Opinion: You don’t need meat

The Ryersonian’s Joseph Wong

 

Drop those steak knives, my indoctrinated friends. Pull that pork from your stuffed pout and heed my warning before your plate plays its part in harming you and our planet.

A video from the Beyond Carnism campaign has changed the way I see food. I haven’t eaten meat since I watched it earlier this year. It didn’t even bombard me with graphic images of slaughter houses (that much).Carnism, a belief system described by Melanie Joy, is the reason why we eat meat and it’s really messed up. Carnism is an invisible belief system that conditions us to eat certain animals. It has robbed us of our free thinking, compassion, health and our beloved mother Earth. Joy is a psychologist, vegan activist, author, and founder of Beyond Carnism, a vegan-activism group. Her Tedx Talk, “Toward Rational, Authentic Food Choices,” is in the top one per cent of most viewed Ted Talks, according to the Beyond Carnism website.

We seem to have no problem accepting that some kinds of animal consumption aren’t acceptable. Dog-eating is seen as wrong. So wrong that 11 million people signed a petition to end the annual 2016 Yulin dog-eating festival in China. Why don’t we feel the same caution about the meat we eat, but abhor dog meat? Joy says it’s because carnism has defence mechanisms.

The first defence mechanism is denial. By remaining unnamed, carnism escapes our thinking and therefore isn’t a problem. About a quarter of the planet’s land is used for grazing. About 18 per cent of greenhouse gas emissions are caused by the livestock industry, and the total supply of crops used to feed animals could feed 4 billion people, according to a Pounds to Pocket infographic. The Humane Farming Association (HFA) website says that slaughterhouse workers have admitted to deliberately “beating, strangling, boiling, or dismembering animals alive.” But that’s chill, because the product of meat only shows up on the plate when it pairs with the red wine, or, heaven forbid, in your salad.

Joy says the second defence mechanism is justification. We were taught to think that eating meat is normal, natural and necessary. Would you be able to slaughter a cow with your own hands for food, because it’s normal, natural and necessary? Or does your squeamish reaction reveal that justification isn’t enough?

The last defence is cognitive distortion. We’ve been conditioned to think farmed animals are disposable things. But the animals we eat “feel pleasure and sadness, excitement and resentment, depression, fear, and pain,” and “are far more aware and intelligent than we ever imagined,” Jane Goodall writes in her introduction to The Inner World of Farm Animals.

Personally, I can’t bear to kill these animals for my taste buds anymore, and a well-managed vegetarian/vegan diet can be equally, if not more nutritious, than a carnistic diet. This isn’t meant to shame you. Rather, I want you to be aware of the choice you are making when you’re eating meat and its dire consequences.

Let’s eat well, love Earth and all its divine inhabitants.

 

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