Why Some Conservatives Are Anti-Vegan And Animal Welfare
Piers Morgan’s adverse reaction to a vegan sausage roll from Britain’s largest bakery, Greggs, serves as an example of what carnivores consider the rise of political correctness in Western society. U.K. Grocery chain Tesco’s vegan sausage advertisement was attacked by reporter Janet Street-Porter as “Stalinist” and “nauseating.” These are just two examples of conservative, anti-vegan sentiment, but many advocates can give anecdotes outlining many more. In this review, the authors looked at why meat-eaters resent vegetarians, and what these feelings say about them.
The authors reviewed a range of psychological literature to argue that these outbursts are prejudiced and discriminatory. One study they cite found that more than half of vegetarians had experienced discrimination, and nearly 10% of vegetarians said that family had severed contact with them because they didn’t eat meat. About the same percentage say they were not hired for jobs because of their diet.
The authors explain that the presence of vegetarians makes some carnivores feel that their meat consumption is unethical. They lash out against vegetarians in order to preserve their positive self-image. Vegans (who consume no animal products) and ethical vegetarians (who refuse to eat meat because of animal welfare concerns) experience even more prejudice.
Meanwhile, the paper notes, political conservatives tend to be bigger meat eaters and more discriminatory toward vegetarians than liberals. But why? Those on the right often discourage straying from the status quo — like consuming or wearing animal products. In many nations, holiday meals and barbeques center around family and friends cooking and eating meat like turkey, steak, or hamburgers. Vegetarians are seen as countering important social traditions and thus worthy of backlash.
The authors outline literature that describes how conservatives are more likely to have a “social dominance orientation,” meaning that they believe in economic and political superiority for certain groups. This includes the belief that human animals have supremacy over other animals, who can be tortured and eaten at will. People who lean to the right are more likely to hunt and support testing on animals and circuses with animal acts. Vegetarians are ideologically counter to conservatives’ belief that humans hold dominion over animals and should be able to do with animals as they please.
The authors highlight the work of researchers such as Peter Singer, Carol Adams, and Breeze Harper who have analyzed the links between discrimination toward human (racism/sexism) and non-human animals (speciesism). People who are bigoted toward other humans are likely bigoted toward animals, as well. The authors collected data from the United Kingdom and three other countries and found that “social dominance orientation” is a central cause of both racism/sexism and speciesism.
In the past, scholars also have found that conservatives are more likely to be critical of environmentalism (i.e., refusing to mitigate climate change) for similar reasons. And vegetarians are the subject of anger because they are untraditional and outside the established social order. The authors here believe that all behavioral and social sciences should study why animals are abused by certain human groups more than others. Additionally, researchers should partner with vegetarian and animal welfare organizations to share their studies and find out how to make them more useful for advocacy.