Should we change The Terminology We Use To Talk About Veganism?
Teen author, Lotus Kay, shares her thoughts on language and veganism
Lately, I’ve noticed when I say, ‘I don’t eat animals’, it gets a bit of a different reaction than when I say, ‘I’m vegan’. It seems to be heard and felt differently.
When you say you’re vegan, people hear it as a diet choice. When you say you don’t eat animals it’s more of an easily understood statement. First off, by just saying the word ‘animals’ instead of ‘meat’, it registers in someone’s mind differently. When people hear animals, they don’t think of food.
Most people would say they love animals. So, when you point out it’s animals they’re eating, it’s a powerful thought for someone to consider.
I was thinking about this on my own, but then came across some other vegans who were also thinking that vegans sometimes overuse the word ‘vegan’. For example, saying, ‘I am eating a vegan pizza’, or ‘I am eating a vegan lunch’.
You could just say, ‘I’m eating pizza’ or ‘I’m eating lunch’. A lot of people think of being vegan as a restrictive thing. When you call something a ‘vegan pizza’, people think, well it doesn’t qualify as a real pizza. And it may sound like vegan lunch is separate from a normal lunch. Vegan is a separate way of eating people may think when you overuse the word. Especially if people already know you’re vegan, you don’t need to say it about everything you eat.
If you want to address that your meal is vegan, instead of saying so, you can try saying ‘made with no animal products’.
Again, using the word ‘animal’ – people are used to hearing meat, dairy and eggs as foods. But the more we use the word ‘animal’ and ‘animal products’ to address them, the more we change the narrative.
None of these foods grow on trees. They come from a living animal somewhere. And the more we register into people’s minds the idea that these are animal products, the more people will think of it that way. Even using the word ‘products’ can be problematic.
Saying you don’t eat anything that comes from an animal, or even more directly saying you do not support animal agriculture, can do a lot in leading the conversation away from the idea that what comes from an animal is food.
Also, with words like ‘pork’ and ‘beef’ – instead of saying you don’t eat pork, or that you don’t eat meat, or that you are vegan, you can try saying you don’t eat pigs. People don’t like to think of pork as pigs or beef as cows. So, when you say you don’t eat pigs or you don’t eat cows, it’s an even more bold way to make your statement.
Words have power and the words we use to talk about the things we care about really matter. Consider bringing the word ‘animals’ into the conversation. Or even saying your meals are ‘cruelty free’.
The animal agriculture industries don’t want us thinking much about where our food really comes from. By calling cows’ breast milk ‘dairy’ and using words like ‘bacon’ it’s easier to forget what we are really eating and the stories behind them.
So, use your words purposely, and maybe it can help shift the conversation.
Words by Lotus Kay
BIO: Lotus Kay is a nineteen-year-old author and writer who has been published in media outlets, including Green Child Magazine, New Leaves, Light of Consciousness and Voya: Voice of Youth Advocates. She is a recipient of a grant from Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots program for her work creating educational campaign, Bears for Cares. The campaign helps children around the world understand the state of wildlife and endangered species by gifting educational books and eco-friendly stuffed animals. She is the author of the children’s books More Beautiful Than Heaven and Billie the Octopus, both in collaboration with Bears for Cares. The books seek to educate kids on the importance and beauty of nature, and motivate them to help protect the Earth and our ocean. Her new books, out this fall, include A Thanksgiving for the Turkeys, which presents a new way of thinking about food choices and Thanksgiving through a turkey’s eyes, and Jenny the Chimpanzee,which reminds us of how interconnected and similar we are to our fellow animals friends. A portion of the proceeds of the books and toys support the Roots & Shoots program. find out more at bearsforcares.com and follow Lotus on Twitter @lotusrkay.