“I Get Bullied For Being Vegan”: Women On The Hate They Get For Not Eating Meat
It’s World Vegan Day, an annual celebration of the benefits of a plant-based diet for our health, animals and the planet, and in 2018 more people will be clinking a glass of (vegan) champagne than ever. One in eight Britons is now vegan or vegetarian, while more than a fifth claim to be flexitarian and only eat meat occasionally, according to new figures. Which means a third of the population have reduced their meat intake or cut it out completely. The fact that veganism is “in” right now probably has something to do with it.
But despite its popularity and a growing awareness of the benefits, veganism still incites loathing and even rage among many meat-eating people. Coincidentally, just this week the editor of Waitrose Food magazine quit his job after it emerged he’d suggested a series on “killing vegans, one by one” in response to a freelance journalist who had pitched features on plant-based recipes.
Back in January, there was the chef who was forced to resign after she threatened to spike a “pious, judgmental vegan’s” meal; and who could forget the Dublin café that went viral in 2015 for barring vegans and threatening to kill them? Extreme examples of anti-veganism abound – and it’s an attitude that people who avoid animal products are forced to endure daily.
As with everything else, there is undeniably a very small minority of holier-than-thou vegans, but the vast majority just want to be left alone to eat their Vego bars in peace. Ahead, six women reveal the abuse they receive just for being vegan.
Melissa, 19, Manchester
“I grew up surrounded by agricultural communities in mid Wales where veganism wasn’t the norm and I’ve been called ‘inbred’, ‘stupid’, ‘an idiot’ and ‘bacon’. I’ve also had abuse during protests and activism. I protest outside a slaughterhouse and have had untold abuse shouted at me from passing cars. I also get trolled on social media. I’ve also had cigarettes thrown at me in the street. It happens at university too, as some people in my class are from a farming background – I was once called a ‘vegan extremist’ in class.
“I always respond with peace – veganism is a peaceful movement – and I ignore the social media trolls. In person, if the person is sensible I’ll engage in conversation and am happy to discuss the ethics of veganism.”
Beth, 21, Newcastle upon Tyne
“I’ve been vegan for nearly two years and the bullying was relentless at the beginning. I don’t think people realise they’re doing it – they’ve all seen vegan jokes on the internet and think it’s funny to repeat them. People often make jokes, like ‘How do you know someone’s vegan? They’ll tell you’ but when the piss-taking is constant it can really get you down. Especially when, in my experience, most vegans won’t mention it until it’s relevant, namely, when food is being offered. It’s usually the vegan’s friends and family who will introduce them as ‘the vegan’.
“We tend to be a really compassionate bunch and when we’re constantly seeing death around us and then having people making fun of us, it’s so tiring. When I first went vegan I used to laugh it off in the hope that they’d stop. They didn’t. We can’t really win – I have a sharp tongue so if someone takes a jab at me I’ll say something back, but then I’m labelled as an ‘angry vegan’. The worst is when people call you ‘triggered’, a ‘snowflake’, or when they say you don’t care about anything else, or that you care about animals more than people. Most of us have heard it all.
“The abuse online is far worse than in person. People think they can hide behind a screen and scream about how much they hate vegans. My Twitter friends are great though and we all stick up for each other. Thankfully we can just block the trolls – my block list is huge. It’s shit we have to put up with it, but animals go through much worse. I’ll always fight for them even if it means people being mean to me.”
Natasha*, 29, London
“As a vegan, people will constantly call you a hypocrite and say you’re being difficult. They’ll say things like: ‘but do you know how bad soya is?’, ‘what’s the point?’, ‘oh, I imagine you eat meat when you’re drunk, don’t you?’, or, my personal favourite, ‘go on, no one will know if you just eat some cheese’.
If you want to be vegan, you need to have a bit of a sense of humour or at least a thick skin.
“If you want to be vegan, you need to have a bit of a sense of humour or at least a thick skin. People do see it as open season to say things and it’s just awkward for everyone if you can’t try and laugh it off. I had one friend who used to mercilessly take the piss at every opportunity when I first went vegan, but she’s since done a bit of research herself and now she’s gone vegetarian totally of her own volition.”
Janet*, 52, Kent
“I’ve been vegan for seven years – vegetarian since 1987 – and I still get stick for my diet every day, even from my family. People laugh in my face when I ask for the vegan menu and I’m constantly asked why I’m vegan. My worst ever experience was when an ex-partner spat kebab meat in my face. I normally try to educate people who say things, but most of the time they don’t listen. It’s like talking to a brick wall.”
Amy, 21, Essex
“I’ve been vegan for two years and three months and most of the mocking I’ve received has been online. Random trolls always say stuff to vegans just to wind them up. They’ll send GIFs of meat, call them stupid, say they’ll die from deficiencies, call us ‘stupid liberal hippies’ or just try to attack us as people, purely because they ‘hate vegans’. Some people say really horrid things, so when I get a troll I normally just block them. I’ve had to block over 100 accounts of people who follow people just to abuse vegans.
“In real life I don’t normally get a lot, because I have supportive friends who aren’t really bothered by how I live as long as I’m happy and healthy. When I first went vegan, I made a point of using people’s insults in my favour, so before people made comments I’d already have said them. I’d joke about it. I’ve found being relaxed and having this approach helps me have proper conversations with people about veganism and be able to even spread the message better.”
Kate, 39, Glasgow
“In the 18 months I’ve been vegan I’ve had all the typical comments that any vegan gets – ‘but bacon though,’ etc, etc – and am often introduced as ‘the vegan’ whenever I go anywhere. Luckily I’ve got a pretty thick skin though, and I know being vegan is the best thing for me and the environment. That’s what I usually say in response. My dad particularly struggles with it but I’ve had a word with his wife and she knows that as long as she buys me a vat of hummus for when I visit, I can survive.”
*Some names have been changed
Like what you see? How about some more R29 goodness, right here?