Only 0.5% of the American population identifies as vegan, which, as a vegan, I find mind-boggling. I've been eating a (mostly) plant-based diet for almost three years, and after becoming educated about the enormously negative impacts the meat and dairy industries have on animals and our environment, I couldn't just continue supporting them. For me, the health aspect of being vegan (for example, the lowered cholesterol and inflammation, the lesser risk of obesity and Type 2 diabetes) isn't a top priority, but for some folks, it definitely is. There are just so many benefits to a plant-based lifestyle that sometimes it's hard for me to see why so few Americans choose to follow it even partially.
But progress can't happen without mutual understanding. I've written tons of articles about my decisions to go vegan in order to help (gently) educate curious readers about how it can change your life and the world for the better. Still, I figured it was time to let non-vegans speak their truth. I asked 12 Byrdie readers and colleagues to give me the number one reason they haven't committed to a plant-based lifestyle—the ultimate barrier or challenge putting them off of veganism. I was interested to find that the two most popular reasons were A) lack of education about what it takes to get complete nutrition on a vegan diet and B) the fear that veganism is too inconvenient (because modern Americans do love their quick fixes). It was hard for me to listen to these arguments without chiming in with rebuttals, but this video by my favorite vegan YouTuber takes care of that.
Curious to learn what it would take for the average meat-eating American to go vegan? Just keep scrolling.
If I had more knowledge about plant protein.
"I have always just felt like I'm hungry if I don't eat meat. I grew up on it, so if I don't have it I, feel woozy or dizzy. I just don't know enough about plant protein to be able to figure that out. Also, I love eggs, bacon, and cheese, so there's that. But if I really felt better without eating those things, then it wouldn't be a problem. But that's not the case. I just feel physically better when I eat animal protein." — Erin
If it didn't require me to take supplements to meet my nutrient requirements.
"I'd be nervous that I'd need to supplement my diet with other things if I cut out animal products, and I haven't taken the time at this point to educate myself." — Kat
If I were more confident that it would have a significant positive impact on the meat industry.
"I grew up eating meat and dairy products without thinking twice about it and have yet to so much as attempt to follow a vegan diet. I understand that being a vegan can offer a slew of health benefits and that the meat industry can be cruel and overuse precious resources; however, I don't believe that my choice between eating animal byproducts or not is going to strongly impact the industry. That's something that will take large-scale policy change. On a more personal note, I've never been a fan of vegan cuisine that masquerades as meat, and I find it hard to feel fully satiated after a vegan meal." — Christie
If I didn't enjoy the taste of meat so much.
"Because I love meat and don't think I could live life without ever tasting ribs, salmon, shrimp, steak, sushi, etc., again." — Brooke
If finding vegan options was more convenient.
"I did WFPB (whole food plant based) for a while, and it was just really time-consuming to prepare food. Meal prepping took two to three times as long as eating a standard diet. So, I think more vegan 'convenience' foods would help." — Amanda
"Budget-friendly, convenient vegan meals are hard to come by. Also, vegan options are harder to come by where I'm located as opposed to where my friends are on the West Coast!" — Hay
"Definitely convenience/price. I have this perception that sourcing vegan food will not only be more expensive, but that it will be extremely inconvenient (especially when socializing). I don't live in an area where vegan alternatives are relatively popular or accessible, and my current food budget is pretty tight." —Julia
If I weren't such a picky eater.
"I'm an extremely picky eater that has a hard time finding substitutes that fit what I eat. (And yes, I have tried lots of alternatives and was actually vegetarian for a bit before a doctor told me I was straight up malnourished.) I also genuinely enjoy the taste of meat (specifically red meat and chicken. I don't eat pork products or seafood.)
"However, I will say after reading more about the impact that beef production has on the environment, I've made more of an effort to at least reduce my red meat consumption and shift my protein sources primarily to eggs and chicken. I think if you're not doing it for animal rights reasons, there has to be room for something other than an all-or-nothing approach." — Helena
If eating vegan wouldn't negatively impact my social life.
"I feel that eating socially plays a huge part in my difficulties with a vegan diet. I don't find it too challenging when cooking for myself, but if I'm out with friends, I like to be able to share the experience of dining out/being able to eat off of any menu. I don't find this to be as much of a challenge when eating vegetarian." — Paige
If meat weren't such a big part of my culture.
"I live in France, and meat is very present in our culture. So is cheese, obviously. It's getting much easier now to find veggie options but vegan ones are still pretty hard. Also, it'd be very challenging on a social level as family gatherings traditionally always include meat. However, as some people said above, people start making big efforts on this especially with beef, so there's hope!" — Camille
If veganism meant I didn't have to give up wearing leather.
"To me, being vegan is a lifestyle not just what you eat, but a belief—no harm brought to anything living. With that being said, I don't have a problem not consuming animal products, but I really love my designer purses and shoes, all made of leather." — Kimblyn
If cheese weren't so freaking delicious.
"I love cheese. There, I said it. I've been vegetarian for over seven years mostly because the detriment to the environment and unregulated production of meat grosses me the hell out (thank you, Netflix documentaries). In theory, I should be vegan because it aligns with everything I believe about healthy eating and minimizing my environmental footprint, but the one thing holding me back? A nice aged asiago on a cheese board or, you know, a good old slice of pizza. I could care less about milk, have gotten used to dairy-free ice cream, and have never liked yogurt anyway, so cheese is really the last straw for me. If anyone out there could devise a cheese alternative that is legitimately close to the real deal, I might actually take the plunge and go full vegan. Until then, I'll be over here enjoying all the burrata and a parmesan I can get." — Anna
Next: See what happened when a meat-eating Byrdie editor went vegan for a week.