Vegans: not like other people

One way to see the difference between ourselves (vegetarians, vegans, animal advocates…) and the rest of the population is in terms of the famous “diffusion of innovations” model, which tries to explain the rate at which new ideas and technology will spread throughout a population.[1]

diffusion of innovation

Take a smartphone as an example, and look at the innovation curve to guess where you are. If you bought a smartphone just this year, you probably belong somewhere in the “late majority” (or even “the laggards”) category: the people who (in this particular field) are slow to pick up something new and wait till enough others have done it. If you already bought a smartphone many years ago, you were among the innovators or early adopters.

As vegetarians, vegans or animal rights activists, we are all part of the “innovators” (you can be in the innovator category regarding smartphones but at the same time in the late majority category regarding new foods, for instance). These different categories of people have different motivations for and concerns about trying something out, and it would be a mistake to think that we can necessarily get the late majority on board with the same arguments that convinced the innovators or early adopters.

Many people, for instance, have a great desire to be seen as “normal”. In their food choices too, they don’t want to be perceived as deviating from the norm. According to the research by Faunalytics on former vegetarians and vegans, 63% of them said they disliked that their diet made them stick out from the crowd.[2] Some people will wait until it’s “safe” to switch to another diet (or whatever product). As a vegetarian or vegan, you may have some experiences where it’s really uncomfortable to be “the odd one out”. Some people just can’t deal with that, and it is important to be aware of these kinds of differences.

The famous marketer Seth Godin puts it like this: “The mistake merchants make is that they bring their fringe ideas to people who don’t like fringe ideas, instead of taking their time and working their way through the progression.” However, another way of tackling this, is to try to approach the majority of people with a much simpler message – for instance: asking them to participate in Meatless Monday.

We’re often prone to think that we will convince people with the arguments that meant something to us. Often, we believe an argument makes so much sense that others just can’t but buy it. But other people might not be very interested in rational arguments at all. Especially when it comes to food – and even more so: meat – people can behave incredibly irrationally. They will go out of their way, they will ignore all kinds of warnings, to keep eating the food they love to eat, that they have loved since their childhood, and that they associate with wonderful family moments.