Carnistic Defenses
An Animal Rights Article from All-Creatures.org

FROM

Carnism Action and Awareness Network
May 2014

[Ed. Note: For more, read What Is Carnism?]

Hence, carnism teaches us to justify eating animals, and it does this by presenting the myths of meat (and other animal products) as though they were the facts of meat, by promoting the Three Ns of Justification: eating animals is normal, natural, and necessary. The Three Ns are institutionalized...

Ideologies such as carnism maintain themselves by teaching us not to think or feel when we follow their dictates, and one of the primary ways they do this is by using a set of defense mechanisms which operate on both the social and psychological levels. "Carnistic defenses" hide the contradictions between our values and behaviors, allowing us to make exceptions to what we would normally consider unethical.

The primary defense of the system is denial: if we deny there is a problem in the first place, we donít have to do anything about it. Denial is expressed largely through invisibility, and the primary way carnism remains invisible is by remaining unnamed: if we don't name it, we canít even think about it or question it. But not only is the ideology itself invisible; so, too, are the victims of the system: the trillions of farmed animals who remain out of sight and therefore conveniently out of public consciousness; the increasingly degraded environment; the exploited and often brutalized meat packers and slaughterhouse workers; and the human consumers who are at increased risk for some of the most serious diseases of the industrialized world and who have been conditioned to disconnect, psychologically and emotionally, from the truth of their experience when it comes to eating animals.

But invisibility is only the first line of defense in the fortress of carnism; the truth is impossible to completely obscure. So when invisibility inevitably falters, the system needs a backup. Hence, carnism teaches us to justify eating animals, and it does this by presenting the myths of meat (and other animal products) as though they were the facts of meat, by promoting the Three Ns of Justification: eating animals is normal, natural, and necessary. The Three Ns are institutionalized - they are embraced and maintained by all major social institutions, from the family to the state - and, perhaps not surprisingly, they have been invoked throughout history to justify other violent, exploitative ideologies (e.g., slavery, male dominance, etc.).

Carnism also defends itself by distorting our perceptions of meat/eggs/dairy and the animals we eat so that we can feel comfortable enough to consume them. We learn, for instance, to view farmed animals as objects (e.g., we refer to a chicken as something, rather than someone) and as abstractions, lacking in any individuality or personality (e.g., a pig is a pig and all pigs are the same), and to create rigid categories in our minds so that we can harbor very different feelings and carry out very different behaviors toward different species (e.g., beef is delicious and dog flesh is disgusting; cows are for eating and dogs are our friends).

There are a number of other defenses that overlap with and support those mentioned here, but all defenses serve a single purpose: to block our awareness and empathy when it comes to farmed animals and the products procured from their bodies. With awareness of carnistic defenses, though, we are less vulnerable to their influence; we are able to step outside the system and look at the issue of eating animals through our own eyes, rather than through the lens of carnism.


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