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Carnism - ideology for "meat-eaters"

Updated: Oct 12, 2021

Personal note: Since researching and writing this blog, I realised it had a slight impact to my state of mind and since I am in the rut of my battles with my mental health, it probably hasn't help with my recovery. If you are dealing with any mental health issues, particularly PTSD, I recommend you skip reading this blog. Like me, I hope you are already an advocate for animal rights and more so a vegan. Thank you.


Veganism, vegetarianism, pescatarianism, flexitarianism, pollotarianism - they are all ideologies based on one's beliefs around their diet. Melanie Joy PhD expresses in her book "Why we love dogs, eat pigs and wear cows" eating animal products is a choice, a belief, therefore should have an ideology. She created a word for this, carnism.


I am a proud vegan and in this discussion, I wish to share some of Dr. Joy's values and introduce carnism to those who haven't heard of it. Dr. Joy takes credit for most of what is presented in this article, and I wish to acknowledge her hard work and research.


I first heard about carnism in a Plant Based News (PBN) podcast episode Carnism vs Veganism Dr. Melanie Joy Interview 22 Jun 2017. If you haven't heard of PBN - get on it. They have a podcast, they're on YouTube, they have a very informative website. I get a lot of my vegan-related news and information from them. Dr. Joy identified most beliefs have an ideology; feminism, racism, anarchism, communism, conservatism, environmentalism, fascism etc. Veganism is a belief, a belief that humans should not consume animals, use animal products or products tested on animals. She speculates eating meat, is a belief; you believe human's should eat meat.


You may think the opposite of vegan is "meat-eater" or carnivore. Dr. Joy believes this is incorrect. Human's are not carnivores, we don't need meat, and only eat meat, to survive. We are omnivores; we need plant based foods, but we can also digest meat. But this isn't a belief, it's a fact.


Why is it so important to have an ideology for those who consume animal products? Dr. Joy believes to successfully navigate a movement, a belief should oppose it.


But consuming animal products isn't a belief, it's a necessity, we all do it. Well, Dr. Joy argues that. We choose to eat meat. We choose to drink milk. We choose to wear leather. Just because the majority of the population uses animal products, doesn't make it a necessity, it doesn't make it right.


Dr. Joy strongly believes in animal rights and in her book, exposes some horrors of animal cruelty in the meat and dairy industry.


WARNING: what you are about to read is disturbing and similar information has been known to cause post traumatic stress disorder in some people. If you are among the converted, I would advise against reading the paragraphs starting with a warning.


Warning. It is estimated that 72 billion land animals are slaughtered each year for food consumption - worldwide. Since 1960, this number increased from 8 billion per year [1]. Dr. Joy questions in her book, "Where are all these animals?" You don't see anywhere near that number in your travels. You may see an acreage of cattle, but how many would you see each time? 20, 30, 50? Where are all these animals we are consuming? Factory farms. Animals. Crammed. Inside. Away from the public eye. These "farmers" are explicitly told to hide their methods of "farming" from the public. Society "needs" to eat meat, population is rapidly increasing, we need to eat, affordably, quickly. Old methods of farming was no longer a sustainable way of getting animal products on our plates, in our glasses, as our clothes and on our skins.


Dr. Joy speaks to a number of undercover investigators who worked in these factory farms to expose animal cruelty to the public. In the early days, pre-internet and social media, a lot of former employees and undercover agents trying to share their findings were quashed and not freely available to the public. Now there is more exposure to what human's out there are doing every second of every day to farm animals. The government and corporations are finding it more difficult to hide the truth.


What we know:


Warning. Cows need to birth a calf in order to produce milk. Calves are born, but we as humans "need" her milk, we can't share it with her baby. Baby is immediately ripped away from mum, some reared for veal, some heifers (female) will grow on to produce milk, bobby calves (male) killed. Mum has to keep producing milk, so she spends a lot of time pregnant. Babies only need their mothers for milk, as long as they're getting food from elsewhere, what's the problem? Did you stop to think that cows aren't sedated when they are slaughtered? Some cows will lose several body parts before they pass out or die. Okay, so what? They don't have feelings. They're designed for this purpose.


Dr. Joy shares a story about a trial conducted on whether baby monkeys needed their mother, or only needed her for her milk. They removed a group of baby monkeys from their mothers at a young age and construct a feeding contraption out of scrap metal for them. They also include a soft object covered in soft material. The babies would feed from the feeding machine, and snuggle into the soft material. When the objects were moved closer together, the babies were found to snuggle into the soft material, while they reached out to feed. When these babies grew up, they had a myriad of mental health issues.


It has been proven by science (time and time again) that animals have feelings. All living creatures have feelings.


Warning. Imagine having a life that was so unbearable, cruel, hot, no freedom, surrounded by dead animals, bad smells, unable to escape your own faeces and urine, others feces and urine, being prodded, being physically abused, tortured? Every day. Now imagine having a taste of the good life, open spaces, green grass, to have it taken away. Now living that cramped stinky abusive life and having a memory of the "good old days". How cruel. This is what's happening everywhere, all over the world, with some cattle. "Free range" cattle.


Warning. Dr. Joy also tells a story of how meat pigs are treated. It has been expressed pigs are highly intelligent, and suffer from depression and partake in self-mutilation when depressed. How are we still eating pig products? We grew up with Babe and Charlotte's Web. Did you know humans cut off pigs tails with a blunt blade because it causes less bleeding? Did you know they transport bulk pigs in the back off the truck. For most pigs, this experience is so traumatic, they die during transport leaving live pigs to travel surrounded by dead pigs. A former pig transporter told PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) that pigs are “packed in so tight, their guts actually pop out their butts—a little softball of guts actually comes out.” [2]. Another worker reports, “In the wintertime there are always hogs stuck to the sides and floors of the trucks. [Slaughterhouse workers] go in there with wires or knives and just cut or pry the hogs loose. The skin pulls right off. These hogs were alive when we did this.”. It has also been revealed, diseased or unwanted pigs are buried in mass, alive. Come on, how is this okay?


Warning. Now what about chickens? Chickens are the most abused animal of them all.

In total, more than 66 billion chickens were slaughtered for food in 2016 according to United Nations data [3]. People everywhere are obsessed with chicken, and their eggs. Makes sense they are among the most abused. Dr. Joy teaches us that chickens with freedom live to around ten years old. Meat chicken's live as short as a month before being killed. Compassionate Living expose on their website "...meat chickens have been selectively bred to grow so big so fast that they reach slaughter weight at just 35 days old — when they are still 'cheeping' and long before they learn to cluck, growl, murmur, coo or develop their own 'egg song'." [4]. Like cattle and pigs, chickens are crammed in small spaces, bacteria and diseases are common among them. Chlorine is used in an attempt to kill any bacteria, but it doesn't prevent it all. According to Food Standards Australia New Zealand, an estimated 8 out of 10 portions of raw chicken meat in Australia are contaminated with intestinal bacteria that could cause food poisoning [4]. Unwanted chicks are gassed or ground alive. An interesting fact about "free range chicken": Because chickens are killed 4-6 weeks old, chickens may only have access to "free range" for a week.


Some have argued that human's have been eating meat for millions of years, and they are correct. Human's have also evolved and times have changed. Dr. Joy makes a point in her book that human's also used to rape and it used to be okay. Woman used to be property of men, it was the social norm. African's were slaves. Jews were the enemy. Homosexuality and gender fluidity and reassignment etc. was openly accepted by several society's, then it was shunned for thousands of years, only recently the LGBTI community has their rights again. What once was accepted by society, is perceived as inhumane today. The haters are (hopefully) the minority now. Values and opinions can shift, can change.


I have only touched on some land animals. I haven't even talked about the cruelty towards sheep, lamb, goats. What about animal testing? We are still testing almost everything on animals.


Did you know we kill between one and three TRILLION fish and other aquatic animals worldwide per year [5]. This mass extraction of aquatic life in the ocean is a major contributor to environmental degradation.


The book touches on how the meat industry affects the workers, their physical and mental health. This is also torturous to hear. Dr. Joy also speaks of the impacts on our health and the environment, but I will discuss these issues in future posts.

Dr. Joy's sole purpose of spreading the word of carnism is to educate people to make the right choices when it comes to our animal friends. To help prove a little more that carnism is a decision made by our society, and we just choose to follow the rules of our society. Would you eat a dog? No? You probably live in a western society where it is unethical and inhumane to eat a "man's best friend". Well in some parts of Eastern Asia, it is normal to eat dogs and cats. They don't eat cows in India. Cows are considered holy. Would you eat a horse? They eat horse meat in France. Pigeons in Egypt. What about a chicken fetus? Why not? What makes one practice more acceptable than the other? SOCIETY tells you from the moment you start eating and learning we "need" to eat certain meats to make us big and strong. This same society made us addicted to fake, processed foods. Can we trust them or take their word for what we should or should not eat without doing our own research? We have a choice. I made a choice not to consume animal products, for many reasons, and not just because I believe it is cruel, wrong and inhumane. It's disgusting. It's flesh of another living being. These animals are being tortured, pumped with poisons, hormones. Why would I want that in my body? It doesn't sound very natural to me. Unless I was living where weather conditions restrict growth of an abundance of plant life and all that was available for me to eat was, say, fish - well that's a different story. But I don't live in the arctic, or antarctic. I have every fruit and vegetable, grain, starch, beans and lentils available to ensure I have a diet sufficient for good health and survival. It is my choice, not to eat something that lived a short, scared, sad and miserable life. I don't want to put those negative emotions in or on me.


If you haven't heard of Emily the Cow and her story, I highly recommend you Google it. I cried when I heard her story. It broke my heart again when Dr. Joy mentions it in her book. I will dedicate an entire post on Emily's story. You cannot deny these animals we are mass murdering aren't hurting.


Thank you Dr. Melanie Joy for bringing carnism awareness to the world. I will assist you and your team in your journey to share and educate others on this belief. We only have a short time left to fix humanities unsustainable practices, and we need to help spread each others ideas and concepts.


If you wish to read more, I highly suggest you read Dr. Melanie Joy's "Why we love dogs, eat pigs and wear cows - an introduction to carnism". Click here if you're interested.



[1] Sanders B (October 2018). "Global animal slaughter statistics and charts". Faunalytics. [https://faunalytics.org/global-animal-slaughter-statistics-and-charts/]

[2] PETA (2021). "Pig transport and slaughter". [https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-used-for-food/factory-farming/pigs/pig-transport-slaughter/]

[3] Sanders B (October 2018). "Global chicken slaughter statistics and charts". Faunalytics. [https://faunalytics.org/global-chicken-slaughter-statistics-and-charts/]

[4] Compassionate Living (December 2020). "8 facts about chicken meat that will make your stomach turn". Animals Australia. [https://www.animalsaustralia.org/features/facts-about-chicken-meat-that-will-make-your-stomach-turn.php]

[5] Joy M (2021). "Beyond Carnism". [https://carnism.org/who-we-are/]


Beau, I could never eat you, or a cow, pig, chicken, horse, snail, cat...


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