August 16, 2010 Commentary
I just learned a new word: carnism: the belief system in which it’s considered ethical to consume animals. Whether omnivore, flexitarian, or vegetarian, the questions raised in Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism by Melanie Joy, give one pause. In her book, Joy explores “why we feel affection and compassion for certain animals but are callous to the suffering of others—especially those slaughtered for our consumption.”
Here are our two cats, Reuben and Marvin… and two cows I met at Farm Sanctuary a few weeks ago.
And here’s Marvin and a cow striking a pose. The cow in the photo is an exception to the rule; he lives as good a life as Marvin does. They both get good vet care, nutritious food, human compassion, and a life expectancy appropriate to their species.
After spending some time up close and personal with these two cows, it’s hard to see much difference between them and their small doppelgangers that reside in our home.
If carnism is the word of the day today, tomorrow’s word will be speciesism. Speciesism is the belief system that values some animals over others (humans occupy the top of the hierarchy). Carnism makes it appropriate to eat animals on the lower rungs of the speciesist hierarchy. Speciesism is the bigger system, carnism is its natural byproduct.