Promoting Veganism To Men: Challenges And Opportunities
There are more vegan women than vegan men. But why? According to the authors of this research briefing, the answer seems to lie in the complex concept of masculinity. Eating meat in Western contexts is linked to historically masculine qualities like strength, performance, and human dominance. Men often feel pressure to conform to strict, heteronormative standards, avoiding anything seen as unmanly to maintain their identity. Researchers refer to this as “precarious masculinity.”
In this briefing, the Vegan Society delves into the challenges men encounter with veganism, especially when it comes to fitting into traditional ideas of masculinity and dealing with social pressure. They first reviewed existing academic literature regarding gender and veganism to understand why fewer men are vegan than women. Then they looked into the specific roadblocks men face when going vegan, including social stigma, concerns about nutrition, and the politics of masculinity.
One barrier they found is the fear of social exclusion. Men considering going vegan might hesitate if they feel they won’t be accepted by society, friends, and family. They may also fear a drop in social status and the potential of facing hostility. Research suggests that non-vegans hold stronger negative views toward vegan men than vegan women, associating the men with less masculinity.
Another barrier they found is misinformation regarding vegan nutrition. Unfortunately, the looming urban myths of vegan diets lacking protein and soy harming testosterone levels remain, despite scientific evidence to the contrary. For men who feel strongly about adhering to conventional masculine norms of physical strength and power, these myths may deter them from considering veganism.
Cognitive dissonance is yet another barrier. Studies have found that men are more likely to justify meat consumption as “natural” or use speciesist, human-dominant hierarchies to defend themselves. In contrast, women tend to downplay meat consumption and reveal feelings of meat-related shame or guilt in dietary studies. The authors note that making meat consumption appear more conventionally masculine may be effective in some, but not all, cases. For example, many vegan men are trying to redefine masculinity as compassionate and nurturing. This, in turn, may help men resist toxic masculine expectations in other aspects of life.
Based on these findings, the Vegan Society makes several recommendations to researchers and vegan advocates. To effectively promote veganism among men, it’s crucial to approach the use of influencers carefully — their messages might unintentionally isolate certain audiences or reinforce limited notions of masculinity. Instead, focusing on testimonies from everyday vegan men can offer relatable stories and practical advice that resonate with those considering veganism.
Additionally, further research involving vegan men can explain how they deal with societal judgments and social bias. This in turn may reveal strategies to help other men transition to a vegan lifestyle. Understanding the intersectionality of factors like race and class is also important to gain a fuller understanding of men’s experiences and decisions.
Finally, the Vegan Society recommends a potential middle-ground: animal advocates can align veganism to existing masculine norms while also working to change how we think about masculinity in the West. For example, campaigns might emphasize how choosing veganism can benefit both physical health (conventional masculine value) and mental well-being (more progressive consideration).