Lazy stereotypes of vegans hardly ever tell the whole story and are rarely representative of a growing movement.
The increase in the number of vegans make the traditional stereotypes of them look dated and ridiculous.
You read the ill-thought out insults on every news story that mentions veganism, yet our opponents seem a touch confused.
Are we “leftie tree-huggers” or “militant, hardcore vegans”?
The truth is a bit of both and neither.
The story emerging from Milan this week about a malnourished baby being taken away from its vegan parents screams loudly at the latter as the Press desperately chase the anti-vegan click-bait brigade. The fact that bad parenting doesn’t go hand in hand with veganism seems to escape most people – as does the fact that the story in the UK Press contains barely enough facts to make a judgement on exactly what happened. But, hey, don’t let the truth get in the way of a good headline.
I don’t mind hugging trees. I used to love climbing them as a kid and I love photographing them as an adult, so I can’t really see that being a “tree hugger” is that much of an insult. I am a leftie too I guess, if you have to choose between being a leftie and a rightie, then, yes, I veer to the left – but politics really isn’t that simple, very few people’s views are exclusively “left” or “right” these days.
As for being a “militant vegan”, what does that even mean? Do these hardcore vegans shove soya milk down people’s throats, plant carrots in meat dishes and abuse shoppers in supermarkets? Not really.
It is right that some vegans do share graphic pictures of animals undergoing slaughter or the conditions in which they are kept – but should we really be shielding people from reality? I thought the modern way was to improve our relationship with food, and that involves knowing exactly how it came to be on our plates. Incidentally, vegans have a right for transparency too when it comes to processed food and knowing how ethical farms are in their treatment of workers etc.
“How do you know someone is a vegan? Don’t worry they’ll tell you” is a popular one, as is “plants feel pain too”. The lack of a central nervous system in plants and the fact that it is necessary to point out dietary requirements seems to escape some people. The ability of vegans to laugh at themselves also means that many of the comments are just yawned at – we really have heard them all before. And, yes, they do get shared around in vegan Facebook groups, we tease each other with them and laugh at the ridiculous stereotypes the media has made from us – and it still can’t make up its mind if we’re tree-hugging hippies or hardcore militant activists – I guess it depends on the story, and the stereotype to fit the scenario is chosen – because all vegans are like that, right? Well they are until the next story comes along calling for the other stereotype to be used – now all vegans are like that. Readers are just left utterly confused, and vegans utterly bemused.
Most of us, of course, are just normal people. We eat, we work, we go out, have fun and eat balanced, healthy diets – or sometimes we eat a little too much processed junk – just like the rest of society. I wish I could live up to my stereotype, but I’m an old punk at heart, so conforming never really was my forte.