Carnism is a term that was coined by Dr. Melanie Joy in 2001. It is a belief system that conditions humans to eat meat. Like other ideologies, it is manmade. We learn it. We receive positive and negative feedback about our behaviour, and it conditions us to behave in a way that we receive optimal positive feedback and minimal negative feedback. Essentially – we learn to follow the rules (basic sociological theory).
The Secret Reason We Eat Meat – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao2GL3NAWQU (Below is essentially a summary of this video).
People often think that that vegans and vegetarians are the ones who have strong beliefs about eating habits, but that isn’t true. Eating meat is not a necessity (see the meat myth – https://livefree0seizetheday.wordpress.com/2017/02/13/the-meat-myth/) and it is therefore a choice, and choices stem from beliefs. This belief system dictates what animals we eat, and when we eat them (usually subject to geographic location and religion). This is carnism.
Carnism continues to exist by defending itself. The first mechanism of defense, is denial. It denies the truth by making it invisible. It’s the norm, people don’t question it, or really even notice it. It also keeps its victims (animals) invisible, by hiding them away in factory farms and disguising the finished product. The meat you buy at the grocery store, or are presented at a restaurant, in no way resemble the animal itself and is even given a different name (steak, ribs, pork, etc.). Humans are likewise the invisible victims of this system – in our ignorance, we continue to fuel out bodies with foods that cause us to gain weight and develop health problems.
Justification is the second defence mechanism. We are taught to believe that eating animals is normal, natural and necessary – that these myths, are actually facts. These beliefs are institutionalized and imbedded in society, and like other societal norms, we learn them from our families and schools and are expected to conform. We internalize these beliefs and it distorts our perception of the system. Distortion is the third defence mechanism that prevents us from seeing what is really there. Cows become synonymous with streak. We no longer see the individual animal, but a hunk of meat.
In opposition to justification, denial and cognitive distortion, we have justice, truth and compassion, which ultimately leads to awareness. Awareness threatens carnism because it helps us to understand this system and gives us the freedom to make choices. Awareness has been an aspect of all social movements and has been significantly heightened surrounding this issue.
I’m really happy I stumbled across this video. I had never heard of carnism before, but it makes perfect sense to me and reaffirmed all my beliefs about consuming animal products. I feel especially attracted to this theory because I have spent four years studying social psychology and this is a psychological theory. There are theories and perspectives that help to explain and predict all types of human behaviour, but I never thought to look for one to explain our meat eating habits.