Bringing identities to the table: Exploring conversational practices of vegetarians and vegans at flashpoints in interaction with meat-eaters

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Although vegetarian and vegan (veg*an) diets can have various health, environmental and animal welfare benefits, they remain socially contentious. Despite the fundamentally social nature of eating, in situ investigations of the social-interactional elements of dietary identities have so far been lacking. Using a recently developed remotely-moderated focus group design, we explore (across 25 discussions involving 122 participants) the discursive management of veg*an ‘identity flashpoints’ during discussion with meat-eaters. Our discursive analysis explores how these moments in conversation arise and are handled in real-time within the unfolding interaction. We demonstrate how two particularly interactionally consequential features of veg*an accounts of their practice become constructed within these encounters. Firstly, personal accounts of veg*anism are interactionally preferred to moral accounts. Secondly, demonstrating continued liking of meat was necessary to be met with group acceptance among majority meat-eating groups. These features shed light on the social interactional perils of veg*an attempts to engage in persuasion with meat-eaters, particularly those based on moral grounds. Our novel methodology affords detailed analyses of how veg*ans navigate the performance of their identities in their daily interactions with dietary outgroups, providing insight into micro-level processes that might underpin, or hamper, processes of societal change in the dietary domain.
Original languageEnglish
JournalQualitative Research in Psychology
Publication statusAcceptance date - 20 May 2024

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