How Carnism Impacts You and Your World
Our food choices have a direct and profound impact on our body, our mind, other humans, billions of animals, and our planet:
- Ninety-eight percent of the meat, eggs, and dairy that the average American consumes come from CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), in which thousands of animals are crammed together in filthy and unhygienic conditions. CAFOs are a leading cause of pandemic flus and potentially deadly food-borne illnesses, such as e. coli, salmonella, and listeria.
- Animals whose bodies are used for meat, eggs, and dairy live and die in misery. They are born into massive, filthy, overcrowded, often windowless, factories; removed from their mothers shortly after birth; castrated, debeaked, dehorned, and/or branded without anesthesia. Millions of females are forcibly impregnated throughout the course of their lives. These animals are slaughtered on mechanized disassembly lines so fast-paced that animals are routinely hung, shackled, cut, and/or boiled while fully conscious.
- Though scientists have demonstrated that fish and other sea creatures feel pain, every year billions of these beings - who have been packed into overcrowded tanks rife with parasites, bacteria, and drugs and chemicals to control disease - are slaughtered for human consumption. “Wild-caught” sea animals also suffer immensely, and overfishing is responsible for the injury or death of nearly 30 million tons of inadvertently caught sea animals (dolphins, birds, turtles, etc.) annually and for the fact that 70 percent of the world’s fish populations are either fully exploited or depleted.
- Animal agriculture is one of the most significant contributors to some of the most critical environmental problems of the twenty-first century, including climate change, water pollution, deforestation, erosion, species extinction, oceanic biodiversity destruction, fresh water depletion, and chemical wastes. The United Nations recently issued a report urging a global shift toward a vegan diet as a key measure to address the environmental crisis.
- Conditions in U.S. meatpacking plants and slaughterhouses are so dangerous and abusive that, according to Human Rights Watch, they violate basic human rights.
- In order to eat the flesh or secretions (eggs/milk) of a once-living being, we need to disconnect, psychologically and emotionally, from the truth of our experience. We need to “numb” our authentic thoughts and emotions, to block our awareness (i.e., we must think that we’re eating “meat,” rather than a dead animal) and our empathy for the animal who became our food.
- When we eat animals, we dissrupt our personal integrity--the integration of our values and practices. For most of us, our core value system does not condone gratuitous violence toward other sentient beings, so when we consume the products procured by their bodies we are acting in opposition to our deeper values.
- Carnism is structured like other “isms” which are organized around the oppression of certain groups of “others.” And while the experience of each set of victims will always be unique, the ideologies are structurally similar, as the mentality which enables such oppression is the same. To create a more humane and just society, then, we appreciate that eating animals is a social justice issue, and we must include carnism in our analysis.
Carnism is a dominant, entrenched system; for better or worse, we are all participants in the system. Our choice is not whether we participate, but how we participate. With an awareness of carnism we can choose to be active witnesses rather than passive bystanders, informed consumers and empowered citizens. With awareness we can make choices that are in the best interest of ourselves, animals, and our planet, and live more authentic and freely chosen lives.