Veganism opposes carnism. Veganism is an ethic of compassion, care, and justice for all— including animals—that extends throughout choices, purchases, attitudes, language, and actions. It is a moral baseline that defies the exploitation of nonhuman animals, humans, and the environment. This ethic does not see humans as more important and deserving than animals, and omits animals and animal-derived substances from diets, entertainment, research, medicine, fashion and other material goods. This ethic embraces animal rights and rejects the commodity status of animals. Vegans eat plant-based diets, which can reverse and cure many deadly and debilitating diseases such as cancer, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, ED, and atherosclerosis, to name a few.
Veganism’s embrace of animal rights intersects with other justice movements that fight oppression and destruction of humans and the planet. It is now considered the fastest growing social justice movement in history. In 2010, the United Nations called on the entire world to turn to plant-based vegan diets to end hunger and starvation and to save the planet from human-caused Global Warming and its outcome, the Sixth Mass Extinction, into which we have entered and caused foremost by farming and harvesting, annually and unnecessarily, 3 trillion land and water animals as commodities for food and other uses such as medicine and clothing.
Carnism claims, brutally, the lives of trillions of land and water animals, annually. It is non-essential to the majority of people in the world, today, because plant protein for human diets is superior to animal protein. According to psychologist Dr. Melanie Joy’s website www.carnism.org:
Carnism is the invisible belief system, or ideology, that conditions people to eat certain animals. Carnism is essentially the opposite of veganism, as “carn” means “flesh” or “of the flesh” and “ism” refers to a belief system.
Because carnism is invisible, people rarely realize that eating animals is a choice, rather than a given. In meat-eating cultures around the world, people typically don’t think about why they eat certain animals but not others, or why they eat any animals at all. But when eating animals is not a necessity, which is the case for many people in the world today, then it is a choice – and choices always stem from beliefs.
As long as we remain unaware of how carnism impacts us, we will be unable to make our food choices freely – because without awareness, there is no free choice.
Why has carnism not been named until now? One reason is that it is simply easier to recognize those belief systems that fall outside the mainstream (e.g., vegetarianism or veganism).
A much more important reason, though, is that carnism is a dominant belief system: it is so widespread that its principles and practices are considered common sense, “the way things are,” rather than a set of widely held opinions. Carnistic bias is built into the very foundations of society – when we study nutrition, for example, we actually study carnistic nutrition.
And carnism is also a violent belief system: it is organized around intensive, extensive, and unnecessary violence toward animals. Even the production of so-called humane (or, bio) meat, eggs, and dairy – a tiny percentage of the animal foods produced in the world today – exploits animals and involves brutality.
In short, carnism is a system of oppression. It is enabled by an unjust exercise of power that causes unnecessary harm to billions of individuals.
Carnism is a social justice issue. Because [it] is invisible, we assume that eating or not eating animals is simply a matter of personal ethics: “You make your choices, and I’ll make mine.” However, when we recognize carnism, we can appreciate that eating animals is in fact the result of a widespread, oppressive system. (Consider, for example, how believing that women did not deserve the right to vote had less to do with “personal choice” or “personal preference” than it did with the widespread sexism that conditioned people to believe in the inferiority of women.)
And carnism is structured like other systems of oppression, such as racism, sexism, and heterosexism. While the experience of each set of victims of oppressive systems will always be unique, the systems are similar because the mentality that enables the oppression is the same.
Ultimately, cultivating compassion and justice is not simply about changing behaviors; it is about changing consciousness so that no “others,” human or nonhuman, are victims of oppression. To bring about a more compassionate and just society, then, we must strive to include all forms of oppression in our awareness, including carnism.