Two years. I have been a vegetarian for two years. During this time I have been ridiculed by friends and family for not eating meat — glorious, delicious meat— as they like to say. It’s mostly in “good fun,” but I know what they do not: the psychology of eating animals.
If Slaughterhouses Had Glass Walls
I used to not care (or say that I didn’t care) about how my food was produced because, like many of you, I loved the taste of meat in my tacos and my hamburgers and so on. Then, as many of you know, I saw the documentary Food, Inc. And I saw how the food industry treats, rather maltreats, the animals before they appear on our plates. And just as Food, Inc’s tagline stated: “You will never look at dinner the same away again.”
Carnism — The Opposite Of Vegetarianism or Veganism
Carnism is the invisible belief system that conditions us to eat (certain) animals.
Dr. Melanie Joy on carnism:
Most of us are unaware that we employ sophisticated psychological defense mechanisms whenever we eat animals. The closest most of us come to recognizing these defenses is the sense of relief, lightness, or connection to our food we feel if and when we stop eating animals. The “psychology of eating animals” is outside our awareness because the belief system that shapes this psychology is invisible. This is the belief system that I call carnism.
Dr. Joy continues to explain in her “Dis-Ease Of The Heart, The Psychology of Eating Animals” — a guest blogpost for Forks Over Knives— how we rationalize the eating of animals.
Deny, Deny, Deny
See no evil and there will be no evil.
If we don’t think about how our food is produced, and what that means, than there is no problem. Right?
Of course not.
Dr. Joy: “The most obvious and direct victims are the ten billion (land) animals who live and die in abject misery every year in the US alone, but carnism also victimizes the environment, exploited slaughterhouse workers, and those of us who eat animals and pay the price with our bodies and our hearts and minds.”
I usually hear this rationalization when I share a meal with meat-eaters and they’ve learned that I’m a vegetarian: “Oh, I can’t watch those documentaries because then I won’t eat meat” or “I just love the taste of meat too much to give it up.”
Justify Until You Feel Right
Do you believe that you need to eat meat to meet your need for protein? Do you believe that eating meat is natural?
Many people do. I have used the justification and it’s been used against me as well as to persuade me to return to eating meat.
We learn to think of farmed animals as objects, as pieces of live “stock;” we learn to think of them as abstractions, as lacking in any individuality or personality of their own and instead simply as abstract members of a group, “a pig is a pig and all pigs are the same;” and we learn to place them in rigid categories in our minds so we can harbor very different attitudes toward different species (dogs are friends and pigs are food).
Change The Way You Think About Meat
Dr. Joy experienced a pivotal moment in her life and from that moment decided to no longer eat meat. She then dedicated her life to study the psychology used by rationale people who love animals (like cats and dogs) but could then eat animals (like cows and pigs). Here is her presentation of Carnism. I watched the video, all of it, and found the material very thought-provoking and I implore you to watch it too.
Boiling It Down: Why Eating Animals Makes My Blood Boil
I realize that it is very likely you did not watch as the video is an hour long; I understand. However, if nothing else, fast-forward to 27:50 and see what I see now when I watch people eat their bacon cheeseburgers. It’s only 4 minutes long. Yes, it is distressing.
Did you still not watch it? Pity. Because now I have to tell you.
Why I’ll Never Eat Pork or Bacon Again
Imagine a pig in a compact pen, so compact that he cannot turn and from the distress will often bite the tails off the pig in front of him. Instead or providing a larger pen for the pigs, it is common practice for slaughterhouse workers to rip the tails off piglets. In the same moment, they will castrate male piglets with a scalpel and rip out their testes. No anesthetic. Just cut and rip.
The piglet screams in pain. If it’s a botch job and the worker has done more damage (ripping out their intestines for example) they will grab the piglet from the hind legs and swing the piglet on to the ground to concuss him. The piglets often convulse from the head trauma and bleeds out — but this could take hours. If the pig survives castration and makes it to the end of the line to become a side-order of ribs, he will meet his end a couple of ways:
- Electric shock to the head to make him stun him before he’s hung on to meat hooks. It can takes several shocks with a bolt gun to the head and still he is not dead, just not conscious.
- Placed on a conveyor belt and transported in to a room where he is electrocuted.
- Hanging from meat hooks, his neck sliced so he bleeds out. Sometimes their necks are not sliced thoroughly.
- Hanging from meat hooks, neck sliced but sometimes still alive, he is submerged in to boiling hot water where he’s drowned all the while flailing and screaming to save his life.
- WHY WE LOVE DOGS, EAT PIGS AND WEAR COWS, an introduction to Carnism by Melanie Joy (karenwhiteaudiobooks.com)
- On Eating Animals (3quarksdaily.com)
- Back to the Heart: Restoring Our Relationship to Our Fellow Creatures (Forks Over Knives)