~Dr. Wayne Dyer
What is the belief system that enables us to love some animals and eat others? Social psychologist and professor of psychology and sociology Melanie Joy calls our underlying assumptions about meat eating (eg, that it's natural for us, it's a given, and it's the way things are and the way they've always been), carnism. This pervasive ideology is ingrained in us from earliest childhood by our parents, teachers, friends, and community. Insidious industry slogans that proclaim that "Milk does a body good" and "Meat is Real Food for Real People," continuously condition us into believing that without animal products, we would wither and die (or at the very least, become sick or frail). How ironic, when just the opposite is true.
In Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows Joy reminds us how these messages further ingrain in us the false belief that eating certain, "inferior" animals is ethical and appropriate. But why only certain animals? Why is a pig thought to be less intelligent than the family dog? (Actually, pigs are even smarter than most dogs.) And why do we believe that certain animals like chickens and fish are not capable of feeling pain and fear, when science and logic tell us that they do? Such cultural ideas are transmitted and repeated over and over, spreading like viruses—duplicating and infiltrating every aspect of our lives. They become so completely entrenched in us, we never stop to think about the impact our adherence to carnistic ideology has on ourselves, the animals, or the planet.
Ten billion animals are (deliberately) slaughtered for food in the US every year. While the vast majority of them either have feathers or live in the sea, how many of us know that each year millions of factory-farmed egg-laying chickens suffer uterine prolapse or death by wood chipper? How many of us know that hundreds of billions of dolphins, sharks, sea turtles, seals, whales, and other "nontarget" fish get tangled in nets and hooked by long-lines, are thrown back into the water, and left to slowly bleed to death?
Such enormous disregard for life is made possible by our attachment to carnism, an ideology that is, as Joy points out, an oppressive cultural mind-think, as noxious as racism. In the same way that Nazis were able to murder Jewish children and then go home and hug their own sons and daughters, we cause the suffering of cows, pigs, lambs, turkeys, chickens, and fishes, eat their bodies, and then hug our dogs and cats.
But Joy does not lead us on this journey into mass delusion without also providing a light to guide us out of the darkness. She reminds us how all systems of violent oppression depend on both their invisibility and our ability to dissociate or find elaborate rationalizations to keep from recognizing the suffering of socially sanctioned inferiors. In Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows she unmasks the underlying mythology that keeps us chained to carnism, and by naming and witnessing it, offers us a clear path from apathy to empathy.
Special thanks to my friend, Arnold, for sharing the following poem:
Learning to Be a Dutiful Carnivore
By Jane Legge
Dogs and cats and goats and cows,
Ducks and chickens, sheeps and sows
Woven into tales for tots,
Pictured on their walls and pots.
Time for dinner! Come and eat
All your lovely juicy meat.
One day ham from Percy Porker
(In the comics he's a corker):
Then the breast from Mrs. Cluck
Or the wing from Donald Duck.
Liver next from Clara Cow
(No, it doesn't hurt her now).
Yes, that leg's from Peter Rabbit
Chew it well; make that a habit.
Eat the creatures killed for sale,
But never pull the pussy's tail.
Eat the flesh from "filthy hogs"
But never be unkind to dogs.
Grow into double-think-
Kiss the hamster; skin the mink.
Never think of slaughter, dear,
That's why animals are here.
They only come on earth to die,
So eat your meat, and don't ask why.