The growing popularity of veganism is starting to filter through to our use of everyday language where animals and meat are often linked to bad behaviour. 

Metaphors referencing meat are growing less and less popular when people realise they reinforce the negative stereotypes of animals. Think of the epithet “You are behaving like an animal”.

If veganism forces individuals to confront the realities of food’s origins, then this increased awareness will undoubtedly be reflected in language and our literature.

As a result of a growing awareness of meat’s contribution to climate change, the negative effect of animal products on people’s health, the planet, and the appalling cruelty of industrial animal agriculture, many individuals have realised that by using stereotypical meat referenced metaphors, we perpetuate the importance of meat.

If veganism forces individuals to confront the realities of food’s origins, then this increased awareness will undoubtedly be reflected in language and our literature.

So where do we start?

Have you ever considered adjusting your language? We usually associate veganism with many factors such as, being against the abuse of all animals, making an impact on climate change and health, and even activism.

But is there more? Are there factors that people are not typically aware of?

Let’s dive into… language. No not Chinese, English, French, or Spanish… but instead the actual words which we use. And more so, the emotions we put behind those words. Now you may be thinking; Are you suggesting that our words can be, vegan? Well, kind of, yes. Here’s the thing…

As humans, we experience happiness, upset, anger, frustration, and anxiety, just like animals. However, when we express our emotions it can sometimes come with the use of words such as “you pig”, or “I’m running around like a headless chicken”, and  “I’m going cold turkey”. We hear this in movies, books, social media, and between people around us.

Sound familiar? Problem is, this use of language doesn’t at all define our reality. For instance, if we were truly “running around like a headless chicken” we would be severely suffering and close to death. Additionally, our choice of words can create a negative association with animals. When we refer to someone as a “pig” during an outburst of anger, we are portraying that a pig is less important, as dirty, or as disgusting. This also suggests that we may think that we’re more superior than a pig, when we are not.

Moreover, this use of language is being ingrained into our subconscious mind and is often found humorous by many. However, the reality is, the animals of which we refer to are sentient beings and are instead being associated with something, someone, or a circumstance that we don’t like, or are disgusted by. This influences our subconscious mind, which in turn, can negatively impact our view of and emotional connection to animals and their welfare.

There are also words and phrases that we connect positive feelings with, such as, “spring chicken” or “I’ll milk that”. They may not seem ‘as bad’, however, again, this not our reality and instead, can encourage the use of more negative phrases and associations with sentient beings.

Here are some examples of what to say instead:

  • “Like a headless chicken” – “Full of beans”
  • “Bring home the bacon” – “The breadwinner”
  • “I’ve got beef with you” – “I’m about to go bananas at you”
  • “Going cold turkey” – “Turning over a new leaf”
  • “Hold your horses” – “hold the phone”
  • “Let the cat out of the bag” – “spill the beans”
  • Open a can of worms” -“open Pandora’s box”
  • “Your goose is cooked” – “The jig is up”

We can support the vegan movement by becoming aware of our expressive use of language, in turn, creating a more compassionate connection with veganism and animals.