Adele Wilson, MSc Student Health & Society, Wageningen University
Below the abstract of the MSc-thesis “#VEGAN: A critical analysis of the discourses around food, identity and responsibility from vegan Instagram influencers“.
The full thesis can be downloaded from the WUR-Library by clicking on the hyperlink
In the UK we need to reduce the amount of meat we produce and consume in order to prevent climate disaster and poor public health. Vegan Instagram influences have been key figures in providing society with knowledge on why and how people should live meat free. The discourses provided to us by these ‘influencers’ about, food, health, ethics and environmental concerns are extremely powerful as they shape our everyday food thoughts and practices. However, there has been relatively little academic research into the knowledge produced by these online food influencers. Therefore, this study aimed to identify some of the contemporary discourses around veganism on Instragram. Particular attention was paid to how these discourses framed the responsibility for animal welfare, human health, and environmental concerns. The research analysed the profiled of 6 vegan instagram influencers; @chakabars, @earthlinged, @deliciouslyella, @rachelama, @kingcook and @crueltyfreeclairey. The data was analysed using a Foucauldian style discourse analysis. Two main themes were identified. The first was ‘hard veganism’ that focused on the moral justifications for veganism. It was found discourse focused on the justifications for veganism was critical of the livestock industry and unevenly burdened individuals with the responsibility for preventing climate disaster, protecting animals and preserving human health through by consuming a vegan diet (e.g. Christopher, Bartkowski, Haverda, 2018). Therefore, veganism was associated with practicing one’s moral beliefs and acting in a utilitarian way to societal constraints we live in. The second theme was ‘soft veganism’ that referred to images and talk on food. ‘Soft veganism’ framed the food industry positively for providing people with many vegan food options and making veganism ‘easy’. Vegan food was also used to construct vegan subgroups that were aimed at challenging stereotypical views on veganism as an elite white practice (Harper, 2012) and breaking down barriers that prevented some people from engaging with a vegan lifestyle. Therefore, this research found that Instagram is a space where multiple vegan identities are constructed with varying levels of political involvement and philosophical engagement. This research concludes that Instagram may be a useful tool for influencing people to reduce their meat consumption, as it allows people to select knowledge on how to practice veganism that best suits their identity, beliefs and lifestyle.