Understanding Carnism


Why People Eat Certain Animals and Not Others

melanie-joy-coverFor most of us, eating animals has always been presented as normal, natural, and necessary. In this worldview, eating animals is not a question of ethics, but a simple fact of nature; it’s just what we do.

Consumers of meat, dairy, and eggs are thus seen as participating in an age-old and universally accepted practice, while vegetarians and vegans are perceived as uniquely bringing a set of beliefs to the dinner table. But is this accurate?

As Dr. Melanie Joy, social psychologist, writes: “When eating animals is not a necessity for survival, as is the case in much of the world today, it is a choice—and choices always stem from beliefs. Most of us do not, for instance, eat pigs but not dogs because we don’t have a belief system when it comes to eating animals.”

So why do we love dogs, eat pigs and wear cows?

This question forms the basis of Dr. Joy’s ground-breaking research (as well as the title of her best-selling book.) The reasons, she concludes, stem from an oppressive, entrenched ideology that conditions us to disconnect from our most deeply-held values—values such as empathy, compassion, and justice—in order to make food choices that cause immense, unnecessary violence and suffering.

She calls this ideology carnism—the invisible or unrecognized belief system that conditions people to love certain animals while eating others, despite the fact that animals used for food have personalities, emotions, and preferences as rich and unique as those of our beloved cats and dogs.

Melanie Joy’s TEDx Talk

Dr. Joy explains this contradiction, and its devastating consequences for both people and animals, in her powerful TEDx talk below, which went viral in only the first few weeks of airing:

Learn more at Beyond Carnism. And if you were moved by Melanie Joy’s TEDx talk, please share it on social media with the text, “Psychologist explains why people eat certain animals but not others.