Veganism’s opponents outline a host of objections to the lifestyle to justify their hostility. Per a now-familiar joke (Q: How do you know if someone’s vegan? A: Don’t worry, they’ll tell you), vegans are portrayed as preachy and sanctimonious, a characteristic that rankled among MacInnis and Hodson’s respondents in particular, who viewed “vegetarians/vegans more negatively when their motivations concern social justice rather than personal health”.
There are rational motives to oppose vegan diets on health grounds. They can be deficient in crucial nutrients such as vitamin B-12. This is especially notable in the case of extreme diets (such as fruitarianism) advocated by some vegan bloggers or Instagram influencers with unorthodox approaches to nutritional science. Various supermarket chains have also attempted to meet the burgeoning demand for vegan products with highly processed vegan ready meals – from the Impossible Burger to plant-based meatballs, goujons and hot dogs. As Bee Wilson argued in these pages, the high proportion of processed ingredients in these products means the so-called health halo they enjoy may well be illusory.
Perhaps all we are doing, as veganism truly goes mainstream and companies such as Beyond Meat reap windfalls, is replacing one kind of industrialised system with another. Evidence suggests that intensive livestock farming is a poor solution to world hunger, given its impact on personal health and the environment, but intensive industrialised farming of soya, maize and grains comes at a significant carbon cost, too – as does flying in the ingredients to keep berries and nut butters on acai bowls or avocado on toast.