Co-hosted and co-funded by MeCCSA, Centre for Spatial, Environmental and Cultural Politics and the University of ReadingUniversity of Brighton, Friday 7th December 2018

Over the last few years, veganism as a diet and practice has increasingly become part of mainstream media culture (Doyle, 2016; Brown, 2018). This represents a significant and positive shift in media engagement with veganism, following years of negative representations of vegans as hostile and oversensitive (Cole & Morgan, 2011). The most recent IPCC report also states that in order to limit global warming to 1.5C, changes to food systems ‘such as diet changes away from land-intensive animal products’ (IPCC Special Report 2018) will need to be undertaken, making the case for significant societal shifts towards plant-based diets more urgent and compelling. Science, in effect, is now pushing veganism and less meat eating as a mitigation strategy in the context of climate change.

Historically, ethical veganism – that is, a commitment to animal welfare and anti-speciesism – has been the primary motivation for individuals to become vegan, above that of health and environmental concerns (Greenebaum, 2012; Larsson et al., 2003). Animal welfare concerns have also proved to facilitate a deeper and longer-term commitment to veganism as a critique of unethical food practices. Yet, in contemporary popular cultural and media engagements with veganism, health, scientific and environmental concerns about climate change appear to be foregrounded, providing a different set of narratives and stories about veganism that make it potentially more accessible to a wider demographic across multiple media platforms.

This interdisciplinary workshop explored recent media and popular cultural engagements with veganism through a critical focus upon the role of narrative and storytelling in communicating veganism to mainstream audiences. Bringing together, and drawing upon, a range of perspectives from across academia, media industries, arts and activism, the workshop explored the following:

  • What narratives are being used and what stories are being told about veganism across different media and cultural practices?
  • How is veganism being framed in relation to animal welfare, climate change, health and/or lifestyle? Which are the most dominant?
  • Are vegan narratives becoming both ‘post-activism’ and ‘practical’ in efforts to shift public attitudes towards less meat eating and ultimately adopt vegan lifestyles across larger audiences?
  • Who/what might be excluded from popular narratives on veganism? What/whose stories are missing?
  • How can specific narratives and stories be used to better engage people with veganism?
  • What research still needs to be done to understand the range, types and impacts of contemporary vegan narratives?
  • How can veganism be better communicated across media and popular culture?


10.15  Introduction – Julie Doyle (University of Brighton) and Mike  Goodman (University of Reading)

10.30  Vegan for who, what and how? Media and popular cultural narratives of veganism

The following participants will offer a 5-10 minute provocation and/or intervention touching on the following questions (or other questions!) based on their academic/professional/personal perspectives:

  • How does your work engage with veganism?
  • How are vegan narratives and storylines being currently constructed and by whom?
  • Who are the authoritative voices and how have they become authoritative?
  • What are the most important narratives/stories to tell about veganism and why?
  • What is missing from mainstream media and popular cultural work/research on veganism?
  • Does it matter how we encourage veganism, and why? Where do we go from here?
  • How can we intervene in this process of narrative and story formation around veganism?

Matthew Cole (Open University); Matt Adams (University of Brighton); Mike Goodman (University of Reading); Eva Giraud (Keele University); Alex Lockwood (University of Sunderland); Elena Orde (Vegan Society); Jessica Brown (freelance journalist); Alex Sexton (Oxford University); Carol Morris (University of Nottingham); Julie Doyle (University of Brighton).

12.30  Lunch 

1.30    Group discussions based upon the morning’s provocations

3.30    Refreshments

3.45    Feedback – identifying gaps and proposing ways forward

5.00    Finish 

Post workshop outputs:

Julie Doyle, ‘Media engagement with veganism: reasons to be cheerful?, issue 2, 2019, pages 9-10.

Eva Giroud, Reflections on the workshop, The Vegan Society, 4 April 2019.