This blog post includes data from research into seven UK-based reduction and vegan campaigns, drawing on the largest sample of meat reducers, pescatarians, vegetarians, and vegans in any research project to date (n=1,587). Research was conducted for my PhD in Social Policy at the University of Kent, using a mixed-methods, longitudinal approach.

Within sample populations, a lack of diversity emerged. 80% of participants identified as female, 25% were from the top 10% of income, and 96% were white (compared to 82% of the general UK population). Three campaigns specifically targeted university students and thus had a larger proportion of those 18-24 years old.

Additional trends:

  • Vegan campaigns had a higher proportion of those under 35 (37%) than reduction campaigns (25%), with average ages of 41 and 48, respectively.
  • Reduction campaigns included a somewhat higher proportion of men (25% of participants) than vegan campaigns (9%).

The lack of sociodemographic diversity within the sample suggests that campaigns are reaching overlapping populations that include a disproportionate percentage of female, white, high income, and university-educated individuals. In particular, the lack of male participants in surveys (20% of participants) and focus groups (6%) is likely to reflect a lower proportion of men within reduction campaign populations.[1]

Researchers have found that individuals from minority groups may feel ostracized from campaigns due to the perpetuation of normative conceptions of veg*nism and veg*n individuals, as well as messaging that ignores human oppression or uses it as a campaigning tool.[2] For instance, in her evaluation of the Meatless Mondays campaign, Singer found that it promoted stereotypical gender roles while attempting to address men’s potential “crisis of masculinity” that may be triggered through discussions of meat reduction.[3] Associating reduction / abstention with such campaigns and messaging may contribute to feelings that reduction is only for privileged individuals or that certain communities would not be welcome within the movement.

This research project is the first to look at a large sample of participants from different reduction and vegan campaigns and, as such, the lack of diversity identified is an important finding for those within the movement and researchers seeking to understand strategies for reduction promotion. Over the upcoming weeks, I’ll be providing more information about the sample and some potential ideas for ways campaigns can reach more diverse audiences. It would be extremely valuable for future research to identify further strategies to make reduction and veg*n campaigns and communities more welcoming and inclusive to those from minority sociodemographic backgrounds.

[1] Lee and Simpson 2016; Stoll-Kleemann and Schmidt 2016; Kollmus and Agyeman 2002. Self-reported demographics were also provided by campaigns that had done their own surveys and were reflective of the identified trends.
[2] Wrenn 2016; Harper 2010; Ko and Ko 2017; Singer 2016; Broad 2013
[3] Singer 2016, p. 13

Resources cited:

Broad GM (2013) Vegans for Vick: Dogfighting, Intersectional Politics, and the Limits of Mainstream Discourse. International Journal of Communication 7: 780–800.

Harper BA (ed.) (2010) Sistah Vegan: Black Female Vegans Speak on Food, Identity, Health, and Society. Herndon, VA.

Ko A and Ko S (2017) Aphro-ism: Essays on Pop Culture, Feminism, and Black Veganism from Two Sisters. New York, NY: Lantern Books.

Kollmuss A and Agyeman J (2002) Mind the Gap: Why do people act environmentally and what are the barriers to pro- environmental behavior? Environmental Education Research 8(3): 239–260.

Lee L and Simpson I (2016) Are we eating less meat?: A British Social Attitudes Report. Available from: http://www.natcen.ac.uk/media/1116002/vegetarian-society-bsa-2014.pdf (accessed 22 November 2016).

Singer R (2016) Neoliberal Backgrounding, the Meatless Monday Campaign, and the Rhetorical Intersections of Food, Nature, and Cultural Identity. Communication, Culture & Critique 10(2): 344–364.

Stoll-Kleemann S and Schmidt UJ (2016) Reducing meat consumption in developed and transition countries to counter climate change and biodiversity loss: a review of influence factors. Regional Environmental Change 17(5): 1261–1277.

Wrenn C (2016) Fat vegan politics: A survey of fat vegan activists’ online experiences with social movement sizeism. Fat Studies 6(1): 90–102.

5 thoughts on “A lack of diversity amongst UK reduction and vegan campaigns

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