Celebrity power couple Beyonce and Jay Z have given veganism a major public image boost, according to new academic research.
Not so long ago, veganism was considered suitable only for only extreme animal rights activists and hippies.
Now the diet is considered trendy and healthy – and much of the credit for turning people off meat and on to veganism is down to the A-list couple along with their celeb pals Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Lopez , according to a new research paper.
Outi Lundahl, in her doctoral thesis at the University of Vaasa in Finland focusing on the rise of veganism in Britains, argues that one of the major drivers of these changes has been celebrities.
She said: “I initially investigated the new-found status of sustainable consumption, but turned my attention to the rise of veganism in the UK when something unexpected happened.
“In December 2013 pop diva Beyoncé along with her husband, rapper Jay Z decided to go vegan for 22 days.
“Interest in veganism seemed to explode because of this stint and I became intrigued.”
She added: “What was particularly interesting about this case was that Beyoncé and Jay Z did not seem to adopt veganism as a moral ethos, which would restrict the use of animals and animal by-products in all aspects of life.
“The most striking example of this was Beyoncé wearing leather and fur to a vegan restaurant.
“This, of course, angered the animal rights movement and raised many questions as to her knowledge of veganism.”
Indeed, in her doctoral thesis, Lundahl found that as the number of celebrity vegans increased, from Gwyneth Paltrow and Jennifer Lopez to Bill Clinton and Mike Tyson, the meanings related to veganism changed.
In fact, Ms Lundahl says celebrities have transformed veganism from a political, moral lifestyle to a diet for health and weight-loss purposes.
She added: “However, if the meanings and motivations for being a vegan change so that the diet is adopted merely to lose a couple of kilos after Christmas or if it is followed due to celebrity emulation, it is likely that the diet is soon forgotten.”
This is why Ms Lundahl argues that while there is hype around veganism as a healthy diet, the general public should also be educated about other benefits of veganism.
In this way veganism would be appreciated in a more holistic way, as a complete, lifelong lifestyle.
While her analysis focuses on the rise of veganism in the UK, she found the Finnish vegan community Sipsikaljavegaanit an interesting phenomenon.
She said: “Contrary to the mainstream media, Sipsikaljavegaanit promote tasty, even calorific vegan recipes online.
“However, even though again the focus is on the diet aspects of veganism, and even though animal rights or environmental aspects are not discussed, I must applaud efforts to make veganism seem tasty, fun and easy.
“In this way veganism will hopefully lose its image as something extreme and strict.”