10/3 – Why we love dogs, eat pigs, and wear cows

1. “The primary tool of the system is psychic numbing…The mechanisms of psychic numbing include: denial, avoidance, routinization, justification, objectification, deindividualization, dichotomization, rationalization, and dissociation” (Anthology 616).

I found Melanie Joy’s description of psychic numbing to be very relatable. In fact, it perfectly describes what I often feel (and felt even more so as a child) when I eat meat. I use to not eat eggs because whenever I would eat them, I couldn’t stop thinking about baby chicks, and I’d feel sick. Now, I like eggs, but I still eat them very quickly, and I try not to think too much about it. I struggle even more when eating anything with bones. They inhibit my ability to “dissociate” and “deny” that I’m eating a once living, breathing animal. I remember going to Pluckers for the first time a few weeks ago. I was with a huge group, and since everyone else ordered wings, I decided to go ahead and try them. I got the regular wings with bones, but when they came, I could only eat the very outside of the meat. Once my teeth hit bone or I saw the bone, I was done with that wing. I couldn’t finish them. My friend got upset that I was leaving so much meat on the bone, and I agreed with him. I didn’t feel loving or in tune with the world. I felt like a wasteful pansy.

2. “Cruelty is often more disturbing than killing” (Anthology 617).

I don’t believe that I’ve heard this idea before (or at least phrased like this), but I think it’s incredibly accurate. After reading this line, I wondered why I find cruelty more disturbing, and I think it’s because while death remains an inevitable part of life, the intentional infliction of pain as a byproduct of cruelty is avoidable. In certain situations, killing becomes a necessary means of survival. But exhibiting cruelty? I don’t see how that would ever be necessary to one’s survival.

3. “Dogs are neither wild animals nor livestock. … Everyone all over the world must act now” (Anthology 622).

Joy includes this blog post from a member of the ASPCA concerning the consumption of dogs in South Korea. I was horrified when reading this chapter. I couldn’t imagine dogs, man’s best friend, being abused, stuffed in cages, and skinned. I was repulsed beyond measure. However, I think Joy’s inclusion of this section causes us to question why don’t we feel a similar repulsion towards the killing and consumption of cows, pigs, chickens, etc… Sure, “dogs are neither wild animals nor livestock,” but who made cows livestock? We did. Humans decided to label certain animals as livestock, thus justifying their classification as “food.” We freak out over abused cats and dogs, but we disregard abused cattle and chickens simply because of our learned emotions (or lack thereof) towards them.

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Boy with “livestock.”
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Boy with dog.

It all comes down to how we perceive them. Dichotomization – Who do we deem worthy of our compassion?

4. “He concluded that obedience to authority overrides one’s conscience” (Anthology 626).

I think there’s a lot of truth to this, but I wonder if such obedience derives from a belief in the authority’s honorable power or fear of potential consequences.

5. “I won’t eat something that is raw or half raw. … The sight of blood — I don’t like blood, so I sure won’t want it running out of my food when I’m eating it…It’s not healthy” (Anthology 628).

I, too, dislike rare meat. I always ask for my hamburgers well-done. I have no illusions, though, as to why I do it. It’s not for any false health reasons; it’s because blood reminds me all too well that I’m eating something that was once alive, that had blood – just like me.

6. “Why must the system go to such lengths to keep itself intact? The answer is simple. Because we care about animals, and we care about the truth” (Anthology 637).

After reading Joy’s argument, it seems as if those in the carnistic system are fighting against their inherent nature of compassion and union with other living creatures. Must we constantly convince ourselves that eating meat is normal, natural, and necessary because not eating meat is actually more in line with our innermost being?

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Girl: “I don’t like that farmers chop people up.”
Father: “They don’t chop people up.”
Girl: “I don’t like that they chop animal-people up.” (Youtube video 1:15).

I was struck by the little girl’s connection between people and chickens cows, and pigs. To her, both humans and animals occupy the same level of worth. In her mind, just as farmers shouldn’t kill humans, they shouldn’t kill animals. This makes sense. After all, it wasn’t until I learned that humans have more advanced intellectual capabilities than animals that I began to see humans as superior.


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