Vegans sometimes get a bad rep - and sometimes they happen to bring it upon themselves. For one reason or another, stereotypes have really started to dictate how your average person views the vegan lifestyle - and they can be powerful.
For vegans who don't fit the mold, it can be increasingly difficult to have a conversation about veganism, healthy eating, and lifestyle politics (such as environment preservation and animal cruelty) without the person talking to you cracking a joke, making a snide remark, or just plainly being rude. So, let's talk about some of these poor depictions of "all vegans" and find some truth in the stereotypes while we are at it!
Here are 18 (!) stereotypes about vegans that you probably have witnessed:
1). All vegans are young and hip. Some of the rise of popularity in veganism can be attributed to the surge in popularity in high school and college students. But, not all vegans are young people. There has been a rise in veganism (and other plant-based diets) in older folks as well - who are trying to reclaim their health. I imagine some of the plant-based doctors like McDougall with their scientific and health conscious approach to veganism in books such as The Starch Solution are more attractive to an older audience, but the detail of the diet and lifestyle can be for anyone and everyone!
2). All vegans are more intelligent than others. This is simple to debunk - because like any group of people, there are very intelligent people and some very...unintelligent...people. I think part of what causes this perceived stereotype is the next item on this list...
3). All vegans are self-righteous. It is true that some vegans like to make it their life's goal to spread the news of veganism like it is a major religion. While on one hand, I can understand this given how I have first-hand experienced the positive effects of a vegan diet on my health; but on the other, I can see how someone disinterested in veganism could be turned off from the fervor. Still, not everyone is crazy and self-righteous, but this is true of any lifestyle or belief.
4). All vegans have liberal political ideals. Veganism seems to go hand-in-hand with several political viewpoints - notwithstanding animal rights advocacy and environment conservancy. Certainly, both are not bad causes, but not every vegan has to agree - nor does every vegan suddenly have to become politically active. Some people simply adopt a vegan lifestyle with the intention of changing their own life. The reasons for adopting a vegan diet can be as simple as they can be complex - it is all up to the individual.
5). All vegans eventually give up on their diet. If any misconception is close to being true - this is actually one of them. Some research was conducted that showed around 84% of vegans (and vegetarians) eventually fall off the wagon and leave their respective diet lifestyle. There are even many known cases of vegan celebrities, like former President Bill Clinton, making a change away from veganism. The reasons for this is hard to pin down.
This is sometimes brought up as a reason to not consider the virtues of veganism, and is used to stereotype individuals as just following veganism as a "fad," not as a substantial life changing decision. It is in these cases that the stereotype can be particularly harmful - and still, a large minority maintain diets regularly.
6). All vegans like to talk about their veganism. Despite what it may seem when you read my website, not every vegan likes to talk about their veganism. While I am happy to discuss it in my private life - in general I try not to make it the only topic of conversation. Just like how some people don't care to talk about politics, some people don't feel the need to talk about veganism.
7). All vegans like attention. This statement is obviously untrue. A myth like this begins when someone hears about veganism on the news (or some other media outlet) and generalizes out to everyone that all vegans need the spotlight.
8). All vegans are hippies. I wouldn't be surprised if a large number of "currently practicing hippies" were vegans because of the political ideals (discussed above) - but vegans themselves make up a larger, non-homogeneous group of people. So, no, not all vegans are hippies.
9). Vegans are unhealthy. One of the most common misconceptions vegans face is the notion that their diet is unhealthy. Like any diet, veganism can be unhealthy if done poorly - but it's more likely than the "Standard American Diet" to be a positive, health conscious one.
10). Vegans only eat salad, no sweets. Veganism would be pretty dull for the senses if all we ate was lettuce day-in and day-out. The truth of the matter is - veganism is as diverse as most other diets. You get what you put into it, so if you need some help seeing more to eat than just salad, you should check out some great vegan recipe guides including our own free (or donation) guide The Plant-Smart Living Recipe Guide.
11). All vegans enjoy debating you for your lifestyle choices. Much like the politics misconception, not every vegan is going to get excited to debate you on the virtues of veganism vs. eating meat and hunting big game.
12). All vegan women are feminists. You have probably seen the girl with dreadlocks pictured here as she has come to be an internet meme of sorts - stereotypically representing vegans pretty substantially. With this comes additional stereotypes that all feminists "look like this" or have to adhere to a vegan diet - as if that makes any sense at all. Your diet and beliefs that women should have equal rights do not really overlap in any conscious way.
13). Pregnant women and children can't be vegans. It is true that pregnant women and kids tend to have different diets than standard adults - but all the required special nutrition needed can be found in a vegan diet quite easily without the need for excessive supplementation.
14). Vegans hate non-vegans. Sure, I could believe it that some vegans hate non-vegans for the same reasons I can believe some Muslims hate America and some Christians don't like the Pope. The stereotype at it's core has to do with the nature of "hate culture" around the world that pervades all lifestyles and ideologies - ranging from the incredibly mundane like how someone could build up legitimate hate for another because they enjoy The Big Bang Theory TV show to the far more complex topics like religion and politics.
Inevitably, veganism is an important topic, but just like not all non-vegans hate vegans, so to do vegans not carry around hate for their non-vegan brothers and sisters.
15). Vegans don't get enough protein, and can't possibly gain weight or muscle. This is one of the funnest and silliest myths about the vegan diet - and one I wrote a nice piece about you can check out here. In short, vegans can get plenty of protein - and healthier quality protein at that!
16). All vegans lose weight. While it is true that I have used a vegan diet to help lose weight, not everyone looking to lose weight who starts eating a vegan diet will lose the pounds. That is because it is possible to do veganism "wrong." There are plenty of high calorie and unhealthy foods still available. The biggest area of food is in the form of fatty oils (such as olive and coconut oil) - something highly recommended to minimize or do away with entirely.
17). All vegans are stoners. I'm not sure where this misconception came from, given last I heard most stoners like having a bad of Doritos on hand. I am pretty sure cannabis use is not directly associated with any particular diet. It's a negative stereotype because it makes people think more about the stereotypes associated with those who smoke marijuana - like laziness.
18). Vegan food is boring. The truth of this statement is that...vegan food can be boring. But if you learn how to cook (just a little bit) or go to a great vegan restaurant in town, you might just be surprised. Any diet has boring food, and every diet has the potential to make your mouth water and motivate you towards something better. Fortunately, vegans have the opportunity to feel this desire, and not feel guilty after because much of the food available is legitimately health conscious.
As you can see, stereotypes abound when it comes to vegans and their diet. I'm sure you can probably think of some other myths floating around out there, too. Feel free to share or comments with your thoughts!