Some people following me for the long haul might have recognized that I tend not to use the word “carnist” when referencing non-vegans. Sometimes I opt for “animal consumers”, although I typically say that if I’m thinking about capitalism and consumerism (i.e. consumerism concerning the industries that exploit animals) but it’s possible that someone could see me say “animal consumer” and just think I mean the act of consuming animal flesh. And although I understand and sympathize with some of the arguments made for using “carnist” as the standard term to refer to the ideology and practice of exploiting animals, I still have the same criticisms towards it that I did two years ago when the word “bloodmouth” had become somewhat popular.
The reasons I don’t use the term carnist (as stated in the above link with more detail) are as follows: 1. People become more interested about how the term makes them sound than what it means to hold that ideology (for example, the term “bloodmouth” flattered some who thought that it made them sound “hardcore”, while the term “carnist” has a tendency of offending people who perceive it as some sort of intended insult), 2. The term derives from an inaccurate or incomplete perspective of the animal rights issue (carnism comes from the latin word “carne”, meaning meat - in essence, this results in little more than having a different word for “meat eater” even though animal exploitation happens in equal or greater amounts for other endeavours, such as dairy, eggs, leather, fur, zoos, circuses, and experimentation), 3. (A lesser point/a side note) It fails to accurately portray what non-vegans actually do eat. “Carnism” to me gives rise to images of raw and bloody meat, but the strong majority of non-vegans primarily eat processed animal products, and will never see the “carnal”, bloody, gutted side of their meal. Someone eating a low-fat chicken salad and a yogurt cup probably doesn’t feel like their meal can be likened to brutality, aggression, mutilation, animal instincts, etc. etc. and they will see “carnism” as an exaggeration or hyperbole. It’s not describing their practices in a way they can identify with.
With all that said, I still do think that the ideology of exploiting animals should be identified by name - a better name than just referring to them as “non-vegans”. But I think we made a mistake when we coined and formulated the term “carnist” because it has failed to help us show to those who exploit animals that they take part in an ideology, and a damaging one at that. The term was formed in the hopes that people would see eating, wearing, and using animals isn’t just “normal” or the default state of how humans should behave, it is a dominant ideology that has controlled our society for generations. Vegans are not the only ones with a shared set of beliefs and practices, but we are the ones to choose our ideology rather than to comply with the majority. It’s important to understand that choosing to be vegan is not adopting ideology, its merely switching ideology. You are already making choices in your life that signify how you think animals should be treated, it’s just time to make less damning choices.
As a final note, “Omnivore” is not an accurate description of non-veganism. It seeks to describe what humans are by dietary nature, and not what we are by beliefs and practices. Not only does omnivore fail to address non-food exploitation of animals, it also fails to realize that we are not obligate omnivores, but facultative ones, meaning we can survive without the consumption of other animals (
The American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada said in 2003 that properly planned plant-based diets were nutritionally adequate for all stages of life, including pregnancy and lactation; and this dietary change is usually at a benefit to our health). Once again it only focuses on the issue as if meat eating is the only cruelty, since to call non-human animals “omnivores” is to suggest only that they eat meat for their survival: non-human animals do not drink milk past infancy, nor do most consume eggs or honey. “Omnivore” is not the opposite of “Vegan”, it is the opposite of “Herbivore”, and veganism is about much more than what we eat. We’re not choosing to be herbivores (we will always be facultative omnivores), we’re choosing to be vegans.
[If you’re a non-vegan reading this and want to know more, check out this primer on veganism or browse my FAQ. Vegans, feel free to add arguments or counter-arguments to this issue, reblog or send me an ask to talk about it.]