In a Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, six-year-old Calvin asks his mother, while biting into a hamburger, “Is hamburger meat created out of people from Hamburg? Of course not,” she responds. It’s beef ground up. I’m eating a cow?, Calvin asks incredulously as he examines his burger. I doubt my ability to complete this.
The majority of humans carelessly devour all manner of sentient animals, in contrast to the animal-loving Calvin who immediately focuses on the ethical dilemma of eating meat. So why are so many people okay with using pigs and cows as main foods yet horrified by the idea of eating dogs? (Although eating dog meat is still permitted in China, the practice has recently drawn harsh condemnation.) Many would argue that this is because dogs are man’s best friend and that greasy foods like juicy burgers and sizzling bacon taste divine.
Putting aside domestication and taste preferences, pigs are more intelligent than dogs. Additionally, cows are clever creatures with superb long-term memories who form friendships, harbor resentments, and even grieve the loss of loved ones.
Why then do we arbitrary draw a line in the sand for morality? Why do we eat some animals while we adore others? A recent study found that our own capacities for denial play a big role in creating this moral paradox.
The meat paradox
The psychologists Jared Piazza at Lancaster University and Steve Loughnan at the University of Edinburgh questioned a group of meat eaters about their dietary habits for the study conducted in the UK and published in the journal Social Psychological and Personality Science, using the intelligence of the animals they eat as the determining factor.
Piazza and Loughnan began by presenting participants to a hypothetical species from another planet in order to demonstrate that people do, in fact, prioritize intelligence when making food decisions. In sum, 93.5% of respondents indicated they would not eat an animal if it displayed traits associated with high intellect, but just 60.7% said they would oppose eating an intelligent animal. For mankind, a point.
Sadly, the study’s most telling component occurred when the same people were asked to rank the “Overall, pigs received lower scores than the other two species across the board, despite having the same level of intellect as the fictional species, as did tapirs.
The authors came to the conclusion that people only really regard an animal’s intelligence in a situation when it is not threatened “motivated way, i.e., when it’s convenient for them. This is not always a groundbreaking discovery. To avoid the mental strain of cognitive dissonance, people are psychologically capable of adopting two or more perspectives that are opposed to their beliefs or value systems. Loughnan invented the phrase “eating animals” to describe the challenging topic “pork conundrum.
“Jesse Singal described the act of causing cognitive dissonance in reference to the study in New York Magazine. We acquire a moral belief for whatever reason, and then build a rationale around it, like some attractive but frail facade.
We also frequently justify our moral choices regarding meat consumption using arguments that go beyond intelligence. The four Ns are what researchers refer to them as.
- This is simply how nature functions.
- Given that it is such a common practice in our society, how can it be wrong?
- We must consume meat to stay healthy.
- Just how fantastic does it taste?
If these responses reveal anything, it’s that people are content with the status quo. Beyond the moral issue, the climatic problem is another pressing reason why mankind needs to start seriously reconsidering its callous behavior.
The exponential increase in demand for meat in countries like China, according to a key research published by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change last year, will eventually push the world temperature over the dreaded two-degree Celsius threshold. Or, as it is stated in a research by the London-based think tank Chatham House: Meat consumption will have increased by 75% by 2050, and the whole global carbon budget will be used to produce it. The study comes to the conclusion that “a change in global meat and dairy intake is likely required to keep temperature increases below two degrees Celsius.
“I prefer to inquire about who is coming over what is for dinner. stated Marc Bekoff, author of Rewilding Our Hearts: Building Pathways of Compassion and Coexistence and professor emeritus of ecology and evolutionary biology at the University of Colorado.
Bekoff’s query aims to bring people’s attention to the truth about the food on their dinner plates: that steak was once a unique living human, someone with genuine emotions and a distinct personality. It can sound unusual to speak to meat with a pronoun. It offers some relief from the problem Piazza and Loughnan’s investigation uncovered.
Bekoff prefers to refer to this group of people as Homo denialus. If you enjoy eating meat (as I do), you might take some solace in the fact that there is now at least a taxonomy. Recognizing this is an excellent place to start. The following action is to deal with the issue. Here comes the leader of the Reducetarian movement, Brian Kateman.
According to Kateman, many meat eaters who have developed a conscience want to make a difference but are unable or unwilling to become vegans or vegetarians. Kateman believed there needs to be a way to meet people halfway since she recognized the challenges people confront when trying to change their “entire paradigm.” As a result, he developed the idea of the reducetarian, a person who has made the decision to “deliberately decrease his or her consumption of meat.
How may one adopt a reducetarian stance? Simple, really. You can join the movement, which has gained popularity thanks to the Vegetarian Monday campaign, by eating only one meatless meal per day or per week. We need to reach people with a message that won’t terrify or intimidate them, according to Kateman, who thinks that by fostering a good environment that accepts the truth of our flaws and promotes moral compromise, society may gradually make a significant improvement.
Piazza, a psychologist, has reached a similar conclusion. If self-persuasion can be used to assist people overcome their propensity to react defensively to knowledge about animals they consume as meat, that is one potential approach I am currently studying in my lab, he said. He thinks there is a better likelihood that individuals will eventually adopt a meat-free diet into their lifestyle if they are given the opportunity to become comfortable with the idea of eating less meat themselves rather than being instructed to do so.
The results thus far seem encouraging, but much work remains, he said. Denial is after all one of the most effective strategies people have for supporting or rejecting just about everything, including denial. Bill Watterson, creator of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, once said, “It’s not denial.” “I merely choose which realities to accept.
Why do we not eat dogs but do we eat pigs and cows?
In Western civilization, the majority of people have no issue consuming cows, pigs, and chickens. However, humans usually find it repulsive to think about eating dogs. Why do we distinguish between “animals for eating” and “animals not for eating” in our minds?
The “horsemeat scandal” has engulfed Europe over the last two months. In the Netherlands, horsemeat has been discovered in products like the Swedish meatballs from Ikea and the “beef” lasagna from Euroshopper. Perhaps typical of the Dutch, the prevailing attitude was pragmatism rather than shock ” (“Oh well, meat is meat I guess…).
If dog meat had been found in our Swedish meatballs, the reaction would very likely have been very different. The majority of individuals in Western culture find the concept of eating dogs repulsive. However, why do humans mentally distinguish between “animals for eating” and “animals not for eating”?
In her best-selling book Why people love dogs, eat pigs, and wear cows, Dr. Melanie Joy examines the psychological reasons underlying “carnism,” the belief that eating particular animals is morally and appropriately acceptable. The book opens with a question for reflection:
Consider being at a dinner gathering with friends, savoring a mouthwatering stew of meat. Your acquaintance responds as follows when you ask for the recipe: “You start with five pounds of well-marinated golden retriever meat, and then…
As you take in the information that the meal you are eating comes from a dog, you might stop mid-bite. Would you shrug and eat the rest of your meal? Or would you be so repulsed that you lost all desire to eat, feeling as though the vegetables around the meat were ‘tainted’?
One significant psychological factor influencing the choice to consume particular animals is the sensation of disgust. In actuality, one of the fundamental moral feelings is revulsion. Dr. Joy claims that generally speaking, the more compassion you have for an animal, the more repulsed you are by the thought of consuming it. Because most people have greater compassion for dogs than for cows, we are more repulsed by the thought of eating dogs.
Anecdotal and empirical evidence from vegetarians supports the idea that empathy affects food choices through revulsion. One vegetarian acquaintance of mine said that she found the idea of eating dogs to be just as repulsive as eating cows, and even more repulsive than eating human flesh. An empirical investigation also revealed that vegans have higher levels of revulsion for meat. Could empathy play a role in mediating the gap between omnivores and vegetarians’ degrees of disgust?
According to an fMRI study, vegetarians and omnivores differ from one another in terms of empathy. The brain regions associated with empathy were more active in vegetarians when they witnessed both animal and human suffering. Interestingly, vegetarians showed even greater concern for animal suffering than for human pain. Additionally, vegetarians performed better on a test of empathy.
The relationship between disgust and empathy in terms of food preferences has not yet been studied. Thus, it is unclear why vegetarians find the prospect of eating cows repugnant but omnivores do not, even though the aforementioned data implies empathy plays a part. This would imply that organizations working to reduce meat consumption would be wise to concentrate their efforts on raising awareness of the plight of farm animals.
Why shouldn’t dogs be eaten?
At the town of Bambanglipuro in Bantul, which is close to the Indonesian city of Yogyakarta, dogs are shackled in sacks before being butchered. A Reuters/Dwi Oblo image
Health is just one of many reasons why people should not consume dog meat.
Dogs were domesticated by humans as far back as 18,000 BC. Pigs were domesticated in 13,000 BC, and cows were domesticated in 10,000 BC.
There would not have been discussion about this issue if our forefathers had determined that dogs should be consumed in the same manner as pigs, cows, or chickens.
Dog meat isn’t mentioned at all in the classic texts on Vietnamese cuisine.
Only one or two food stands in Hanoi sold dog meat before to 1930. Nearly no one did in the south.
Although there are certain irrational myths about eating dog meat, at least in Vietnam, I believe people should also take into account the following information.
First, contrary to popular belief, dog meat isn’t particularly healthy. On the other hand, there are legitimate risks involved in eating it. The infamous Toxocara canis parasitic worm, which can cause blindness, myocarditis, and respiratory failure, may be present in dog meat.
Another legitimate worry is rabies. While the virus can be killed by high heat while cooking, customers are unaware of the vulnerability of kitchenware like knives and chopping boards to cross-contamination.
Second, research shows that dogs are among the most wise and devoted pets available. After a long day at work, you don’t see a chicken running out to welcome you very frequently, do you? However, dogs are unique. They will always be by your side, wagging their tails and beaming with joy whenever they see you, no matter what. What else could possibly qualify as unconditional love if not that?
The fact that most of the dog meat eaten in Vietnam is not raised on farms and is likely to be stolen from the dogs’ owners is the third and possibly most significant factor. Given this, there is a good likelihood that if you eat dog meat, you are involved in the kidnapping of a loved one, and somewhere, a family is grieving.
Fourth, the time when humans lived as hunter-gatherers and needed to go out and hunt, fish, and gather fruit has long since passed. We now have a variety of options, and avoiding eating dog meat is one among them.
Animal rights advocates frequently criticize China’s annual celebration where tens of thousands of dogs are murdered for their meat.
Things are evolving in South Korea, another nation that traditionally eats dog meat. In 2016, a survey of young people in South Korea revealed that 60% of them had never eaten dog meat and thought of dogs as “friends, not food.”
Taiwan prohibited the selling of dog and cat meat last year, and offenders were subject to fines ranging from $37,000 to $65,000.
Some people would argue that since dogs shouldn’t be eaten, the same should apply to all other creatures. Neither meat nor pork should be consumed. Humans are, in reality, at the pinnacle of the food chain. However, there is a distinction between consuming animals for food and murdering and eating them for entertainment. That is seriously flawed.
Why do we eat pigs but adore dogs?
Melanie Joy, an American social psychologist, wrote a book titled Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism in 2009 that explores the psychology and underlying philosophy of meat consumption, or “carnism.”
 The term “carnism” was created by Joy in 2001, and she expanded on it in her doctoral dissertation in 2003.   Carnism is a subset of speciesism,: 912 and it is opposed to ethical veganism, which is the moral commitment to refrain from using or ingesting meat and other animal products. Publisher Red Wheel released an anniversary edition of the book in 2020. 
Why do certain animals get eaten while others don’t?
Have you ever pondered why humans treat some animals as companions while treating others as food or a commodity? Dogs and cats, for instance, are regarded as family members, yet humans kill and consume cows and pigs. We don’t give cows, fowl, or pigs much thought before they end up on our plates because we believe there is a difference between the animals we love and the ones we eat.
Melanie Joy, a psychologist, examines in her TED talk the reasons why we find the idea of eating a Golden Retriever repulsive but cheerfully eat beef, pork, and chicken. Although we believe that eating meat from farmed animals is okay despite the fact that all animals are sentient creatures, “We never think twice about our decision to mass-kill and eat them since it is normal, natural, and necessary.
By examining how society has normalized eating meat, Joy argues that we may all choose to distance ourselves from this suffering, but knowledge is the first step. When we carefully and critically consider the roles we have given farmed animals in comparison to our pets, we are able to look past the constructs of “carnism and work toward a future filled with compassion.