‘Veganism Is Dead’: Say Media Outlets – Does The Data Agree?

Can we trust the sensationalized headlines about veganism's decline, or is there more to the story?

By & Isabelle Sadler

6 Minutes Read

An AI-generated image showing a tomb stone reading "veganism" in a grave yard Has the vegan bubble burst? - Media Credit: Plant Based News (c) All Rights Reserved. Generated with AI in DALLE-3

When only 20 percent of people ever read beyond the headline, they are a powerful way for clickbait articles to spread misinformation. Take, for example, the news from February 1, 2024, where many media outlets quickly shared how a vegan restaurant turned to serving meat to save its business. While some articles reported the facts, others used sensational headlines to imply that this was the end of veganism as we know it. One outlet warned of “the death of vegan fast foods,” and another used a tombstone with a vegan logo on it. However, a closer look at the situation shows much more nuance to the conversation. This incident highlights the need for media literacy today, where misinformation can spread quickly. By examining the facts and avoiding sensationalism, we can stay informed and form opinions based on contextualized facts, not just headlines.

The Need for Change in Our Food System

A woman eating a vegan burger
Adobe Stock Vegan food is becoming more and more widespread

The “death of fast foods” article raises some valid points regarding the need for change in our current food system and in promoting plant-based foods. Following a detailed account of the decline of many vegan fast-food chains and restaurants, the article quotes Chef Charbel Hayek at Eeetwell:

“The food world is changing. We’ve seen vegan restaurants closing and fast food chains dropping vegan items, but at Eeetwell, we see this shift as a chance to really think about what eating well means. What’s happening in the vegan world isn’t about vegan food losing its spark. It’s about people wanting more than just a meat substitute. They want real food that’s good for them and respects our planet. It’s about ensuring every bite tells a story of care, quality, and respect for our earth.”

According to Shokofeh Hejazi, “a food trend expert from The Food People,” what we need then is to promote dishes which are recognisable as whole plants: “As well as being tasty, they offer all the natural goodness of veggies as a bonus – like fibre, vitamins and nutrients.”

This is a refreshing change from the heavily covered issue of plant-based fast foods and their nutritional value (or lack of), which have come to be tightly associated with vegan foods in the media. While it is essential to acknowledge the potential drawbacks of certain vegan food products, it is equally important not to overshadow the broader message of transitioning towards a more sustainable and ethical future. But the above discussion features a long way from its catchy headline. As a result, the assumption that the closure of vegan restaurants is due to the movement is reinforced. We can see that clearly by looking at the comments section. This is one example: “Nothing but a fad that the so-called trendies jumped on then found it they wanted meat.”

Misleading Claims: Veganism as a Passing Fad

By presenting veganism as a fad, the implication is that the failure of these establishments is solely due to the decline in veganism’s popularity. This doesn’t show us the full picture, as it fails to recognize the multifaceted reasons behind individuals embracing veganism and the lifestyle’s growing popularity. Veganism is steadily gaining momentum worldwide, with more people adopting plant-based diets for various reasons, including health, environmental sustainability, and animal welfare. A recent report by the Good Food Institute Europe found that the European plant-based foods market saw a 21 percent increase in sales from 2020:

“…sales of plant-based meat grew by 21 per cent from 2020 to 2022, while conventional meat sales decreased by eight per cent in the same period. Furthermore, unit sales of plant-based milk grew by 20 per cent in the same period, while conventional milk unit sales decreased by nine per cent.”

“Plant-based milk sales grew by 19 percent between 2020 and 2022, reaching €2.21 billion in 2022 — almost twice as much as conventional milk.”

Despite the article claiming “the declining popularity of veganism”, data suggests the opposite, with research by finder.com showing the number of vegans grew by 1.1 million between 2023 and 2024.

Other reports found that 25 million people sampled vegan food this Veganuary.

So, while the media continues to propagate negative headlines, the wider plant-based food industry is seeing steady growth and “investors and entrepreneurs are still massively putting their energy and money into the future of [plant-based] food” (Green Queen, 2023).

Shedding Light on Media Misinformation

Two friends eating vegan food at a fast food restaurant
Adobe Stock Despite what much of the media says, veganism is growing in popularity

The media plays a significant role in shaping public opinion, and it is crucial to question the motives and accuracy of the information presented. In a paper published in 2022, Bourbon and Murimi from the University of Dallas suggested that we should reconceptualize the issue of online information diffusion and think of it as gossip to understand its mechanics better. They explain that “gossip is more expressive of the community of gossipers than it is about the target of the gossip.” So what does the massive covering of a vegan restaurant adding meat to its menu and facing closure tell us about the media industry? Besides its informative intent, the media aims to elicit specific responses. The strongest ones will most likely be the media with the most shares in an attempt to go viral. This is how the media platforms play, but is there a downside to this?

One significant issue is that many people get their news by scrolling. Headlines make an impact, but not everybody will read the whole article. In the case of the article referenced above, many readers will skim over the section that explores ways to improve health and planetary impact and make plant-based foods an appealing and affordable alternative, in line with many recent environmental recommendations.

But that is different from what makes the headlines.

Less than two weeks ago, my news feed highlighted that an agricultural college had to issue an apology following an announcement that some of its restaurants would implement Meat Free Mondays. Regardless of one’s opinion on either issue, if we put them aside, we can see the current picture of the debate around our society’s eating habits. A highly divisive picture, where hope for a nuanced, constructive conversation might seem far removed. Yet this is precisely what we need if we are hoping to embrace a smooth transition towards a more sustainable future.

Our Final Analysis

It is essential to approach media coverage critically, especially regarding topics as sensitive and impactful as our food choices. Recent headlines consistently portray veganism as a fading trend. While many of these articles raised valid concerns about our food system and the considerations of opting for a plant-based diet, dismissing the movement as a failing trend ultimately discourages the exploration of plant-based alternatives as legitimate and impactful. This type of narrative can also significantly undermine recommendations for an evolution of our food system.

This article comes from FoodFacts.org. FoodFacts.org empowers you to make informed food choices. In today’s world, figuring out what’s truly healthy or sustainable can be confusing, with many voices from media personalities, politicians, influencers, and brands. Many are also not experts in nutrition or the impacts of food on our countryside. The side provides clear, simple facts. Whether breaking down what’s in your food or checking the facts behind the latest diet trends.

More like this:

Join The Plant Based Newsletter and we will plant a tree! 🌳

We plant a tree for every signup. You’ll receive our weekly news round-up and be the first to hear about, product launches, exclusive offers and more!

© 2024 Plant Based News is a mission-led impact media platform focused on elevating the plant-based diet and its benefit to human health, the planet, and animals. | Plant Based News Ltd, PO Box 71173, London, SE20 9DQ, United Kingdom.