On February 16 of 2020, Charlie Stevenson and Ashley Pratt swiped right. They’d joined a dating app just two days before, on Valentine’s Day. Pratt had posted a photo of her dangling from the sky in an aerial lyra hoop in front of a deep blue ocean—and Stevenson loved her smile. They talked every day for a month, and when the pandemic hit shortly after, Pratt moved from Merrimack, New Hampshire, into Stevenson’s house in Barre, Massachusetts. “All of our friends probably thought we were completely insane,” says Stevenson, a 45-year-old information technologist. “But sometimes you just know.”
The secret to their effortless connection? Sharing a plant-based lifestyle, they say. In fact, they met on Grazer, a swanky-looking dating app for vegan singles. A dating app for vegans only probably seems like the kind of over-the-top bit you’d see played out in a show like Portlandia. But there’s certainly a market for them: Many people like Stevenson and Pratt, vegans who eschew all animal products for welfare and environmental reasons, would never date someone who eats meat.
Today, vegan- and vegetarian-only dating spaces are thriving, especially online. Since it launched in June 2022, the Vegan Dating Lounge Discord—which only accepts users after they fill out a questionnaire about their feelings on issues like honey and horse riding—has steadily climbed to more than 2,000 members. Grazer, which hit the app store in 2017, doubled its user base after rebranding in November 2022 and daily active users have increased tenfold. Meanwhile Vegpal, a vegan dating and friendship app launched in the summer of 2021, has grown its user base sevenfold in the last year alone. The apps all declined to reveal exact numbers; it’s likely they pale in comparison to the 75 million users on Tinder. Still, the growth of online dating spaces for plant-based people is clear.
The decision to stop eating animal products is more than a diet—it’s like having a strong affiliation with a political party, explains Ken Greer, a longtime vegan from California and the 71-year-old founder of Veggie Connection, a dating site that’s been live for two decades. “If you’re going to spend your life with someone, you want them to share many of your fundamental views,” he says. Dahlia Eisenberg, the 32-year-old founder of Vegpal who lives in Boston, agrees. “You can liken it to a religion,” she says. “It’s a set of values that reflect how we navigate this world.”
Plant-based diets are divisive. Though estimates vary, vegans make up about one to 2% of the US population. Judging by various reports, plenty of vegans face criticism from omnivores for their food choices—and vice versa. It’s easy to see how meat eaters and abstainers might struggle to share a meal, let alone a life: 41% of omnivores in a survey out of the UK said they’d also be less likely to pursue someone who’s listed “vegan” in their online dating profile. And one 2021 study polling 7,400 vegans and vegetarians around the world found that 52% of the former and 39% of the latter wouldn’t consider dating a meat eater. (Awkward for vegetarians: Roughly 12% of surveyed vegans wouldn’t consider a relationship with a vegetarian, either.)
“Non-vegans often have a foul smell of decomposing flesh or rotten milk.”
Some reasons for the preference to date other vegans are skin-deep: In interviews with a dozen plant-based couples and singles, everyone said that the idea of hooking up with someone who’d just pounded a steak was truly unappealing. “I mean, meat breath?” says Eisenberg, a vegan of seven years. “Not cute.” Gray, the founder and moderator of the Vegan Dating Lounge Discord (who asked to be referred to by her username for fear of doxxing attempts after previous threats), would suddenly feel disgusted remembering what was digesting in her omnivorous ex’s stomach. “Non-vegans often have a foul smell of decomposing flesh or rotten milk, which I found so revolting it was sometimes difficult to sleep next to my partner,” says the 26-year-old budtender (like a bartender, but for weed) from New Jersey.