Social relationships and health found the most effective in vegan advocacy

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» Social relationships and health found the most effective in vegan advocacy

Research carried out by social scientists has found family relationships may be a major pathway to veganism as non-vegan relatives are most likely to respond to health messages in the promotion of veganism.

The year-long Pathways to Veganism study, which questioned omnivores and vegetarians, aimed to understand how non-vegans perceive veganism and which pro-vegan messages are the most effective.

There was greater engagement with health messages and participants indicated they have already or would in the future pass on health information about veganism.

However, the literature examined as part of the study suggested the moral position on veganism is more likely to result in sustained commitment to the lifestyle.

The Vegan Society had identified the need for and funded the project, which was developed into a study and carried out by Prof Claire Parkinson, Dr Richard Twine and Dr Naomi Griffin from the Centre for Human-Animal Studies (CfHAS) at Edge Hill University.

Dr Lorna Brocksopp, Research Officer at The Vegan Society, said: “This has been an excellent opportunity for The Vegan Society to be proactively involved in a piece of academic research which will have a direct impact on professional practice. The findings will be instrumental in shaping our future campaigns and research directions and it has been a pleasure to collaborate with CfHAS.”

The study, which was the first of the kind, used a mixed methods approach including an online questionnaire, household interviews and focus groups.

Prof Parkinson said: “The research revealed that non-vegans were more receptive to health messages about veganism than to environmental or ethics messages. It also showed how important family dynamics are in establishing and maintaining food practices.

“It was interesting to find out that celebrity endorsement of veganism was viewed with such a high degree of scepticism by study participants, but our findings also suggested that vegan sportspeople and celebrities are important in challenging stereotypes around vegans’ health and strength.”

Dr Twine added: “Some of the most interesting findings of our study are in the way food practices come to constitute everyday routines which can be resistant to change. Family relations were seen to be both barriers and pathways to veganism.

“It was also interesting to see that vegetarian practice was becoming ‘pulled toward veganism’. Barely any of our vegetarian interviewees only excluded meat from their diet but had also begun to exclude other animal products.”

You can read about which findings will inform The Vegan Society policy, future organisational strategy and research, as well as individual team plans, here