With the rise of an ever growing and ever-changing population, there is no shock that there has been a rise in the number of social movements in the United States. With the rise in social movements consisting on factors pertaining to increased accessibility and ownership of technology, increased knowledge of anthropogenic effects on the environment, the heavily divided political system in the United States, it is easy to see how increased social protest arises. The spreading of social movements aims to represent various issues that affect people’s philosophical beliefs, religious practice, gender identity, race, ethnicity, etc. enough to the point where there is an urgency to fight for change in their surroundings. A particularly interesting social movement that is on the rise is the developing counterculture of vegans. The formal definition of vegan is defined by the Cambridge Dictionary as, “a person who does not eat or use any animal products, such as meat, fish,eggs, cheese, or leather”. By analyzing the development of veganism and isolating its origin of existence, the demographic of people being studied will give way to the sectors of the economy that are affected by an ever-growing social movement. Through this, the effect on industries will be considered along with the new kinds of demands that the government, business sector, society, and NGOs are forced to adapt to in order to match the changing needs for a category of consumers.
The actions of the vegan movement serve as a catalyst for social change by the use of the resource mobilization approach. It is defined: “[Resource mobilization theory] is [being] used in the study of social movements and argues that the success of social movements depends on resources (time, money, skills, etc.) and the ability to use them.” (Crossman, “What Is the Resource Mobilization Theory?”) The importance of following a logical approach: such as exploring opportunity structures, mobilizing them and then reframing the positive spillover into society appeals to the minds of many individuals who seek positive change. Sociologist Robert E. Park, creator of the term, highlights the strength of a collective force in relation to a social movement defines the term as, “the behavior of individuals under the influence of an impulse that is common and collective, an impulse, in other words, that is the result of social interaction”. This concept points out that humans tend to form groups to intensify the scope of their activism. With increased participants in the vegan movement, The Food Revolution Network stating, “There’s been a 600% increase in people identifying as vegans in the U.S in the last three years” (Oberst, “Why the Global Rise in Vegan and Plant-Based Eating Isn’t A Fad (600% Increase in U.S. Vegans + Other Astounding Stats)”) then the pervasiveness that this movement has on society it is apparent. Through implementing the resource mobilization approach, many different people have been able to populate the vegan movement with reasons for a change in lifestyle being contingent with religious and or spiritual practices, health benefits, environmental factors, philosophy, etc. Through such an inclusive social movement, vegans have been able to get their voices heard by businesses sectors, health advocates, environmentalists, NGOs, and the government, which have all resulted in supply side responses. By understanding the reasons for the creation of veganism, the needs put forth by this subculture, and the responses to this social change, predictions about the amount of change in the social world and business model can be studied and considered.
Although there is a widespread communal sense of unification within the international boundaries of veganism, the loose and informal organization can struggle to achieve solid footing without responses from the domestic business sector, government, and NGOs. With the data showing a sharp rise of veganism in the United States, it is clear to see that the movement is not slowing down any time soon and is prompting new business opportunities for entrepreneurs or preexisting companies to get involved. A recent article from Forbes headlines an article with the title, “Here’s Why You Should Turn Your Business Vegan In 2018” and goes onto argue the intensity of the social movement through the statement, “Rather than [companies] resist the inevitable, smart animal agriculture businesses are getting in on the plant-based revolution by buying or investing in plant-based brands”. (Fox, “Here’s Why You Should Turn Your Business Vegan in 2018”) With major media companies encouraging the business sector to get involved with the vegan movement, there is an example of a real-life resource mobilization approach at work. Some methods that the business sector have used to acknowledge and participate in the vegan movement include increasing stakeholder shares into dairy and meat-alternative businesses, converting original animal products to vegan-friendly goods, and creating brand new businesses catered to the modern-day vegan. Though it is still a stretch in modern time for the government to interfere with society’s ability to buy animal products, members of the vegan movement push for social corporate responsibility. Social corporate responsibility “means that a corporation should act in a way that enhances society and its inhabitants and be held accountable for any of its actions that affect people, their communities, and their environment (PAD 201: Social Change, 152) and is important for veganism due to the concerns of ethical manufacturing, nutritional information, environmentalist considerations, etc. Since there is an increased accessibility to business operations and the discussion on ethical practices, businesses are being forced to confront the ever-fluctuating changes that comes alongside an educated society, a primary expression of civil regulation. The pressure from civil regulation will not drastically affect businesses who are willing to adapt to ethical consumerism, though. Businesses like Beyond Meat – plant-based “meat” alternatives now have a new opportunity to expand into growing industries. This expansion allows them to increase their product range, heighten their consumer range, and secure economic profit for an underprovided market. There is also the generation of new jobs in the economy and a new flow of money. With new industries comes increased opportunity for employment, leading to an increase in income, which increases the quality of life for most of society who benefits from the creation of new jobs. Government responses from the United States have many options to engage in the vegan movement. Some options the government could implement are subsidizing the plant-based industry and alleviate some of the market-share that exists institutionally.
While it is unlikely that the government can coin veganism as the reason to implement policy in societies daily food choices, there are, however, other approaches that can be used to take action. An article published by The Washington Post highlights the ever growing need for ethical consumerism in the meat industry and argues, “Meat consumption in the United States…has reached a level that is unsustainable, both for our planet and for our health. We owe it to ourselves to make a change. Our politicians owe it to us to enable that change” (Wellesley, “We need to eat less meat. Should the government step in?”). This statement is then followed up by offering some steps that the United States government can take to respect the movement and create an easier transition for those individuals who are interested in a vegan lifestyle. An approach that would act as a educational benefit to citizens and also strengthen the message for the vegan community would be the United States introducing a dietary guideline for meat consumption. If the government appointed nutritional experts that conducted scientific studies to draw conclusive measures of daily meat consumption, then safer regulations could be imposed. This would be an example of the government stepping in and informing consumers of what occurs when an animal product is purchased, along with its impact on health and the environment. The government could also respond to this social movement by subsidizing health foods that are majorly consumed by vegans. If the government were to encourage vegan industries to increase production, then the prices of vegan goods would decrease. With the fall of prices in the vegan market arising from a subsidy, then there would be an increased demand for the products. With the long-term adjustment period considered, there is much economic profitability to consider through the imposition of a subsidy. This would result in a positive externality of production, defined as, “the positive effect an activity imposes on an unrelated third party” (Kenton, “Production Externality”). With the guidelines offering a healthier approach to food consumption, then there could be a benefit to the environmentalist concerns, the worries of health advocates, and vegan related industries. Considering the fact that there is an increasing population of vegans who practice devoutly, there should also be some representation in congress. A report covering this consideration states, “Around 8 percent of Americans identify as strict vegan… But that’s still about 26 million people who have barely had any representation in Washington” (Atkin, “Broccoli Head of State”). Such figures are astounding when compared alongside other underrepresented identity groups, and suddenly the need for vegan representation in congress no longer connotes the stereotyped hippie dream. If vegan representatives ever make their way into the political sphere, then other methods of attack towards the consumption of animal products can be explored. One other option that could impact and decrease the consumption levels would be applying a tax to animal-derived products. In terms of the market structure, the tax would decrease suppliers’ outputs because of an increased price paid by consumers. Producers would also bear the burden of tax and be required to pay some of their income to the government. The government could then inject the collected tax revenue into subsidizing other vegan industries. The options that the government has are limitless, but it requires activists to enhance the strength of their demands so that change can be initiated. The role of NGOs is also important in considering the momentum of the vegan movement.
NGOs work in a way that directly impact consumers opinions of brands, businesses, and people who hold importance in society. The textbook defines NGOs as, “the moral compass and ethical watchdogs against the forces of government and capitalism that seek to despoil the planet and crush the faceless majority” (PAD 201: Social Change, 199). Since the government has not mandated the labelling of vegan products, leaving room for marketing manipulation, NGOs like Certified Vegan require businesses to submit production processes in order to have their products labelled safe for consumption. This action shows that despite the government’s inability to take the vegan social movement seriously, that there has been an overwhelming amount of support and push in the vegan community that has resulted in a safe packaging process. NGOs are particularly helpful to social movements because they have incredible influence over businesses reputations. Since these organizations utilize the media and publicity, there is the ability to influence supply and demand with one article; disrupting market outcomes. NGOs such as The Vegan Society publishes articles, historical data and origins of veganism, and offers advice in how to get started in the lifestyle through the internet. With such a large community of vegans unified by the same resources, a great deal of influence is casted over those who get updates from NGOs that have a particular agenda – in this case discouraging the purchase, consumption, and lifestyle of encouraging the meat industry. With such influence and power over an entire demographic of consumers, businesses are better off working with NGOs. The potential benefits to work with NGOs outweigh the benefits of working against them. If policies and conditions are coordinated, then businesses are able to maintain some of their customers, regardless of a lifestyle change, and maintain their levels of revenue. Businesses have the ability to attract new customers by portraying themselves as corporately responsible and maintaining approval form popular vegan NGOs.
By considering the social movement of veganism, and it’s rising attraction, potential responses from businesses, government, and NGOs were offered. While the vegan movement has developed stereotypes and tribulations, there is no denying that a heavy share of market power lies within the growing lifestyle. The best approach that government institutions, business sectors, consumers, and NGOs can implement is a code of collaboration. The fluidity and benefit that comes with coordinating policies will make it easier on both the demand and supply side of the economy.
Crossman, Ashley. “What Is the Resource Mobilization Theory?” ThoughtCo, ThoughtCo, 1 Mar. 2019, www.thoughtco.com/resource-mobilization-theory-3026523.
Fox, Katrina. “Here’s Why You Should Turn Your Business Vegan In 2018.” Forbes, Forbes Magazine, 2 Jan. 2018, www.forbes.com/sites/katrinafox/2017/12/27/heres-why-you-should-turn-your-business-vegan-in-2018/#33e58a4a2144.
Kenton, Will. “Production Externality.” Investopedia, Investopedia, 12 Mar. 2019, http://www.investopedia.com/terms/e/externality-of-production.asp.
Oberst, Lindsay. “Why the Global Rise in Vegan and Plant-Based Eating Isn’t A Fad (600% Increase in U.S. Vegans + Other Astounding Stats).” Food Revolution Network, 7 May 2018, foodrevolution.org/blog/vegan-statistics-global/.
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