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Melanie Joy

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Melanie Joy

Melanie Joy
Melanie Joy
Born 1966 (age 48–49)
Nationality American
Alma mater Harvard University (M.Ed.)
Saybrook University (Ph.D.)
Occupation Professor, activist, non-fiction author
Website .orgcarnism

Melanie Joy (born 1966) is an American social psychologist and activist, primarily notable for developing the concept of carnism.[1] She is a professor of psychology and sociology at the University of Massachusetts Boston,[2] as well as the president of Beyond Carnism, also known as Carnism Awareness & Action Network (CAAN), a non-profit advocacy group which she founded in 2010.[3][4] She has published two books, Strategic Action for Animals and Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows.[2]


Joy received her M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, and her Ph.D. in psychology from the Saybrook Graduate School. At age 23, while a student at Harvard, she contracted a food-borne disease from a tainted hamburger and was hospitalized, which incident led her to become a vegetarian.[5][6] In a speech related by Indian cabinet minister Maneka Gandhi, Joy recalled how her dietary choice, made for non-moral reasons, transformed her perspective on the treatment of animals:

That experience led me to swear off meat, which led me to become more open to information about animal agriculture - information that had been all around me but that I had been unwilling to see, so long as I was still invested in maintaining my current way of life. And as I learned the truth about meat, egg and dairy production, I became increasingly distraught. ... I wound up confused and despairing. I felt like a rudderless boat, lost on a sea of collective insanity. Nothing had changed, but everything was different.[6]

Afterwards, Joy made a gradual transition to veganism.[1]

In a 2013 interview, she explained that her doctoral research had initially focused on the psychosociology of violence and discrimination, but later shifted to questions about the psychology of eating meat. Perceiving a pattern of irrational and inconsistent thinking among the subjects she interviewed, she was led to theorize that attitudes about meat reflected acquired prejudice. This idea became the basis for much of her later work.[7]

Theory of Carnism

Joy introduced the term carnism in a 2001 article published in Satya,[8][9] initially receiving little attention. The concept was popularized by her 2009 book Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows.[9] Her ideas influenced subsequent studies of what has come to be known as the "meat paradox" - the apparent inconsistency in common attitudes toward animals, wherein people may express affection towards some animals while eating others - and the cognitive dissonance it entails. In the 2010s, psychologists confirmed many of Joy's theories about the influence of eating meat on attitudes toward animals.[9][10][11][12]


Joy founded Carnism Awareness & Action Network (CAAN), later re-named Beyond Carnism, in 2010.[3] According to a review by Animal Charity Evaluators, the organization uses public talks, media campaigns, video development, and activist training in an effort to shift the public conversation about meat mainly in the United States and Germany. The review judged CAAN's novel organizational strategies to be promising in terms of their potential to foster a sustained network of animal rights advocates, but noted that the relatively new group lacked a track record, and that the effects of its approach would be difficult to assess.[13]


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  10. ^ Loughnan, S.; Bastian, B.; Haslam, N. (2014). "The Psychology of Eating Animals", Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23(2), April, pp. 104–108. doi:10.1177/0963721414525781
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