if they don’t agree with your stance on animal rights, anyone who truly cares about you should respect your beliefs. If someone is being hostile, defend yourself but try to avoid arguments since they lead nowhere and will just ruin your mood. When promoting veganism online, engage with people who truly want to learn about veganism and animal rights. Block trolls and haters!
If someone has a genuine question or concern and wants to make the same tired arguments against veganism that most of us are sick of addressing, then you can educate them if you have the time and patience to. If you’re like me and can’t be bothered, just link them to “Every Argument Against Veganism” by Earthling Ed.
Ignore haters and trolls who have it out for vegans because of their own insecurities and issues. There are so many people out there who are genuinely interested in veganism, it’s better to give those people your precious time and energy.