Twitter Trends: #CageFree, #Vegan, #AnimalRights, and More!
Examining how public engagement with animal advocacy issues changes over time is key to our understanding of our target audience, and our understanding of the issues themselves. This goal is one that Faunalytics has pursued for many years, most notably through our 12-year Animal Tracker — an annual survey of U.S. adults’ attitudes and behavior related to animals and animal advocates.
Ipsos (2020) recently published a visualization of U.S. Google Search data showing how levels of interest in vegan and plant-based diets have changed, state by state, over the period 2004 to 2019. While it is good to see the numbers increasing, this sort of analysis is difficult to interpret without other context. Is the increase in interest on par with other, non-animal-friendly diets? Do Google searches mean people feel positive or negative about the diets, or are they just curious about what they are?
The current analysis of a year of Twitter data provides a deeper look at the general public’s interest in animal-friendly diets, as well as other issues related to animal protection and advocacy. The time frame is shorter but the inferences we can draw are stronger.
Please note, when we talk about keywords throughout this report, it refers to words that are used in hashtags or anywhere in the body of a tweet.
- Tweets pertaining to animal-friendly diets—especially veganism—are much more common than related concepts like animal advocacy, animal welfare, or cultured meat. There were about 150k tweets about animal-friendly diets most weeks, versus under 30k on other topics. This may suggest that advocates wishing to reach a wider audience should include diet-related content or hashtags whenever possible.
- Use of diet keywords tended to spike in the first week of January, and this was particularly noticeable for ‘vegan’ and ‘plant-based.’ The use of ‘vegan’ almost doubled from 105k usages in the last week of December to 193k in the first week of January. ‘Plant-based’ is used much less often, but had a larger relative spike: from 11k in the last week of December to almost 29k by the second week of January. The beginning of the year is a good time to be active with those diet-related keywords and hashtags!
- Tweets about veganism are far more frequent than any of the other related dietary keywords, including ‘vegetarian,’ ‘plant-based’, ‘reducetarian’, or ‘flexitarian’. This may reflect that vegans are more likely to be active advocates for diet change, or see it as a more important part of their identity, both of which have been shown in the literature. It may also reflect greater interest among the general population in engaging in conversation around veganism.
- Tweets about cultured meat were less frequent than other advocacy-related tweets, but they were used positively most of the time. This is likely good news for those investigating how to market these products in the future! It is also notable that the term ‘lab meat’, while used frequently early on in the analysis period, dropped off substantially and continued to decline—this may be good news for advocates who have campaigned against the use of more clinical terms like “lab” and “in vitro”.
Faunalytics’ usual practice is to publish our data for transparency and use by other researchers. In this case, the Twitter Terms of Service prevent us from publishing the data we obtained via their API. If you are a researcher interested in the data from this study, please contact the Research Director.
This project was conducted by Faunalytics volunteers Matt Montalbano and Paul Fornia under the supervision of Dr. Jo Anderson, Research Director.