Not only that, but many of them get angry if you try to shed light on where their meat originates—just telling people you’re vegan can sometimes inspire hostility. That’s because people know, on some level, that animal agriculture is horrific but support it anyway. By raising awareness of the reality of animal agriculture, you shed light on that moral discomfort that most people feel at the idea of eating animals.
Had an interesting discussion over lunch with a friend who experienced backlash while on vacation with friends when she casually stated that she wasn’t interested in eating much meat because she was cutting back. Their chilly reaction and subsequent efforts to tempt her into eating various hunks of seared flesh left her puzzled. But longtime vegetarians and vegans will no doubt recognize this reaction, and Dr. Melanie Joy describes the phenomenon in this linked article on GOOD. She has coined the term “carnism” to refer to the systemic cultural belief that eating meat is right, healthy, and required, rather than the choice it truly represents. She highlights the fact that it is a choice by pointing out the wild inconsistencies in our attitudes and assumptions towards different kinds of animals.
I’ve found it to go beyond that, too. In my experience, any behavior (the deviation doesn’t even have to be verbalized) that demonstrates an effort to make conscious choices about food and diet becomes suspect. It is as if my desire to eat a salad impinges on your ability to eat a steak.
The trouble with that is that my chosen diet is pretty non-mainstream. I am vegan and have been since 1998. Being vegan is as much an ethical choice as a health-conscious one, but I realize that ethical ideals are impossible so I try to respect everyone’s ability to arrive at their own ethical compromises, within reason, and I try not to force my values onto anyone else. I’m also learning more and more about raw food and other optimized nutrition, and that has to do with improving my health: I’m not overly concerned about the welfare of carrots. But uttering the word “vegan” can stop a cocktail party conversation cold. Everyone is waiting for the other non-leather shoe to drop, I suppose, and for the lectures to begin.
I’m not a lecturing kind of person. (Not usually, anyway.) But I think this article presents some valuable new vocabulary and food (ha!) for thought, so whether you choose to eat meat or choose to abstain, you may find it valuable to read this whole article and possibly see some of the nearly-invisible constructs we’re surrounded by in a new light.
Let me know your thoughts.