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DEADLY DENIAL: Studies show people willfully ignore the pandemic risk of animal agriculture

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Meat-eaters are thus very good at playing the mental gymnastics game by applying a wide range of psychological tricks to make it possible to profess their love for animals while simultaneously eating animals.

KRISTOF DHONT: COVID-19 is a once-in-a-century pandemic that has killed scores of people, incapacitated economies, education, and travel, plus severely disrupted social life globally. Although scientists forewarned about the imminence of global pandemics such as COVID-19, humanity collectively failed to dodge its arrival. Sensibly, governments deployed a range of tactics to curb the further spread of the disease, saving human lives. Yet, with the dominant focus on how to be prepared and respond once pandemics hit, surprisingly few conversations seriously discuss prevention tactics…

The forced confinement of large numbers of animals in factory farms is a key risk factor for zoonotic diseases… Scientists have been warning for decades that factory farms are breeding grounds for influenza viruses, causing disease outbreaks such as the “avian flu” and “swine flu” epidemics, and are key drivers of antibiotic resistance threat, given the overuse of antibiotics.3 Given the catastrophic proportions of the current pandemic, one would expect greater public attention to be given to the zoonotic disease risk posed by animal agriculture. However, solutions to this problem require policy changes and personal sacrifices, akin to dealing with the looming climate emergency.

When it comes to habits and norms surrounding eating animals, meat-eaters hold beliefs in a protective manner and often engage in motivated-cognitive processes whereby they actively distort or disregard relevant information that challenges their consumption habits. As social psychologists Dhont and his colleagues wondered whether people acknowledge, or instead willfully disregard, the role of factory farming in causing infectious diseases; they investigated public opinion of zoonotic diseases to address this research question by conducting two studies early in the 2020 pandemic, using samples of British adults…

The findings confirmed that people blame factory farms and global meat consumption less than wild animal trade and consumption or lack of government preparedness. Moreover, people largely focused on reactionary solutions to potential future outbreaks, such as having specialized teams on standby or investing in medical equipment. Solutions addressing deeper causes were considered less important, with animal agriculture being particularly disregarded as a facilitator of infectious disease. Those highly committed to eating animals especially struggled to acknowledge that factory farms and global meat consumption are in need of changing to prevent future disease outbreaks…

Even after reading about the risks of factory farms in the spread of disease, committed meat-eaters were still less convinced of policies to change or ban factory farming than of policies aimed at better preparing for pandemics. Yet, when reading the same information about wild animal markets, they endorsed policies to reduce, regulate, or ban wild animal markets. The findings indicate that as well as failing to recognize the role of factory farming in causing infectious diseases, committed meat-eaters willfully disregard solutions targeting animal agriculture and global meat consumption to prevent future pandemics…

These findings illustrate that appetite for meat poses a stumbling block to mobilize public recognition of disease risk from animal agriculture, precisely because solutions to this problem implicate their dietary habits. This research adds to the growing body of research showing that the meat-motivated mind goes to great lengths in justifying the continuation of eating animals…

Meat-eaters are thus very good at playing the mental gymnastics game by applying a wide range of psychological tricks to make it possible to profess their love for animals while simultaneously eating animals. These new findings reveal that this disturbing paradox and appetite for meat not only comes at the costs of animal lives but also prevents humankind from taking action towards a safer and healthier future for everyone.  SOURCE…

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