The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the dominance of an ascetic discourse of veg*anism in social research literature, and to relate it to a dominant hierarchical ordering of Western diets (to refer collectively to veganism and vegetarianism).
A review of the extant social research literature on veg*anism was undertaken in order to discern whether a consistent type of descriptive language existed. This facilitated an understanding of the way in which that language is constitutive of research generated understandings of veg*anism.
An ascetic discourse of veg*anism is dominant in social research. This is reflected in the phraseology used by authors. Typical descriptive terms of a veg*an diet include “strict”, “restrictive”, or “avoidance”. This ascetic discourse reproduces the hierarchical ordering of Western diets such that veg*anism is denigrated and made to seem “difficult” and abnormal.
Veg*anism arguably promises multiple benefits for human, environmental, and nonhuman animal well‐being. The potential to realize those benefits is hampered by the perpetuation of an understanding of veg*anism as an ascetic practice.
This paper provides the first comprehensive examination of the language used to describe veg*anism within social research. It can enhance reflexivity on the part of social researchers interested in veg*anism, and help inform research design. In providing an alternative hedonic discourse of veg*anism, this paper also makes a contribution towards realizing the potential benefits of veg*anism through making it a more attractive dietary practice.
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