How these professionals are challenging stereotypes about veganism, from how it’s marketed to who can do it

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  • For many people and businesses, the consumption of animal products is the norm.
  • While vegan eating and living is becoming more and more normalized, there is still a long way to go.

Anthony Bourdain once said, “Vegetarians, and their Hezbollah-like splinter faction, vegans…are the enemy of all that is good and decent in the human spirit.” He is far from alone in this feeling.

Vegans, who do not consume or use animal products or by-products, have faced an uphill battle against stereotypes and judgment. And while shunning meat, dairy, and animal products is becoming more normalized, those stereotypes still exist — in everything from marketing to interpersonal relationships.

Whether one identifies as vegan or plant-based – or something else on the plant-based spectrum – the idea of ​​rejecting the status quo of eating meat, eggs and dairy always goes against the grain. of the norm. This means that even as veganism becomes mainstream, old stereotypes are hard to break.

Tabitha Brown, a vegan who changed the narrative, said going vegan has helped her deal with chronic pain and fatigue.

“Four years ago, I didn’t think I would have been vegan — who knew,” Brown told CBS Morning News host Ben Tracy in an interview. Research has shown that black Americans are nearly three times more likely to be strictly vegan or vegetarian than other Americans, and Brown is one of them.

Tabitha Brown’s book “Feeding the Soul” is a New York Times bestseller.Marcus Owens

“What did you think of vegans?” Tracy asked.

“Honestly, I thought, ‘This is for white people,’ especially white women who do yoga and maybe are in a cult,” Brown said with a laugh.

Brown’s fame began as a fun project encouraged by her children, where she posted vegan cooking demonstrations with life lessons sprinkled over the top. Today, Brown is one of the most notable and influential vegans.

“My goal is not to judge anyone, or impose my lifestyle on anyone,” Brown told CBS. “It’s just to share what it’s done for me. And representation matters, doesn’t it. So now when people think of a vegan, they also think of a black woman with an afro.”

Allen Pizza, an Atlantic City-based DJ and music producer, gave up animal products when his heart health deteriorated and he was diagnosed with a rare disease. He went fully vegan in 2013 and said he dated a girl who told him, “You’re not a man if you don’t eat meat.”

Pizza begged his friends, many of whom had health issues like diabetes, to try going vegan or eating plant-based. He was swept away. But starting a few years ago, he said friends actually started calling him asking for advice on how to make the switch.

“Some people won’t change until it’s catastrophic to their own well-being,” Pizza told Insider.

A few vegan restaurants opened in his hometown of New Jersey, and he eventually convinced some friends to go with him. To their surprise, he says, they liked it.

Muzammil Ahmad, a fourth-year medical student from Edmonton, Canada, turned to veganism due to personal observation and science.

“I witnessed many health issues including cancer, heart disease and diabetes in my family,” Ahmad said. “I had also suffered from my own health issues, including migraines, cystic acne and chronic fatigue.”

After scouring health research studies and watching documentaries on animal welfare topics, Ahmad knew going vegan and focusing on plant-based eating was for him. But those around him wondered: mainly, where he got the proteins, calcium and iron.

“Once I was able to answer the scientific questions related to nutrition, the feedback got a lot better and more people became interested in learning more,” Ahmad said.

Ahmad thinks men tend to struggle with veganism “because of the marketing tactics of the meat industry, as well as old traditions and sayings associating meat with masculinity.” Ahmad is now sharing his herbal knowledge with others through nutrition coaching and public speaking while pursuing his doctorate.

“It’s important to keep raising awareness to keep reducing this stigma,” Ahmad said. “It’s been over three years since that decision, and I haven’t looked back. My health is much better. I haven’t had a single migraine since, my skin has cleared up and my energy levels is excellent. And I’m happiest knowing that I’m having a positive impact on the planet and helping to reduce cruelty to animals caused by our food system.”

Beth Skidmore, a California resident and founder of the nonprofit Rooted Santa Barbara, remembers becoming a vegan about 10 years ago and not having many resources. Now, says Skidmore, “there’s an exciting change happening.”

But going vegan or following an all-plant-based diet is still generally considered restrictive and extreme. Skidmore is trying to change that perception through her nonprofit, which focuses on the educational and health outcomes associated with plant-based eating.

“Also, vegan food is often thought to be expensive,” Skidmore told Insider. “But whole grains and beans are among the most cost-effective foods, while some of the more processed vegan foods that can help replicate the meat or cheese experience are often more expensive.”

Skidmore also touched on the uses of different terminologies.

“For me, ‘plant-based’ opened up the conversation more and highlighted the health aspects,” she said. “Even if you are interested in plant-based eating for ethical or environmental reasons, it helps to understand how to prioritize foods for health and affordability so that they are sustainable.”

For many, going vegan, or even switching to a more plant-centric lifestyle, seems extreme. But for those like Pizza, Ahmad and Skidmore, it’s a choice rooted in their own values.

“I’ve become exponentially passionate about all the benefits of this lifestyle and I’m incredibly proud to live this way,” Skidmore said.

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