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Melanie Joy (born 1966) is an American social psychologist and vegan activist, primarily notable for promulgating the term carnism. She is a professor of psychology and sociology at the University of Massachusetts Boston.
Strategic Action for Animals (2008)
- Strategic Action for Animals: A Handbook on Strategic Movement Building, Organizing, and Activism for Animal Liberation, New York: Lantern Books, 2008.
- The animal liberation movement is fighting what is arguably the most entrenched and widespread form of exploitation in human history: speciesism.
- p. 17
- What I've found is that, because most people are deeply disturbed by and feel guilty about eating meat, and yet at the same time fear not eating it, they defend themselves from having to acknowledge such conflicting feelings. These psychological defenses include denial (“Animals don't really suffer when they're raised and killed for meat.”); justification (“Animals are meant to be eaten by humans.”); dichotomization (“I'd never eat a dog, but I love bacon.”); avoidance (“Don't tell me that; you'll ruin my meal.”); and, most importantly, dissociation (“If I think about the animal when I'm eating meat I feel disgusted.”). … When people break through their dissociation, the feelings that typically emerge are empathy—and therefore disgust. That's why people tend to be disgusted by the idea of eating “unusual” animals, such as dogs and gorillas; they haven't learned to dissociate from these kinds of meat. It's also why vegetarians usually find all meats disgusting.
- p. 117
- Often, vegan advocates assume that a person's defensiveness is the result of selfishness or apathy, when in fact it is much more likely the result of systematic and intensive social conditioning.
- p. 118
- Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism, San Francisco: Conari Press, 2011.
- We love dogs and eat cows not because dogs and cows are fundamentally different—cows, like dogs, have feelings, preferences, and consciousness—but because our perception of them is different.
- p. 13
- But why must the system go to such lengths to block our empathy? Why all the psychological acrobatics? The answer is simple: because we care about animals, and we don't want them to suffer. And because we eat them. Our values and behaviors are incongruent, and this incongruence causes us a certain degree of moral discomfort. In order to alleviate this discomfort, we have three choices: we can change our values to match our behaviors, we can change our behaviors to match our values, or we can change our perception of our behaviors so that they appear to match our values. It is around this third option that our schema of meat is shaped. As long as we neither value unnecessary animal suffering nor stop eating animals, our schema will distort our perceptions of animals and the meat we eat, so that we can feel comfortable enough to consume them.
- p. 18
- We send one species to the butcher and give our love and kindness to another apparently for no reason other than because it's the way things are. When our attitudes and behaviors toward animals are so inconsistent, and this inconsistency is so unexamined, we can safely say we have been fed absurdities. It is absurd that we eat pigs and love dogs and don't even know why. Many of us spend long minutes in the aisle of the drugstore mulling over what toothpaste to buy. Yet most of us don't spend any time at all thinking about what species of animal we eat and why. Our choices as consumers drive an industry that kills ten billion animals per year in the United States alone. If we choose to support this industry and the best reason we can come up with is because it's the way things are, clearly something is amiss. What could cause an entire society of people to check their thinking caps at the door—and to not even realize they're doing so? Though this question is quite complex, the answer is quite simple: carnism.
- pp. 27-28
- Carnism is the belief system in which eating certain animals is considered ethical and appropriate. Carnists—people who eat meat—are not the same as carnivores. Carnivores are animals that are dependent on meat to survive. … Carnists eat meat not because they need to, but because they choose to, and choices always stem from beliefs. Carnism's invisibility accounts for why choices appear not to be choices at all.
- p. 30
- The most effective way to distort reality is to deny it; if we tell ourselves there isn't a problem, then we never have to worry about what to do about it. And the most effective way to deny a reality is to make it invisible. … As with any violent ideology, the populace must be shielded from direct exposure to the victims of the system, lest they begin questioning the system or their participation in it. This truth speaks for itself: why else would the meat industry go to such lengths to keep its practices invisible?
- p. 40
- Yet on some level we do know the truth. We know that meat production is a messy business, but we choose not to know just how messy it is. We know that meat comes from an animal, but we choose not to connect the dots. And often, we eat animals and choose not to know we're even making a choice. Violent ideologies are structured so that it is not only possible, but inevitable, that we are aware of an unpleasant truth on one level while being oblivious to it on another. Common to all violent ideologies is this phenomenon of knowing without knowing. And it is the essence of carnism.
- p. 71
- There is a vast mythology surrounding meat, but all the myths are in one way or another related to what I refer to as the Three Ns of Justification: eating meat is normal, natural, and necessary. The Three Ns have been invoked to justify all exploitative systems … When an ideology is in its prime, these myths rarely come under scrutiny. However, when the system finally collapses, the Three Ns are recognized as ludicrous.
- pp. 96-97
- The path of the norm is the path of least resistance; it is the route we take when we're on autopilot and don't even realize we're following a course of action that we haven't consciously chosen. Most people who eat meat have no idea that they're behaving in accordance with the tenets of a system that has defined many of their values, preferences, and behaviors. What they call “free choice” is, in fact, the result of a narrowly constructed set of options that have been chosen for them. They don't realize, for instance, that they have been taught to value human life so far above certain forms of nonhuman life that it seems appropriate for their taste preferences to supersede other species' preference for survival.
- p. 106
- It is impossible to exercise free will as long as we are operating from within the system. Free will requires consciousness, and our pervasive and deep-seated patterns of thought are unconscious; they are outside of our awareness and therefore outside of our control. While we remain in the system, we see the world through the eyes of carnism. And as long as we look through eyes other than our own, we will be living in accordance with a truth that is not of our own choosing. We must step outside the system to find our lost empathy and make choices that reflect what we truly feel and believe, rather than what we've been taught to feel and believe.
- p. 113
- The carnistic schema, which twists information so that nonsense seems to make perfect sense, also explains why we fail to see the absurdities of the system. Consider, for instance, advertising campaigns in which a pig dances joyfully over the fire pit where he or she is to be barbecued, or chickens wear aprons while beseeching the viewer to eat them. And consider the Veterinarian's Oath of the American Veterinary Medical Association, “I solemnly swear to use my … skills for the … relief of animal suffering,” in light of the fact that the vast majority of veterinarians eat animals simply because they like the way meat tastes. Or think about how people won't replace their hamburgers with veggie burgers, even if the flavor is identical, because they claim that, if they try hard enough, they can detect a subtle difference in texture. Only when we deconstruct the carnistic schema can we see the absurdity of placing our preference for a flawless re-creation of a textural norm over the lives and deaths of billions of others.
- p. 133
- Think about it: virtually every atrocity in the history of humankind was enabled by a populace that turned away from a reality that seemed too painful to face, while virtually every revolution for peace and justice has been made possible by a group of people who chose to bear witness and demanded that others bear witness as well.
- p. 139
- Becoming aware of the intense suffering of billions of animals, and of our own participation in that suffering, can bring up painful emotions: sorrow and grief for the animals; anger at the injustice and deception of the system; despair at the enormity of the problem; fear that trusted authorities and institutions are, in fact, untrustworthy; and guilt for having contributed to the problem. Bearing witness means choosing to suffer. Indeed, empathy is literally “feeling with.” Choosing to suffer is particularly difficult in a culture that is addicted to comfort—a culture that teaches that pain should be avoided whenever possible and that ignorance is bliss. We can reduce our resistance to witnessing by valuing authenticity over personal pleasure, and integration over ignorance.
- pp. 142-143