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Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows

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Title: Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: Marti Kheel, Melanie Joy, Carnism, Roger Yates, Jewish Vegetarians of North America
Collection: 2010 Books, Books About Animal Rights, Books About Food and Drink, Vegetarian-Related Media
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows

Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism
Author Melanie Joy
Country United States
Language English
Subject Food & drink
Publisher Conari Press
Publication date
Media type Print (Hardback & Paperback) and Audiobook
Pages 204 pp.
ISBN ISBN 1-573-24461-9 (10) and ISBN 978-1-573-24461-9 (13)
OCLC 316832932
LC Class TX371 .J69 2010

Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism is a 2010 book about the belief system and psychology of meat eating, or "carnism".[1] The concept of carnism was coined by American social psychologist Melanie Joy in 2001 and later developed in her 2003 dissertation.[2][3] Carnism is a subset of speciesism,[3]:9–12 and contrasts with veganism, the belief in abstaining from all meat and animal products.


  • Background 1
  • Synopsis 2
  • Critical reception 3
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • Further reading 6
  • Bibliography 7
  • Author interviews 8
  • External links 9


Joy, an animal activist, was concerned about linguistic bias inherent in terms like carnivore, which were inaccurate and failed to account for the "beliefs beneath the behavior". Carnivores require meat in their diet for survival, but carnists choose to eat meat based on their beliefs.[4]:422[5]:30 There was no label, Joy discovered, for the beliefs of people who produce, consume, and promote meat eating. She created the term carnism (Latin carn, flesh or body) to name and describe this dominant cultural belief system. "We assume that it is not necessary to assign a term to ourselves when we adhere to the mainstream way of thinking, as though its prevalence makes it an intrinsic part of life rather than a widely held opinion. Meat eating, though culturally dominant, reflects a choice that is not espoused by everybody", Joy writes.[6]


President Bill Clinton at the National Thanksgiving Turkey Presentation. Clinton presented a "discursive challenge to carnism" when he publicly recognized that turkeys were independent and had different personalities.[7]:111, 116

Carnism, according to Joy, is the dominant, yet invisible paradigm in modern culture supporting the choice to consume meat.[8]:138–139 Carnism is an invisible system of beliefs in both the social, psychological, and physical sense. For example, in the physical sense, an estimated 10 billion land animals are slaughtered for their meat every year in the U.S., yet most of the animals are never seen—they are kept in confined animal feeding operations,[4]:422 invisible to the public and off limits to the media.[5] Joy maintains that the choice to eat meat is not natural or a given as proponents of meat claim, but influenced by social conditioning. The majority of people, Joy claims, care deeply about animals and do not want them to suffer.[9]

Joy argues there is a neurological basis for empathy; most people care about nonhuman animals and want to prevent their suffering. Further, humans value compassion, reciprocity, and justice. However, human behavior does not match these values. To continue to eat animals, Joy argues, people engage in psychic numbing which alters the perception of our behavior towards animals and uses defense mechanisms to block empathy: first, carnism denies there is a problem with eating animals; second, it justifies eating meat as normal, natural, and necessary; third, to prevent cognitive dissonance, carnism alters the perception of the animals as living individuals into food objects, abstractions, and categories.[10] People who hold to these beliefs may also be called carnists.[6]

Through this denial, justification, and perceptual distortion, Joy argues, carnism influences people to violate their core values.[11] Animal advocates and cultural studies scholars have implicated both the government and the media as the two primary channels responsible for legitimizing carnist discourse in the United States.[7]:103

Critical reception

Writer Megan Kearns agrees with Joy's argument that the system of carnism is at odds with democracy, but takes issue with Joy blaming the system rather than the people who make carnist choices: "[The] way we as a society envision eating and animals is contradictory and insidious. Yet it seems incongruous to blame the system and simultaneously hold people accountable to awaken their consciences and exercise their free will." Kearns also notes that not only are there many empathic people who choose to eat meat, but many vegetarians who base their diet on health, not moral reasons.[12]

Helena Pedersen of Malmö University questions whether it is accurate for Joy to treat meat eaters as an homogenous group as there may be many different types of meat eaters all of whom have different reasons for eating meat.[13]:112 Proponents of the abolitionist theory of animal rights, such as Gary L. Francione, do not accept the concept of carnism as they believe it indirectly supports the animal welfare position by neglecting to call for the immediate rejection of all animal use and for not explicitly promoting veganism.[14]

The book has also been released in a German edition, Warum wir Hunde lieben, Schweine essen und Kühe anziehen: Karnismus - eine Einführung.[15]

See also


  1. ^ Rising, Dallas. (2013). Turning Our Heads: The "See No Evil" Dilemma. In Kim Socha, Sarahjane Blum (Ed.), Confronting Animal Exploitation: Grassroots Essays on Liberation and Veganism (pp. 11-21). McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-6575-0.
  2. ^ Kool, V. K.; Agrawal, Rita (2009). The Psychology of Nonkilling. In Joám Evans Pim (Ed.), Toward a Nonkilling Paradigm (pp. 349-370). Center for Global Nonkilling. ISBN 978-0-9822983-1-2.
  3. ^ a b Joy, M. (2003). Psychic numbing and meat consumption: The Psychology of carnism (Doctoral dissertation). OCLC 729946807
  4. ^ a b Matejka, George S. (December 2010). Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows. Teaching Philosophy, 33(4), 422-423. doi:10.5840/teachphil201033450
  5. ^ a b Joy, M. (2011) [2010]. Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows.Conari Press. ISBN 1573245054.
  6. ^ a b Joy, M. (2001). From Carnivore to Carnist: Liberating the Language of Meat. Satya 8(2), 26.
  7. ^ a b Freeman, Carrie Packwood, Leventi-Perez, Oana (2012). Pardon Your Turkey and Eat Him Too: Antagonism over Meat Eating in the Discourse of the Presidential Pardoning of the Thanksgiving Turkey. In Joshua Frye and Michael Bruner (Ed.), The Rhetoric of Food: Discourse, Materiality, and Power (pp. 103-120). Routledge. ISBN 978-0415500715.
  8. ^ DeMello, Margo (2012). Animals and Society: An Introduction to Human-Animal Studies. Columbia University Press. ISBN 0231152949. pp. 138-139.
  9. ^ Erbe, Bonnie (January 6, 2010). Understanding Why America Loves Animals, But Eats Them. U.S. News & World Report.
  10. ^ For more about categorizing animals as food, see Bratanova, Boyka; Loughnan, Steve; Bastian, Brock (August 2011). The effect of categorization as food on the perceived moral standing of animals. Appetite 57(1), 193-196. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2011.04.020
  11. ^ Empirical data may support the claim that carnism violates core values. For slaughterhouse workers in particular, see Dillard, J. (2008). A Slaughterhouse Nightmare: Psychological Harm Suffered by Slaughterhouse Employees and the Possibility of Redress through Legal Reform. Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law & Policy 15(2). "[Slaughterhouse] work violates the natural tendency of a person to avoid the direct killing of an animal. One study found that 85% of the meat-eating participants stated that they could not kill an animal to obtain meat. This overwhelmingly common aversion to killing suggests that the slaughterhouse employment causes a majority of the employees to violate their natural preference against killing. By habitually violating one's natural preference against killing, the worker very likely is adversely psychologically impacted."
  12. ^ Kearns, Megan (2009). Uneasy Witness. Open Letters Monthly.
  13. ^ Pedersen, Helena (January 2012). Critical Carnist Studies. Society & Animals 20(1), 111-112. doi:10.1163/156853012X614404
  14. ^ Francione, Gary L. (October 2, 2012). Nothing "Invisible" About Animal Exploitation Ideology. Opposing Views.
  15. ^

Further reading

  • Fox, Katrina (June 18, 2010). Eating meat isn't natural: it's carnism. ABC News (Australia).
  • Horse meat not scandalous to Toronto deli owner. The Canadian Press. March 10, 2013.
  • Knight, Alison (November 29, 2012). Carnism founder finds Joy in her work. UWO Gazette. p. 4. (print version)
  • Kranjec, Mankica (April 17, 2012). Zlati prinašalec za kosilo?. Jana
  • Moller, Valdemar (December 4, 2012). Varje dag ställs vi inför valet om vad vi ska äta. Fria Tidningen.
  • Samson, Claudette (November 22, 2012). Le véganisme, un refus de l'exploitation des animaux. Le Soleil'.
  • Schott, Ben (January 11, 2010). Carnism. The New York Times.
  • Socha, Kim; Sarahjane Blum (2013). Confronting Animal Exploitation: Grassroots Essays on Liberation and Veganism. McFarland. ISBN 0786465751.
  • Spencer, Stephan (September 13, 2012). Friend or Food? The Ideology of How We Decide. Huffington Post.
  • Vereecken, Kathleen (December 15, 2012). Dierenliefde gaat niet door de maag. De Standaard.


  • Pilisuk, Marc, Joy, M. (2001). Humanistic Psychology and Ecology. In Kirk J. Schneider, James F. T. Bugental and J. Fraser Pierson (Ed.), The Handbook of Humanistic Psychology: Leading Edges in Theory, Research, and Practice (pp. 101-114). Sage Publications. ISBN 0761927824.
  • Joy, M. (March 2003). Toward a Non-Speciesist Psychoethic. Society & Animals 11(1), 103-104. doi:10.1163/156853003321618882
  • Joy, M. (Winter 2005). Humanistic Psychology and Animal Rights: Reconsidering the Boundaries of the Humanistic Ethic. Journal of Humanistic Psychology 45(1), 106-130. doi:10.1177/0022167804272628
  • Joy, M. (January 21, 2013). Speaking Truth to Power: Understanding the Dominant, Animal-Eating Narrative for Vegan Empowerment and Social Transformation. One Green Planet.
  • Joy, M. (February 26, 2013). Why Horsemeat Is Delicious and Disgusting. Huffington Post.

Author interviews

  • "Dr. Melanie Joy Interview". Animal Rights Zone. 2010-04-24. Archived from the original on 2013-11-20. Retrieved 2013-11-20. And though I don't use the phrase 'animal rights' I certainly do argue that one species' desire should not trump another species' right to live free from harm. 
  • Stafford, Jessi (2012-02-24). "Feature Interview: Melanie Joy on Books, Documentaries, and Carnism".  

External links

  • website
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