Why everyone hates vegans

“End vegetable cruelty”

#CambridgeStudents Cambridge food Opinion vegan

World Vegan Day was established in 1994 to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the foundation of the Vegan Society. Every year it sparks the debate, and vegans find themselves once again the butt of many a joke.

Most people's perception of veganism is full of misconceived clichés. You have those who pity your cheese and bacon "deficiency", and others who assume your life is a coconut oil-infused basic Insta starter pack. There's always some kind of dismissal and ridicule, which can be pretty aggressive.

Why do people go vegan? There isn’t one answer to the question. Some do it for ethical reasons, not wanting to harm animals. Extreme ethical vegans would even question horse-riding. Others go vegan for environmental reasons – they'd probably refuse to eat any palm oil products because of deforestation. But most sit somewhere in the middle, finding a veganism they themselves can sustain. If there was a way to help save the planet, animals and your cholesterol, why wouldn’t you do it?

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BASICally a glorified Gardies

Veganism is also a political comment. When discussing veganism with fresher Vivienne, a recent vegetarian-to-vegan convert, she pointed out that one of her motivations for changing her lifestyle was that she ‘disliked the fact that large money-making corporations should dictate to me what to eat and put in my body’.

The meat, dairy and poultry industries put huge emphasis on social norms in their advertising, in the same manner tobacco and alcohol companies have been known to, leading people to think it's in some way anti-social to be vegan.

All sounds fair enough so far? Well, what I found in conversation with other vegans was a feeling that we were constantly made to justify and validate our lifestyles to others. One fresher, a vegan since starting at Cambridge, stated he feels the need to clarify he is not an ‘extreme’ vegan as soon as he's told someone he is vegan, as it is easier to excuse himself than confront the internalised stereotypes of others. So, what are these stereotypes vegans are used to hearing?

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No thanks. (Credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The go-to line people always ask vegans is: surely you’re not getting enough protein? My primary counter argument: David Haye, heavyweight boxer and (you guessed it) vegan. Business Insider reported that he consumes 132-282g of protein per day when training. The number of other vegan athletes is increasing by the day.

If they can get the protein they need, I’m sure we can too. It’s as simple as adding beans where you would normally have cheese, tofu instead of chicken, nuts and seeds instead of eggs.

The other two common tactics of ridicule are that 'plants feel pain too' (ha ha ha – no.) and that we are ‘evolved’ to eat meat, which usually is followed by a presentation of canine teeth or the argument that lions and/or our ancestors eat meat. We are not lions. We are not our ancestors who had no choice but to consume animals and who did it without the mass farming and major CO2 and methane production.

If one really wants to look at genetics and animal comparison; compare us with monkeys. They eat an entirely plant based diet and are incredibly physically strong. I don’t know about you but I can’t hang from a tree all day.

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Feel free to make a Vegan joke…

So, why are vegans always met with strangely aggressive jokes? To put it simply, meat and dairy are engrained in our society. People dislike change, people make fun of difference, but people also feel insecure about being wrong. Speaking to Harry, (the Charity, Environment and Ethics Rep for his college’s JCR and the most enthusiastic environmentalist I know), he outlined three main negative responses to veganism.

There is the ‘absurd non-understanding’, some people honestly just don’t get it, then theres the ‘anger at hippy types trying to ruin food’, and finally the ‘mocking that it is goody goody or silly behaviour'. These are all ‘ways people cope with the challenge to a core aspect of our society’. Often, it’s conveniently big meat producers who mock vegans: take this KFC advert for example.

Vegans are rocking the boat by rejecting a fundamental part of society. Undoubtedly, it's met with hostility. Right now, people take the mick out of vegans. Yes, there are of course some aggressive vegans, like in any political movement, who alienate others and fuel mockery. Part of my solution is that vegans should take the mick out of themselves too.

That said, every day people are becoming more and more inclined towards veganism, especially when they realise Aldi ginger nuts, and Co-Op custard doughnuts contain absolutely zero animal products.

As vegan of a year and a half, Sophie, put it, ‘there’s nothing extreme about not wanting to harm animals and being conscious about the environment’, is there?