Photo by Helen Alfvegren, Flickr CC

Veganism is a common practice in countries like France, Israel, and the U.S., and a recent article in Harvard Magazine looked to Nina Gheihman to detail how recent shifts in rhetoric surrounding veganism are taking place in each of these countries. Gheihman—a vegan herself and president of the Harvard Vegan Society—describes how the narratives and norms associated with veganism are culturally specific and constantly evolving. 

In the U.S., Gheihman describes, veganism was originally rooted in activism and debates surrounding animal rights, particularly in the face of modern agricultural practices and the worsening conditions for livestock. These ideas have shifted, however, and now veganism in the U.S. is promoted not just for animal rights’ sake, but as a healthier lifestyle choice in general. This has meant a noticeable shift away from debates about the ethical treatment of animals towards conversations about health and the body. Furthermore, we are seeing a transformation of the images associated with veganism, including messages of veganism as macho and masculine. Consider that New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady—a prominent vegan himself—is involved with a meal-order shipment service that mails vegan meals to your home; this service, known as Purple Carrot, advertises better physical performance on the football field as one of the benefits of the vegan diet.

Gheihman finds that the meanings of and motivations for veganism are different across the globe, and her research promises to uncover some of the ways veganism has evolved in different contexts.