Facing a carnist society; A tale of vegans in San Francisco

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The animal industry has grown tremendously in the latter half of the 20th century and has become one of the most significant contributors to the world’s most pressing environmental issues. The impact of these issues is expected to increase in the near future as the global population grows, making addressing these issues ever more urgent. Calls for a dietary shift away from animal products however face resistance as the consumption of animals is not only an issue of nutrition, but also of culture as animal consumption is driven by an invisible, hegemonic belief system called carnism that makes culturally-based distinctions between animals based on their edibility. Vegans reject this by seeing all animals as equally inedible and abstaining from all animal products. As a growing social movement, veganism provides an interesting potential solution strategy to the environmental issues related with the animal industry by practicing their ideology on the subpolitical level; the expression of ideological beliefs outside traditional institutional channels in everyday practices. The potential of veganism is therefore determined by the ability of vegans to successfully maintain their practices and encapsulate veganism as a sustainable part of their identity within a society in which carnism is hegemonic. This research aimed to produce new insights in veganism as a subpolitical movement by exploring the role of subpolitics in the encapsulation of veganism by vegans in San Francisco. The treadmill of production and world risk society were used as grand social theories to provide a context for the ideologies of carnism and veganism. Furthermore, an ethnographic approach was adopted as the best fitting methodological approach to capture the experiences of vegans. The fieldwork in San Francisco was then conducted over a period of three months, during which unstructured observations were made and nine vegans were interviewed.
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