So, Avalanchian mentioned carnism in our last post. It's not a very common term, so we thought we'd talk a bit more about it.
Carnism is the opposite of veganism. It is a modern term that is used in the place of 'omnivore' to refer to meat eating humans as it more accurately describes the human relationship to the animals they eat. Phrases like 'omnivore', 'herbivore' and 'carnivore' signify a biological need or predisposition whereas 'vegan' and 'vegetarian' denote a choice based around beliefs. Using 'carnist' instead of 'omnivore' to talk about people who eat animals highlights the fact that eating animals is a choice based on the belief that it is acceptable to use animals for human purposes, and not an irrepressible biological need.
However, eating animals is rarely seen in terms of a choice. It is "the done thing" and considered not only normal in many societies, but as an utterly uncontroversial default behaviour. It is an invisible belief, a kind of conditioning - very few people actually stop to seriously consider the beliefs they have about the human use of animals, or about animal ethics. They eat animals because that is how they have been brought up and how their ancestors have been brought up. They eat animals because there are major financial and political interests in perpetuating the use of animals, and these interests are expressed constantly in advertising, professional advice and healthcare. Eating animals is just what normal people do. On the other hand, those that defy that status quo are seen as having a philosophical position and this sets their diet and lifestyle aside from the norm.
Carnism is a better, more accurate description of the prevalent cultural paradigm. As vegans, we want to highlight that most humans are carnists, not true omnivores, and by showing that the default diet of many humans (especially in developed nations) stems from choices and beliefs rather than needs, we hope to challenge the philosophy behind it.
For more information, check out the CAAN website.