'The Meat Paradox'

(To simultaneously dislike hurting animals and yet enjoy eating meat).

"The presentation of meat by the industry influences our willingness to eat it. Our appetite is affected both by what we call the dish we eat and how the meat is presented to us" Jonas R. Kunst. Postdoctoral fellow at the institute of psychology, University of Oslo.

In 2016 Jonas R. Kunst and his colleague  Sigrid M. Hohle carried out a series of studies into the psychology surrounding eating meat. They concluded that people are overwhelmingly operating in denial when they eat meat. This opinion had been long held by philosophers and animal rights advocates; the belief that by avoiding thinking about the animal a person is eating there is a reduction in the feeling of unease. Kunst and Hohle termed this the "disassociation hypothesis" and they are the first scientists to test this empirically.

You can read the  'Science Daily' report on the studies here 

Key Findings:

* Language plays a large part in helping maintain the denial:

When 'pig meat' is called 'pork' and/or when 'meat from a cow' is called 'beef' it is easier to disassociate oneself from what it is being eaten.  If meat is 'harvested' rather than 'killed' or 'slaughtered' people actually feel less empathy for the animal involved.

* Processing of the meat again helps aid the denial:

The more processed the meat the less people think of the animal. When shown two pictures of a whole pork roast, one beheaded, one not, the study participants again actually felt less empathy for the beheaded pig as it was less recognisable as a pig. (Now that is denial!!).

When shown a whole cooked chicken, chicken wings and finally chicken fillets there was a reduction in empathy and disgust the more the chicken was processed and looking less and less like a chicken.

* Reminding people of the animal does put them off eating it:

People were shown 2 advertisements for Lamp Chops, one with a picture of a living lamb, one without. The advertisement with the living lamb caused participants to admit to a reduced willingness to eat the lamb, and an increase in empathy.

Editor's comment: Come on, get real, you KNOW what you're eating and you also know it's wrong.


Discrimination based on species membership.

The treatment of members of one species as morally more important than members of another species even when their interests are equivalent. Most precisely described as the failure to consider interests of equal extent because of the species the animal belongs to.

In 2010 an earlier study from the University of Kent found that people who wished to escape the 'Meat Paradox' may do so by actually denying the animal they ate had the capacity to suffer. Dr Steve Loughnan, who conducted the study, explains  "Rather than change their beliefs about the animal's moral rights, people could change their behaviour. However, we suspect that most people are unwilling to deny themselves the enjoyment of eating meat, and denying animals moral rights lets them keep eating with a clear conscience".