Veganism is now taking big strides:American expert

Veganism is now taking big strides:American expert

TED speaker Dr Melanie Joy explains ‘carnism,’ or ‘the belief that it’s okay to eat animals’

If Dr Melanie Joy were to give people one piece of advice, it would be to try be as vegan as possible. That’s the ethos behind the American psychologist’s decades of research into people’s eating habits. In India for the first time, she wants to address the harm behind the ideology she coins ‘carnism’ - the belief system that conditions people to eat animals.

India has one of the highest rates of vegetarianism in the world, with people following the principle of ahimsa, or non-violence. Despite that, Melanie says there is a shift towards meat-based diets and people are rejecting the traditions of vegetarianism. She’d like to see that change, while also acknowledging that many Indian people aren’t in a position to make their own food choices. “For the many people in India who do have the privilege to make food choices freely, it’s really easy to be a vegan,” she says.

“Everything you need to have a great meal that’s nutritional and adequate is already being eaten by many people.” Melanie has been following a vegan diet for close to 30 years, a decision she made after falling ill from eating a contaminated hamburger. It spurred a lifetime of research and work, leading to her becoming a TED Talk speaker and authoring the award-winning book ‘Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows’.

Over time, Melanie has seen a rise in vegan awareness and increasing popularity of products like dairy-free cheese and milks, as more people choose to adopt the lifestyle.

“When I first went vegan my mother thought I would die. Everyone was very worried about me. “Not when I share with people that I’m vegan they say things like ‘that’s why you look so young and healthy’.” It’s not just about non-violence and animal welfare. Melanie wants people to be aware of the “significant environmental problems” that carnism is responsible for. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) animal agriculture contributes to climate change, deforestation and pollution, and uses a high volume of water and land. “I haven’t had a single conversation with a person who has not demonstrated a sense of concern,” she says.

Melanie believes carnism and veganism exist on a spectrum and she encourages people to reduce their animal consumption as much as they can. “Where you are isn’t as important as where you’re heading. Some people are in a position where it isn’t readily available to be a vegan, yet that doesn’t mean they can’t be part of the solution.”