Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
In recent years veganism has become a significant phenomenon in Israel with the increase in the number of vegans, and the proliferation of social organizations advocating veganism. While some people choose a vegan diet for health reasons, the main motivation for veganism is moral, with a specific concern for animal suffering (for example: McDonald, 2000). This paper deals with the moral meanings and practices among vegan activists and is based on my ongoing ethnographic fieldwork I am conducting on vegan activism in Israel.
Lamont (2000) asserts that morality is a constructive principle that constitutes a boundary between "us" and "them". Following her work, in this paper I argue that the morality activists ascribe to their practices, constructs symbolic boundaries in two ways. First, a moral boundary between the activists and non-vegans. The activists perceive themselves as moral in comparison with non-vegans, which are often considered by the activists as immoral for eating animals. Second, a moral boundary is constructed between vegan activists and other vegans, such as non-activists and those that opt for a vegan diet for health reasons.
As I intend to illustrate, the moral boundaries the activists delineate are not fixed or rigid, but are constantly being negotiated – discerned, blurred, erased and underscored. These ongoing negotiations of moralities outside and inside the group, reveal that veganism should not be seen as a dichotomous, unequivocal and essentialist categorization. Rather, it is a hybrid identity that often fluctuates and overlaps.