1. Home
  2. Retail
  3. news
  4. How these professionals are challenging stereotypes about veganism, from how it's marketed to who can do it

How these professionals are challenging stereotypes about veganism, from how it's marketed to who can do it

Anna Keeve   

How these professionals are challenging stereotypes about veganism, from how it's marketed to who can do it
  • For many people and businesses, consumption of animal products is the norm.
  • While vegan eating and living is becoming increasingly normalized, it still has a way to go.

Anthony Bourdain once said: "Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, the vegans … are the enemy of everything good and decent in the human spirit." He's far from alone in that sentiment.

Vegans, who don't consume or use animal products or by-products, have faced an uphill battle with stereotypes and judgment. And while defecting from meat, dairy, and animal products is becoming increasingly normalized, those stereotypes still exist — in everything from marketing to interpersonal relationships.

Whether one identifies as vegan or plant-based — or something else on the veg spectrum — the notion of rejecting the status quo of consuming meat, eggs, and dairy still goes against the norm. That means even as veganism goes more mainstream, old stereotypes are hard to shed.

One vegan changing the narrative is TikTok vegan foodie Tabitha Brown, who said going vegan helped her with chronic pain and fatigue.

"Four years ago I didn't think I would have been vegan — who knew," Brown told CBS Morning News host Ben Tracy in an interview. Research has shown that Black Americans are nearly three times more likely to be strictly vegan or vegetarian than other Americans, and Brown is one of them.

"What did you think of vegans?" Tracy asked.

"I honestly thought: 'That's for white people,' particularly white women who do yoga and maybe they're in a cult," Brown said with a laugh.

Brown's fame started as a fun project encouraged by her kids, where she posted vegan cooking demos with life lessons sprinkled on top. Now, Brown's one of the most notable and influential vegans today.

"My goal is not to judge anyone, or force my lifestyle on anyone," Brown told CBS. "It's simply to share what it did for me. And representation matters, right. So now when people think of a vegan, they also think of a Black woman with an afro."

Allen Pizza, an Atlantic City-based DJ and music producer, ditched animal products when his heart health devolved and he got diagnosed with a rare disease. He went fully vegan in 2013, and recounted dating a girl who told him: "You're not a man if you don't eat meat."

Pizza would beg friends, several of whom had health issues like diabetes, to just try going vegan or eating plant-based. He was brushed off. But starting a few years ago, he said friends actually started calling him to ask for advice on how to make the shift.

"Some people just won't change until it's catastrophic to their own well-being," Pizza told Insider.

A few vegan restaurants have opened in his hometown in New Jersey, and he finally convinced friends to go with him. To their surprise, he said, they liked it.

Muzammil Ahmad, a fourth-year medical student from Edmonton, Canada, gravitated toward veganism due to personal observation and science.

"I have witnessed many health problems including cancer, heart disease and diabetes in my family," Ahmad said. "I also had suffered from my own health issues including migraines, cystic acne and chronic fatigue."

After combing through research studies on health and watching documentaries on animal-welfare topics, Ahmad knew going vegan and focusing on plant-based eating was for him. But those around him had questions: mainly, where he gets protein, calcium, and iron.

"Once I was able to answer the scientific nutrition-related questions, the reactions became much better and more people became interested in learning more," Ahmad said.

Ahmad believes men tend to have a hard time with veganism "due to the marketing tactics by the meat industry, as well as the old traditions and sayings associating meat with masculinity." Ahmad is now sharing his plant-based knowledge with others through nutrition coaching and public speaking as he continues with his doctorate.

"It is important to keep raising this awareness to keep reducing this stigma," Ahmad said. "It has been more than three years since that decision, and I have not looked back. My health is much better. I have not had a single migraine since, my skin cleared up, and my energy levels have been great. And I am happier knowing I am making a positive impact to the planet and helping reduce animal cruelty caused by our food system."

Beth Skidmore, a California resident and founder of the nonprofit Rooted Santa Barbara, recalls going vegan about 10 years ago and not having a lot of resources. Now, Skidmore says, "there is an exciting shift happening."

But going vegan or eating an entirely plant-based diet is still commonly seen as restrictive and extreme. Skidmore's trying to change that perception through her nonprofit, which focuses on education and health outcomes associated with plant-based eating.

"Also, often vegan eating is thought to be expensive," Skidmore told Insider. "But whole grains and beans are some of the most cost-effective foods, while some of the more highly processed vegan foods that can help replicate the meat or cheese experience, are often more expensive."

Skidmore also touched on the uses of different terminology.

"For me, 'plant-based' has helped open the conversation more and highlight the health aspects," she said. "Even if you're interested in plant-based eating for ethical or environmental reasons, it helps to understand how to prioritize foods for health and affordability so that it's sustainable."

For many, going vegan, or even shifting to a more plant-centric lifestyle, seems extreme. But for those like Pizza, Ahmad, and Skidmore, it's a choice rooted in their own values.

"I've become exponentially passionate about all the benefits of this lifestyle and am incredibly proud to live this way," Skidmore said.


Popular Right Now