The vegan dilemma: Do peaceful protests worsen attitudes to veganism?
A body of research has shown that violent protests reduce support for social movements. However, few studies have examined whether the same is true for protests which are peaceful, yet disruptive (e.g., blocking traffic). Across two pre-registered experimental studies, we explored whether pro-vegan protests that are depicted as causing social disruption lead to more negative attitudes towards veganism, compared to non-disruptive protests or a control condition. Study 1 utilised a combined sample of Australian and United Kingdom residents (N = 449; Mage = 24.7 years). Study 2 employed a larger sample of undergraduate Australian students (N = 934; Mage = 19.8 years). In Study 1, disruptive protests were associated with more negative attitudes towards vegans, but only among women. In Study 2, no such effect was found. Instead, a significant main effect was found for the protest's cause (vegan vs. fast fashion), but not protest type (disruptive vs. non-disruptive). That is, reading about a vegan protest, irrespective of how disruptive it was, led to worse attitudes towards vegans, and greater defense of meat consumption (i.e., endorsement of meat eating as natural, necessary, and normal), than reading about a control protest. This effect was mediated by the perceived immorality of the protestors, and, in turn, reduced identification with them. Taking together both studies, the purported location of the protest (i.e., domestic vs. overseas) did not significantly impact attitudes toward the protestors. The current findings suggest that depictions of vegan protests elicit worse attitudes toward this movement, regardless of how peaceful that protest may be. Future research is needed to examine whether other forms of advocacy can ameliorate negative reactions to vegan activism.