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The following literature review is part of a series for World Vegan Month. Other essays can be accessed by visiting the essays catalog.
Barbara McDonald. 2000. “‘Once You Know Something, You Can’t Not Know It.’ An Empirical Look at Becoming Vegan.” Society & Animals 8 (1): 1-23.
In spite of a growing body of vegetarian literature, there remains a lack of information about how people learn to become vegan. Using qualitative methodology, this research identified a psycho- logical process of how people learn about and adopt veganism. Elements of the process include who I was, catalytic experiences, possible repression of information, an orientation to learn, the decision, learning about veganism, and acquiring a vegan world view. Noteworthy observations include individual and temporal variation in the use of logic and emotion, the centrality of reading, the repression and recollection of undesirable information, and the importance of two types of learning tasks to successful vegans.
Why people go vegan (or don’t) is a hugely complex issue. It can depend on one’s available networks, one’s history with institutional discrimination and colonization, or gender roles. It might be thwarted by activist misconceptions, negative media, and the power of the state and industry elites. We may never be able to pinpoint an exact cause, but McDonald attempts to narrow things down by applying the scientific method with participant interviews.
What she finds is no surprise; everyone is different. It seems that going vegan and rejecting speciesism requires a sort of resocialization, which is understandable given how thoroughly ingrained Nonhuman Animal exploitation is to every aspect of society. Her findings support the theory that moral shocks are a major element in the decision to go vegan. However, some people take time to think about the issues and learn more before eventually going vegan at a later time.
This essay was originally published on The Academic Activist Vegan on November 21, 2013.
Readers can learn more about the effective vegan activism in my 2016 publication, A Rational Approach to Animal Rights. Receive research updates straight to your inbox by subscribing to my newsletter.