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 conduted for my PhD in Social Policy at the University of Kent, using a mixed-methods, longitudinal approach.

A 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. As I have discussed previously, 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. [1] 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.

One possible strategy, particularly to reach more men and non-reducers, could be to have campaigns that focus more on “pro-self” (e.g. health or cost savings) motivators in recruiting participants. [2] That almost every member of this sample reported being largely motivated by altruistic or “pro-social” (e.g. animal welfare or the environment) motives is unlikely to reflect the general reducer population and, potentially, many who are motivated by health, price, or taste. This presents a potential engagement gap. Findings that the environment was almost as significant a motivator as animal welfare and higher than health is in contradistinction to previous research with more general populations where health has typically been identified as a more common motivating factor. However, additional research on the impact of pro-self vs. pro-social motivators is essential, as pro-self motivators were less strongly linked to reduction rates and successes, with financial motives being related to less reduction.

A second possible strategy could include addressing veg*n stigmas by highlighting veg*ns of color, male veg*ns, and ways to follow a veg*n lifestyle that are easy and inexpensive. For instance, a 2018 documentary highlighted the lack of visibility of vegans of color in the United States and the common view that veganism is “a white thing.” [3] Associating veg*n diets with an expensive lifestyle for the wealthy (e.g. “aςai” and “quinoa,” vegan BN6) may make reduction seem inaccessible for low income individuals, particularly when combined with policies that have enabled the mass production of cheap AFPs. [4] This is exacerbated by meat prices being deliberately kept low in ways that are invisible to the general population, such that “[w]hat the consumer sees is cheap and abundant meat.” [5]

Finally, campaigns could work through a lens that addresses human oppression, by collaborating with those working to address human oppression, centring those from marginalized communities in campaigns and the campaign design process, and by promoting or working in an intersectional capacity (i.e. in a way that addresses multiple forms of oppression). Organizations currently working to address both human and animal oppression include: Afro-Vegan Society, Better Health Better Life, Collectively Free, Black Vegans Rock, Food Empowerment Project, LifeAfterHummus, A Well-Fed WorldBlack VegFest, Encompass, Earthling Liberation Kollective, and Vegan Rainbow Project

Over the upcoming weeks I’ll be sharing more of my findings and what this means for campaigners, researchers, and policy makers. So make sure to click “follow” and stay tuned!

[1] Wrenn 2016; Harper 2010; Ko and Ko 2017; Singer 2016; Broad 2013
[2] Verain, Sijtsema and Antonides 2016
[3] The Invisible Vegan 2018
[4] Vinnari and Tapio 2012; Johnston, Fanzo and Cogill 2014; Gill et al. 2015; Garnett et al. 2015
[5] Fuchs et al. 2016, p.303

Resources cited:

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

Fuchs, D. et al. (2016). Power: the missing element in sustainable consumption and absolute reductions research and action. Journal of Cleaner Production 132:298–307.

Garnett, T. et al. (2015). Policies and Actions to Shift Eating Patterns: What Works? [Online]. Available at: http://www.fcrn.org.uk/fcrn-publications/reports/policies-and-actions-shift-eating-patterns-what-works [Accessed: 13 October 2015]. 

Gill, M. et al. (2015). The environmental impact of nutrition transition in three case study countries. Food Security; The Science, Sociology and Economics of Food Production and Access to Food 7:493–504.

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

 Invisible Vegan, The. (2013). [Film.] USA: J. Leyva.

Johnston, J.L., Fanzo, J.C. and Cogill, B. (2014). Understanding Sustainable Diets: A Descriptive Analysis of the Determinants and Processes That Influence Diets and Their Impact on Health, Food Security, and Environmental Sustainability. Advances in Nutrition 5:418–429.

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

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

 Vinnari, M. and Tapio, P. (2012). Sustainability of diets: From concepts to governance. Ecological Economics 74:46–54.

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

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