Why Vegans Need To Remember Their Own Carnism

Remembering what it was like when you were non-vegan, and speaking about that in a personal way, makes it easier to connect with non-vegans.

Imagine a woman who’s spent her entire life happily living in New York, and never even left NYC until she moved to Los Angeles two months ago. But now, she doesn’t remember anything positive about New York! In fact, she can’t understand why anyone would want to live there, and she even looks down on people who do.

“Why would anyone want to live in New York when you can live in LA?”

A similar phenomenon happens with some vegans — who, just months after they stop eating animals — forget that they were ever not vegan. Or at least they forget what it was like for them when they weren’t vegan. They’ll look at someone eating meat and say “How can he do that?” when “doing that” may very well have been their own action just a few months ago.

“How can he do that?”


Effective communication, which is the foundation of effective vegan advocacy, is based on a sense of connection. It is difficult, if not impossible, for people to feel connected if they don’t feel that there’s common ground between them.

If we forget, and especially if we look down on, one of the most relevant things we may have in common with the non-vegans we’re advocating to — our own carnism — we put up a barrier between ourselves and them, reducing the likelihood that our message will be heard.

On top of that, we aren’t being respectful to them.

Putting up a barrier between ourselves and them

Remember Your Own Carnism

Hence, it’s important that we always remember our own carnism. This helps us stay empathically connected to non-vegans and to bridge the gap between us. And it’s up to us to bridge this gap, since we’re the ones who are bilingual, so to speak.

We’ve lived in a carnistic world, but they haven’t lived in a vegan world.

It’s up to us to bridge the gap

So the next time you’re talking about veganism, try also talking about your own carnism. For example, if someone notices you’re not eating animal products and asks you if you’re vegan, you can say something like

“I’m vegan today, but for much of my life I wasn’t. In fact, I used to be a total cheese lover.”

Knowledge is power

Or you can talk about how you used to love your parents’ special (non-vegan) holiday dinners.

Remembering your own carnism helps you be a more effective vegan advocate, increasing the chances that the people you advocate to are more open to your message.

Remembering your own carnism also helps you be a more empathic person.

So remembering your own carnism is win-win.

We're very grateful to VegFund for supporting the production of these videos.