Lois Presser

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Lois Presser is professor of sociology at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She writes:

With my colleagues, we received a grant that helped to sponsor our research comparing the logics of and identities surrounding veganism and meat-eating. Our article “Life as a Reflexive Project: The Logics of Ethical Veganism and Meat-Eating” will be published in the prestigious journal Society & Animals (Presser, Schally, Vossler, forthcoming). The article is concerned with the ways that vegans and meat-eaters talk about themselves and their dietary practices. Data from a total of 81 semi-structured interviews with ethical vegans (21) and meat-eaters (60) were analyzed for themes and discursive strategies, and results were compared. Vegans insisted that animals had interests of their own and spoke of making consumption choices. Meat-eaters tended to reduce animals to human purposes and claimed powerlessness to avoid doing harm to animals while also referencing some license to eating meat. Vegans shared stories of eating meat whereas few of the meat-eaters did. Turning points in those (vegan) stories pertained to realizations of harming animals. Thought and knowledge were prominent themes in their statements more generally, and vegans were prone to critique past selves and the movement they had aligned themselves with. We believe that this research can help promote discourses of compassion and counter discourses of harm. Although the paper is not yet in print, related work may be seen here. The common aim of this work is to determine the cultural discourses that support patterns of harmful action.