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"If I became a vegan, my family and friends would hate me:" Anticipating vegan stigma as a barrier to plant-based diets.


A significant body of literature has developed which examines why meat consumption continues to be so important to Americans. Our paper contributes to this literature by examining how fear of stigmatization may be a barrier to avoiding meat consumption. This is an important subject because there is evidence that suggests that individuals who avoid meat, especially vegans, are stigmatized for disrupting social conventions related to food. In this paper, we present data from a series of focus groups in which vegan, vegetarian, and omnivorous college students discussed perceptions of vegans and veganism. Our analysis shows that non-vegans anticipate stigma associated with eating like vegans. We identify two strategies by which non-vegans attempt to avoid this stigma: social and behavioral distancing. These results suggest that vegan stigma is a barrier that inhibits dietary shifts toward a plant-based diet. Our results are important because they can be used to improve the efficacy of public health initiatives focused on encouraging plant-based diet adoption and meat consumption reduction. Copyright © 2018 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.