Vegetarianism: Identity and experiences as factors in food selection

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Beverly Stiles


Vegetarianism is increasing in worldwide popularity. While there’s an abundance of literature on the nutritional aspects of vegetarianism there remains a paucity of research by social scientist on vegetarian beliefs, motive and experiences. This paper reports an exploratory study to examine how the identity and experiences of being vegetarian affected food section. This entailed the examination of the motives for converting to vegetarianism as well as motives over time. Also examined were the social constraints and social supports present for vegetarians in terms of social relationships, availability of preferred food items. Seventy- nine vegetarians responded to a self-administered questionnaire submitted to two qualitative approaches to analysis. Findings suggest that a “vegetarian” identity has a variety of meanings to individuals. Individuals may be motivated by a variety of causes or issues to convert to vegetarianism, but over time will likely incorporate or assimilate other motives, vegetarian finds both criticism and support for their food ways. Social constraints are present to maintain the centrality of meat in the structure of meals. Moreover, vegetarianism affects social relationships.

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