BOOKS: Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, & Wear Cows
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2010:
Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, & Wear Cows:
An introduction to carnism
by Melanie Joy, Ph.D.
Conari Press (65 Parker Street, Suite 7,
Newburyport, MA 01950), 2010. 204 pages,
Melanie Joy opens Why We Love Dogs, Eat
Pigs, & Wear Cows by describing guests sitting
around a dinner table. The host smiles as she
dishes out a savory stew. Oh, by the way, did
I tell you it’s made from five pounds of golden
retriever? Do the guests vomit? Storm out in
protest? Or slap their napkins across the cook’s
In a second scenario the savory stew is
made from marinated beef tips in a red wine
sauce, served over a bed of steaming white rice.
Most people dig in and perhaps ask for seconds.
Why do humans eat beef, chicken, lamb,
pork and seafood without blinking, yet in much
of the world are repulsed and outraged by the
idea of dining on dog?
Joy describes great differences in how
most people experience dogs. Even those who
don’t have dogs often see neighbors with them.
Dogs star in advertisements and screen
entertainment. Dogs guide blind people, sniff
out bombs, and detect accelerants at suspected
arson sites. We share our lives with dogs, but
not with cows or pigs.
A college professor, Joy asked her
students for their opinions about pigs. She was
told that pigs are lazy, stupid, and “gross,”
but that bacon tastes good. She asked if any of
them had ever met a pig. None had. She asked
why we eat pigs and not dogs? Students believed
that pigs were bred to be eaten; dogs were not.
But few had ever considered why.
Joy calls this behavior “carnism.”
Eating certain species is usually believed to be
ethical and appropriate. Why? Just because it
has always been done.
Carnism is an entrenched ideology that is
hard to change. I recently overheard a man say
that if he couldn’t eat steak, he’d shoot
himself. Yet he had a dog at home. His was an
extreme reaction, but according to Joy most
people eat meat without considering the violence
in the meat industry. Besides the abject
cruelty, there is contamination to worry about.
But that’s another story.
Meat is big business. At least ten
billon animals are slaughtered each year just in
the U.S. The USDA estimates that Ameri-cans
annually eat an average of at least 87 pounds of
chicken, 17 pounds of turkey, 66 pounds of
beef, and 51 pounds of pork. Including other
meats, such as seafood, that’s over 223 pounds
consumed per person.
Joy describes the deplorable conditions
for animals in factory farm, and the workers in
factory farming and slaughter, who are typically
uneducated and are often undocumented foreigners,
with little conception of having any rights for
themselves, let alone that rights might exist
for animals. Meatpacking is among the most
dangerous and unwanted jobs in the U.S., with
one of the highest job turnover rates.
Information about the meat industry
reaches the public from time to time, mostly
through hidden camera exposés conducted by animal
advocates working under cover. The public
repeatedly expresses disgust at images of cattle,
pigs, or poultry being kicked or beaten by
brutish workers, but consumes burgers, steaks,
wings, and chops anyway.
Joy suggests that putting pictures of the
animals on packaged meat might influence a change
in behavior. But our ancestors and people in
other nations were and are not less carnivorous
as result of their much more frequent exposure to
animals who were raised for slaughter. In most
of the world and throughout most of history,
meat consumption has risen with affluence,
declining only due to hard times.
People do often identify with and spare
animals who make an inspired effort to escape
from slaughter. Fiction about such cases forms a
literary genre, including the 28-volume “Freddy
the Pig” series produced by Walter R. Brooks from
1927 to 1958, and Charlotte’s Web, by E.B.
White, twice dramatized in successful films.
Joy describes a 1995 episode in which a
cow eventually named Emily fled from a New
England slaughterhouse. Purchased for $1.00 by
Peace Abbey founders Lewis and Megan Randa,
Emily spent the last 10 years of her life with
Unfortunately, Joy stretches the truth a
few times. For example, she says that non-meat
alternatives must be actively sought out. Most
major grocery stores now stock non-meat burgers
and sausages, made by some of the biggest U.S.
food processing companies. Most chain
restaurants serve vegetarian burgers.
In a sidebar about suffering, Joy says
that doctors did not use anesthesia or
painkillers on infants until the 1980s. This is
not a universal truth. Doctors disagreed about
the age when babies feel pain, but medical
literature shows that many doctors believed that
infants and third trimester fetuses feel pain
decades earlier, and tried to avoid causing them
pain. –Debra J. White