Who is Vegan Propaganda for?

Around the time that I went vegan I was immersed in documentaries, articles, and books about the plight of animals. For a period of time before I went vegan, I was already convinced that it was the right thing to do. I knew that I’d eventually make the jump. I just hadn’t yet. The films I watched and lectures I listened to solidified my certainty: I was going to go vegan.

Yet even after I made the jump, I continued to consume pro-vegan propaganda (and we shouldn’t be afraid to call it propaganda) for at least a year. Why?

This question came to mind recently, when I realized that watching clips of livestock in horrendous conditions seemed not only personally pointless but psychologically harmful. What function did this media serve me in the past such that watching it now would be pointless?

That’s when I realized who vegan propaganda’s intended audience is: it’s for those on the edge — not only those who have not yet gone vegan, but those who have already done so and are at risk of quitting.

The vast majority of vegans do not stick with it. I suspect that a large percentage of those who adopt veganism and then abandon it do so with the aim of playing the “I tried it and it’s just not for me” card in the future. But the fact remains that most people who have every intention of going vegan and staying that way give up.

Why is this? I’ve said before that we shouldn’t pretend veganism is a walk in the park — at least, not at first. It’s a lifestyle change, and lifestyle changes require an inconvenient adjustment period, from reading ingredient labels to navigating awkward social interactions. And veganism is a unique lifestyle change in that people will challenge you on it. Vegan propaganda prepares you for what’s ahead, with recipes, pro-tips, and arguments.

What if part of the reason so many of us renege on veganism is because we are not prepared to mount a defense against the naysayers around us? I’ve written before about how we need to be anti-fragile: we must encounter arguments from people who are not vegan — even virulently anti-vegan — so that we can build our counterpoints.

I suspect that many people who go vegan — particularly those that give it up — do so without considering the counterarguments against veganism. Anecdotally, I’ve heard (and seen online) claims made by ex-vegans that are indistinguishable from those made out of pure ignorance: we need meat to survive, plants don’t have enough protein, we are at the top of the food chain, etc.

If I’m right, we have work to do. We need vegan propaganda that is rigorously truthful and transparent. No, humans are not “100% herbivore, and the health claims regarding veganism are not well supported by the evidence. We need to be honest about these things.

And we can afford to be so cavalier. When it comes down to it, the reason to go vegan is so painfully clear that it requires no fluff, no embellishment: we all prefer to do less harm rather than more, and veganism is one such way that we can do that.

The more we stick to this line, the more effective we will be. And the more people who go vegan will remain that way.


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  1. Yes, the vegan propaganda is for vegans and would-be vegans. Frankly, you all would be better off, happier, and have a higher success rate if you focused on that fact and kept your mouths shut around the rest of more dietarily normal people.

    Since this is essentially your religion (it is founded in your perception of facts and the application of your morality), be more like the Jews and less like the Jehovah Witnesses. Don’t proselytize. I get that vegans are extremists but that doesn’t mean you have to be preachy and annoying.

  2. Hi jonolan,

    We at The Reasoned Vegan are a little different than the stereotypical vegans you seem to have in mind. If you are referring to vegans going into meat-centric restaurants and yelling about how meat is murder, I agree with you — we’d do a lot better focusing our efforts elsewhere, because we aren’t converting anyone that way. But if you’re advocating that we just keep our mouths shut in general, well, we won’t recruit anyone that way. People have to know what veganism is and why it is the right thing to do before they’d be willing to take the plunge.

    We also push back against the idea that veganism is a religion. Some people see it that way, but we think it’s harmful to focus on the following of strict rules and obsess over purity. Veganism is about reducing harm, not worshiping tofu.

    I’m a moral realist. There are objective facts — for example, animal agriculture causes needless suffering and death — that lead to objective moral conclusions: we should reduce the number of animals that suffer and die needlessly by not supporting the animal agriculture industry. And we should encourage others to do the same, in the most effective way we possible can. Thanks for reading.

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