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Veganuary: opposing sides & constructive conversations

Dr Jutta Tobias Mortlock spoke to BBC Radio 4’s Farming Today programme and discussed constructive conversation between the vegan community and the food and farming industries.

by Shamim Quadir (Senior Communications Officer)

This month was declared ‘Veganuary’, which is also the name of the charity and campaign that has been calling for people to try a vegan diet for the course of the month, and beyond.

Dr Jutta Tobias Mortlock is a senior lecturer in Organisational Psychology at City, University of London. She was interviewed by BBC Radio 4 Programme, Farming Today, to talk about the impact of veganism on public perceptions of food and farming and the associated debate between vegans and the farming industry.

When asked why the debate is so polarised, Dr Tobias Mortlock said:

“I don’t think veganism per se is any more polarising than other issues that people disagree over, such as Brexit, for example.  I think it’s the fact that this issue touches personal beliefs.

“That’s the key thing here, and beliefs always trump facts. So often when we talk about beliefs we’re touching on important values.

She went on to argue that values guide our opinion over what is right or wrong, and that whenever people argue over whether something is right or wrong they are not debating the facts around the issue, they are debating beliefs about what is moral or immoral.

“Effectively whenever I’m telling somebody else that I morally disagree with them, I’m questioning their world view or their identity of effectively who they are.  And that’s quite threatening.”

Asked if there was a constructive way to get people who very fundamentally disagree to talk, Dr Tobias Mortlock said:

“So, if you think about how we ever get to persuade somebody, we typically follow two routes, these two routes are called the central and the peripheral route to persuasion.

“If I’m working with you and trying to get you to come round to my side I might not focus on the central facts, I might focus on the peripheral stuff around how I’m constructing my argument.  And that’s a way to debate an issue, such as a controversial one, in a way to get people to feel connected to each other.”

Helping individuals and groups become more agile in how they debate controversial topics is at the core of Dr Tobias Mortlock’s research, which investigates evidence-based methods to generate behaviour change towards more sustainable wellbeing and performance in organisations

Her work suggests that front-loading an open dialogue around conflicts of interest is a valid and reliable way of enabling people at work to be and do well.

The full interview with Dr Tobias Mortlock was originally broadcast on BBC Radio 4 Farming Today.

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