Carnism is the belief system that conditions people to eat certain animals 1. The average person loves their dog or cat and would find it abhorrent to eat them for dinner. Many of these same people consider pigs and cows as food, when these animals are as intelligent and capable of the same meaningful social interaction as their favourite family pets.
Then we get into the grey world of animals that can be considered both adorable or as food. Rabbits seemingly fit nicely into a pie or stew, but at the same time “bunnies” are considered extremely cute and cuddly. Families fawn over ducklings and ducks on family outings around rivers and lakes, then they don their camouflage gear during duck hunting season. There’s a lot of inconsistency in how we treat animals.
People grow up conditioned by the society they live in as to what is deemed ‘normal’. There are 450 million vegetarians in India that consider cows to be a sacred animal 2. In New Zealand, cows are primarily considered as a sacred economic resource to be plundered 3.
Cannibalism, racism and sexism used to be acceptable in our recent history, but society has evolved. People are becoming a lot more aware of what they’re consuming and the horrific practices that animal farming entails.
Speciesism 4 is a belief of humans that all other species are inferior and may therefore be used for human benefit without regard to the suffering inflicted. Influential historical philosophers espoused that animals are unfeeling automata 5 and that homo sapiens are inherently a superior species. It’s a deeply flawed and destructive outlook based on out-dated modes of thinking. Carnism is essentially a “sub-ideology” of speciesism in the same way that anti-Semitism is a sub-idealogy of racism.
One day carnism and speciesism will be recognised as ethically problematic practices by wider society but, for now, humanity is still on the road to enlightenment.
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