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Daniela Perfetti R. z5102075

EXAMINING NATIONAL IDENTITY In the last two years, according to Google Trends, in the worldwide searches for the word “vegan”, Australia has had the highest percentage of searches1. Above all, 11 percent of its population is vegetarian or vegan, it is the third fastest growing vegan market in the world and its packaged vegan food market is worth $136 million to date. It is estimated that it will reach $215 million in two years. The reasons for the growth of this social movement are because it is achieving visibility, by media, internet and social media, which is creating awareness and generating a debate on animal rights and the benefits of a plant-based diet for personal health and the environment. In addition, the market offer, which is a response to the increase in demand for these products, facilitates the transition to this diet, which to some transcends food and is considered a lifestyle2. However, this trend is considered by some as something “un-Australian” that confronts some of their traditions and threatens what is considered to be Australian. In this essay, I will discuss Australian identity, especially in terms of food, why this label has been given to the vegans and state my own position3.

“Aussies love their meat” In spite of this tendency, it is not possible to affirm that it is something that characterizes Australians worldwide. On the contrary, they are world-renowned for their meat, not only for the quality of the product that they export to several countries, but in recent years they have always been among the first places of the countries that consume the most meat. Currently, on average, an Australian consumes 113 kilos of meat per year, three times more than the global average4.


Some evidence shows that, in general terms, the predilection for meat is ascribed to its flavour, as a result of social pressure or because its perceived as the healthiest choice. In Australia particularly, it has been suggested that the excessive meat consumption is a consequence of extensive areas of land where, due to the type of soil, it is easier to raise animals than to plant vegetables. Therefore, it is possible to access to good quality meat at a reasonable price. What is more, it is a custom that was acquired from the settlers who transmitted their traditional ‘meat and three vegetables’ diet5 6.

The British influence The British colonists arrived in Australia in 1788 seeking for a new place to locate their convicts, whose number was increasing due to their strong penal code and social conditions, since the United States, where they were traditionally transported, was fighting for their independence. The settlers occupied the country based on the principle that the land belonged to no one, although the Aboriginal population had been living in Australia for more than 60,000 years7. They encountered a country with unusual geographical features, many which were unknown to them, in terms of climate, type of soil and fauna and flora. Unable to recognize foods that were similar to theirs, at first, they consumed what they had brought and then commenced to plant their own food or import it8. The English food tradition, which had been determined mainly by its social classes and as a consequence of the agricultural and industrial revolution, not only established what was conceived as food -and what was not-, but it also had a cultural impact in terms of the rituals that this entailed. Along with bread, meat was the most important component of their diet since it was considered the most popular and most desirable food; vegetables, on the other hand, were the least preferred. As an illustration, their national dish is roast beef and Yorkshire pudding9.

Cooking the Australian National Identity Consequently, meat became an important element of Australian


customs, where is usually the preponderant food in their meals. Its significance lies not only in its presence in national dishes, such as the meat pie, but also in the social practices that have developed around it, like the roast beef at Christmas or lamb roast on Sundays, and the barbecue ritual, which has evolved from the cooking practices of the Indigenous people10. Some writers suggest that before the 1950s, Australian cuisine was absent and limited to meat and fish and chips. However, the recent waves of immigration, after the abolition of the White Australia Policy, in addition to diversifying the population, led to an economic and cultural growth of the country. For instance, the development of the Australian fusion cooking for what is now world-renowned11. It is worth mentioning that, there has been a continuing debate about the definition of national identity and the necessity to determine the meaning of being Australian, who is considered one and what values, beliefs and groups represent their identity. The creation of the ‘bushman’ in the nineteenth century served as a response. Its creation fell to the common man since the settlers continued to have strong connections with their country and did not think of Australia as their home. For this reason, national identity was constructed by and around the notion of the white man of middle class, heterosexual and Christian. This same identity was protected by discriminatory laws, as the one mentioned above, and promoted by the media. As a result, there is a current belief that the ‘originals’ and ‘real’ Australians are the whites. Therefore, identity is still associated with European heritage, with race. Even the flag itself is an explicit reminder that to be considered ‘Aussie’ there must be a relationship with Great Britain. In addition, there are other symbols and customs that determine who is Australian. One of them is eating meat; being vegan is not12 13 14.

Being vego is un-Australian, mate Constructed around values, behaviours and beliefs, identity has a great influence in determining what is eaten and what is not; although other factors such as price and availability also guide this decision. Above all, in terms of food consumption, social pressure determines how we conceive ourselves and others, whether we feel


approved or not; which affects our decisions and the image we want to project. For example, one study discovered that the presence of ‘others’ might drive vegans to eat meat because the identity of the family or the desire to avoid uncomfortable social situations outweighs their food identity15 16. This pressure is reinforced by media with messages assuring that vegetables are for girls, that real men eat meat and that a meal is not real without it. Consequently, veganism is not considered a real option. Moreover, it is condemned or unappealing because of the tendency of relating meat and masculinity. This must be taken into consideration because of the patriarchal foundation of the Australian identity17 18. As illustrated above, since meat is an important component of Australian culture, nowadays it has been suggested that not consuming meat is ‘un-Australian’ because it is a challenge to what is considered to be Australian. For this reason, vegans are excluded from feeling related to their identity. Although this identity has shifted and has been adjusted to the circumstances, labels such as ‘un-Australian’ remain a way for Australians to determine who they are and to stigmatise those who do not agree with this identity. Hence, this expression establishes who the ‘insiders’ and the ‘outsiders’ are. Because of the constant change of the identity, who is considered ‘un-Australian’ has varied from aliens to tax fraud or socialism. What these subgroups have in common is this label, which according to Klaus Neumann is a synonym of ‘bloody awful’, and therefore are a way to differentiate or even exclude them from society19.

Personal perspective My main motivation to conduct this research is that recently I commenced a plant-based diet after watching a documentary that made me aware of the consequences related to my health, the rights of animals and the impact on the environment when consuming animal products. It is worth mentioning that in my country I never considered this possibility, since I assumed that eating meat and dairy


was ‘normal’ because that was what my family, society and industry had convinced me that was right. In Colombia, meat is not only considered as the main source of protein, if it is not the only one; but, as in Australia, it also has an important cultural significance because several customs have been constructed around this product and is the main ingredient of most traditional meals. The first reaction of my parents, after learning my decision, was to ask me what I would eat while traveling there. Someone even told me that I am a “fake” Colombian, but people usually make these kinds of comments since there are strong stereotypes about the appearance of Colombians. One reason why I believe I have been able to change my diet easily is that I do not feel the social pressure of my family and society. I assume it must be different to an Australian. The fact that they can feel excluded is evidence of the need to evaluate their beliefs and values and the importance of identifying what unifies them as a country to achieve a solid identity of inclusion. And this not only applies to vegans. In regards of the Australian identity, I can only judge from my experience that it might be different from how others conceive the country. At a glance, Australia does not have certain characteristics that make it possible to identify what is really Australian. I must admit that, at first, I also related the ‘real’ Australians to white Australian because that is what media has presented us. Besides the Opera House and kangaroos, I did not have much information about the culture, or the country in general. But after two and a half years, I can recognise some of the customs of Australians, and evidently eating meat is one of them: it is reflected in their preference for bacon and egg roll and hamburgers. However, on a smaller scale, this new wave of veganism is also seen because of the market offer and media visibility. It remains to be seen if this tendency will continue to increment, or on the contrary, is just a passing fad, which I hope is not.  


VISUAL ANALYSIS

The media has influenced the way Australians perceive themselves and others. Through movies, television show and newspaper articles, usually convey and reinforce symbolic codes that determine who is Australian and who is not. It has been suggested that the meat industry, through advertising, has managed to permeate in the culture the belief that lamb consumption is a tradition on Australian Day to increase sales. Using Australian humour and sarcasm, it has been repeatedly said that it is ‘un-Australian’ not to eat meat and not follow this custom.

Over the last 12 years, Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA) commercials have reinforced this message and other stereotypes. In particular, vegans are frequently personified as hippies; the stereotype of white Australians is strengthened because most of their main characters meet this profile and some stereotypes related to immigrants are exposed. These is a sample of some images that have been shown in these commercials and the counterproposal of a company that produces alternative meat products.


By using symbols like the flag, barbecues, beaches, iconic landscapes such as Sydney and Uluru, the company is transmitting what they believe is Australian and the national identity. As with the use of words as “un-Australian�, they condemn this lifestyle and sentenced vegans to be outsiders within their culture.

The counterproposal makes fun of MLC commercials since it uses the same symbols (as the flag) but delivers a different message since it does not promote being vegan, but reducing the consumption of meat instead.

Both companies use well-known Australians to communicate the messages because by using role models it becomes more attractive to the audience and, since each of them represent an specific behaviour, way of thinking or principle, it validates the messages they are transmitting.


ENDNOTES M. Nicholson, ‘What? Australians google “vegan” more than anyone in the world?’, SBS, 15 April 2016, https://www.sbs.com.au/food/ article/2016/04/13/what-australians-google-vegan-more-anyone-world, (accessed April 2018). 2 N. Pendergrast, A Sociological Examination of the Contemporary Animal Advocacy Movement: Organisations, Rationality and Veganism, Ph.D. diss., Western Australia, Curtin University, 2014, http://hdl.handle. net/20.500.11937/2472, (accessed May 2018). 3 K. Fox, ‘Vegans Fight Claim That ‘Eating Meat Makes You More Australian’, Plant Based News, 17 January 2018, https://www. plantbasednews.org/post/vegans-argue-idea-eating-meat-moreaustralian, (accessed May 2018). 4 C. Rees, and J. Mullumby, ‘Trends in Australian meat consumption’, Agricultural Commodities, vol. 7, no. 3, 2018, pp. 82-85, https:// search-informit-com-au.wwwproxy1.library.unsw.edu.au/ documentSummary;dn=224110136329092;res=IELBUS, (accessed May 2018). 5 A. Hayley et al., ‘Values, attitudes, and frequency of meat consumption. Predicting meat-reduced diet in Australians’, Appetite, vol. 84, 2015, pp.98-106, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2014.10.002, (accessed April 2018). 6 M. Evans, ‘Do we eat too much meat?’, SBS, 3 November 2017, https:// www.sbs.com.au/food/article/2016/10/13/do-we-eat-too-much-meat, (accessed May 2018). 7 D. Bretherton, and N. Balvin, ‘Brief History’, in Bretherton, D., and Balvin, N. (eds), Peace Psychology in Australia, Springer Science & Business Media, 2012, pp. xxiii-xxv. 8 M. Douglas, ‘On the edge of empire: foodways in Western Australia, 1929 - 1979 (food habits, food and culture)’, Ph.D. diss., The Pennsylvania Stale University, 1986, https://search-proquest-com.wwwproxy1. library.unsw.edu.au/docview/303428844/?pq-origsite=primo, (accessed May 2018). 9 Ibid. 10 L. Clancy, Culture and Customs of Australia, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004, p. 85. 11 Ibid. 12 B. Bastian, ‘Immigration, Multiculturalism and the Changing Face of Australia’, in Bretherton, D., and Balvin, N. (eds), Peace Psychology in Australia, Springer Science & Business Media, 2012, pp. 55-70. 1


W. Louis et al., ‘National Identity, Australian Values and Outsiders’, in Bretherton, D., and Balvin, N. (eds), Peace Psychology in Australia, Springer Science & Business Media, 2012, pp. 87-104 14 S. Jackson, ‘Sacred objects - Australian design and national celebrations’, Journal of Design History, vol. 19, no. 3, 2006, pp. 249-255. 15 S. Higgs, ‘Social norms and their influence on eating behaviours’, Appetite, vol. 86, 2015, pp.38-44, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2014.10.021, (accessed May 2018). 16 S. Kremmel, ‘Understanding Eating Boundaries: A Study of Vegetarian Identities’, BA diss., Florida, University of South Florida, 2006, http:// scholarcommons.usf.edu/etd/3801, (accessed May 2018). 17 A. Hayley et al., ‘Values, attitudes, and frequency of meat consumption. Predicting meat-reduced diet in Australians’, Appetite, vol. 84, 2015, pp.98-106, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2014.10.002, (accessed April 2018). 18 H. Rothgerber, ‘Real Men Don’t Eat (Vegetable) Quiche: Masculinity and the Justification of Meat Consumption’, Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 2012, https://foodethics.univie.ac.at/fileadmin/user_upload/p_ foodethik/Rothgerber__Hank_2012._Real_Men_Dont_Eat_-Vegetable-__Quiche._Masculinity_and_the_Justification_of_Meat_Consumption. pdf, (accessed April 2018). 19 K. Neumann, ‘UnAustralian’, Continuum, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 475-483, https://doi.org/10.1080/10304310701629912, (accessed May 2018). 13


BIBLIOGRAPHY Bastian, B., ‘Immigration, Multiculturalism and the Changing Face of Australia’, in Bretherton, D., and Balvin, N. (eds), Peace Psychology in Australia, Springer Science & Business Media, 2012, pp. 55-70. Bretherton, D. and Balvin, N., ‘Brief History’, in Bretherton, D., and Balvin, N. (eds), Peace Psychology in Australia, Springer Science & Business Media, 2012, pp. xxiii-xxv. Clancy, L., Culture and Customs of Australia, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2004. Douglas, M., ‘On the edge of empire: foodways in Western Australia, 1929 - 1979 (food habits, food and culture)’, Ph.D. diss., The Pennsylvania Stale University, 1986, https://search-proquest-com.wwwproxy1.library. unsw.edu.au/docview/303428844/?pq-origsite=primo, (accessed May 2018). Evans, M. ‘Do we eat too much meat?’, SBS, 3 November 2017, https:// www.sbs.com.au/food/article/2016/10/13/do-we-eat-too-much-meat, (accessed May 2018). Fox, K., ‘Vegans Fight Claim That ‘Eating Meat Makes You More Australian’, Plant Based News, 17 January 2018, https://www. plantbasednews.org/post/vegans-argue-idea-eating-meat-moreaustralian, (accessed May 2018). Hayley, A. et al., ‘Values, attitudes, and frequency of meat consumption. Predicting meat-reduced diet in Australians’, Appetite, vol. 84, 2015, pp.98-106, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.appet.2014.10.002, (accessed April 2018). Higgs, S., ‘Social norms and their influence on eating behaviours’, Appetite, vol. 86, 2015, pp.38-44, https://doi.org/10.1016/j. appet.2014.10.021, (accessed May 2018). Jackson, S., ‘Sacred objects - Australian design and national celebrations’, Journal of Design History, vol. 19, no. 3, 2006, pp. 249-255. Kremmel, S., ‘Understanding Eating Boundaries: A Study of Vegetarian Identities’, BA diss., Florida, University of South Florida, 2006, http:// scholarcommons.usf.edu/etd/3801, (accessed May 2018).


Louis, W. et al., ‘National Identity, Australian Values and Outsiders’, in Bretherton, D., and Balvin, N. (eds), Peace Psychology in Australia, Springer Science & Business Media, 2012, pp. 87-104. Neumann, K., ‘UnAustralian’, Continuum, vol. 21, no. 4, pp. 475-483, https://doi.org/10.1080/10304310701629912, (accessed May 2018). Nicholson, M., ‘What? Australians google “vegan” more than anyone in the world?’, SBS, 15 April 2016, https://www.sbs.com.au/food/ article/2016/04/13/what-australians-google-vegan-more-anyone-world, (accessed April 2018). Pendergrast, N., A Sociological Examination of the Contemporary Animal Advocacy Movement: Organisations, Rationality and Veganism, Ph.D. diss, Western Australia, Curtin University, 2014, http://hdl.handle. net/20.500.11937/2472, (accessed May 2018). Rees, C. and Mullumby, J., ‘Trends in Australian meat consumption’, Agricultural Commodities, vol. 7, no. 3, 2018, pp. 82-85, https:// search-informit-com-au.wwwproxy1.library.unsw.edu.au/ documentSummary;dn=224110136329092;res=IELBUS, (accessed May 2018). Rothgerber, H. ‘Real Men Don’t Eat (Vegetable) Quiche: Masculinity and the Justification of Meat Consumption’, Psychology of Men & Masculinity, 2012, https://foodethics.univie.ac.at/fileadmin/user_upload/p_foodethik/ Rothgerber__Hank_2012._Real_Men_Dont_Eat_-Vegetable-__Quiche._ Masculinity_and_the_Justification_of_Meat_Consumption.pdf, (accessed April 2018). Stoll-Kleemann, S., and Schimidt, U., ‘Reducing meat consumption in developed and transition countriesto counter climate change and biodiversity loss: a review of influence factors’, Regional Environmental Change, vol. 17, no. 5, 2017, pp. 1261-1277, https://link.springer.com/ article/10.1007/s10113-016-1057-5, (accessed April 2018).

Examing National Identity  
Examing National Identity  
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