There probably won’t be very many book reviews posted here, because if you know me.. you know how much I hate to read. Reading is one of those things that I really wish I enjoyed, but I just never have. Maybe one day I’ll learn to love reading, but until then I’ll be happy to read (but more importantly, finish) at least two books every year.
One book that I’m proud to say I read this year was Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, & Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism written by social psychologist Melanie Joy Ph. D. I had been wanting to read this book for about a year, and finally forced myself to go to the library, check it out, and actually read. Ever since going vegan, and understanding the social norms that surround eating and using animal products, I’ve been fascinated at the psychological reasoning and history behind using animals for our own use. This book really encompassed a lot of the topics I was interested in, so I found it very informative and eye-opening.
The book begins by the readers imagining a dinner party scenario, after eating the meat dish you’re told that instead of cow (steak) it was golden retriever. Most everyone
would be completely disgusted with the fact they had just eaten dog meat rather than a more “normal” meat such as pig, cow, or chicken. Right at the beginning of the book, it gives you a glimpse of how important perspective is. I love the quote from the book “we perceive cows as edible, and dogs as inedible and act accordingly.” This perspective is carried out through our taste as well. Joy says that “we like the foods we’ve learned we’re supposed to like.” Even our taste buds have acquired the taste of specific meats we’ve grown accustomed to eating.
A term that she uses throughout the book is carnism. Carnism is a lot like veganism, except for it’s basically the opposite. A carnist is someone who “eats meat not because they need to, but because they choose to.” I loved learning about the concept of carnism, because I had never heard of it or even thought about it. A carnist is someone who chooses to eat meat but doesn’t need it to survive. It is different than a carnivore, because carnivores depend solely on meat to survive. As humans, we do not need meat to survive, we don’t depend on it like true carnivores do. I found this concept to be very interesting when learning about carnism.
I also enjoyed how the book included many quotes from carnist, and people that work in the meat industry. The quotes from meat industry workers really helped explain how important desensitizing is for the ones that do what nobody wants to do themselves: kill living animals. My favorite quote was by a slaughterhouse worker, Eisnitz
“The worst thing, worse than the physical danger, is the emotional toll. If you work in that stick pit for any period of time, you develop and attitude that lets you kill things, but doesn’t let you care. . . A lot of them have problems with alcohol. They [slaughterhouse workers] have to drink, they have no other way of dealing with killing live, kicking animals all day long.”
To actually do what nobody wants to do, or even admit actually happens requires lots and lots of desensitizing. Meat industry workers have to force themselves not to care, because essentially to do their job, they can’t care.
The book was extremely eye-opening in all aspects of the use of animals for humans. The government tries to keep us in the dark about many things, and animal agriculture is something that they work very hard to hide from us. We all know how horrible killing animals is, but the government keeps it so well hidden, we are ultimately coerced into supporting a system that we really don’t know much about, or are even allowed to know anything about. A lot of our free will is taken out of the equation, even from the moment we’re born. In the book, Joy brings up an awesome point:
“Did you freely choose to eat your GerberTurkey and Rice Dinner? Did you question your parents and teachers and doctors when they told you meat made you strong? Did the people around you encourage you to close the gap in your consciousness, or did they quickly restore your numbing and reassure you the virtues of meat?”
I love this quote, it is so powerful and shows how social norms effect us from our first year of life.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone that may be curious behind the history
and the psychological process behind eating, and using animals for our own benefit. It was very easy for me to read, and provides many examples, quotes, and facts. This book has an extremely large bibliography, so it definitely is not opinion based. If you want to know the facts, and the truth check out this book.
Educating yourself is one of the most powerful things you can do to begin to take control of your own life, and stop allowing yourself to remain in the dark about the many things that are hidden from us. One of the best things I’ve ever done was to stop believing in the lies I’ve been told, and start finding out the truth.
I’ll end on my favorite quote from the book: “Because we care, we feel compelled to bear witness. The way to overcome this paradox is to integrate our witnessing: we must witness the truth of carnism while witnessing ourselves. We must extend to ourselves the same compassion we allow ourselves to feel for the animals. . . .We recognize ourselves as victims in a system that has led us down the path of least resistance. We recognize that we have the power to choose a different path: we have the opportunity to make our choices freely, without the psychological constraints of a covert and coercive system.”
Can’t get your hands on the book, or don’t have time to read it? Check out this video of Melanie Joy summing up her book/research:
Or check out http://www.carnism.org