Home Opinions Hatred of veganism is rooted in toxic masculinity

Hatred of veganism is rooted in toxic masculinity

Hand crushing vegetation and vegetable
Illustration by Ericka Vervynckt | Staff Illustrator

For vegans and vegetarians, adherence to a plant-based diet can sometimes draw the ire of friends, family or random strangers while eating for nourishment. The strawman of vegans frequently and strongly interjecting their diet into all facets of conversation is an easy target to poke fun at, whether it’s something the person has actually experienced or not. It’s fun and easy to make jokes about vegans because reducing animal cruelty and environmental impact in one’s diet is just ridiculous and deserves ridicule.

Passionate hatred for plant-based diets and the people who practice them is common and accepted because it is rooted in toxic masculinity and a culture of violence. A huge caveat and disclaimer about this assertion is this does not mean all people who eat meat are bad people or that all vegans are inherently better people because of their decision.

It does not mean you must be vegan to accurately consider yourself a feminist nor does it mean all vegans are completely innocent of and separate from toxic masculinity and a culture of violence. The statement only means the disdain some people who consume meat have for vegans and vegetarians is rooted in and consistent with toxic masculinity and how it also surfaces in other areas of society, such as rape culture and homophobia.

When someone identifies as living a plant-based lifestyle, the common assumption is they are weak, scrawny and over-emotional. While this may be true for some of these individuals, the two ideas are not synonymous. There are bodybuildersathletes and actors who have built their physiques on vegan diets and don’t fit these preconceived stereotypes at all. This disrupts the narrative of a person needing to eat a sizable amount of animal protein to appear strong or, in the case of male bodybuilders and athletes, “manly”.

In 2014, 79 percent of vegans and 59 percent of vegetarians identified as female. Whether one wants to admit it or not, the idea of the plant-based diet has taken on a feminine identity. Common reasons people remove meat from their diet, such as compassion for animals and the planet, are also considered to be typically feminine. Women are generally raised and expected to be compassionate and deliberate when interacting with another person’s emotions. While men are generally more rewarded for being competitive, proud and tough, all values consistent with a culture which promotes the consumption of meat. For men, the decision to remove meat from one’s diet is often met with the stigma of not being a “real man,” incorrectly identifying meat consumption as a vital part of masculinity. Anti-veganism may be rooted in toxic masculinity, but the key word is toxic. Traditional masculine roles and appearances are not inherently at odds with a successful vegan or vegetarian lifestyle.

Anne DeLessio-Parson, a sociology instructor at Pennsylvania State University, explored the relationship between gender and the consumption of meat in South American cultures in a scholarly article published in 2017. The research she conducted led her to transition into a vegan diet. When she appeared on Fox News to explain the research, host Jesse Watters proceeded to eat steak in front of DeLessio-Parson. Watters’ stunt was an exhibition of toxic masculinity to invalidate DeLessio-Parson’s research because of her identity as both a woman and a plant-based advocate. DeLessio-Parson’s appearance on the show was likely not instigated by the producers because Fox News considered her work newsworthy, but rather to set up a target for Watters to belittle DeLessio-Parson on-screen. This charade intentionally sought to make a vegan woman in academia uncomfortable for the purposes of comedy without any respect for her work or her dignity.

This is not a call to end all vegan jokes, as vegans and vegetarians also possess senses of humor and the ability to self-critique. But the unhealthy expectations of men and how they impact society has a strong connection with the widespread consumption of meat and the expectation for all to partake in the practice to appear normal. You don’t have to join your vegan friend’s lifestyle. Just give them the same respect you reserve for yourself and others. Engage in discourse, educate yourself and others and remain open-minded about plant-based diets and leave the fragile masculinity charade at the door.


  1. The vast majority of vegans are white so the plant-based diet has taken on a white identity, and therefore promotes white supremacy. Do better Zach. I eat burgers to fight white supremacy. You should too.

    Also, Prof. DeLessio-Parson’s paper was published in the *Journal of Feminist Geography*. Feminist professors are activists. They do not produce “scholarly” research, the produce propaganda.

  2. “When someone identifies as living a plant-based lifestyle…”

    But, what if I identify *as* a plant? Why are you eating my brethren and sistren?

  3. I am male, 100% through and through. I don’t give two rat’s butts about what another person eats. If they want to eat a plant based diet, fine. Just don’t expect me to get all excited about it. I’ve eaten vegan meals and they can be very good.

    However, this silly notion that hatred of veganism and the like being rooted in “toxic masculinity” is total hogwash. For one thing, no one to date has given a satisfactory definition of toxic masculinity nor have they satisfactorily explained why masculinity is so toxic. Perhaps if you did that, then you might give yourself some credibility on this matter.

    • I think you just proved the authors point, Ted. Nothing like a “man” (for lack of better word) getting hot headed over an article talking about toxic masculinity.

  4. Toxic masculinity? No, people usually snarl at Vegans because they tend to be smug, sexist, condescending people, and say very sexist, degrading things…sort of like the author of this article (a vegan, I presume?). Vegans also don’t have a clue that it is what comes out of your mouth that makes you a good person, not what you put in it.

    • Actually there is a saying “I don’t think I’m superior because I’m vegan, I’m vegan because I do not think I am superior”. Think about it, absorb it, if you’re true to yourself you’ll get it… if you’re a toxic masc. you won’t. And remember, you don’t become vegan because you give a rats ass what people like you think, you become vegan for the animals.

    • Joseph Dutton, I don’t know which vegans you have spoken to, but vegans are generally anti-sexism, especially since the dairy and egg industries exploit and enslave the female reproductive system. Also, if some vegans are saying “degrading” things, whatever that means, vegans are just people and we are all different, but trying to do our best like everyone else. Veganism is about love and compassion for all beings, and if that is not coming across, have a constructive dialogue, don’t just label and denounce us.

  5. If you wanna be vegan fine, but if I want to keep eating meat that’s my choice! Yes I still love my pet dog and kill and eat cows and chickens cause that’s what society has told me to do. No i don’t know why society has told me to love one but eat the other. I know they both are morally the same and feel pain, joy, suffering, emotions, have families, socialize, and want to live….but dammit i’m human i’m better i’m smarter so i get to do whatever i want with farm animals! I don’t care if eating meat is one of the leading causes of water use, land use, greenhouse emissions, global warming, ocean dead zones, species extinction, heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, i want my burger dammit!

    I love the taste of meat! Of course I won’t eat it raw or unseasoned! Gross! No i don’t look at live animals or road kill and salivate and get hungry like true omnivores do, but i’m an omnivore dammit, i swear! I was born to eat meat and its my right to do so! We’ve been doing it for millions of years so it must be natural, necessary, and healthy! I’m never going to change even if its hurting animals, the Earth, and my health! Its all BS, meat is great. I’m better than animals so i can eat them if i want, i’m superior, animals are dumb and taste great. Those Asians are weird for eating dogs though, wtf, but cows are steak and yummy.
    Fish can’t feel pain either, right? Ah, hell, even if they could, sushi is too good to give up.
    Plus fishing is so fun, its tradition in my family, so its okay. I love holding up a fish i just caught and take a picture smiling, even tho its suffocating, i think, is it? Ah who cares, as long as its not me suffocating!

    No i wouldn’t want the tables reversed and for me to be the animal. I’m human, I’m superior, we’re more advanced, so we can own animals and do what we want with them. I can’t believe white people thought black people were inferior though just b/c the color of their skin, that’s just wrong. People actually owned other humans as slaves? And it was legal? Wow that’s crazy kinda.
    I would never do that. And men didn’t want to give women the right to vote? Why not, they are equal to men for sure.

    But seriously God made man and he put animals here for us to eat cause the Bible is the absolute truth.

  6. The author uses words he doesn’t actually understand.
    To wit, strawman: “The strawman of vegans frequently and strongly interjecting their diet into all facets of conversation is an easy target to poke fun at, whether ait’s something the person has actually experienced or not.”
    That’s not a “strawman.” That’s a legit observation of what primarily vegans do, while acting smug and superior. Like total assholes.
    Rooted in toxic masculinity? LMAO Whatever dude. Get over yourself.
    I (nor most people, for that matter) don’t “hate” vegans. It’s just that their attitude toward non-vegans is generally insufferable. Self-righteous assholes, all-too-often.


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