Researcher Network member, Gelareh Salehi, summaries her paper exploring the motives driving vegan research.
PhD candidate in Comillas Pontifical University
Notes: The content presented in this article has been extracted from various sections of the larger paper . The purpose of this extraction is to provide a concise overview of the main points covered in the paper. While the article captures the essence of the original material, it should be noted that some details and context may have been omitted for brevity. Please note that due to the limitations of space and the need for simplification, the article may not capture the full complexity or nuances of the original paper. It is always advisable to consult the complete source for a more detailed and in-depth analysis.
In recent years, the phenomenon of veganism has captured the attention of researchers from various fields, transcending traditional domains such as medicine and food technology into behavioural science. Delving deep into the archives of scholarly literature through a ‘systematic literature review’, we unravelled the reasons that fuel the curiosity of researchers in this burgeoning field .
Health, environmental sustainability and animal welfare form the core of this discourse. In addition to the mentioned central motives, the peripheral factors are equally enthralling. Our exploration delves into a realm where cultural influences, social dynamics, sensory preferences, religious convictions and even the weight of our wallets intertwine. To illuminate these nine motives further, we navigate through their significance (see Figure 1).
1. Health benefits
In the vibrant world of veganism, health takes centre stage and researchers uncover the positive effects of embracing a plant-based lifestyle. We traverse the landscape of academic studies, decoding the reasons that emphasize the significance of delving into veganism. Regarding health, the studies speak volumes, with an overwhelming presence of 83% attributing paramount importance to this factor. Researchers, through meticulous examination, have revealed a myriad of positive effects, including a reduction in cholesterol, blood pressure and diabetes risk, as well as uncovering the potential shields against cancers, heart disease and hypertension .
Figure 1. Why is it important to study veganism? Source 
But that's just the beginning. A fresh wave of research has emerged, embracing a more holistic perspective on well-being and quality of life, considering veganism as an essential contributor to a fulfilling and vibrant existence . However, let us not forget the cautionary tales. A minority of researchers shed light on potential adverse effects if a well-planned vegan diet is not followed. Nutritional deficiencies, such as vitamin B12, zinc or iron, may loom on the horizon, casting a shadow on the path to optimal health .
Additionally, we explore the delicate topic of mental health risks, unearthing the potential struggles of stigmatization, discrimination and feelings of embitterment that may accompany this dietary choice. In the next section, we'll explore the impact of veganism on the environment.
2. Environmental benefits
In the realm of veganism, a powerful movement is taking shape, driven by the desire to heal the Earth. Within the vast expanse of the reviewed literature, a staggering 75% attributed significant importance to the environmental impact of veganism . We unveil the groundbreaking research that showcases the immense power of plant-based diets in combating some of our most pressing global challenges. Step into a world where veganism becomes an eco-saviour, combating greenhouse gas emissions with every mindful bite. We explore the fascinating studies that reveal how the simple act of replacing animal-based products with vegan alternatives can help reduce the carbon footprint, paving the way for a greener future . We shine a light on the intricate web of connections between veganism and soil health. This dietary choice can combat the perils of soil degradation and contribute to the restoration of our precious earth . But the impact doesn't stop there. We unravel the captivating studies that unveil the environmental benefits of veganism on air, soil and water pollution  and the potential reversal of biodiversity loss and marvel at the role veganism can play in tackling the challenge of climate change . We also uncover the harmonious alignment of vegan alternatives with the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, forging a path towards a future where humanity coexists in harmony with our planet.
3. Animal well-being
The vegan world is where compassion takes centre stage, where the voiceless find their advocates and where the ethical fabric of society is rewoven. In this section, we dive deep into the animal-related concerns that form the foundation of this transformative movement. We traverse the pages of reviewed studies, where approximately two-thirds resonated with arguments centred around animal concerns. Like a hidden thread woven seamlessly into the fabric of discourse, these animal-related concerns hold the power to ignite change, from implicit references nestled within the realm of ‘ethics’ to the passionate roots firmly planted within the animal rights and animal protection movement. The kaleidoscope of viewpoints emerges as we explore the drivers behind the adoption of vegan options. The layers of compassion unravelled that thread through the literature, revealing profound insights into the motivations that underpin the pursuit of a vegan lifestyle. We found several phrases that echo the deep love and respect for animals, such as "compassion toward animals" or “animal welfare". Yet, we also encounter the darker hues that highlight the urgent need for change. This is a journey where the harsh realities of animal agriculture are exposed, shedding light on the immense suffering endured by our fellow creatures. We confronted terms such as "animal suffering", "animal exploitation" and "animal slaughter", evoking a sense of urgency to alleviate the profound negative impact inflicted upon animals.
The welfarist positions were embraced by some researchers, as they championed the cause of animal welfare . Their work reflects a compassionate stance, seeking to improve the well-being of animals within existing societal structures. Meanwhile, other researchers ventured further into the realm of animal rights and abolitionist perspectives, igniting powerful debates that challenge the very foundations of our ethical compass. In this captivating discourse, we also encountered the concept of anti-speciesism, an emerging philosophy that rejects the arbitrary privileging of one species over another . This philosophical stance offers a fresh perspective on the intricate relationship between humans and animals, inviting us to question our deeply ingrained biases and fostering a vision of equality and compassion.
4. Cultural and social reasons
In veganism, cultural and social factors play a significant role in shaping an individual's dietary decisions. It's fascinating to explore how certain people or groups can have a profound influence on the choices we make regarding our vegan lifestyle. Recent studies have delved into this intriguing phenomenon, specifically examining the impact of close-knit networks such as families and peers. These influential relationships can shape our perceptions, beliefs and attitudes towards veganism, ultimately guiding our decision to embrace a plant-based lifestyle. Moreover, the digital era has brought about new avenues for connection and influence. Online vegan discussion groups have emerged as virtual communities where like-minded individuals come together to share experiences, knowledge and support . These online forums provide a platform for people to engage in lively discussions, exchange recipe ideas and seek advice on various aspects of vegan living. They create a sense of belonging and camaraderie, fostering a supportive environment that can bolster one's commitment to veganism. Understanding the impact of cultural and social factors is crucial for comprehending the dynamics behind the growing popularity of veganism. By unravelling the influence of close networks and online communities, researchers are shedding light on the complex web of social interactions that shape our dietary choices. This knowledge can empower individuals to navigate social pressures, find support within their networks and confidently embrace a vegan lifestyle that aligns with their values. So, whether it's a heartfelt conversation with a loved one or an engaging discussion in an online vegan group, the power of cultural and social factors in shaping our vegan choices should not be underestimated. Let's embrace these influences and use them as catalysts for positive change, both in our own lives and in the wider society. Together, we can create a compassionate and sustainable world, one vegan choice at a time.
5. Sensory reasons
In the realm of veganism, the sensory experience of food holds a special place. It's not just about the nutritional value or ethical considerations; it's also about indulging in flavours, textures and aromas that tantalize our taste buds and ignite our culinary senses. Researchers have delved into the sensory aspects of vegan alternatives, uncovering the fascinating world of taste, texture, odour and appearance . When it comes to vegan foods, there is often a misconception that they lack the same sensory appeal as their animal-based counterparts. However, studies have debunked this myth, highlighting the incredible variety and deliciousness of vegan options available. The sensory concerns raised by both consumers and producers shed light on the importance of creating plant-based alternatives that not only align with ethical and environmental values but also satisfy our senses. From innovative plant-based burgers that sizzle and char on the grill to creamy dairy-free ice creams that melt in your mouth, vegan cuisine is constantly evolving to meet our sensory desires. Chefs, food scientists and passionate foodies are on a quest to create vegan dishes that not only satisfy our cravings but also captivate us with their flavours and presentation.
6. Financial and economic aspects
When it comes to the financial and economic considerations of veganism, it's not just about making ethical choices; it's about the impact it can have on our wallets too. Studies have explored the cost savings individuals can enjoy by adopting a vegan lifestyle . With the growing market of vegan products, it's no surprise that consumers are finding ways to save money while embracing a plant-based diet. The availability and affordability of vegan options have expanded, making it easier for individuals to make budget-friendly choices that align with their values.
7. Faith motives
Veganism is not only a dietary choice but can also be influenced by religious or spiritual beliefs. Within the realm of faith, religious and spiritual aspects have been examined as motivations for embracing a vegan lifestyle . Researchers have explored how these beliefs can serve as drivers for individuals choosing vegan options. However, the connection between faith and veganism remains an area that requires further exploration. Understanding the intersection of religion, spirituality and veganism can shed light on the deeper motivations behind dietary choices and open up new avenues for dialogue and understanding.
8. Political reasons
Veganism extends beyond the realm of personal choice and has connections to broader social and political movements. The political aspect of veganism encompasses a range of issues beyond animal protection, with references to claims for women's or LGBTQ rights. Exploring the intersectionality between veganism and other social movements can provide valuable insights into the multifaceted nature of this lifestyle choice and its potential for driving broader societal change.
9. Justice and world hunger concerns
Veganism holds the potential to address pressing global issues, including world hunger and social inequality. Researchers have examined how veganism can improve food availability . At the same time, some arguments highlight the potential exacerbation of social inequality and injustices.
In conclusion, veganism has captivated researchers from various fields, transcending traditional domains and delving into the intricate tapestry of motivations that fuel this transformative movement. The core motives of health, environmental sustainability and animal welfare form the foundation of veganism, supported by many captivating peripheral factors. Cultural and social factors play a significant role in shaping individual choices and offering avenues for support and connection. The sensory experience of vegan cuisine, with its diverse flavours and textures, captivates our culinary senses and debunks the myth of sensory limitations. Additionally, financial considerations, faith motives, political connections and the potential to address global issues such as world hunger and social inequality further enrich the discourse surrounding veganism. As we navigate this vibrant realm, one thing becomes clear: the power of choice lies in our hands, and by embracing veganism, we can create a compassionate and sustainable world, one vegan choice at a time.
The views expressed by our Research News contributors are not necessarily the views of The Vegan Society.
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