Guest Blogger: Melanie Joy, Ph.D., Ed.M.

Since I've been running short on time lately, I thought now would be the perfect opportunity to invite a guest blogger on board. You might remember I interviewed Melanie back in August on Eating Consciously Podcast #13. I've read the book and I give it five stars all the way! If you haven't pre-ordered it yet, I HIGHLY recommend that you do. Make sure you get a copy not only for yourself, but copies for the carnists in your life as well.

Since this is a bit of a lengthy post, I won't take up too much more of your reading time, but I wanted to point out that you might be interested in watching this new two-minute video about the book:

and now I'll let Melanie tell you a bit more about the book herself...

Like most people, I grew up eating meat. I also grew up with a dog, who was my best friend throughout my childhood. And like most people, I didn’t think about how I could love my dog yet eat other animals daily without thinking about what I was doing or why. Though there were times when I’d question and rebel against eating animals – when, for instance, I was faced with the resistant vein in the drumstick I was biting into and I lost my appetite for the chicken, or when I witnessed footage of the inhumane treatment of farmed animals – there were an equal number of times I was coaxed back into my meat eating: I wasn’t allowed to leave the dinner table until I’d cleaned my plate; my pediatrician told my parents I needed meat to develop a strong, healthy body; I was supposedly having “food issues” that were potentially symptomatic of an eating disorder. So my discomfort at the idea of eating meat would eventually “wear off” and the questions that had hovered at the edge of my awareness were pushed back down out of consciousness. I could maintain the gap in my consciousness that enabled me to love some animals and eat others.

As a young adult, the internal conflict I’d felt about my relationship with animals finally forced me to examine my assumptions and behaviors toward eating meat and I became a vegetarian. I became deeply concerned with the intense suffering caused by meat production, and with the fact that I had been actively discouraged from learning the truth about meat production and from reflecting on my food choices. In fact, I hadn’t even realized that eating meat was a choice. It was presented by society, my family, my friends, virtually everyone as simply a given, as the way things are. Had I known that eating meat was a choice, I may well have chosen otherwise. During this time I also became fascinated with how my mentality, my paradigm, had fundamentally shifted. Food that had once been delicious had become disgusting to me. What had happened?

My concern with animal suffering, along with my desire to raise consciousness so that people like myself would be encouraged to – rather than discouraged from – reflect on their attitudes and behaviors toward animals, and my desire to understand the psychology of eating (and not eating) meat led me to research what I eventually came to call carnism. And there was another motivation for my research: as I became more involved with organizations that supported vegetarianism, I also became aware of the deep divide between many vegetarians and carnists (meat eaters). I wanted to assuage vegetarians’ frustration with and often judgment toward people who eat meat. I wanted to explain the profound and complex psychological and social mechanisms that enable “good” people to engage in behaviors that don’t necessarily reflect their deeper value system, and encourage vegetarians to feel more compassion and understanding for the meat eaters in their lives. I also wanted to support vegetarians who often encounter unprovoked defensiveness from carnists; I wanted to help vegetarians understand why the mere mention of meat production could cause a defensive, sometimes intense “anti-vegetarian” response from carnists and therefore how to have a more productive dialogue around the issue of meat.

As a doctoral student in psychology, I interviewed meat cutters, carnists, vegetarians, and vegans. I read everything I could get my hands on about meat eating, cross-cultural consumption patterns, vegetarianism, animal welfare, animal rights, psychological “numbing,” cognitive moral dissonance, disgust, the psycho-sociology of violence and nonviolence, and a host of other issues that I thought might be related to my topic of interest. And I continued this exploration into my post-doctoral career.

What I found was that, in general, people tend to “numb” themselves to some degree in order to eat (or produce) meat. Most people feel a moral discomfort with the idea of eating someone – rather than something – and so they push this awareness aside in order to comfortably consume animals. This mentality is enabled by a dominant social system, or ideology, that I call carnism. Like other dominant systems that depend on people to act against their deeper value system (most people’s value system doesn’t condone extensive and unnecessary animal suffering), carnism is structured in a way to block our awareness of the animals and meat we eat. The system uses a set of defense mechanisms that become ingrained in our psyche from the moment we’re old enough to eat solid food. The primary defense of the system is invisibility – carnism remains invisible by remaining unnamed, and the process by which animals are turned into meat remains, to most people, hidden. (The “psychic numbing” I write about applies to people in Western cultures and who are not dependent on meat to survive. It would have been impossible, and inappropriate, to discuss the myriad psychologies of all societies. However, I do dedicate a section of the book to discussing how psychic numbing may operate across cultures and eras – how, for instance, it may apply to those who butcher and perhaps hunt animals for food.)

In Why We Love Dogs…I deconstruct carnism. As the subtitle explains, the book is about the belief system that enables us to eat some animals and not others. I have dedicated two out of the seven chapters to exposing the truth about meat production so that readers can understand the facts that the system works to hide. Since invisibility is the primary defense of the system, it is necessary to make the invisible visible. The other chapters explain the specific ways in which carnism is woven into the fabric of society and our psyches. To help readers understand these concepts, I use examples from other ideologies that also relied on psychic numbing and that are structurally similar to carnism; throughout history, humane people have supported inhumane practices not because these people were “bad” or “evil” but because they existed within a system that shaped their perceptions, feelings, and behaviors. The last chapter also includes an explanation of how to transform numbing into awareness – how to become an active witness, to the system and oneself.

I wrote Why We Love Dogs…because, though much has been written about meat production, and some books have explored the history of meat eating, no book had been written about the psycho-sociology of meat consumption. The reason we love some animals and eat others is not because some animals are more loveable or because some animals are more edible; cross-cultural analyses reveal that neither practicality nor rationality determine which species become food and which become pets (I have dedicated a section in the book to explaining this issue). In Why We Love Dogs…my aim was not to discuss biology, but ideology. When meat eating isn’t a necessity, it’s a choice, and choices always stem from beliefs – beliefs, in turn, come from ideology. Just as discussing the biological differences between so-called “races” has distracted from a discussion about the ideology of racism, so, too, is a discussion of predation or “omnivorousness” a distraction from the very real and pressing issue of carnism.

Why We Love Dogs… is, in short, an exploration of the social and psychological forces that surround our experience of eating meat. It is based on well-established sociological and psychological principles, woven together with anthropological data to produce a broad theoretical framework for understanding the underpinnings of contemporary meat consumption. Though I have drawn on a number of empirical studies, I do not intend the book as a rigid and conclusive scientific treatise but rather as an exploration, and like any exploratory work its principles may not apply to all people, all the time. Why We Love Dogs…is not meant to be the “final word” on meat consumption, but the beginning of an ongoing exploration in which ideas are built upon, modified, and evolve over time. I wrote the book as an invitation to open up dialogue, a dialogue that I believe is of enormous importance to all of us: carnists, vegetarians, animals, and our planet.

-Melanie Joy, Ph.D., Ed.M.
Author, "Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism" and "Strategic Action for Animals"

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  1. Melanie Joy has some good things to say about humans and animals, but it's quite sad that when you go to her talks, she gets sidetracked and brings her anti-male, feminist ideas into the talk, I think she should stick to the issue at hand and stop making sexist, bigoted remarks about men, which are misandrist nonsense anyway,because of her stereotyping language. I won't be going to anymore of her talks, even though I'm passionate about animals rights, because I can't stand sexism in any form.

    I asked her if she saw research that showed that female animals were treated worse than male animals, but there was still plenty of male animal suffering, would she call herself a femanimalist and disregard the problems of the male animals, and she said no, she wouldn't. So why the freak does she do just that with humans, there are as many asshole women out there as there are men, and there are as many good men out there as there are good women.

    End sexism, do not support Melanie Joy.

  2. Hi, Anonymous.

    I must say, as a fellow male, I find your comment quite puzzling to say the least. There are obvious analogies to be made amongst virtually all social justice movements. Speciesism and carnism are inherently similar to the oppression of females in society. In fact, there are several books on the topic of making comparisons between the feminist movement and the animal rights movement. I believe it's important to draw these connections, as it's easier for people to have more empathy towards an issue when they can more closely relate to it.

    Your comment seems to assert that oppression of women throughout history is nonexistent. That is factually incorrect and evidence of misogyny exists all around us. It seems to me you are somehow threatened by women and are lashing out as some sort of defense mechanism? I would be interested to hear what information you have that has led you to the conclusion that feminism is a total conspiracy.

    1. I suspect this is Melanie herself replying, because it smells of feminist Women's Studies course rhetoric.
      Let me set the record straight for you, just because there are books about this topic, does not make it non-slanderist to the good name of men, who are in general wonderful human beings, just like the majority of women, but some women are sexist sows in the same way that some men are sexist pigs, neuter of them should be tolerated. I deplore her bigoted generalizations about men, it's sick feminist propaganda. The animal rights movement is not the place to be pushing sick, ugly sexism. I'm a male and I intend to stand up to the emotional blackmailing feminist bullies, I've totally had enough of them. Let's talk about Equalism, not feminism or Masculism. To see this evil separatist agenda creeping into the animal rights movement, makes me want to puke.

    2. Hi Anonymous,

      Actually, this is verifiably Ed Coffin, the author of this blog. If you took the chance to click my profile, you'd see that. I am not sure to what you are referring, but as a male, I completely disagree with all that you say. Men are not an oppressed minority, so your "argument" holds no weight whatsoever. Obviously, you have some kind of personal disagreement with Melanie and you are attempting to carry out some sort of backlash in a very nonsensical and immature way.

      -Ed Coffin (yes, this is me, click my profile)

      P.S. It's interesting with such bold claims, you choose to remain "anonymous."

    3. Hi Ed,

      Really, men are not an oppressed minority.
      Firstly, we are a minority, because we die on average 6 years younger than women.
      We have the highest workplace percentage of injury and death, 89%
      we have the highest suicide rate, 75%
      we have the highest rate of forced conscription to fight wars for greedy capitalists 100%
      We have the highest rate of addictions, drug, alcohol and gambling, as well as sex addiction and obesity. Don't judge, instead, ask why, because if those stats belonged to when, Melanie would be demanding taxpayer dollars to try and fix it, and rightly so, but will she do the same for men's stats, ha ha, ha. You know the answer to that one.
      We have the lowest rate of tertiary education intake.
      We work longer hours than women.
      We are blasted with feminist statements like "all men are pigs", that weaken the self esteem of young men.
      We get a fraction of the gender specific health dollar, even though our health is much worse than women.
      We make up 86% of prisoners. 99.999% of death row inmates and executed prisoners.
      And yet we have universities that tell us we can't have Men's Studies courses to match Women's Studies courses that churn out the likes of the Melanie Joys who want to taint the animal rights movement with her underhanded sexist comments about half the pollution of the world. And why can't we have men's studies at universities, because like you and Melanie, they say we are the oppressors, we are pigs and bastards, we are all rapists, we are the patriarchy.

      Next she will want it to be a femanimalist movement. There is no place in this movement of equality, for misandrist bigots.
      Or male apologists like yourself. I'm proud to be white, the same as my balck friends should be proud of their color, I'm proud to be male, as my female friends should be proud of their sex and I'm proud to be vegan.

      The greater majority of men are good caring, husbands, fathers, brothers and community members. Open your eyes ED and Melanie and stop the generalizations, but first you need to stop believing feminist, hate-filled propaganda. It's had its day, and it's so putrid, it stinks.

      If you don't like people posting under anonymous, don't have it as an option. The reason I use anon is because I've seen what hate-filled feminists do to good, honest people like Dr Warren Farrell, Christina, Hoff Sommers, and Janice Flamengo. these people are sick, like anyone else who is filled with hate for half the population of the world, and they need psychological help, not podiums, to dread their evil bigotry. Misandry is just as alive as misogyny, maybe more so. Oh sorry, maybe I should say MSandry.

    4. Should have said "if those stats belonged to women", not, when, it was a typo.

      also instead of dread, Spread.

      And it's Christina Hoff Sommers

  3. I would not pay much attention to the anonymous comment suggesting that Melanie is overtly sexist. This comment has shown up elsewhere as well, for instance youtube has the exact same comment on Melanie's video. Obviously someone is going out of their way to slander her.

    1. How do you suppose it's slander, she is the one slandering the name of good men everywhere, by generalizing abut them. If a male did the same about women, she would be up in arms. The greater majority of men are caring, supporting, loyal family men. She confuses a class war with a gender war.

    2. I know. Someone obviously has some baseless personal gripe and is going around posting these ridiculous comments everywhere.

  4. This is not slander, it's fact, just go to her meetings and hear for yourself. I want people far and wide to know the truth about this speaker. What she says makes me sick to my stomach.

    What a joke. Is the irony lost on people that Melanie talks about the comparison of sexism with animal rights, yet if you go to her talks, you will hear over and over again, her radical men-hating statements, generalizing about half the population of the world, it's disgusting to hear this bigotry, and the fact that she is using the vegan movement to push her ugly sexist feminist ideology.

    If you feel queasy when you hear despicable sexist bias, do not attend any of her lectures, or if you do, take a sick bag with you. The amazing thing is that she is a psychologist but can't see her own projection of whatever her underlying hurt is. Get real Melanie and find another forum to offload your emotional problems, men will not be walked over anymore by feminists who think we don't have the guts to call a spade a spade in case we are called misogynists, when feminists are full of misandry. Go and find another issue and take your sick and ugly men-hating feminism with you, don't dirty the name of animal rights with it.

    Next she will call for veganism to only look at female animal rights, perhaps a new movement called Feminalism. What a joke. Don't be fooled by her.

    1. Are you finished? No one is paying attention to you here.

    2. By the way, I am also proud of my heterosexuality, I think I might start up a Hetero Pride march. Do you think hetero white men should hide away, or is safe for us to come out of the closet. Do you have a problem with that as well Ed and Melanie.

  5. Oh really, Ed is.
    He can't wait to put me down, without actually trying to understand my point of view. I think ed is a male-apologist feminist. I'll stick to being an equalist thanks.



Propaganda propelled by a gay vegan.