Carnism: Why We Eat Certain Animals

Carnism is a term coined by Dr Melanie Joy, a psychologist and Harvard educated professor in the 2009 book: “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows.” It is an invisible belief system, or ideology that conditions people to eat certain animals. In a Carnist culture, people use the 4 N’s to justify their consumption of certain animals. It is natural to eat meat, it is necessary to eat meat, it is nice to eat meat, and it is normal. The people who reacted more strongly to the 4 N’s, tend to be more supportive of social inequality and hierarchical order, according to studies, and these people usually tend to block out the nagging feelings of guilt and questioning, regarding why they choose to eat pigs and cows, and keep cats and dogs as pets. At the end of the day, they are all sentient beings with feelings and personalities, who can feel pain. Carnism comes from the Latin word carn (meaning flesh), and ism (meaning a type of behaviour), and dates all the way back to Plutarch, in first century CE, though the behaviour/ideology was given a name by Melanie Joy. Carnism is a sub-type of Speciesism, which is the exclusion and abuse of any species that is not of your own, the most common example being human speciesism (human supremacism). Just because an animal has fur, or feathers, or a beak, compared to human flesh, does not make it justifiable to abuse or discriminate against them.

Most people do not see eating meat like vegetarianism, as a choice. However, it is a choice, because choices always stem from beleifs, and the overall belief is Carnism. Carnism teaches us not to think or feel when we eat meat, and not to think of the meat as an actual individual animal who can feel pain, who had children, and who had specific personality traits. Our perceptions of meat/eggs/dairy have become distorted so we do not question to humanity or ethics surrounding the consumption of animals. According to Melanie Joy, “Carnistic defences hide the contradictions between our values and behaviour, allowing us to make exceptions to what we would normally consider unethical.” Most humans are loving people, who are able to tell the difference between right and wrong, and care about the wellbeing of animals. But because of Carnism, there is an emotional disconnect between the meat that is being put into the bodies of humans.

Carnivore is the term that most people would describe themselves as, but that just feeds into the whole carnistic culture or justifying the abuse of animals through food slaughter. The word Carnivore insinuates that the subject NEEDS meat to survive and Carnism is the CHOICE to eat meat. Time and time again, humans have used the excuse: “We are Carnivores, we have canine teeth, we need meat for protein!” However, many herbivores like Hippopotami and Gorillas have the largest canine teeth of any animals, much bigger than a human’s canine teeth, which completely disprove the claims. Another excuse has been that people have been eating meat from basically the beginning of time. Many exploitative and harmful acts, like slavery, male dominance, and Trans/homophobic acts, have been justified with the reason being that they have been going on for years and years.

It is also easy to be a Carnist. There are countless advertisements tempting us all with pictures of big juicy hamburgers, crispy bacon on top. There are no advertisements about Tofu, or nuts, or Paneer. Many restaurants only have one vegetarian option, some have none, and when you go to the supermarket you see banners with “MEAT WEEK” in bold. The horrors of the factory farming industry have been completely hidden from the view of the public, many new CAFO’s (Concentrated Animal Feed Operation), have been built in developing countries, where poor and abused workers are employed. Ag-gag laws have been put in place in the United States to make it illegal to document factory farming by video, audio, or photograph. This all adds to the denial that many people have about eating animals. In many Western countries, eating a dog is considered disgusting and cruel. When it was revealed that IKEA had been serving horse meat in their meatballs people were appalled. Why is their such little outcry for the chickens, the pigs, the cows? People have become desensitized to these animals being senselessly killed, no less by massive factory farms, who have no consideration for the environment, worker’s rights, or animal welfare.


One thought on “Carnism: Why We Eat Certain Animals

  1. I agree with some of this, but the problem with the term ‘speciesism’ (invented by Peter Singer) is that it overlooks that as humans we have the capacity to reason and to make choices, which other omnivores don’t, about what we eat. As for the ‘male dominance’ bit that’s just standard PC feminist misandry.


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