As I’ve been living veg for 15 years now, I’ve encountered many assumptions about veganism. So I’ll be your vegan ambassador and dispel some pervasive myths out there.
1. MYTH: Vegans don’t get enough calcium.
When people think of calcium, they automatically think of dairy. However, many other foods, such as broccoli, kale, soy, are a fantastic source of calcium. Dr. Christiane Northup recently wrote an article on Huffington Post regarding the myth of dietary calcium. In it, she discusses how doctors used to think that the abundance of calcium our diets was a necessity to preventing osteoporosis. However, new studies have shown that increased calcium does not decrease the risk of bone fractures. Also, many cultures around the globe do not consume dairy products and have far less incidents of fractures than Europe and the U.S. So what does reduce fractures?? A less acidic diet (meat, dairy products, carbs). So what diet is recommended?? You guessed it…a vegan diet! Northup says going vegan even one day a week can help.
2. MYTH: Vegans don’t get enough protein.
This is the ubiquitous question that all vegetarians and vegans face. People often assume that meat is the best source of protein. Therefore, if you don’t eat meat, you must not get enough protein. But protein can be found in so many other sources besides animal products. Vegans get it from a variety of foods such as beans, tofu, soy, whole grains and nuts. And if anyone questions the efficacy of a vegan diet for protein, just talk to vegan athletes like Ironman triathlete Brendan Brazier or bodybuilder Robert Cheeke.
3. MYTH: We will make you feel guilty about eating meat.
Okay, so I certainly can’t speak for all vegans in the world. But I also cannot tell you how many people I encounter who say, “Oh you’re so nice, not anything like other vegans.” Apparently, said carnist encountered a vegan who was fired up and started preaching. Now, I’m not going to tell you that I don’t wish everyone became veg, because that would be fabulous. But I also believe that we each need to do what’s right for ourselves and not tell others what to put or not put into their bodies. Many vegetarians and vegans don’t want to make you feel bad about that hamburger or drumstick you’re eating, they just want to share their knowledge and passion.
4. MYTH: All vegans smell of patchouli and hate fashion.
While the scent of patchouli may be nice for incense, it’s not my personal perfume! I cannot tell you how many people are shocked when they discover I’m vegan, simply because I’m an obsessed beautyista. I read fashion mags, get my hair highlighted (with vegan dye thank you Aveda!), and love to wear make-up (thank the gods for Urban Decay, Bare Minerals and MAC). Now of course my shopping habits and beauty rituals differ drastically than most people. I am on a continual hunt for cute vegan shoes and dresses that aren’t made of leather or silk. But it’s become almost like a game, a challenge, a treasure hunt if you will to find great pieces. There are fab sites and lines, such as Vaute Couture (vegan & eco-friendly coats), Matt & Nat (vegan handbags), MooShoes (vegan shoes and boots) and olsen Haus (vegan shoes) dedicated to vegan fashion. Just because we live a conscientious lifestyle, doesn’t mean that me and my fellow vegan sisters want to sacrifice looking pretty.
5. MYTH: Vegans are skinny.
Okay, there’s a certain book out there (yes, I’m talking to you Skinny Bitch!) that increases the perpetuity of this myth. But I’m here to tell you that a vegan diet is not a panacea to weight loss…vegan does NOT equate skinny. In fact, while I lost weight when I became vegetarian, I actually gained weight as a vegan. Of course, munching on vegan cupcakes and getting a desk job don’t help your waistline either! Eating vegan can be far healthier than loading up on artery-clogging meat, particularly if you eat a balanced, organic diet. And once you go veg, you do become acutely aware of what you consume and put in your body, often causing you to become more health conscious. But just like the rest of society, vegans come in all shapes and sizes.
6. MYTH: Vegans are tree huggers.
While many vegans love Mother Earth, not all vegans are eco-conscious. The eco/green movement shares many ideologies with the veg and animal rights movements, particularly concerning respect for others (whether it be the earth or animals). But not all vegans recycle, compost or use reusable bags. For example, I care more about finding a cosmetic that’s vegan and cruelty-free than one that has no chemicals in it. Also, not all who live green are veg.
7. MYTH: Vegans love PETA.
Many vegetarians and vegans adore PETA for its hardcore, in your face approach to animal rights. Veg celebrities like Pam Anderson and Alec Baldwin proudly donate money and pose for them. I have a very love/hate relationship with PETA. I love what they stand for and that they educate the public regarding animal cruelty. However, they also alienate many people with their guerilla tactics and sexism, myself included. As a vegan feminist, while I understand the desire to get the message out, I cannot abide by the objectification of women’s bodies in the name of animal rights. I don’t have a problem with people posing nude. But PETA continually utilizes sexism as well as misogyny (with images of women being abused, chained and caged like the one above) to bring attention to their message. Violence against women is a serious issue. You shouldn’t slight one cause to further another. Also, not all vegans give up meat in the name of animal rights; many do so for health and/or eco issues.
8. MYTH: All vegans are white and upper class.
VegNews featured an article on veganism, race and class in America in their June ’10 issue. According to the Vegetarian Resource Group (VRG), 3% of the U.S. population (about 7.5 million people) are vegetarian and 1% (2.5 million people) are vegan. While no figures exist on the racial composition, there are definitely many vegans of color. Vegan celebs of color such as singer Erykah Badu and actress/musician Persia White, the African-American cuisine cookbook by chef Bryant Terry (Vegan Soul Kitchen) and the blogs Vegans of Color and Sistah Vegan are all testaments to the racial diversity of vegans. Then why is it viewed as an elitist white movement?? White vegans lack of inclusiveness may be excluding or alienating vegans of color. Johanna Eeva, founder of Vegans of Color, writes, “I must say that I’ve never read anything about why I should be a vegan or why I should be in favor of AR that spoke to me as a POC.” Author A. Breeze Harper (Sistah Vegan), asserts that people need to be aware of how “white privilege operates within one’s consciousness.” Regarding class, the astronomical prices at Whole Foods certainly don’t help counter the elitist image. Yet many vegans shop at the more budget-friendly Trader Joe’s or buy seasonal produce at farmers markets. In a conversation I had with author Dr. Melanie Joy, (be on the lookout for my interview with Dr. Joy!). she said that those at the forefront of the veg movement happen to be white and upper class so it appears that all vegans fit this mold, despite the reality.
9. MYTH: Vegans hate food and only eat salads.
This couldn’t be further from the truth. Many vegans are huge foodies (myself included!). Anyone who knows me knows my penchant for cooking and eating. I enjoy whipping up entrees and desserts for my friends, especially my vegan cocoa cupcakes with fudge frosting (yum!). While salads are certainly tasty, vegans enjoy a plethora of dishes. This is evident from the diversity of vegan cookbooks, websites and recipe blogs (including mine!). I have always been a culinary adventurer. But becoming vegan pushes you out of your comfort zone to explore a wider variety of ingredients and cuisines.
10. MYTH: Vegans love animals more than people.
Again, I can’t speak for all vegans. There are certainly people (carnists and veg alike) who enjoy the company of animals more than people. Animals bring us a great deal of joy. But I can tell you that many vegans and vegetarians feel just as passionately about injustice against humans (sexism, racism, genocide, poverty) as they do about inhumane treatment to animals. Animal welfare advocates just want to be sure to give a voice to the voiceless.
So here are some of the top myths. Can you think of other vegan stereotypes lurking out there?? Questions about anything I posted?? If so, be sure to let me know!
Great post. I too hate the assumptions that people make about you because you’re vegan.
I think the thing that bugs me the most is when people ask if I’d be offended if they ate meat in front of me. It’s my personal choice to live this way and I don’t expect anyone else to eat vegan when they’re around me, unless they’re at my house of course:)
nice list, with links and everything! i now go to poke around your blog…
Great list and all true. The first question I always get is “How do you get your protein?” “You must take supplements.”
I am a 6’5″ 250LB vegan 🙂
GREAT POST, Megan. I love that you give options for vegans. While I’m not a vegan, I have been debating about becoming vegetarian for health reasons but have often thought it was too much work and would cost too much to adjust. Thanks for this insight. It is extremely helpful.
Having worked with you for a number of years, and been your friend, Megan, i’ve always been impressed with how non-judgemental you are.
Your a proud vegan/feminist, yet i can joke about my meat & porn consumption in front of you, without offending.
But your also very open to discussing these things, if someone is curious about these subjects (not meat & porn, Veganism & feminism).
It’s so easy to stereotype, based on an individual’s personal lifestyle or dietary choices, yet it’s a very ignorant way to go about life.
Very good vegan article and I agree with all of the important points!
Thank you, Everyone for your kind words. I have to say I’m very proud of this article so I’m glad you all enjoyed!
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I particularly appreciate that you listed the “Vegans are skinny” and “Vegans love PETA” myths. Not necessarily so!
In regards to number 3, I think part of the problem is that most people don’t even notice the vegans who aren’t loud and in their face about it. Unless we go out of our way to tell someone, or end up eating with them in a place where we don’t know the vegan dishes, chances are it might not come up. And even if they do know we’re vegan, if we are just passing through their lives, chances are they won’t remember us, unless we create a hugely negative (or in rare cases, positive) impression.
Meat-eaters tend to associate veganism with the few vocal vegans whom they meet, and like with most minorities, the one stands for the all. I have so often encountered a negative impression from meat-eaters, which was established long before I got there, and which I can do nothing to dislodge, even if I am a clear violation of all their prejudices about who a vegan is and looks like. I am the exception to the rule, but the rule often got established by just one person (or sometimes none at all)!
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Very well written and down to earth! I like the openness of your arguments, which far from fierce or dogmatic. You explain very well how much the vegan world is diverse.
It is interesting that we all encounter similar responses from other people.
However, my opinion is that food politics are more complicates as exploitation extends to human and non-human animals. Vegan food can still come out of human exploitation from large-scale monocrops and could be detrimental for the environment. Vegan food can still come from a large-scale corporation and can be bought from a supermarket, with all the impacts on local businesses and farmers (‘price squeeze’ and ‘funnel’ effects). Veganism by itself does not provide answers to the growing concerns of food waste (in US around 50% of the total food) and overconsumption, which are intimately linked with world poverty (1 out of 2 people on earth) and hunger (925.ooo.ooo million, FAO 2011).
I see veganism as part of ethical consumerism and post-materialism. This is where we need to go, we need to forge alternatives, not just buy vegan.
Thank you so much! My desire to avoid animal cruelty and exploitation catalyzed my becoming vegan. But I agree with you that veganism won’t solve all the world’s problems. But it’s a start. A lot of the waste that’s created comes from factory farming. I agree we need to be ethical consumers and support local businesses. There’s a great book/cookbook on eating vegan and local, Ripe From Around Here: A Vegan Guide to Local and Sustainable Eating by Jae Steele.
Wonderful article! Greetings and vegan love from Mexico.
Well, I am a vegan who is a tree-hugging, anti-fashion hippie, but not all vegans have to be! Also, as a vegan person of color, I appreciate your debunking of that myth.
Myth #10 is not a myth, but a fact. Nearly all vegans I know of, are staunch supporters for abortion rights…which makes no sense to me. It’s okay to suck the embryos (also known as a living organism which would’ve developed into a living human being or unborn babies) in a vacuum to clear your personal worried brows, but not okay to eat an chicken’s egg? Planned parenthood or planned extermination = genocide to me. I’ve seen more support for life from vegans concerning dogs and cats then a pregnant woman’s unborn. Never heard of anyone in therapy or begging for forgiveness for eating an egg. Sheez! I’m a vegan, too – but I’m not delusional. Just another cloned article featuring self-righteous propaganda. If it doesn’t make sense, no one’s gonna buy it.
As long as vegans don’t think that the embryos/fetuses have rights before a particular stage in their development, they are perfectly consistent.
The reason I don’t eat eggs has nothing to do with the chance it could contain a fetus – it’s all to do with the rights of the hens being violated and male chicks being slaughtered.
Until late pregnancy, fetuses are not sentient, so I have no moral qualms about pregnancies being ended, so long as the mother gives consent, or where the mother is unable to decide for herself, it is in the mother’s best interests.
A dog or a cat has the desire to live and feels pain and other emotions – a fetus has none of these characteristics for most (arguably all) of pregnancy.
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Agreed with your perspective, Megan: gender- or race-based violence is a serious issue, not something to stage for other purposes. The captivity of elephants and others is an unjustice to be dealt with directly, not through photos of violence using glamorous celebs in order to titillate an audience. Praise to the people and groups working all over the world to end animal use in circuses with no history of exploiting one group to advance the cause of another.
Moreover, no group with a policy of systematic killing (for even if they call it euthanasia, killing it is) should be taken as a vegan or animal-rights group; that activity, to my mind, places any such group firmly in the animal-control sphere. Does anyone give a pass to, say, a refugee-advocacy group that has a policy and practice of killing humans to stop their suffering or because their are too many of them?
Thanks for mentioning Bryant Terry’s recipes! A friend made Terry’s molasses cake for a solstice gathering I attended; it will not soon be forgotten.
And thank you for writing so many thoughtful pieces. I look forward to enjoying them all.
Love & liberation,
If you are vegan, than how can you purchase mac products as they are infamous for animal cruelty and animal testing?
Because Mac was cruelty-free when I wrote this post 6 years ago.
MAC Cosmetics is NOT vegan! They regularly test their products on animals!
Yes, I’m fully aware. MAC was cruelty-free and had vegan products when I wrote this post 6 years ago.
Vegans love animals more than people? The point is that vegans recognise that they ARE animals. We are a primate from the Hominidae family (great apes). I try to avoid the exploitation and eating of any animal, even one that has become feral and causes huge environmental destruction like Homo sapiens. Am I offended by someone eating meat in front of me? Not really, but nor am I squeamish when watching Hannibal.
And yes, I do love PETA.
Yep, I and other vegans are fully aware that people are animals too. Clearly, I was referring to the distinction between humans and non-human animals.
Yeah, vegans come in all sizes, shapes, personal beliefs, political stances and a lot of other variables. I am extremely conservative, love the Republican party AND deeply oppose abortion as immoral. At the same time, veganism is the way to go for one’s health. There is far too much evidence out there that demonstrates meat and meat byproducts correlate with poor health.
where to get that t shirt please?