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Carnism: Why we desperately cling to an antiquated ideal

By: Namita Money

· Veganism,community,haulerthoughts,animal rights

Carnism is a term that describes a belief system, or ideology, that conditions people to eat certain animals. It was coined by psychologist Dr. Melanie Joy, and builds on the idea of species-ism, "the discrimination of others based on membership of a species" (Joy, "Humanistic Psychology and Animal Rights"). In its essence, the term defines the way in which all over the world, we humans regard other species as lower beings, compartmentalizing them into groups, such as "companions," "food,” "entertainment,” and "wildlife." Yet, we haven't always thought in this way. Preceding the current species-ist age, human civilizations barely used animals, and had a very deep relationship with nature. In fact, in the earliest civilizations, meat was not a common food. Plants were much more important than animals as a source of energy. Although meat was a source of protein and micro-nutrients, it was not a necessity (Larsen). For instance, in the ancient Indian civilizations, there was a significant vegetarian tradition linked with the Hindu culture that still sustains to this day.

However, in an attempt to develop a more stable and sustainable food source, our modern agricultural system was created. With this shift, came the domestication of animals for food, which somehow allowed us to forget the connection that we once felt with other sentient beings. Hence, species-ism was born. Animals began to be exploited in every single sector of human lives- as labor, food, products, entertainment, and subjects for experiments. It was almost as if we had forgotten about our own status as animals and that we had somehow transcended all other animals. The lifestyles that we carry today are a direct reflection of this shift in attitude, and many of us have little regard for the tens of billions of sentient beings who are killed everyday in order for us to maintain our carnistic lifestyles. Society has allowed us to eliminate the connection between the animals used in our products and diets to the respective beautiful creatures that were forced to suffer in the process. Furthermore, it has been ingrained in us that we require these products to survive. However, as seen through the ethical and health related consequences of carnism, eating other animals is in fact detrimental to the survival of our human population.

The majority of us are of the opinion that it is wrong to cause an inordinate amount of pain to other sentient beings. Thus, it would seem almost second nature to us to prevent the exploitation of animals by the multi-billion dollar meat and poultry industry. With a sales total of $186 billion in the year 2014 alone, this industry has a profound impact on our society. Astoundingly, "more animals are slaughtered annually for meat than for any other purpose" ("United States Meat Industry at a Glance"). Nine billion animals are killed annually for meat in the US alone, and, as a result, most non-human animals must endure extensive suffering, made possible through our own convenient ignorance of the issue.

To put this into perspective, approximately 430 animals are slaughtered every second. The truth of the matter is that most meat eaters are quite distanced and unaware of the animal slaughter process. They are unaware that dairy comes from ailing mother cows, ripped from their newborn calves because they must be continuously impregnated by a device that the industry themselves terms a "rape rack." They are unaware that bacon is the result of an industry in which piglets are castrated and tagged without anesthesia while their mothers are stuffed into cramped metal gestation crates. They are unaware that the poultry industry breeds chickens that are crippled by their own weight, unable to walk, and forced to endure weeks of inhaling the poisonous gases that they produce, only to be "released" by their own murder in the slaughterhouse ("Treatment of Animals in Industrial Agriculture"). Thus, it is ironic that most of these people also consider themselves animal lovers, animal friendly, or at least un-supportive of animal cruelty, and treat their companion animals accordingly (Joy, "Humanistic Psychology and Animal Rights)". Being a carnist today, therefore, involves our ignorant support of such industries and blatant hypocrisy. This phenomenon is a result of a much bigger problem in our society, which blinds us from the reality of the situation and allows us to rationalize our hypocrisy by the justification that it is "normal, natural, and necessary" to do so (Joy, "Beyond Carnism and toward Rational, Authentic Food Choice"). As a result of the vast and powerful agricultural industry and their influence on the media and our own healthcare system, we never question our habits and lifestyle.

The agricultural industry's manipulation influences much of how we perceive the world that we live in, including, but not limited to, the media, government, and even healthcare. The most blatant disconnect can be seen every time we walk into the supermarket's meat aisle. No longer are the animals we consume called by their actual names. Instead, the industry has coined terms that allow us to disconnect from the actual animal that the meat came from. Cows are beef, calves are veal, pigs are pork, ham, or bacon, dear is venison, fish eggs are caviar, and the list goes on. Thus, we have the ability to think of these animals not as living, breathing creatures, but as mere food objects. This barrier between the animals and the food made from their flesh allows us to inflict an inordinately high amount of suffering on these beings.

Many of us never hear about the cruel practices of the agriculture industry because these farmed animals lack the basic protection by our laws- the same laws that protect our own companion animals ("Farmed Animals and the Law"). To be clear, there are no federal laws that govern the conditions in which farmed animals are raised, and most states criminal anti-cruelty laws do not cover farmed animal suffering. It seems ironic that by eating meat, we all support these cruel practices, yet most of us would consider ourselves to be animal lovers. If we ourselves witnessed the cruelty inflicted on these beings, we would never support it.

In the media, we are constantly bombarded with biased, inaccurate portrayals of nutrition and how to feed ourselves most efficiently. The U.S. government, heavily influenced by animal agriculture industries, spends $550 million in order to persuade us to consume meat and other animal products (Simon, Meatonomics). One major bias is the food pyramid, or the modern "MyPlate" icon, which was created to properly guide us about our nutrition. However, the official recommendations of the USDA are determined by the commercial interests of agribusiness and are the primary reason why two-thirds of all Americans are overweight. Roughly 29 million of us have type 2 diabetes and an additional 19 million have it, but are unaware ("The FDA’s phony nutrition science").

Simply put, the MyPlate is a step in the right direction, but falls short in many aspects. First and foremost, it promotes too much dairy and is far too lax on the intake of red meat in our diets. Of course, being so heavily influenced by major agricultural corporations, the nutrition guidelines undeniably reflect the interests of agribusinesses rather than the latest research. As found by Harvard Public Health Department's research, there is no evidence that consuming dairy builds strong bones, as it does not prevent osteoporosis or fractures. Rather, "high dairy consumption is associated with an increased risk of fatal prostate and ovarian cancers" ("New U.S. Dietary Guidelnines"). In addition, from the findings of the World Health Organization, there is a direct link between eating meat and getting cancer. As determined by Dr. Colin Campbell's China Study research, there is also a direct correlation between heart disease and eating read meat (Campbell). Because cancer and heart disease are the leading causes of death in America, it simply does not make sense for the USDA's "MyPlate" icon to promote consumption of meat and dairy ("Leading Causes of Death"). Even our own doctors, who are supposed to be working in our best interests, are brainwashed by the USDA's views on nutrition. Growing up, each and every one of us were told by our doctors to drink milk for strong bones and eat meat for protein. We trusted them to give us sensible and credible advice on how to lead healthy lives. However, they never once mention to us that drinking the milk of another being and consuming meat have more drawbacks than they do benefits. How is it possible that such blatant problems with our conception of nutrition were never brought to our attention by the trusted professionals who are supposedly working in our best interests? Clearly, our own health is not a compelling enough reason for us to know the truth.

Our carnistic society is evidently a direct reflection of the influence of major agribusinesses. Since most of us would not feel comfortable witnessing the suffering of animals murdered for our food, it is irrational of us to cause farmed animals to experience so much suffering. As dictated by the morals that many of us hold, and by the negative health effects of consuming animals and their byproducts, it is illogical and outmoded for us to hold these carnistic beliefs. With such a heavy amount of research on the effects of eating animals on our health, we must take a stand. By choosing not to consume other animals and their byproducts, we can make a small change in our own lifestyle that will have a tremendously positive impact on our lives and the lives of other beings. We have the power to be conscious consumers.

Works Cited:

"Farmed Animals and the Law." Animal Legal Defense Fund. Animal Legal Defense Fund, 2015. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

"Farm Animal Statistics: Slaughter Totals." RSS. United States Humane Society, 2015. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.

Jacoby, Richard, and Raquel Baldelomar. "The FDA’s Phony Nutrition Science: How Big Food and Agriculture Trumps Real Science — and Why the Government Allows It." Salon, 12 Apr. 2015. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

Joy, Melanie. "Beyond Carnism and toward Rational, Authentic Food Choices." YouTube. YouTube, 5 Feb. 2015. Web. 12 Nov. 2015.

Joy, Melanie. "Humanistic Psychology and Animal Rights: Reconsidering the Boundaries of the Humanistic Ethic." Sage Journals. Journal of Humanistic Psychology, 2005. Web. 15 Nov. 2015.

Larsen, Clark Spenser. "Animal Source Foods and Human Health during Evolution." JN- The Journal of Nutrition. The American Society of Nutritional Sciences, 2003. Web. 13 Nov. 2015.

"Leading Causes of Death." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 30 Sept. 2015. Web. 11 Nov. 2015.

"New U.S. Dietary Guidelnines: Progress, not Perfection" The Nutrition Source. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, 2015. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.

"Treatment of Animals in Industrial Agriculture | GiveWell." GiveWell. GiveWell, 2015. Web. 18 Nov. 2015.

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