The campaign to promote veganism by exposing the destructive reality of the animal agriculture industry.

‘MEAT TOXIC’ MASCULINITY: Why might Veganism be more popular with women than men?


A 2018 study found that concepts like 'virility' and 'power' were a part of the relationship we as a species have with eating meat and conventional masculine stereotypes.

ROSIE FROST: With growing anxiety about the impact of animal agriculture on the environment and evidence that a plant-based diet can be beneficial to our health, the number of vegans has doubled across Europe and the US… From eco anxiety to concerns around animal cruelty, it’s clear many more people are turning to veganism as a way of life. One factor, however, seems to significantly increase our chances of abandoning animal products altogether. That factor is being a woman.

In the UK in 2016, the Vegan Society found that twice as many women as men were vegan. It’s not just the UK though, with statistics showing an incredible 79 per cent of vegans in the US identify as female… Perhaps this isn’t a surprise to some as animal rights and feminism have long gone hand in hand. Activists in the past saw the refusal to eat meat as a form of rebellion against the patriarchal status quo.

There are other aspects of gender politics at play too. In a culture where media around dieting is distinctly gendered and which categorises meat as a ‘male’ food choice, there is an increased amount of pressure on women to change the way they eat. Those that don’t often feel guilt for eating the ‘wrong’ things or ‘too much’. Whether or not you subscribe to this way of thinking, the figures suggest something must be going on. So why do fewer men choose to adopt a plant-based diet?

Meat and gender are thought to have been linked since the beginning of time. Hunting was important to early humans with food gathering tasks split into gendered roles. Men went out to kill large game animals while women typically ate smaller portions of meat and collected plant foods…

Men in most western societies today aren’t likely to be out tackling game to feed their families, but they are still more likely to associate meat with ideas of health and strength. A 2018 study found that concepts like “virility” and “power” were a part of the relationship we as a species have with eating meat and conventional masculine stereotypes.

If millennia of social conditioning causes us to associate meat and masculinity, it’s perhaps inevitable that men who go vegan can be discouraged by a negative reaction from those around them… Lecturer in Human Geography at Newcastle University, Dr Michael J Richardson, is currently researching the link between meat and masculinities. He says that the way people react to this apparent challenge to masculinity can vary.

“It really depends on who you speak with regarding which defence mechanism they’ll draw upon – as in young men who already consider themselves as fit, gym goers and into health and fitness tend to defend their meat heavy diets more adamantly”… Insults like “soy boy”- defined by urban dictionary as a phrase to describe “males who completely and utterly lack all necessary masculine qualities”, show how this attitude easily pervades popular culture…

Even if men are interested in eating less meat, without acceptance it can still be a difficult choice, a recent study from the University of Southampton shows. The more men that take the leap, the easier it gets, researcher Dr Emma Roe told a conference when the paper was presented.

“What we have discovered is that many men are interested in eating less meat, they just need social permission to do so – and as more men make vegetarian and vegan choices, that permission is becoming more readily available,” she explains. Eating meatless meals together in a group removed pressured and ‘normalised’ plant-based choices for the men who took part in the study.

“I do think that the different routes into veganism matter however and can provoke very different responses,” adds Richardson. Documentaries like Game Changers are beginning to change the tune as gym-goers and health enthusiasts are particularly receptive to these newer vegan insights, he says.

“What’s important to note about veganism is that the health and fitness angle is only one prong of a trident approach. The other two, of environmentalism and animal rights, carry different weight within these discussions.”  SOURCE…