Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows


Next up at DLDw13 is Melanie Joy giving her acclaimed carnism presentation. She begins by introducing herself as a two-year-old, when her family adopted her dog Fritz. That first dog later became her first heartbreak, when he died of liver failure. As a child, Joy ever wondered how she could happily be patting her dog with one hand while eating a pork chop with the other. "I had a gap in my consciousness."

Her wake up call was a case of severe food poisoning she contracted after eating a hamburger. At the bottom of her mind, she had long been aware that her meat consumption was anti-ethical to her own way of thinking. But before becoming ill, she had tried – and succeeded – to block that knowledge out.

After her release from the hospital Joy no longer wanted to eat meat. Once she had stopped, she was surprised to find that for the first time she was able to think about eating meat. Her thoughts eventually led to her doctoral thesis, The Psychology of Eating Meat. In this, she argues that there is a gap between what we view as food and what we view as animals. We see the world filtered through perception, which is shaped by cross-cultural classification. Because of that lens, we see certain meats as appetising and others not as revolting.

But Joy goes a step further. Her argument is not just to make us conscious of our own cultural bias, but to question the very system we think in. "When it comes to edible animals there is a disconnect. We don't make the connection between the living animal and the meat on our plate." Joy grew up with her dog, Fritz. She also grew up eating meat. It wasn't until she stopped that she became fully aware of how society reduces life to a unit of production. This, Joy argues, is part of a might makes right mentality. A mindset which leads us to believe that our treatment of animals is justified, although actually, "eating animals is a social justice issue". In the EU, 14620 animals are killed every minute for their flesh and other body parts. "Given that these body parts are everywhere we turn, why don't we see them alive?" Because we are not supposed to, Joy stipulates. To demonstrate that we live entrenched within a system of oppression, Joy shows a shocking but true-to-fact video of standard slaughter house methods and large-scale livestock farming.

Next Joy speaks about the care paradox. On the one hand, this makes us want to turn away from the truth of meat, as she herself once did. But it is also what gives us the strength and courage to try to eradicate injustice. In this case, she is referring to the vegan movement. The counterpoint to carnism.

Coming full circle, the now 46-year-old Joy returns to her dog Fritz. Her pet taught her love. He taught her to be witness and that love knows no boundaries such as species. He also taught her that "love is a verb".

Joy is a Harvard educated psychologist. She is a professor of psychology and sociology at the University of Massachusetts and the founder of CAAN.

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