Veganism, behaviors and social norming

Forest Nymph

Forum Legend
Nov 18, 2017
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Northern California
  1. Vegan
One of the things I've studied in my academic pursuits in environmental science is what actually causes behavioral change in people.

One of the reasons I don't get along with what I will call "vegan apologists" (people who seem to constantly be apologizing for being vegan, people who try too hard to acquiesce to their social group by continuing to cook flesh, etc) is because one of the most powerful tools in adult behavioral change is social norming.

Social norming usually doesn't make people feel "happy" as it's occurring. For example, many customers grumbled about plastic grocery bags getting taken away, being charged for paper bags, and being expected to carry their own reusable bags to the market. However, this kind of penalty (being charged for bags) being constantly reinforced (every few days or at least every couple of weeks) at the market, leads to socially normative environmentally constructive behaviors. In the end, it becomes normal, expected, even stylish, to carry one's own grocery bags. People I know in CA use their grocery bags as multi-purpose carry-alls now.

It's the same with "plant-based eating" and veganism. People might not feel comfortable and accomodated losing their superior place in society or their privilege as being traditional meat eaters (historically speaking, people in positions of privilege usually whine when their privilege is usurped by even a tiny loud minority, obviously flesh eaters are no exception) ...but they need to face it. That doesn't mean you have to break up with your spouse, be hateful to your sister, or be rude to all your friends, but that does mean that you have to be okay with asserting who you are as a vegan, and be okay with people around you being forced out of a lazy comfort zone.

While I know everyone isn't an activist, some people are quiet or undemonstrative by nature in most of their values and even their affections for other people, being an apologist isn't helping us as vegans, and it's not helping the cause of veganism. You cannot possibly "socially codify" veganism by constantly giving deference to the mainstream or dominant group of flesh eaters. That's just not how it works.

People liking you as an individual vegan might change an especially hostile person's attitude towards vegans (I know that these people exist and maybe a first step for them is simply seeing a vegan as a person) but warm feelings and happy attitudes don't necessarily create behavioral adjustments, and that's the bottom line.
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@ Forest Nymph - I respect your courage for taking a gutsy stand in the real world.

The gal who invented fire was burned at the stake. The guy who invented the wheel was executed on the breaking wheel.

I would rather not see you punished for your beliefs.