How Has Veg*n Research Evolved?
Vegetarianism and veganism (veg*nism) have existed for millennia, practiced as far back as the ancient Greek period. Today the concept is often used to describe political activism, anti-speciesist philosophy, food and product choices, and a diet.
Over the past fifty years, veg*nism has interested both consumers and researchers. Studies on veg*nism have increased in the fields of psychology, behavioral science, and other disciplines that previously overlooked the topic. The authors of this paper believe that it’s important to explore the state of veg*n research, both to understand current trends and point future scholars in a helpful direction.
To get a complete picture, the authors conducted a literature review of quantitative, peer-reviewed studies about veg*nism from 1978-2022. They excluded papers that didn’t address behavior and psychology (e.g., they weren’t interested in the physical or medical benefits of veg*n diets). They explored when and where each paper was published, how veg*n issues were framed and motivated, and the variables and methodology used for each study.
They identified 307 veg*n studies across 92 academic journals from 1978-2022. 84% of this research was produced within the last decade. It appears that research on veg*nism has grown exponentially, with the amount nearly doubling from 2018-2019. The most common journals for veg*n studies were Appetite, Food Quality and Preference, Sustainability, and British Food Journal.
Overall, the studies focused on the U.S. (33%), the U.K., (10%), and Germany (6.5%). The authors identified the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Canada as “pioneer countries” for the earliest veg*n research. While they argue that we need more non-Western research, they also only included English-language papers in their analysis.
Research Frames And Motivations
The earliest research focused only on vegetarianism, while studies on veganism became more popular later on. 56% of studies framed veg*nism as a diet, while 24% framed it as the consumption of certain food products and 6% as a philosophy. The tendency to study veg*nism as a diet increased over the years, peaking in 2015 and 2021 and decreasing as of 2022. Meanwhile, framing veg*nism as eating certain foods was more common later in the data, with popularity spiking in 2020 and 2022.
83% of studies positioned veg*nism in terms of personal health (e.g., authors discussed the health benefits of veganism or listed health as a motivation). 75% focused on the environment (e.g., mentioning veg*nism as a solution to climate change). 67% discussed animal-related concerns, although many researchers vaguely referred to “ethical” or “moral” reasons for going veg*n. Other, less common motivations discussed in the papers were cultural and social, sensory, financial and economic reasons, faith, political motivations, and justice and hunger (focused on human rights).
Variables And Methodology
A wide variety of variables were used in the veg*n research. For example, 72% of the studies explored people’s behaviors, such as their reported dietary habits. 67% looked at participants’ attitudes or perceptions about veg*nism, while 23% explored their emotions (e.g., guilt related to their food choices). 21% of papers assessed people’s values (e.g., social dominance or political ideology) and how they were connected to veg*nism, while 22% studied the effects of different product attributes.
Other variables studied in the research included participants’ knowledge about veg*n-related topics and issues; motivations for going veg*n; the impact of social networks and social norms; identity; and the effect of exposing people to different information related to veg*nism.
The majority of research on veg*nism between 1978-2022 was correlational (68%) from primary sources (92%). Most studies were cross-sectional (87%), relying on self-reported data collected via a survey. Sample sizes ranged from 10 to 143,362, and 11% of studies relied on student data.
Lessons For Future Scholars
Given the number of studies published in Appetite as well as the emphasis on personal health, the authors note that veg*nism seems to be shifting from a political-focused movement to a diet-focused one. While this may inform advocates and entrepreneurs understand how to position their messaging in the future, the paper was largely geared toward scholars interested in studying veg*nism.
While veg*n research has exploded in the last decade, the authors point out several gaps for future scholars to address. For example, they note the lack of research on children and culturally diverse groups and the tendency to lump vegans and vegetarians together. While some recent studies have used emerging methods like “brain response measurements,” most veg*n research has relied upon self-reported survey data, potentially limiting our knowledge. Finally, the authors call for more data on the unconscious factors involved in accepting or rejecting veg*nism.