The basic idea.
I wrote this post because I wanted to call bullshit on the stigma that veganism isn’t manly. I argue that it is, because:
- Men seek virtue, and shoulder the discomfort that comes along with it.
- Men take charge of the outcomes in their life.
- Men don’t leave things sitting around undone or make excuses.
I address each of these points below.
The problem with modern veganism.
Here’s a statistic that caught my attention: although veganism is surging in this country, only one in five vegans are men . Why? Is veganism seen as a fashion statement? Are women just more caring, on the whole? Is it because women are told to think about their diet? Or maybe they’re just better at sharing the things that matter to them?
Who knows? In any case, there seems to be this stigma that veganism isn’t manly, in the traditional sense of the word. I’m writing this post to call bullshit on that stigma and to call out men on this issue. First I’ll spend some time talking about manliness itself, then I’ll explain why a “real man” would want to think about going vegan.
What does it mean to be a man?
Hell if I know. I can’t tell you what it means to be a man, or to be manly. Much less can I tell you that masculinity is a virtue. Everyone has their own perspectives on gender roles and personal identity. And so long as you don’t trammel on the rights of others, I will defend your perspective as valid. I’m talking about my perspective today not because it’s true, but because it’s valid, and I think a lot of people out there can identify with it, even if it’s not their own. Bear in mind that even though I’m discussing these things in the context of traditional masculinity, men have neither obligation nor monopoly to this line of thought, and the points I make basically describe being a decent human being.
So what do I mean by manliness?
Like most of us, I learned what a good man was by example. My father and his father were traditional Navy men who eventually got out of the military and worked farms. My mother’s father was a professor at a southern liberal arts school who placed immense value on a man’s thoughtfulness. When he retired, he started his own vineyard on a hill top with a good view of the sunset and made wine and cider. His father was a tool and die maker in mid-century America, forming by hand the things that industries used on their production lines. You could say that my picture of a good man was something of a mix between Walker Texas Ranger, Thomas Jefferson, and MacGyver. Given my religious upbringing, there are certainly shades of Jesus of Nazareth in there as well, particularly his emphasis on seeking social justice for all people and leading as a humble servant.
This version of “manliness” has very little in common with the middle school notion of jacked, womanizing brute who is sure to let everyone know he’s in charge (“..and is, by the way, very very smart and successful, ok? And trust me, there’s no problem down there.”) This is a masculinity that embraces gay man and straight, pacifist and war fighter, artist and construction worker, liberal and conservative. It’s obviously nothing new and I’d say it’s a common notion in western culture. And just so you know, I don’t claim to be the manliest man around. Just last week, I got a second-degree burn. Not while fixing my jeep’s radiator or making fire, but while making a lemon-zest syrup for some European pastries. So I’m not pretending to be a paragon of masculinity here. These are just the principles I personally strive towards as a man.
Why is veganism manly?
I’ll break it down into three points.
Men seek virtue, and shoulder the discomfort that comes along with it. The right thing usually isn’t the easy thing, but men don’t hide from the truth. And here’s the truth:
- Climate change is real , human caused , and has the potential to wreck the planet .
- Agriculture the second largest source of global carbon emissions , comparable to all vehicle emissions combined .
- You can reduce your agricultural carbon footprint as an individual by 50%   – 70%  by going vegan.
- This isn’t limited to the scale of individuals. If the world cut animal products from their diets, agriculture’s carbon footprint would be reduced by 67% .
Doing the right thing for the planet is doing the right thing. For everyone. And unless you want to forgo having kids, sell your car, or get off the grid, eating local plant foods is statistically the single biggest thing you can do to reduce carbon emissions .
Let me take another tack on this: Men don’t hurt those under their control, those who can’t speak for themselves. Only cowards take advantage of the defenseless. That applies both the environment as well the animals you eat. It turns out that animals raised in industrial agriculture live short, terrible lives. I’ll let you Google that one for yourself. While it’s obviously more humane to pasture-raise pigs or cows before you kill them, that doesn’t mitigate CO2 emissions  or change the fact that if you exchange the word “dogs” for “pigs or cows”, it suddenly sounds unethical.
And that’s part of the problem: we’ve been taught to ignore our values and our common sense. Society has told us that eating 1.5 times our weight in meat each year  (along with a lot of processed garbage) is normal, and that ignoring the suffering of animals at least as smart as our pets  is just fine. But a real man takes time to think about the outcomes he’s responsible for. Men don’t let anyone tell them who they are or how they should live, they figure that out for themselves.
Men take charge of the outcomes in their life.
It’s noble to do what’s best for animals and the planet, but closer to home, a man has a responsibility to take care of himself and those he loves. In a time when life expectancy is actually expected to drop from previous generations, it falls on a man to look after his body and ensure it is fit enough to do whatever is required. Fortunately, doing right by your health and doing right by the earth go hand in hand . If you want to be proactive about your health and vitality, veganism is an obvious choice. The simplest way to put it is that vegans are 19% less likely to die from any cause in a given year than omnivores . This is mostly due to reduced incedence of Type II diabetes, heart disease, and stroke . So if you’re serious about taking charge of your health and being in the picture for the people who need you, be a man and go vegan.
And side note, if you’re worried about protein in veganism, black beans and ground beef both have 6 grams of protein per ounce [17,18], and these vegan body builders could (probably) kick your ass .
Men don’t leave things sitting around undone or make excuses.
When faced with a problem, a man doesn’t bitch and moan. He fixes it or he finds a way around it. But in this case, there’s no way around the fact that veganism is the responsible thing to do for the planet, your loved ones, and yourself. You can ignore that fact, or you can do something about it. “Doing something about it” doesn’t have to mean going cold turkey. I took about a year to go vegan, and it wasn’t half as hard as I thought. You don’t even have to go completely vegan to start getting the results – most of the environmental and physiological benefits basically scale with “how much of the time” you’re vegan. So take it at your own pace.
But if we do nothing, if we see the problem in front of us and we look away, if we make excuses and put off doing the right thing, we simply aren’t the men we ought to be.
Except for a few polls or primary sources, these are all peer-reviewed scientific articles or books. If you have trouble accessing one of the sources, just let me know.