It’s estimated that 1-2% of the U.S. population identifies as vegan. While this may seem small, 1% of the American population is almost four million and 2% is almost seven million — making it one of the most popular diets in the U.S.
Going vegan, which is long-term or life-long for many, consists of eliminating all animal products from consumption. While veganism certainly has many health and environmental benefits, it’s first and foremost a diet. No single diet can be healthy for every human. Even still, many in the vegan community advocate for a universal switch to veganism.
In recent years, a fair amount of vegans have proclaimed that everyone should go vegan — and many haven’t been nice about it. For example, YouTuber Freelee the Banana Girl has a channel dedicated to publicly shaming other animal product-eating YouTubers for their lifestyle choices. An internet meme has even been dubbed about how a group of those in the vegan community “always have to tell you they’re vegan” and generally have an attitude of “if you aren’t vegan, you’re lesser.” A British study found that “aggressive vegans” actually make people want to eat more meat. It makes sense to be passionate about something personally meaningful, but it’s actually a danger for all people to follow one diet.
It’s important to make a distinction between two different connotations of the word “diet.” A diet in one sense refers to something like Weight Watchers where people restrict themselves from a certain food to lose weight. Veganism, however, is defined in another respect of the word, meaning that it’s the kind of food vegans habitually eat. In an article published by Forbes, nurse Shawna Curry says, “There is no single diet that works for every person on this entire planet. That’s impossible. Each person has a different set of nutritional requirements to keep them healthy.”
Certainly, some people have found veganism to be their perfect diet. Veganism is often linked to reduction of obesity, stroke and other health conditions. Part of this is because vegetables offer important nutrients that can help people feel more energized, but these nutrients can also be obtained through vegetables as a non-vegan. Another reason people choose veganism is an issue of morality — veganism doesn’t support an industry that kills animals. Something that comes with killing fewer animals is a greater reduction of greenhouse gas emissions that are harmful to the environment. Yet, for some people, as nurse Curry alludes to, veganism is simply not a healthy diet and can physically do more harm than good.
A simple Google search reveals countless articles from people who tried going vegan but had less than savory results. Many vegans experience a negative response from their gut and bowels from the major increase in fiber that comes with eating an abundance of vegetables. Other vegans experience symptoms of anemia from lack of iron, symptoms of depression and leaky gut. Others have an already limited palate with food allergies and therefore, find the vegan lifestyle almost impossible. Many YouTubers have made videos about why they’re no longer vegan. YouTuber Bonny Rebecca made a video detailing how she had such poor gut health from being vegan that she was told by a health specialist to immediately abandon the diet. Other YouTubers like Nikocado Avocado speak out about how the vegan community shamed and disowned them after they listened to their bodies and left the community.
For some people, veganism is the answer. They feel happier and healthier than ever before — that’s what a good diet should do. However, it’s important to understand that one diet can’t work for every body composition, and for some people, veganism has negative effects. Vegans should be advocating more for people who eat animal products to research and buy from the most ethical brands available. They should be advising people to substitute the occasional animal-product meal for a vegan one. No one should be shaming anyone because their body rejected a specific diet.
Josie Haneklau is a sophomore political science and psychology double major. Contact Josie at firstname.lastname@example.org.