Why actively assisting non-vegans is important.
I think I’ve come to an important conclusion: Most carnists don’t avoid going vegan out of selfishness.
I thought that I had gotten over my hatred and my misanthropy. But like all great lessons, I had to learn and re-learn how to let go of my prejudiced views of my fellow human beings. Even if I didn’t feel conscious anger, a more subtle anger was still twisting my beliefs about human nature. I believed carnism was selfish, ignoring evidence to the contrary.
There’s nothing selfish about why people avoid a plant-based diet, if by “selfish” one means “putting one’s own needs ahead of others’.” A plant based diet can be inexpensive, delicious, and much healthier; and people already know this on a logical level. Carnism, like almost all human behavior, is about habit.
We can accept that when a carnist says “our ancestors ate meat,” it’s a hastily-made and transparent rationalization—especially when they keep saying it after you’ve thoroughly discussed how irrelevant it is. When a carnist says “meat-eating is natural,” we realize that, too, is a rationalization for (self)destructive behavior.
Well, “I just like the taste of meat/milk/whatever” is also a rationalization. We know as well as they do that they have other beloved foods and drinks: fruit juice, PB&J sandwiches, spaghetti, etc. Heck, even certain meaty foods only taste good because of vegetable-based spices and condiments—and almost everyone already knows this.
Carnism is very much like other belief systems. However much pleasure comes from believing they and their loved ones will go to heaven, it’s not why people are Christian. And even if a burger tastes good, it’s not why people are carnist. Most people become Christian, or Catholic, or Muslim, or Hindu, or carnist, or conservative, or whatever because of socialization; and people stay that way by force of habit.
Anyways, if I’m right about this, then a certain tactical approach becomes more important. As advocates of animal rights, our activism must include actively assisting carnists in transitioning to a plant-based diet. This means offering to buy or cook vegan meals for non-vegan friends/family, according to their tastes. This means offering affordable or free vegan snacks at public events. This means accepting that most people will only transition to veganism slowly, while unlearning bad habits and learning good ones. This means understanding that people will become defensive and blurt out rationalizations while trying to destroy old habits—and that the best reaction is to offer more assistance.
People already do these, but it’s not our primary tactic. Maybe it should be, somehow.