The Psychology of Eating Meat


Questioning why we eat what we eat, especially when it comes to meat and animal products, can be a touchy subject.  Psychologist Dr. Melanie Joy explores this topic in her book “Why we Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows.”  While many books explain why we shouldn’t eat meat, Joy’s book explains why we do eat meat – and therefore how we can make more informed choices as citizens and consumers.  Joy calls this topic “carnism,” which she calls, “the invisible belief system that conditions people to eat certain animals” and approaches the topic without judgement or blame, but rather, as an exploration in the psychology behind eating meat.  

Joy’s TEDx talk, “Beyond Carnism and Toward Rational, Authentic Food Choices and her video, “The Secret Reason We Eat Meat,” both explain the concept of carnism in short presentations.  Joy calls carnism a discovery that transformed her worldview, her health, and her happiness.  Her approach differs from that of many animal rights groups, as she approaches this topic as something that doesn’t just benefit animals, but ultimately, benefits people the most.  This benefit comes through aligning our behaviors with those values which most would agree are fundamentally human, (compassion and justice) and unveiling these invisible defense mechanisms, or contradictions as Joy calls them.  The real reason we eat meat, as Joy explains, is grounded on an invisible belief system.  It’s only through awareness of this invisible belief system, that we are given the power of choice, and therefore the power to live a life more aligned with our values.

Perhaps the greatest element of carnism is justification, which is rooted in the belief that animal products are an essential part of the human diet.  When talking about carnism as a belief system, Joy says, “Carnistic bias is built into the very foundations of society – when we study nutrition, for example, we actually study carnistic nutrition.”  

Learn more about how a plant-based diet relates to carnism, by visiting :

For further resources on carnism, and Joy’s reccomended resources for learning more about a plant-based diet, visit:

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