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The real reason why people hate vegans

An animal rights march in the Philippines

October 30, 2019 - 7:00am

Writing in The Guardian, George Reynolds asks: why do people hate vegans?

It’s a good question and I don’t think any of his answers are wrong. However, some forms of veganophobia require more explanation than others.

There are always exceptions, but veganism falls pretty much one side of the ‘snowflake’ versus ‘gammon’ culture war — and thus gets the kind of abuse directed at the snowflakes generally. Thus when a story like the Greggs vegan sausage roll comes up, it’s going to disgust people like Piers Morgan as a matter of course.

Much more interesting is the hostility that vegans get from their ‘own side’ — i.e. other youngish, hipsterish, Left-leaning individuals. What explains this?

Despite their supposed tendency towards proselytisation and self-advertisement, what makes vegans different is precisely that they are not just virtue-signallers. Their particular cause involves personal sacrifice.

Yes, some people naturally dislike meat, but most don’t. Animal-based diets can also be unhealthy, but they don’t have to be. So, for the most part, the decision to be vegan or vegetarian is not self-serving — and it is done for the sake of those who will never thank you for it (because they’re animals).

Most ‘progressive’ causes come at little individual cost. If you live in a democracy, you lose nothing by not being racist or sexist or whatever bad thing it might be. Even with a cause like environmentalism, which implies the necessity of a simpler lifestyle, one can get away with not practicing as one preaches — especially when the world’s evils are blamed on some all-powerful, corporate other.

Veganism, though, is different — to become vegan is to commit oneself to a lifetime of taking personal responsibility for the consequences of one’s own actions. In that respect it is deeply conservative and counter to the spirit of contemporary liberalism.

This, from Reynolds, gets to the artichoke heart of the matter:

Ultimately, the vegan wars are not really about veganism at all, but about how individual freedom is coming into conflict with a personal and environmental health crisis.
- George Reynolds

I think most vegans would rather emphasise the industrialised cruelty of factory farming, but the point still stands.

HL Mencken once defined puritanism as the “haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be happy.” The modern world is beset by an equal and opposite dread — the haunting fear that someone, somewhere may be restraining themselves.

Peter Franklin is Associate Editor of UnHerd. He was previously a policy advisor and speechwriter on environmental and social issues.


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