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Veganomics: The Surprising Science on What Motivates Vegetarians - book review


The first book by Nick Cooney that was "Change of Heart," and I was not impressed (click on the link for that review). In fact, it is a big part of the reason that I don't do hardly any outreach work anymore. To make a long story short, after reading his book (which is based on lots of research) I learned that my efforts were futile and it was a pretty hopeless situation. 

Fast forward to now, and I have just finished another of Nick Cooney's books. This one is called "Veganomics: The Surprising Science on What Motivates Vegetarians, from the Breakfast Table to the Bedroom." I came across this book on a whim, was a little hesitant because I didn't care for his last book, but was still curious enough to give it a read.

I ended up liking this book. Not for the way he lays it out in trying to tell you how to use it to persuade others to ditch the meat, but just for the interest in the research that is out there. I found quite a few things that were interesting to me and I ended up highlighting many passages throughout the book. I noticed that some studies and information seemed to contradict each other in various parts of the book, but I'm assuming it's because he's citing different research in each one. 

The book is helpful in confirming what I've thought all along, that when you try to shame or guilt someone into not eating meat you are doing more damage than good. I've always told people that when you shame or guilt someone about their meat eating they immediately go into defense mode and your message is lost. The research he cites backs that all up, supporting the notion that the vegan police and those who post all of those vegan memes that try to shame people are actually doing more harm than good. If people really wanted to help save animals and get people to go meat free, they would do things quite different (which is book is filled with suggestions on). 

I found it interesting how he cited that most vegetarians are Democrats. I don't agree with that, and for the record I'm a Republican myself. I have cited research on this very issue in my post on being a Republican vegetarian. Reading his thoughts on this made me wonder why he didn't counter balance the study about a Democrat majority with the research by the Vegetarian Resource Group that shows it's pretty much even when it comes to Republican and Democrat vegetarians. It makes me wonder if he's a Democrat and so he slanted the information more in his favor (which is something every writer can do). But he had mounds of research in that book, so why not offer a more balanced version, rather than making it seem that vegetarians are all Democrat? 

Also, and here's something I will never understand, he says that most vegetarians support abortion. Huh? I don't understand. I am very much against abortion, because I value life. All life. How can ethical vegetarians be for the killing of fetuses, which is life, the beginning of life? I'd love for an ethical vegetarian or ethical vegan to explain to me why it is that they are against the killing of all non-human animals, but support the killing of humans (we all start out as fetuses, mind you, and before you wonder, yes, I'm also against the death penalty). 

So, a few hiccups aside, I will say that I enjoyed the book and found it interesting from a social science perspective (my degree is in social science studies). I take the research with a grain of salt, of course, because I do believe that some research could have balanced out others, and that some of the studies cited were not all that credible or balanced from the start. For example, the vegetarian Democrat study cited was from CNN. That's not exactly a balanced research study, considering the CNN viewership is majority Democrat. In fact, Pew Research reports that CNN's audience is only 18% Republican, so if a poll is on CNN you will never get a valid sample of how many vegetarian Democrats and Republicans their are. 

Sadly, he points out that most self-proclaimed vegetarians still eat meat here and there. Ugh. I've been vegetarian over 21 years and I can tell you that I never do that and I don't know any vegetarian that does. Perhaps those people surveyed were actually semi-vegetarian and not actually vegetarians. However, I have read before that most vegetarians and vegans do go back to eating meat again. Yet another point that makes activism efforts seem futile. If we really want to help save animals our message needs to be reducing meat consumption and getting off of eating chicken, fish, and eggs, even if the person never goes vegetarian. That message is quite clear in this book and it makes sense to me. If your mission is to help animals you will do the most good with that approach.

I like how Cooney pointed out that a vegetarian who doesn't eat eggs will do 99 percent as much good as going vegan, and that most people see a vegan diet as being more unrealistic (and even the word vegan has a very negative connotation). According to Cooney: 

"When you add to this the fact that vegans spare only slightly more animals than vegetarians, the implication becomes clear. By encouraging people to go vegetarian, you should lead to more animals being spared than encouraging them to go vegan."

The book has a few iffy areas where I think the research could have been balanced out with other studies, or that sources used were not all that strong. Overall, I enjoyed reading the book and think that it's one that all vegetarians, vegans, and activists should read. It's also a great book for those who are marketing vegetarian products or marketing products to a vegetarian audience. There are some insightful pieces of information throughout this book, especially when it comes to the terminology we use, who's purchasing mock meats, and more. Well worth reading!

- Jacqueline


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