A Vegan Diet Isn’t ‘Manly’ Enough For Australian Men, Study Finds

Is meat akin to manliness or just a rigid perception of gender roles?


3 Minutes Read

A man eating a meat burger in front of a food truck and wearing polarized sunglasses Societal interactions such as barbecues and eating out are apparently intrinsically connected to meat - Media Credit: Adobe Stock

Research suggests that Australian men who eat meat consider themselves as possessing more “manliness” than those following a vegan diet.

The findings – published in the research journal Sex Roles – come from a study conducted by the University of Canberra. Conclusions were drawn from survey data collected from 5,244 men and women. Underpinning the investigation was interest in a former project that saw 73 percent of Australian men claim they would rather sacrifice a decade of their life expectancy than quit eating meat.

The participants were asked a series of questions centered around gender perceptions and attitudes about eating meat. Overarching opinions appear to align with the idea of meat consumption as being
“normal.” As such, those who seek to reduce their animal protein intake are deemed less conforming.

Those who identified as women and also feminine deemed meat-eating to be natural, essential, and a “nice” dietary tack. All three were given as justifications for the killing and abuse of animals in the food system. The male contingent mirrored this but also drew a direct connection between their notions of gender and regular meat intake. As such, vegetarian and vegan diets were seen as a divergence away from overall “manliness.”

“Our findings suggest that men in Australia may resist giving up meat because eating meat is a way of enacting their masculinity,” the study authors wrote. “Media representations of meat are gendered, and many advertisements position meat as ‘manly’. Even preschool-aged boys implicitly associate meat with maleness.”

Handsome man eating healthy salad sitting indoors on the green sofa with bag full of vegetables on the background. Healthy eating concept
Adobe Stock Vegan interest appears to be on the rise in Australia despite survey findings

Veganism is a ‘norm violation’

Researchers noted that geography might have played a key role in their findings. They admit that Australia has a long legacy of animal agriculture and high meat consumption and that social activities, such as barbecuing, traditionally involve meat and are led by men.

One of the most powerful findings of the study is that a plant-based diet is viewed as a gender transgression for both men and women. Despite the shock value of this, researchers clearly state that such attitudes are not universal. Rather, they prevail in individuals that demonstrate self-attributed “gender typicality.”

This means that people who take pride in considering themselves either traditionally masculine or feminine would be uncomfortable reducing their meat intake. As such, there is potential for those with less reliance on archaic gender ideals to be open to veganism.

The authors conclude that rigidity about gender roles and eating habits could be preventing people from trying (globally recommended) veganism. Closed-mindedness is therefore identified as a “barrier to embracing both alternative ways of eating and alternative gender identities for oneself and others. This possibility also warrants further investigation.”

Demand for vegan food in Australia

Despite the study seemingly identifying veganism as an unlikely roll-out for Australia, citizens are demonstrating openess to change.

Last year it was reported that 55 percent of Australians – and New Zealanders – want to see more vegan restaurant options. Furthermore, more than half (52.7 percent) also wanted an increase in meat-free products on supermarket shelves.

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