Dr. Melanie Joy on Going Beyond Carnism: Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows

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“To identify with others is to see something of yourself in them and to see something of them in yourself — even if the only thing you identify with is the desire to be free from suffering.”

Melanie Joy


Why do we love dogs, but eat cows?

Cooking up your golden retriever would be an unthinkable abomination. But barbecued beef? That’s about as normal as it gets.

It’s just the way things are. 

But why? The logic and social mechanisms behind why we eat some animals and not others is a behavioral inconsistency unexamined to the point of absurdity — both psychologically complex and strange — very strange indeed.

Many guests on this podcast have elaborated on why we shouldn’t eat meat. This week I sit down with Melanie Joy, Ph.D, Ed.M to explain why we do eat meat.

An idea she coined carnism, Dr. Joy’s work centers around the psychology of eating meat, what is known as the “meat paradox” – our irrational, inconsistent and species specific attitudes toward various animals – why we express affection towards certain animals while eating others – and the cognitive dissonance this entails.

A Harvard-educated social psychologist, Dr. Joy is a celebrated speaker, organizational consultant, author of the award-winning book, Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows, and eighth recipient of the Institute of Jainology’s Ahimsa Award, which was previously awarded to Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. Her work has been featured by numerous national and international media outlets, including the BBC, NPR, and the New York Times. And she is the founder of the non-profit Beyond Carnism, which challenges dominant ideologies around food choice and systems and promotes a more mindful approach to our consumer choices.

I came across Dr. Joy’s work via her popular TEDx Talk, Toward Rational, Authentic Food Choices — a very intelligent and cogent exploration of our normative cultural behaviors and attitudes around the food we eat and why — and have wanted to get her on the podcast ever since.

I only had a tight hour with Dr. Joy, so this is a very focused discourse on speciesism and the psychological defense mechanisms we employ to rationalize our food choices. It’s a conversation about the psychology of social change, and it’s about how to employ psychologically optimal strategies in the advocacy of positive cultural change.

Specific topics explored include:

  • the concept of carnism
  • psychological defense mechanisms to eating animals
  • speciesism
  • carnistic justifications and “humane meat”
  • the rise of meat & dairy alternatives
  • the psychology of social change
  • the impact of the locavore movement
  • masculinity of meat & gender stereotypes
  • how to effectively advocate for veganism

Whip smart, Dr. Joy peels back the fallacious facade of logic and exposes the denial that surrounds these cultural mores with keen intellect and grace. Irrespective of your dietary proclivities, my hope is that this provocative conversation will challenge assumptions and inspire you to make more informed consumer choices that more adeptly align with your core values as an empathetic and compassionate citizen.

It was a pleasure to talk with Dr. Joy and I sincerely hope you enjoy the exchange.

Peace + Plants,

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SHOW NOTES

Background, Context & Reference:

Notable People Discussed:

  • Gary Francione: legal scholar known for his work on animal rights theory
  • Colleen Patrick-Goudreau: author, speaker, cultural commentator, and podcaster
  • Michael Pollan: author, journalist, and professor of journalism at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism
  • Brené Brown:  scholar, author, and public speaker, and professor at the University of Houston Graduate College of Social Work
  • Jackson Katz: educator, filmmaker, author, and creator of a gender violence prevention and education program entitled Mentors in Violence Prevention
  • Allan G. Johnson: writer and public speaker who works in the fields of sociology and gender issues

Related Podcasts You Might Enjoy:

Thanks to Jason Camiolo for production, interstitial music and audio engineering; Chris Swan for production assistance & show notes; Shawn Patterson for graphics; and Ana Leimma for the theme music.

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