We conceptualize the journey to ethical veganism in the stages of the transtheoretical model of change, from precontemplation through contemplation, preparation, action, and maintenance. At each stage, we explore the psychological barriers to progressing towards veganism, discuss how they manifest, and explore ways to overcome them. It is hoped that this paper can be used as a guide for animal advocates to identify the stage an individual is at, and understand and overcome the social and psychological barriers they may face to progressing. We argue that, while many people are ignorant of the cruel practices entailed in animal farming, many deliberately avoid thinking about the issue, are unable to appreciate the scale of the issue, and simply tend to favour the status quo. When engaging with the issue of farm animal suffering, meat-eaters are largely driven by cognitive dissonance, which manifests as motivated reasoning aimed at protecting one's image of oneself and one's society. This is facilitated by confirmation bias and complicit media which cater to the preferred views of their meat-eating audience. Even once convinced of veganism, habit and willpower present further barriers to acting on those beliefs. This is all in the context of a speciesist and carnistic culture where meat consumption is normal, farming is noble, and vegans are 'others'. We locate and elucidate each of these biases within the stages of the transtheoretical model and discuss the implications of this model for animal advocates and for further research.

Original languageEnglish
Article number105812
Early online date26 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2022


  • Cognitive bias
  • Consumer psychology
  • Persuasion
  • Transtheoretical model
  • Vegan
  • Vegetarian

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Psychology(all)
  • Nutrition and Dietetics


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