Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

First Advisor

Deserai Anderson Crow

Second Advisor

Nabil Echchaibi

Third Advisor

Patricia Malesh

Abstract

Veganism, a practice that involves excluding animal products from one's diet and life, chiefly due to ethical concerns, is largely at odds with contemporary cultural norms. Scholars have framed vegans as members of a movement that seeks to affect change at the cultural level. This study addresses the role individual vegans play in promoting veganism to non-vegans, based on the assumption that vegans have the potential to attract others to veganism, normalize the vegan lifestyle, and increase the movement's numbers.

This study employs a qualitative design and directed interview method. Based on responses from a sample (n = 19) of self-identified vegans, it explores the ways in which vegans communicate about veganism with those who are not vegan.

Since food is the prime site where vegans deviate from cultural norms, respondents emphasized the way in which they seek to normalize vegan food. In public advocacy situations this entails offering food samples that are usually coupled with vegan literature. In interactions with non-vegans within a vegan's social network, vegans might prepare food for friends, share recipes, and guide others in how to source and prepare vegan meals. These actions play a role in spreading veganism by creating a familiarity with what vegans eat and introducing others to an alternative mode of eating.

While vegans see movies and books that expose the maltreatment of animals in the modern food production system as valuable educational tools, it is not always the case that this is the type of information disseminated to non-vegans. Vegans also see value in sharing texts that focus on the human-health benefits of following a vegan diet. Online, vegans report disseminating a range of content through personal social media channels, ranging from videos of animal treatment at factory farms to pictures of vegan food.

It was found that the majority of vegans in the sample see value in promoting the lifestyle. However, in sharing vegan food, as well as information, vegans do not always aim to foment a vegan conversion among recipients. Some vegans report trying to prompt friends and family members to simply reduce their consumption of meat and other animal products. In some cases, vegans report having played a role in converting others to vegetarianism or veganism.

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