Review of Meathooked: The History and Science of Our 2.5-Million-Year Obsession with Meat
Animals: Tradition - Philosophy - Religion Article from


Stephen Kaufman, M.D., Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA)

Review of Meathooked: The History and Science of Our 2.5-Million-Year Obsession with Meat

Science writer Marta Zaraska explores an interesting and important question: given that, more or less, people recognize that eating meat contributes to animal abuse, environmental degradation, and human health problems, why do they continue to feel passionately about eating meat? For many people, substantially reducing or eliminating meat from their diet seems incompatible with the kinds of lives they want to lead. With many healthy, tasty non-meat foods (including “mock meats” that closely resemble the taste and mouth feel of flesh) readily available, the insistence on eating the “real thing” seems foolish and irrational.

In seeking to address this paradox, Zaraska explored meat cultures throughout the world. She discovered a wide range of beliefs regarding the value of flesh for human well-being, as well as diverse traditions and beliefs regarding what kinds of flesh are regarded as taboo, what kinds are staples of local diets, and what kinds are consumed only at special events. She then compared these observations with scientific findings from many disciplines, including paleontology, archeology, anthropology, physiology, and food science. For example, she notes that flesh once served important nutritional needs of primal humans and that humans have evolved taste receptors for compounds commonly (but not exclusively) found in flesh.

Many factors promote the ongoing desire for flesh, including cultural traditions and powerful meat trade organizations that spend many millions of dollars every year trying to convince us that meat is needed for good health and a general sense of well-being. If we seek to change hearts as well as minds toward plant-based diets, we need to understand the psychological and cultural foundations of meat-eating, and this book is a very helpful tool toward that end. 

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