Melanie Joy: As soon as the conversation came to eating animals, all of the progressive values that my family and friends espoused would just go right out the window.
SIGAL SAMUEL: In 1989, the social psychologist Melanie Joy became a vegetarian almost by accident. She ate a hamburger contaminated with campylobacter and became so ill that she couldn’t stomach the idea of eating meat again. So she set about learning new ways to cook for a meatless diet, reading cookbooks and doing research. In the process, she started to learn about the suffering of non-human animals, the suffering of workers on factory farms, and the environmental toll exacted by animal agriculture.
This new knowledge shocked her. “But what shocked me in some ways even more than what I was learning was that nobody I talked to was willing to hear what I had to say,” she remembers. “I mean, the response was almost always something like, ‘Don’t tell me that, you’ll ruin my meal.’” She was especially shocked that this was coming from her family and friends — people who, in her mind, were progressive and passionate about social change.
“As soon as the conversation came to eating animals,” she says, “all of the progressive values that they espoused would just go right out the window.” Joy wanted to know why she was seeing this phenomenon in people who were otherwise progressive… In her research, she hit on the notion of a powerarchy: a belief system that conditions people to see a group of people or animals as less worthy of moral consideration.
Whether we’re trying to justify systems of racism, sexism, or, as she describes our treatment of animals, “carnism,” the mental hoops we jump through are very, very similar. For season three of the Future Perfect podcast, we asked her to walk us through the ways human beings justify their participation in these systems, and how — at least when it comes to animals — we can start constructing new ones. SOURCE…