Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, And Wear Cows

Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, And Wear Cows

Name: Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, And Wear Cows

Author: Melanie Joy

Personal Rating: 4/5


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Here are my book highlights and key takeaways. Most of these are direct quotes from the book.


We think of a person who has a certain philosophical outlook, whose choice not to eat animals is a reflection of a deeper belief system in which killing animals for human ends is considered unethical.

We understand that veganism reflects not merely a dietary orientation, but a way of life.

In much of the industrialized world, we eat animals not because we have to; we eat animals because we choose to. We don’t need to eat animals to survive or even to be healthy; millions of healthy and long-lived vegans have proven this point. We eat animals simply because it’s what we have always done, and because we like the way they taste.

Most of us eat animals because it’s just the way things are.

Carnism is the belief system that conditions us to eat certain animals.

We sometimes think of those who eat animals as carnivores. But carnivores are, by definition, animals that are dependent on meat to survive. An omnivore is an animal — human or nonhuman — that has the physiological ability to ingest both plants and meat.

In much of the world, today people eat animals not because they need to, but because they choose to, and choices always stem from beliefs.

If the problem is invisible…then there will be ethical invisibility.

See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil

The most effective way to distort reality is to deny it; if we tell ourselves there isn’t a problem, then we never have to worry about what to do about it. And the most effective way to deny reality is to make it invisible.

If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.

The Reality

Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it. — Adolf Hitler

In the USA, agribusinesses slaughter 11 billion animals per year. That does not include the 47 billion fish and other aquatic animals killed.

That’s 23K animals per minute or 400 animals per second.

Most slaughterhouses are designed with a singular intention: to manufacture their product at the lowest cost and for the highest profit possible. Quite simply, the more animals processed and killed per minute, the more money to be made.

It is estimated that upward of 2 billion animals destined to become food die before reaching the slaughterhouse.

Farmed animals are supposed to be stunned and rendered unconscious before they are actually killed. However, some pigs remain conscious when they are strung upside down by their legs in shackles, and they kick and struggle as they are moved along the conveyor belt to have their throats slit.

How are Birds Treated?

Those who keep pet chickens or turkeys describe birds who play with them, seek them out for affection, and even cavort with the family dog.

In the United States, we kill and consume approximately nine billion birds a year for their flesh or eggs.

“Broiler” chickens and turkeys are raised for their meat, and though in natural conditions they live up to ten years, in CAFOs they have a life span of seven weeks or sixteen weeks, respectively.

The birds shortened lifespan is largely due to both selective breeding and they are being fed a diet so full of growth-promoting drugs that they grow at double the speed they would naturally. For this reason, these birds suffer from numerous structural deformities. Their legs are unable to hold their weight and are often twisted and broken. When it comes time to be shipped to slaughter, they are grabbed and crammed into crates that are stacked on top of one another; they can suffer broken or dislocated wings, hips, and legs, as well as internal hemorrhages.

In “broiler house” conditions, birds are unable to carry out any of their natural behaviors, such as foraging and roosting, and they develop psychotic, stress-induced behaviors, such as feather pecking and cannibalism. Often, in order to prevent them from pecking each other to death, a hot blade is used to cut off the front part of their beaks, without anesthesia, at birth.

While the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act requires other animals to be rendered unconscious before being killed, birds are exempt and are slaughtered while conscious.

Their throats are slit by either hand or machine, and they are then dumped into scalding water to loosen their feathers. A number of birds end up being boiled alive.

What About Eggs?

Egg-laying hens, or birds used for egg production, are born in commercial hatcheries, in industrial incubators. The male chicks are of no economic value and are therefore discarded shortly after birth.

Because the hens have been genetically manipulated to lay 20 to 30 times as many eggs as their ancestors, their brittle bones frequently break, as the calcium in their skeletons is disproportionately diverted to eggshell formation.

When hens can no longer produce eggs profitably, the hens are pulled out of their cages,  sometimes several in a handful, and their limbs, which are weakened and ensnared in the wires, often tear. When she is just over one year old, the egg-laying hen is sent to slaughter.

Cows & Milk

Cows raised for dairy are injected with genetically engineered growth hormones and are artificially impregnated every year, in order to maximize milk production.

In dairy factories, the calf is removed usually within hours of birth so the cow’s milk can be diverted for human consumption.

Like human mothers, cows can become frenzied and desperate when they cannot find their offspring. There are even instances of cows escaping and traveling for miles to find their calves on other farms.

Though cows have a natural lifespan of approximately 20 years, after only 4 years in a dairy factory they are considered spent and are sent to slaughter.

Farmed Fish

Fish may be slaughtered in a number of ways.

Commercially caught fish are often left to suffocate to death after being landed. Farmed fish are typically removed from their pens by a pump, and dumped into a slaughter area.

There, various slaughter methods may be applied, including electrocution, which leads to a lethal, epileptic-like seizure; percussive stunning, which is administering a blow to the head with a club; live chilling, in which the animal is left on ice and frozen alive; suffocation; or spiking, where a spike is inserted through the animal’s brain.

Eating Animals is Not Normal

Most people who eat animals have no idea that they are behaving in accordance with the tenets of a system that has defined many of their values, preferences, and behaviors.

What they call “free choice” is, in fact, the result of a narrowly constructed set of options that have been chosen for them. They don’t realize, for instance, that they have been taught to value human life so far above certain forms of nonhuman life that it seems appropriate for their taste preferences to supersede other species’ preference for survival.

It is easier by far to conform to the carnistic majority than eschew the path of least resistance.

The Cognitive Trio That Justifies Carnism

The Cognitive Trio is comprised of:

  • Objectification
  • Deindividualization
  • Dichotomization

Objectification is the process of viewing a living being as an inanimate object, a thing.

The more you see these lambs without any heads on them, the more you don’t think of them as an animal, but as a product that you are working with.

By viewing animals as objects, we can treat their bodies accordingly, without the moral discomfort we might otherwise feel.

Deindividualization is the process of viewing individuals only in terms of their group identity and as having the same characteristics as everyone else in the group.

Dichotomization is the process of mentally putting others into two, often opposing, categories based on our beliefs about them.

When it comes to carnism, the two main categories we have for animals are edible and inedible. Most people won’t eat animals they deem intelligent (dolphins), but regularly consume those they believe are not very smart (tuna).

Many people avoid eating animals they perceive as cute (rabbits) and instead eat animals they consider less attractive (turkeys).

We filter our perceptions of animals through categories laden with value judgments, we can, for example, eat our steak while we pet our dog and remain oblivious to the implications of our choices.

Dichotomization thus supports justification; it enables us to feel justified eating an animal because, for instance, he or she isn’t smart, isn’t a pet, isn’t cute — isn’t edible.

To maintain the carnistic status quo, we retain false assumptions about the animals we eat so that we can continue to classify them as edible. Intelligent pigs and chickens are seen as stupid, and handsome turkeys are viewed as ugly.

Bearing Witness

Our grandchildren will ask us one day: Where were you during the Holocaust of the animals? What did you do against these horrifying crimes? We won’t be able to offer the same excuse for the second time, that we didn’t know.

Your carnistic schema will pull you back into the carnistic mentality; your awareness of carnistic production will likely diminish if you don’t actively work to keep yourself informed and try to deepen your understanding of the issue.

Judith Herman points out that, in the face of mass violence, all bystanders are forced to take a side, by their action or inaction, and that there is no such thing as moral neutrality.

Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.