Epistemic status: moderate. 

Three EAs have reread this article; one has experience running anti-discrimination and advocacy trainings, and another is a long-standing veg*n. Most of it is intuition and relatively undiscussed, so I’d love feedback! 


The fear of veg*ns or discrimination against veg*ns.[1]


Norm challenges 

Veg*nism threatens the status quo by challenging society’s norms about food.[2] Since food is a social cohesive  – that is, it brings helps keep people and groups together – a threat to those norms threatens those groups.[3] Groups and individuals on groups’ behalfs turn defensive in response. 

These norms include enjoying meat, finding meats easy to cook for lots of nutrients, seeing meat as intrinsic to a culture, or as an indicator of belonging to a group.[4]

Identity challenges

Veg*nism threatens non-subscribers’ identity and moral integrity. Defensiveness naturally arises whenever someone feels they are under attack.[5]

This quote best illustrates how veg*nism challenges identities: “It is impossible to talk about diets without also talking about the implied inadequacies of those who do not follow them; to paraphrase Brillat-Savarin, tell someone what to eat and you tell them who to be.”[6]

Interconnected challenges

Veg*nism highlights how meat-eating threatens other causes people care about. This highlight challenges them to give up something they see worth keeping for another cause’s sake.

This quote illustrates environmental interconnectedness: “But in coining the term “ecocide” – and classing it as a crime against humanity – Mansfield framed the debate in different terms. We might portray the current moment as a precipice, and the growing interest in plant-based diets as the surest way back to safety.”[7]


  1. Physical: On March 30, 2019, Deonisy Khlebnikov and Gatis Lagzdins skinned and ate a raw squirrel in front of a crowd of vegans in front of a vegan stall in Soho, the WestEnd of London.[8]
  2. Social: a 2007 newspaper article reads, “[t]hey will leave my home thinking I am a Devil-worshipping vegan naturist, hopelessly gay, with a much-kissed photo of John Prescott by my bed.”[9]
  3. Institutional: A London NHS trust (a unit of the UK’s National Health Service) 2017 put up a discriminatory job advert for an occupational therapist, saying, “Unfortunately, OTs with vegan diets cannot be considered.”[10]


Sophie Wilkinson of Grazia opined in 2018[11] that vegaphobia should not be labelled discrimination because veg*nism is “is not who you are, but rather what you choose to do.[12] That said, a UK employment tribunal ruled that “ethical veganism is a philosophical belief that is protectred by law against discrimination.”[13]

General Implications[14]

  1. Vegaphobia misrepresents the experience of veg*nism, and thereby marginalizes veg*ns.
  2. Vegaphobia perpetuates a moral injury to omnivorous readers who are not presented with the opportunity to understand veg*nism and the challenge to speciesism that it contains. 
  3. Vegaphobia obscures and reproduces exploitative and violent interactions between humans and nonhuman animals. 

EA-specific Implications

  1. Individual EAs are disproportionately affected by vegaphobia since veg*ns are overrepresented in the EA community (in the 2019 EA Survey, 46% of respondents indicated they were veg*n, as opposed to 5% U.S. census respondents, and 10% of UK census respondents).[15]
  2. When associated with veg*nism, the EA community becomes a target of vegaphobia.

Potential responses

All these initiatives could be done for the veg*n EA community or the broader veg*n community.

  1. Collect information on:
    1. How often veg*ns experience vegaphobia;
    2. What forms vegaphobia takes;
    3. How vegaphobia affects experience with being veg*n;
    4. How vegaphobia affects veg*ns and non-veg*ns’ relationship with EA.
  2. Support those experiencing v*gaphobia through:
    1. Veg*n resiliency training to face vegaphobia;
    2. Veg*n community support forums;
    3. Veg*n allyship training;
    4. Active bystander training.[16]
  3. Counter vegaphobia by:
    1. Disseminating information on vegaphobia;
    2. Researching and addressing causes of vegaphobia;
    3. Normalizing veg*nism;
    4. Advocating for veg*nism.

ITN Analysis

Importance: low to moderate

If kept to the EA community, in the short term, these initiatives will impact a relatively small group of people (at most, all EAs). While it will modestly improve some veg*ns’ well-being and may prevent some veg*n recidivism,[17] it may not be the most effective way to reduce animal suffering. It supports community building by increasing cohesion and concrete mutual support.

If shared with the broader community, these initiatives could have a moderate impact on animal suffering by destigmatizing veg*n diets, thus enabling more people to adopt them. 

In the long term, these initiatives can be generalized to other phobias targeting the EA community (hostility towards longtermism already begins to fester, in my personal experience) or populations beyond the EA community. They also create a supportive and diet-conscious culture that is desirable in the long-term.

Tractability: very high 

The kinds of training and surveys I suggest can be relatively easily developed and dissimulated. 

Neglectedness: moderately high 

To my knowledge, this post is the first that deals with vegaphobia on the EA Forum. There seem to be few EA-related resources or research like the kind I suggest. That said, the prominence of the veg*n community in EA and the community’s passive support could substitute some of the listed responses. 

[1] Matthew Cole & Karen Morgan, “Vegaphobia: derogatory discourses of veganism and the reproduction of speciesism in UK national newspapers1: Vegaphobia” (2011) 62:1 The British Journal of Sociology 134–153.

[2] Abigail Higgins, “Why do people hate vegans so much?” Vox (2 November 2018), online: <https://www.vox.com/future-perfect/2018/11/2/18055532/vegans-vegetarian-research-uk>.

[3] Christine Horne, “Norms”, online: obo <https://www.oxfordbibliographies.com/display/document/obo-9780199756384/obo-9780199756384-0091.xml>.

[4] George Reynolds, “Why do people hate vegans?”, The Guardian (25 October 2019), online: <https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2019/oct/25/why-do-people-hate-vegans>.

[5] Higgins, supra note 2.

[6] Reynolds, supra note 4.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Press Association, “Pro-meat protesters fined for eating raw squirrels at vegan stall”, The Guardian (23 July 2019), online: <https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2019/jul/23/pro-meat-protesters-fined-eating-raw-squirrels-vegan-stall>.

[9] Citing Mail on Sunday 2007 ‘Shameless Sums Up This Scruffy, Workshy Britain’, 18 March: 80 (unverified). Cole & Morgan, “Vegaphobia”, supra note 1.

[10] “Vegaphobia” in Wikipedia (2022) Page Version ID: 1123123448.

[11] Sophie Wilkinson, “No, Vegan-Based Discrimination Is Nonsense”, online: Grazia <https://graziadaily.co.uk/life/food-and-drink/no-vegan-based-discrimination-is-nonsense/>.

[12] Supra note 10.

[13] Damien Gayle, “Ethical veganism is a belief protected by law, tribunal rules”, The Guardian (3 January 2020), online: <https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/jan/03/ethical-veganism-is-a-belief-protected-by-law-tribunal-rules>.

[14] Cole & Morgan, “Vegaphobia”, supra note 1.

[15] See “EA Survey 2019: Community Demographics & Characteristics”, online: Rethink Priorities <https://rethinkpriorities.org/publications/eas2019-community-demographics-characteristics>; cf “Vegetarianism by country” in Wikipedia (2022) Page Version ID: 1127008229.

[16] See here for an example of active bystander norms: Vaidehi Agarwalla, “Suggestions for Online EA Discussion Norms”, online: <https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/p7EWkqa8TogNskXu5/suggestions-for-online-ea-discussion-norms>.

[17] xccf, “Veg*n recidivism seems important, tractable, and neglected”, online: <https://forum.effectivealtruism.org/posts/NDhjoWvTA8z4pq8hD/veg-n-recidivism-seems-important-tractable-and-neglected>.


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