There have been many words that vegetarians and vegans have used to belittle and attack people simply for eating meat. You have Meat Eater, Udder Sucker (my personal fave to be called), and Flesh Eater, among many others.
I don’t really like that vegetarians or vegans have derogatory terms for people who eat meat, to me it is untactful and just moronic. Acting like a prudish snob only causes people to be REPELLED by vegetarianism, not drawn to it. Like the whole issue that came up a few days ago with the #SmugVegetarian hashtag. Acting this way is only detrimental to the vegetarian movement as a whole, which is probably one of the reasons that despite meat consumption declining and the sale of meat substitutes increasing, that vegetarianism has not been growing.
But back on topic, what IS a Carnist? Well, despite what it may seem, “Carnist” is NOT a derogatory term for someone who eats meat. Of course, some people might use it as such, but it is not.
The term Carnist was coined by vegetarian activist Melanie Joy, and information on it can be found in her book Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows. In her book, Melanie talks about WHY people who eat eat do so, but also refuse to acknowledge the harm that they are doing to animals. The book does not say that people who eat meat, or carnists, or bad people, but people who have been brought up from birth eating meat, and as a result believe as a result of misplaced social pressure and believed (but not true) health advice that meat consumption is either necessary, natural, or normal.
Natural, in the way that “we evolved to eat meat”. Normal, because “everyone is doing it/it is tradition.” and Necessary, because a lot of people believe that meat is a requirement to get Protein, Vitamin B12, and Vitamin D3. Carnism is simply the ideology that conditions us to eat meat using these 3 ideas, and it is an ideology that is invisible, so nobody knows they are following it.
That’s not to say that anyone is forced into a carnism by carnist practitioners, but simply being told that meat is necessary for your health (“But where do you get your protein? Vitamin B12?”), the idea that Bacon is the elixir from the heavens (Bacon bowls, bacon scented deodorant, Epic Meal Time), or simply being pressured into eating meat due to tradition, or being mocked for being vegetarian, or even simply being treated different because you don’t eat meat, are all ways in which carnism works.
You can learn more about it through Melanie’s book, which can be found HERE.