Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism

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In her groundbreaking new book, Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows, Melanie Joy explores the invisible system that shapes our perception of the meat we eat, so that we love some animals and eat others without knowing why. She calls this system carnism. Carnism is the belief system, or ideology, that allows us to selectively choose which animals become our meat, and it is sustained by complex psychological and social mechanisms. Like other "isms" (racism, ageism, etc.), carnism is most harmful when it is ...

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San Francisco, CA 2009 Hard cover Good. Glued binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. 204 p.

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Overview

In her groundbreaking new book, Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows, Melanie Joy explores the invisible system that shapes our perception of the meat we eat, so that we love some animals and eat others without knowing why. She calls this system carnism. Carnism is the belief system, or ideology, that allows us to selectively choose which animals become our meat, and it is sustained by complex psychological and social mechanisms. Like other "isms" (racism, ageism, etc.), carnism is most harmful when it is unrecognized and unacknowledged. Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows names and explains this phenomenon and offers it up for examination. Unlike the many books that explain why we shouldn't eat meat, Joy's book explains why we do eat meat — and thus how we can make more informed choices as citizens and consumers.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Through the use of narrative, often bordering on biography, the arguments being put forth by Joy are very well exemplified. The images conjured are ever so vivid that it would be difficult to stop once one starts reading it. The reader is immediately and often unknowingly drawn on. The volume is extremely readable, theory and jargon free as it is. However, that is not to say that the analysis is nonscientific or arbitrary. Rather, the arguments are firmly anchored to sound psychological theorization. People from all walks of life, across age and educational backgrounds would find this book immensely interesting. People advocating vegetarianism, professors and students of psychology, scholars from other areas of social science, and even public administrators in food departments would gain considerably from this extremely well written book." —Rita Agrawal, PhD, co-author, Applied Social Psychology: A Global Perspective

"One of the most thought-provoking books in decades. The realization that we've been conditioned throughout our entire lives to think and act a certain way toward animals, and that we've been so disconnected from ourselves and our fellow beings, gives us a chance to make our choices freely." —Heather Mills

"Institutionalized, socially sanctioned violence on an unprecedented scale causes the needless suffering of billions of animals every year. In her groundbreaking book, Melanie Joy shakes up the completely arbitrary thinking that enables people to, at the same time, treat some animals as friends and look the other way while others are ruthlessly exploited as commodities." —Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary and author of Farm Sanctuary: Changing Hearts and Minds about Animals and Food

"Why We Love Dogs... is an altogether remarkable book that could transform the way society feels about eating animals. You cannot read this book without learning something new and without pondering your relation to the animal world. This is a profound and deeply satisfying book that is destined to become a classic." —Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson, author of the best-selling When Elephants Weep, Dogs Never Lie about Love, The Pig Who Sang to the Moon, and The Face on Your Plate

"This eye-opening book makes us question what we really mean when we say we love animals. Anyone who has ever loved a dog or a cat or a hamster or a bird will find abundant food for thought here." —John Robbins, author of Diet for a New America, The Food Revolution, and Healthy at 100

"A thoughtful book full of substance and style. It should be required reading." —Kathy Freston, author of The New York Times bestselling Quantum Wellness

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781573244619
  • Publisher: Red Wheel/Weiser
  • Publication date: 11/15/2009
  • Pages: 205
  • Product dimensions: 5.60 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Melanie Joy, Ph.D. is a social psychologist, professor, and author. She teaches psychology and sociology at the University of Massachusetts, Boston and is the leading researcher on carnism, the ideology of meat production and consumption. She is the author of Strategic Action for Animals: A Handbook on Strategic Movement Building, Organizing, and Activism for Animal Liberation. Dr. Joy can be found online at www.melaniejoy.org.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 5
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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 19, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Even though this book is rather short at 204 pages, it is so res

    Even though this book is rather short at 204 pages, it is so resourceful! I have always felt that eating animals is forced upon us by our society. Different institutions tell us that it's normal and necessary to eat animals that are abused and killed inhumanely. While I will not argue the fact that we are naturally omnivores, I do not think it's natural to systematically abuse animals that are turned into food and that are pumped with... who knows what anymore. While several of the descriptions of animal slaughter are not new to me, there are some that really shocked me. I had to read this line like three times over: "Warrick explained how, though cattle were supposed to be dead before reaching the cutting room, this was often not the reality" (page 52). To me, that's something out of a horror movie. They are literally killed piece by piece.

    What I especially like about Melanie Joy's book about carnism is how she is not condescending or belittling toward people who eat meat. She uses psychology to explain why many Americans don't question the consumption of pork but become disgusted by the thought of eating a dog. She has written down a lot of thoughts that I have suspected to be true, such as the belief that eating meat is not a choice but a natural thing. It's only when you stop eating animals that you make a conscious choice (supposedly).

    I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves animals in general and is thinking about going veggie. Melanie Joy is a pleasure to read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 1, 2010

    Philosophical

    Intriguing. A philosophical/psychological look at the way we relate to animals. She shreds light on an ideology that is has never been discussed because there was no name for it. She asks questions I have never considered which ultimately changed the way that I think. Loved it!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2014

    Excellent Book

    Really a well researched and interesting book. I recommend this to everyone....vegans, vegetarians and people who.have not yet made the transition.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2013

    Life changer!

    I really enjoyed this book. My eyes were opened to a whole new world and way of living.

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  • Posted September 4, 2012

    Could not put down until read in its entirety. Should be requir

    Could not put down until read in its entirety. Should be required reading for anyone who eats food.

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  • Posted March 10, 2012

    I really liked this book. From the beginning it has you thinking

    I really liked this book. From the beginning it has you thinking.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2012

    A thought-provoking read that will leave you questioning the foo

    A thought-provoking read that will leave you questioning the food you eat! Joy is unafraid to tell the most gruesome aspects of the processed food industry while giving examples of the other side of the industry and all the good humans are capable if they can just get past the invisible wall that is Carnism.

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  • Posted December 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Animal Rights Activist Questions Why People Don't Eat All Animals

    "Why We Love Dogs" raises good questions about why some animals are routinely slaughtered for human consumption in various forms, while other animals are cherished or revered. Professor and animal rights activist Melanie Joy invites us to imagine having eaten a tasty meal that we later find was made from the meat of dog... to build upon our reaction of disgust and explore why the very idea of eating some animals is so repulsive, while we consider others a natural part of our everyday diet. "Carnism" is a term Joy introduces to describe a violent ideology, which is adopted mindlessly by people who do not realize the wide sweeping environmental, social and ethical consequences of their food choices.

    While there are some advantages to rallying interest in more ethical treatment of all animals, Joy's polarism of the world into presumably non-violent vegetarians and the violent carnists may be felt by many to be needlessly judgmental and guilt inducing. Little empathy is granted those who require a diet of some meat in order to live, by doctor's orders. My own attempt many years ago to become vegetarian failed even as I took vitamins and received assistance from doctors and vegetarian dietary experts to modify my diet -- I became too anemic to think clearly or function well. Many beloved pet dogs and cats require diets of meat in order to thrive, and this book's implication that everyone can switch to vegetarianism is not supported by all medical experts. Readers are well advised to get the advice of their physician or medical advisor before making radical changes to diet.

    Joy makes ethical, logical, and emotional arguments to inspire people to question their food choices. While such a slanted perspective may be felt necessary in order to capture the attention of those who for so long have ignored food bias, this approach led me to wonder about areas not covered by Joy's all-out attack on "mindless carnism." While I greatly appreciate her dedication to exploring hard-wired aversions people have to eating animals we associate as being part of our tribe, such as our most cherished pet dogs and cats, I found myself more than vaguely disquieted by the complete lack of mindfulness regarding the consciousness of wild and domesticated plants and vegetation. Most people are not as aware of the sentient nature of plants that I've seen demonstrated first-hand in numerous experiments, nor have they watched and heard potted plants learning to play exquisitely beautiful music of their own creation as I have. I don't expect animal rights activists to be familiar with plant consciousness research as described in the books "Primary Perception" and "The Secret Life of Plants." Not everyone has heard of plants becoming measurably agitated when a "plant murderer" entered the room, nor fainting when someone takes a first bite of a juicy lettuce sandwich. I hope animal rights activists can overcome animal-centrism enough to consider the possibility that plants have consciousness, too.

    I'd love to see a more balanced, open-minded and embracing exploration of how humans make food choices in ways that respect our sources of food, and to the degree that "Why We Love Dogs..." opens this discussion, I find it valuable. While I note that this book suffers from the very sort of hypocrisy it seems to so despise, I hope readers can see beyond its animal-centric view.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 12, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Improve your morals: eat less meat.

    Dr Melanie Joy's book subtitled AN INTRODUCTION TO CARNISM is a very good read. Its stated goals are clear, few and simple. They are also attained. *** By book's end we have been asked many questions. They revolve around why humans eat or decline to eat the flesh of fish and animals. And why do we eat only a few creatures such as pigs, sheep, cows, chickens and turkeys? Why would it take imminent starvation before most us would be willing to sample the meat of porcupine, sea slug, hippopotamus or our pet cat? Why, in general, do we exempt pets, others' and well as our own, from inclusinon on our menu? ***

    What are vegetarians? For Melanie Joy this term is not apt for people who decline to eat meat or fish for reasons simply of health. Rather vegetarians, in the author's jargon, are people who think meat eating is morally evil. The moral reasons vegetarians reject eating animals and fish are varied. But Melanie Joy builds a case that we do not eat the flesh animals for whom we have "empathy." If the animal has a name or is known to us personally and affectionately, even a pet goldfish, we won't dream of eating it. ***

    Biologically, humans are omnivores, not just carnivores. We can eat animal and fish flesh without harm. But we can also live without animal flesh. Most animal flesh we reject. We are fussy and selective in our meal choices. Dr Joy argues that various social pressures have placed a thick veil between the burger or Wienerschnitzel on our plate and the bull or calf that was systematically slaughtered to provide us our meal. Even if we don't know the pig in question, we are at least vaguely put off if its anonymous head is before us on a platter. We simply would not eat meat if we tore down the veil created by society, history and the animal raising and slaughtering industries. ***

    And who are "we?" We are "carnists." We are the opposite of Joy's ethically defined "vegetarians." If Melanie Joy were inclined to pray to her God for the vast majority of Americans who are "carnists," she might implore: "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do." Like Socrates, Dr Joy seems to believe that the first step from carnism to vegetarianism will be taken after her book tears down the veil between a Chicken McNuggett and Joe the rooster whose body we are munching on. Old Joe was once a living being, with interests of his own -- if left to his own devices. But he wasn't left alone. His mother was bred up to produce him. He was not allowed to roam free and seek out a mate. Carnism is possible only because human meateaters do not put faces on the sources of their meat. ***

    Bottom line: through myriad examples of food production industry's cruelty to turkeys, baby calves and other meat sources, Melanie Joy skilfully and relentlessly makes a case that eating meat is a moral evil. Once a carnist has seen the light and agrees with the author, he is ready for the three-step self-healing process Dr Joy recommends: (1) eat less meat, for starters; (2) join or support organizations that uncover the cruelties of the food industry; and (3) keep on learning more and more about nutrition and our ability to live happy, healthy lives without eating meat. -OOO-

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    Posted January 13, 2010

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    Posted October 14, 2012

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    Posted April 22, 2014

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