Understanding Vegaphobia: An Insight Into Fear of Vegetarians and Vegans

Navigating the world of food preferences can sometimes feel like walking through a minefield.

This guide shines a light on vegaphobia, an irrational fear or hatred of vegetarians and vegans. You’ll dive deep into the psychology behind this prejudice, unraveling the threads of misunderstanding and intolerance.

You’ll also get an insight into the many forms vegaphobia takes, from harmless teasing to outright denial and institutional discrimination.

Read on and learn about this issue that often goes unnoticed yet impacts a significant number of people around the globe!

Key Takeaways

  • Vegaphobia is a term coined by sociologists Matthew Cole and Karen Morgan in 2011 to describe an irrational fear or discrimination against vegetarians and vegans.
  • This bias extends beyond mere food preferences and can lead to social exclusion and even harassment.
  • Misconceptions about the nutritional value of vegetarian and vegan diets often fuel this prejudice, along with fear of the “other” or those challenging societal norms.
  • Vegaphobia can manifest in several ways, such as teasing, denial of existence or ethics, scaremongering, and institutional discrimination.
  • It’s essential to foster a deeper understanding and acceptance of diverse lifestyle choices to challenge vegaphobia effectively.

What Is Vegaphobia?

angry women holding vegan written paper hand

Taken from: https://theveganreview.com/why-people-get-angry-vegan-hate-discrimination/

In simple terms, vegaphobia is essentially a bias or discrimination against those who’ve chosen a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle.

You might ask why such a term even exists. It’s because people who choose to follow a plant-based diet often encounter negative attitudes, judgments, and even hostility from others.

This isn’t just about food preferences, it’s about respecting lifestyle choices and acknowledging the diversity in our societal fabric.

The term ‘vegaphobia’ was first coined in 2011 by sociologists Matthew Cole and Karen Morgan. They noticed a troubling trend in the British media where vegans were consistently portrayed in an unfavorable light.

Their groundbreaking study brought attention to the persistent bias, intolerance, and even fear towards individuals who don’t consume animal products.

Analyzing this further, you’ll see that vegaphobia is more than just a dislike or disagreement with veganism or vegetarianism. It’s a form of social discrimination that can lead to exclusion and sometimes even harassment. It can occur in various settings, from family situations where the vegetarian option is scorned to workplaces where vegan employees face ridicule.

Why Does Vegaphobia Occur?

Vegephobia is often driven by misconceptions about a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle. Some people mistakenly believe that these diets are deficient in essential nutrients, while others might see the choice as a threat to traditional food culture.

In essence, understanding vegaphobia means recognizing it as a real form of prejudice. It’s about fostering empathy for diverse lifestyle choices and challenging the stereotypes and misconceptions that fuel this bias.

Remember, it’s not just about what’s on our plates but also about the respect and understanding we extend to each other’s choices.

The Psychology Behind Vegaphobia

You might find yourself wondering why vegaphobia exists – after all, everyone should be free to pursue whatever walk of life fits them.

Unfortunately, it’s a complex issue rooted deeply in psychology. It’s not just a simple dislike for those who abstain from animal products but a defensive reaction that reveals more about the person harboring this bias than the vegetarians or vegans themselves.

Research shows that negative attitudes towards vegetarians and vegans are widespread.

You might be surprised to learn that in one 2011 study, 47% of the participants already held a negative view of vegetarians – a view that intensified when they felt vegetarians saw themselves as morally superior.

The authors of the paper conclude that this is a clear indication of the insecurities and unresolved inner conflicts present in those who express vegaphobia.

A groundbreaking 2015 research paper by Cara C. MacInnis and Gordon Hodson found that vegetarians and vegans were judged similarly to immigrants, asexuals, and atheists and more negatively than people of color.

research result of biasness towards vegan

Taken from: https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/It-ain%E2%80%99t-easy-eating-greens%3A-Evidence-of-bias-and-MacInnis-Hodson/2fb28a3bad1440c93debe64664d70e314ac2af93

The same study suggests this prejudice isn’t simply a dislike for a different group. Instead, it’s a defensive response, perhaps a deep-seated fear of the ‘other’ – people who are different or who challenge societal norms.

Understanding the psychology behind vegaphobia is a vital step towards fostering more tolerance and acceptance.

Forms of Vegephobia

As evidenced by the brochure from the 2013 Geneva Veggie Pride, vegaphobia manifests in various ways, ranging from subtle microaggressions to outright discrimination and hostility. Understanding these forms is essential to identifying this prejudice.

From teasing and mockery to denial and even institutional discrimination, let’s examine these forms closely, understanding their nuances to comprehend the complexity of this phobia better.

Teasing and Mockery

Basic vegephobia often shows up in the form of teasing and mockery, a seemingly light-hearted behavior that can actually serve to belittle and demean vegetarians and vegans.

This knee-jerk reaction may seem fun or friendly, but don’t be fooled – it’s often the first stage of aggression.

Teasing can escalate to harassment, making you feel compelled to hide your dietary choices. The teasing may:

  • Play on your sensitivity
  • Deny the viability of your lifestyle
  • Excessively praise the taste of meat
  • Use nonsensical arguments (e.g., Animals don’t mind being sacrificed for meat).

It’s important to recognize this behavior for what it is – a manifestation of vegephobia. Remember, your choice to be vegetarian or vegan is valid, and you deserve respect.


Another common form of vegephobia you might encounter is denial, which can take numerous shapes and forms.

It’s an insidious type of negation that often marginalizes vegetarians and vegans, making them feel isolated or unheard.

  • Denial of existence: This is where vegetarianism and veganism are simply ignored as viable solutions. For instance, people may simply outright dismiss the possibility of a plant-based lifestyle, calling it pointless or wrong.
  • Invalid ethics: In this form, the ethical choices of vegetarians and vegans are undermined or dismissed, contributing to a sense of invalidation.
  • Scaremongering: This refers to spreading false arguments about veganism or vegetarianism, often through unbalanced or misrepresented medical advice.

Institutional Discrimination

Often, you’ll encounter forms of vegephobia deeply ingrained in our society’s institutions, subtly discriminating against vegetarians and vegans in ways you mightn’t immediately recognize.

This bias is evident in the healthcare sector, where many doctors lacking nutritional training might express disapproval.

This gap in their training creates an environment where vegans fear discussing their lifestyle choices.

Moreover, certain mass media outlets also perpetuate this discrimination. It paints vegan parents as out-of-the-ordinary, creating an unbridgeable distance between them and the audience.

Frequency of negative discourses of veganism by newspaper

Taken from: https://foodethics.univie.ac.at/fileadmin/user_upload/p_foodethik/Cole__M._2011._Vegaphobia._derogatory_discourses_of_veganism.pdf

It’s a common criticism that vegetarian parents bypass mainstream doctors, opting for alternative medicine. Yet, the irony lies in the fact that most mainstream doctors can’t provide accurate dietary advice to vegans.


Vegaphobia is an issue that impacts vegetarians and vegans worldwide, manifesting in various forms, from teasing to institutional discrimination.

It is fueled by misconceptions and a lack of understanding about plant-based diets. Understanding the psychology behind this bias is key to fostering a more inclusive society where everyone’s lifestyle choices are respected.

Remember, diversity is what makes our world vibrant and exciting. So, let’s strive for tolerance, empathy, and understanding instead of allowing biases and phobias to dictate our attitudes.

By doing so, we can create a more accepting society where individuals feel free to express their dietary choices without fear of prejudice or discrimination.