Anyone who has been living a vegan lifestyle for some time will know that there is a section of our society who find the whole concept of veganism intolerable. In fact, a 2015 study, in which attitudes towards various social groups were compared, found that only drug addicts were viewed more negatively than vegans!
There are many reasons why vegans irritate people so much. In this post, we will explore some of the most stupid ones and explain why they don’t make sense. But first, let’s consider the real reason why vegans inspire so much animosity…
The real reason why so many people hate vegans
Arguably, the real reason why so many people hate vegans is because it forces them to confront their cognitive dissonance and unethical choices, and this is uncomfortable.
Cognitive dissonance occurs when an individual holds two incompatible views and chooses to act on one of them. Many non-vegans have affection for animals – at least those of a certain species anyway (i.e., cats, dogs and all the other animals they don’t class as dinner). Cognitive dissonance can occur when this affection for animals clashes with the notion that it is ok to kill and eat them.
This concept has been termed the ‘meat paradox’ by psychologists when attempting to understand why many people emphasise their concern for animal welfare but yet continue to eat meat which has caused suffering to animals to produce.
Here are just a few of many possible examples of how the meat paradox may play out in the everyday lives of a non-vegan:
- Bob loves his pet goldfish, yet he sits down in the same room to enjoy his fish and chips dinner.
- Carol spends all evening cooing over cute kittens on social media before enjoying her favourite lamb dinner.
- Jim volunteers at the local animal shelter. He has offered to cook food for this week’s fundraiser, where the shelter will be raising money to help abandoned cats and dogs. Jim serves up pig and cow flesh at the event.
A social psychologist at Bellarmine University, Kentucky, Hank Rothgerber suggests that people have around fifteen strategies that people have which allow them to continue eating meat and avoid facing the meat paradox. This includes dissociation (pretending meat has no link to animals), perceived behavioural change (when one imagines they eat less meat than they do), wilful ignorance (avoiding information or media which may prompt one to reconsider their diet and lifestyle choices) and do-gooder derogation (blaming, verbally attacking or belittling vegans).
Most people have become disconnected from the food they eat. Those eating meat and dairy rarely think about the reality of what their food is and how it was produced because this would be off-putting (as anyone who has ever seen slaughterhouse footage can attest). The fact that it is culturally acceptable to consume animal products eases peoples’ conscience – they can sit comfortably in the knowledge that they are following the mainstream diet.
However, the presence of a vegan disrupts this view, forcing people to acknowledge that there is an alternative. The mere existence of vegans forces people to confront their wilful ignorance and cognitive dissonance.
The tension that results from this can make people feel a range of negative emotions, including sadness, irritation, stress or even anger. They have two choices: resolve this by changing their behaviour or blame someone or something. Of course, it is easier to blame someone else, and so this is what happens in many cases – it becomes the fault of the vegans.
Technology has accelerated the speed at which information is disseminated. As such, there is now virtually nowhere to hide from the mounting studies, and evidence of the impact animal agriculture is having on our environment. This is a huge reason why the number of people choosing to go vegan is growing so rapidly. But as it does, it only causes greater discomfort amongst those who choose to persist in their harmful lifestyle choices.
It can be reasonably assumed that, if questioned, most people would assert that they would prefer to see less suffering in the world. With this in mind, it is curious why there would be so much resentment towards vegans when they are trying to do something about this in their lifestyle choices.
Of course, most people with animosity towards vegans would not cite these reasons if pushed to explain themselves. Although the reasons mentioned above are the only ones that make any kind of rational sense, there are many irrational reasons people give for disliking vegans. Let’s take a look at some of the most stupid reasons why people hate vegans…
The most stupid reasons why people hate vegans
1. Vegans Kill Plants
This is amongst the top anti-vegan arguments. Although we know that there is far more compelling evidence of animal sentience and intelligence than that for plants, let’s put this aside for one moment because there is one very simple reason why this argument is so stupid:
This argument is stupid because rearing animals for food harms many times more plants than eating the plants directly does. This is because plants are fed to the animals we produce for food in greater quantities than if we just ate the plants directly.
It takes between 3 to 20 lbs of vegetable protein to produce a single pound of animal protein (varying depending on the species). This means that, in addition to the animals slaughtered for their food, meat-eaters are actually responsible for the destruction of far more plants than vegans are!
2. Vegans advocate an unhealthy, nutrient-deficient diet
Many vegan haters seem to take comfort in the view that it is natural to eat meat and dairy because, otherwise, vegans wouldn’t have to take supplements. However, this argument is full of ignorance.
Let’s take vitamin B12 as an example since this is the most important supplement for vegans because it is difficult to obtain on a plant-based diet. A little-known fact about B12 is that it is not produced by animals – it is made by bacteria. In days gone by, B12 used to be obtained by humans when drinking water from streams or eating plants. This is because the soils contained plenty of B12 producing bacteria.
However, as a result of our modern sanitation and industrial farming practices, B12 has become difficult to obtain from water or plants. As a result, animal products have become the main food source for vitamin B12. This disproves the argument that a vegan diet is unnatural, but there is more…
What many people don’t know is that most of the animal products consumed today only contain B12 because the animals were supplemented with this vitamin while they were alive. This is deemed necessary because the grains animals are fed on no longer contain sufficient quantities of B12 (or vegans would be able to source it this way also!).
In addition to B12, a vegan diet is deemed to be protein deficient, but this is simply untrue if one is eating a healthy, balanced vegan diet including a variety of plant-based protein sources. Finally, there is vitamin D and Omega-3, but supplements for these are recommended to everyone – not just vegans – because we generally lack them due to modern western lifestyles.
3. Vegans are hypocritical because plant farming kills insects and mice
This anti-vegan argument is stupid because it suggests that there is no point taking action to reduce suffering unless perfection can be achieved. Of course, the death of insects, field mice and other small mammals during harvesting is not something any vegan wants. But herein lies the point: it is unintentional. Can unintentional deaths resulting in this way for sustenance needs really be equated to the needless, intentional slaughter and exploitation of millions of animals for meat and dairy production?
The unfortunate truth is that some harm will probably always come to small creatures due to food production methods. This could not be completely eliminated, even if we all ate solely from our own gardens. However, there is probably more that could be done to reduce this – this we do concede!
Here is the definition of hypocritical from the Cambridge Dictionary:
‘saying that you have particular moral beliefs but behaving in a way that shows these are not sincere.’
Let’s consider this in relation to the definition of veganism given by The Vegan Society:
‘Veganism is a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude—as far as is possible and practicable—all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of animals, humans and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals’.
The keywords here are ‘possible’ and ‘practicable’; it is sadly not always possible or practicable for vegans to ensure that the plants they consume did not involve the unintentional injury or death of small creatures. This unfortunate reality is akin to accidentally squashing an insect while walking down the road, which many vegans undoubtedly do every day, but should this be considered hypocritical also?
4. A vegan diet is bad for the environment
It is commonly assumed by those who are anti-vegan that plant-based diets are bad for the environment. This argument is fuelled by media reports on the environmental impact of certain plant foods such as avocados and soy.
While it is undoubtedly true that some crops have a much higher environmental impact than others, this is a stupid reason to hate vegans because this is not solely, or even mostly, a vegan problem.
Firstly, let’s consider the fact that most people consume plants whether they are vegan or not. Avocados, for example, are commonly served with meat such as bacon as well as dairy products such as cheese and eggs. They are not exclusively consumed by vegans!
Then there is the case of soy and its links to deforestation. When cited in relation to this particular argument, the underlying assumption is that the problem is soy milk and tofu – vegan products. However, this is not the case. In fact, a massive 77% of global soy is actually used as feed for animals farmed for human consumption, while just 7% is used for vegan-friendly products like soy milk and tofu.
Of course, this does not give vegans a get out of jail free card. We must all look at our food production and distribution systems and consider how we can eat and live more sustainably.
5. Vegans are smug and over-zealous
Of all the reasons on our list, this is perhaps the most annoying factor for vegan haters. These people cannot stand the enthusiasm that vegans have for their lifestyle – it drives them mad!
The reason for this is simple and relates to our earlier point about cognitive dissonance and the meat paradox. These people do not want to change their behaviour and wish vegans would just shut up so they can go back to blissful ignorance.
The sad truth is that people do not appreciate those they view as ‘do-gooders’, and this is what vegans are often perceived to be. Social psychologist, Professor Craig Parks of Washington State University conducted a series of studies on do-gooders, entitled ‘The Desire to Expel Unselfish Members from the Group’.
This research found that do-gooders were unpopular because they made other members of the group feel guilty and pressured into behaving in the same way. It was perceived that do-gooders set a level of expectation that made others feel bad, and this incited resentment towards them.
So, there we have it – smug and over-zealous vegans raise the bar to a standard that vegan-haters can’t bear. This is by far the stupidest reason to hate vegans because it suggests the animosity is simply a projection of one’s own self-loathing for being unwilling or unable to change their behaviour.
And that brings an end to our list of the most stupid reasons why people hate vegans. If you’re vegan, let us know what stupid arguments you have encountered from vegan haters in the comments.