What Influences People To Go Vegan?
As an animal advocate, one of your goals may be to influence others to go vegan. But how do we go about doing so without alienating our targets, especially as meat-eaters perceive veg*ns negatively? Results from a recent survey sheds light on this topic. The survey, conducted by vegan travel blog “Vomad”, asked over 12,000 English-speaking vegans what influenced them to consider veganism and their resulting motivations in becoming vegan. Three noteworthy findings emerged.
First, despite the survey defining veganism as someone who doesn’t eat, wear, or use animal products, just over 25% of participants reported health and environmental motivations for going vegan, with most reporting animal ethics as the reason. This is particularly relevant for discussing veganism with those who care about the environment or their physical health, yet consume meat and/or other animal products. As such, animal advocates can speak about the environmental and health benefits of veganism with these groups of individuals, if they don’t seem to be interested in animals.
Second, approximately 50% of the respondents went vegan ‘overnight’, whereas the remaining participants needed to transition over a period of time, eliminate certain food groups first, or participate in a vegan challenge like ‘Veganuary.’ Indeed, close to 50% of those surveyed said they were vegetarian before being vegan, with the majority reporting being vegetarian for animal ethical reasons. Essentially, when animal advocates are speaking to non-vegans, they can probe with questions to understand what kind of transition to veganism would be most suitable for them. This is important as there appear to be two main paths towards veganism revealed with this survey: one with gradual steps, including vegetarianism, and another faster route of eliminating all animal products immediately.
Third, there were a variety of responses when asked what influenced people to seriously consider veganism for the first time, with just under 25% reporting a documentary (e.g., Cowspiracy, What the Health, Earthlings, Forks Over Knives, etc.). Other influences included talking to a friend or family member, seeing a video or social media post, and reading articles, books, or a blog. Overall, this suggests that there isn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach to discussing veganism with non-vegans. For animal advocates, this illustrates that there are various means to choose from. It should also be noted that close to 1% of the respondents mentioned that public activism (e.g., leafleting, street outreach, protesting, etc.) initiated their interest in veganism. Thus, if your goal is to influence others to go vegan, then it might be more effective for you to spend your time speaking to friends and family, in addition to sharing documentaries, videos, books, articles, and related content online, than to engage in public activism.
As large-scale as this survey is, there are some major limitations: it did not go through the best-practice methods of survey creation, validation, and replication, and the sample of respondents was gathered from Vomad’s existing audience, which is not representative of the general population. Another limitation is that self-report surveys are sometimes at risk of social desirability biases, where people may respond in ways that make them appear more favorable. For example, how do we know that the 12,000 vegans surveyed were actually vegan in practice? It is possible that some of those surveyed were flexitarians or other types of plant-based eaters. And lastly, as echoed by the survey creators, the results are biased towards English-speaking, female, young to mid-adults. For advocates, if your target fits this demographic, then the suggestions above would be most relevant to use.