A colleague of mine in the Psychology Department at WCU, Hal Herzog, author of Some We Love, Some We Hate, and Some We Eat: Why it's so Hard to Think Straight About Animals, sent me a link to the article below. This is a study of British newspaper stories about depictions of vegans, and it's one that I'd like to replicate in the US press. Here's the link to the full study.
From: "Vegaphobia: Derogatory Discourses of Veganism and the Reproduction of Speciesism in UK National Newspapers" by Matthew Cole and Karen Morgan
The British Journal of Sociology 2011 Volume 62 Issue 1
The authors define veganism follows: “Veganism represents an opposition to violent and exploitative human-nonhuman animal relations. Veganism is defined by The Vegan Society (2008) as: . . . a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude – as far as is possible and practical – all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose [. . .] In dietary terms it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals" (135).
They state that “It is . . . plausible to assert that on the basis of existing evidence, veganism is understood by most vegans (though not necessarily in these terms) as an aspect of anti-speciesist practice. However, the focus on diet, and specifically on dietary ‘restriction’, in much of the extant literature, tends to perpetuate a veganism-as-deviance model that fosters academic misunderstanding and misrepresentation of the meaning of veganism for vegans (Cole 2008). In terms of broader societal dispositions against veganism, the mass media are arguably of far greater significance than academia in that they represent a key site of contestation for the meaning of veganism” (135-6).
And note that “In this paper, we approach the news media adopting a Foucauldian conceptualization of discourses, recognizing them as ‘structured ways of knowing’ which become ‘institutionalized as practices’ (Ransom 1993: 123)" (136).
"Our search yielded 397 articles in which one or more of the keywords were used at least once. The articles were collated and read, and organized under three broad headings: ‘positive’, ‘neutral’ and ‘negative’ (see Table I). Of the 397 articles 22, or 5.5 per cent, were categorized as ‘positive’; 80, or 20.2 per cent, were categorized as ‘neutral’; 295, or 74.3 per cent, were categorized as ‘negative’. ‘Positive’ articles were those deemed to be favourable towards vegans or veganism, for example giving glowing reviews of vegan food or providing an explanation of one or more argument for veganism. ‘Neutral’ articles mentioned vegans or veganism in passing without evaluative comment. Nearly all neutral articles were travel or food service reviews. ‘Negative.’ ‘Positive’ articles were those deemed to be favourable towards vegans or veganism, for example giving glowing reviews of vegan food or providing an explanation of one or more argument for veganism. ‘Neutral’ articles mentioned vegans or veganism in passing without evaluative comment. Nearly all neutral articles were travel or food service reviews.
‘Negative’ articles were those which deployed one or more derogatory discourses, usually featuring one, or a combination, from a routinized set of anti-vegan stereotypes. In some cases, more than one derogatory discourse was present in the same article. These discourses, in order of frequency of occurrence, were:
• Ridiculing veganism
• Characterizing veganism as asceticism
• Describing veganism as difficult or impossible to sustain
• Describing veganism as a fad
• Characterizing vegans as oversensitive
• Characterizing vegans as hostile"
In other words, vegans come off badly in the media. No big surprise there.