Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Society is Sick! Carnism is Everywhere

Roughly ten percent of Israel identifies as ‘vegan’. The Taiwan government supports and urges a 

‘one-day-a-week vegetarian diet’ and firmly regulates animal product labeling on food. Almost 

one third of India’s 1.2 billion people are vegetarians. Cuisine in Korea has a deep Buddhist

temple tradition; meaning many popular meals are vegan. The UK is home to several of the most

popular vegan restaurants in the world. In Italy, where olive oil is the basis of most recipes, not

butter, one can ‘skip the cheese’ and certainly find animal product free dishes throughout the entire

country (Peaceful Dumpling 2013). Although these facts are true, they do not get at the history of

obstacles veganism has had to overcome in order to grow into what it is today and what it could


In 1894 when the first vegetarian eating-house opened in Moscow, the Russian police were told they could not let vegetarianism grow without supervision and hindrance, and the authorities even went as far as ensuring restaurants did not exhibit the word "vegetarian” (Davis). The Big Soviet Encyclopedia (1961) commented: "Vegetarianism is based on false hypothesis and ideas and has no followers in the Soviet Union!" The word "vegetarian" was taken away from the dictionaries of the Russian language. But obstacles are not only found in the past, according to the U.S. Deparment of Agriculture, the average American today consumes nearly twice his or her weight in meat each year. Our globalized society still has a very long way to come in terms of the food industry, before it can be considered vegan, compassionate, or ‘humane’. Using animals for food, clothing, etc. is a global social justice issue that needs to be brought to the surface and discussed on both local and national levels everywhere.
According to the New York Times, "Carnism is a term given to psychological disconnect which allows people to eat animals while remaining resolutely sentimental about others." Urban Dictionary calls carnism, "The psychology that animals were put on this earth for the sole purpose of feeding and entertaining humans, and that they have no inherit value if they cannot be used by humans.

“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.” (Carnism.org 2013).

Carnism.org also claims, “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.”

           It’s important to note that although vegetarianism is moving in the ‘right direction’, it is not truly a plant-based ideology, as its name would suggest. In fact it can be found on the continuum of carnism, and therefore should not be held to the same moral value as veganism. Veganism, also has a spectra; ranging from eating no animal products to consuming and purchasing no animal products, but the ideology is far more stringent and the global goal. It is unclear, and hard to empirically state, why carnism exists. And at the same time it’s also hard to explain why veganism is spreading and gaining more and more popularity. A lot of the reasoning behind diet  modifications is due to new health discoveries. It is without doubt that animal product free diets are healthier than any alternative. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics declares ‘a plant-based diet is both nutritionally sound and even more healthful than a carnistic diet.’ Recently both the WHO and FAO have concluded that changes in diet in the second half of the 20th Century have seen “traditional, more plant-based diets replace high-fat, energy-dense diets with a substantial content of animal food. This has played a ‘key role’ in the upsurge of diet-related preventable diseases.” These preventable diseases include obesity, heart disease, adult-onset diabetes, and even cancer. Veganism has also proved to decrease redness and irritation of the skin, reduce the incidence of diabetes, the risk of cataract development, the risk of cardiovascular disease, obesity, stroke, lower cholesterol, decrease the chance of developing kidney stones, and satisfy all your nutritional requirements (Edward F. 2013).

            However, despite these claims, many people still argue about the benefits of eating animals. Contrary to popular belief fish is not the only food source with alpha-linolenic acid (ALNA), long-chain Omega-3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Vegan food sources like walnut, flaxseed (linseed), mustard, and rapeseed (canola) oil all contain these natural beneficial nutrients (Davis 2013). According to the WHO website, “Fish and shellfish contain toxic chemicals at concentrations as high as nine million times those found in the water in which they swim. A particular concern is that fish contain high levels of methylmercury contamination, associated with rises in blood pressure, impaired neurological function in infants and reduced fertility in adults.”
            Another common source of confusion is that cow’s milk is ‘good for you’. Turns out there is 

no evidence that milk ‘makes your bones stronger’ or helps you in anyway for that matter. In fact 

countries that have the highest daily consumption of dairy milk, ironically also have the highest 

prevalence of osteoporosis (WHO). The type of calcium that actually does help build bone health can 

be found in vegan foods like kale and broccoli. In terms of saturated fat content, drinking eight 

ounces of milk a day is equivalent to eating a Big Mac with fries or twelve strips of bacon (Roberts 

2012). But regardless of the science, according to a November 2001 report by the World Bank, 

Livestock Development- Implications for Rural Poverty, the Environment, and Global Food Security, 

‘total global meat demand is expected to grow from 209 million tons in 1997 to 327 million tons in 

2020 (56%). Over the same period global animal milk consumption is expected to increase from 

about 422 million tons to 648 million tons (54%).’

            Perhaps it is the health benefits that are converting ‘meat-eaters’ to vegans or perhaps more 

and more people are going ‘animal-product free’ because of the community benefits of doing so. For 

those who are and are not concerned about our environment, we should all start considering reduction 

of consumption of animal products as vital as recycling correctly and reducing car use.

            According to ChooseVeg.Com, almost 80% of land deforested in the Amazon is now used as 

cattle pasture, 70% of the grain grown in the US is fed to farmed animals, switching to a diet free of 

meat, dairy, and eggs saves more carbon emissions than driving a Prius, and raising animals for food 

(including land used for grazing and growing feed crops) now uses a staggering 30% of the Earth’s 

land mass. 

Library.ThinkQuest.org states: 
            “Veganism greatly decreases the wastes, pollution, and deforestation caused by mass animal food production. The United States and China, which contain 25 percent of the world's population, combine to consume 35 percent of the world's  beef, over half of the world's poultry, and 65 percent of the world's pork. If Brazil and the European Union are included, this group - roughly 33 percent of the world's population consumes more than 60 percent of the world's beef, more than 70 percent of the world's poultry, and more than 80 percent of the world's pork.  
            Today, our planet is home to nearly 1 billion pigs, 1.3 billion cows, 1.8 billion sheep and goats, and 13.5 billion chickens. These animals need to be fed. They need water to survive. If they are ranged, they need land. And these animals produce enormous quantities of waste.
            Seven kilograms of grain are required to produce 1 kilogram of beef; the conversion is 4-to-1 for pork and 2-to-1 for poultry. Each kilogram of meat  represents several kilograms of grain that could be consumed directly by humans, not to mention the water and farmland required growing the grain. To put this in simplified terms, the beef in a hamburger represents enough wheat to produce five  loaves of bread. Huge amounts of food - not to mention the water and farmland required growing the food - can be freed up by modest reduction in meat production. For example, if the 670 million tons of the world's grain that is fed to livestock were reduced by 10 percent, the resulting grain could feed 225 million people or to keep up with growth in the human population over the next three years. If each American reduced his or her meat consumption by just 5 percent, roughly equivalent to eating one less dish of meat each week, enough grain would be saved to feed 25 million people - the number estimated to go hungry in the United States each day.
              In the United States, where 130 times more animal manure is produced  than human waste - 5 tons for every U.S. citizen - animal waste is the principal    source of water pollution. And livestock farms are getting larger throughout the world. Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's recent bill to reform livestock waste management   estimates that one 50,000-acre hog farm under construction in Utah will produce   more waste than the city of Los Angeles.

            According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the world's livestock herds are the 

largest source of human-induced emissions of methane - a potent greenhouse gas contributing to 

climate change. The University of Chicago, cited this fact from the EPA, and found that being 

vegan is more effective in the fight against global warming; a vegan is responsible for the release 

of approximately 1.5 fewer tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year than is a meat-


            However, there is even more to worry about than CO2. According to Peta.org, “Nitrous 

oxide is about 300 times more potent as a global warming gas than carbon dioxide.” According to 

the U.N., “the meat, egg, and dairy industries account for a staggering 65 percent of worldwide 

nitrous oxide emissions.” Eliminating and destroying carnism, which would in turn be embracing 

and actively practicing veganism, would reduce destruction of tropical rainforests and topsoil, 

reduces ecological footprints, and most importantly helps ensure environmental sustainability 

(Organic & Natural 2012). 

Eradicating carnism would also reduce destruction of endangered species and wildlife habitats, 

avoid further pollution of rivers, oceans, and streams, and also reduce the use of chemicals, growth 

hormones, and antibiotics in our food.

            USDA researchers have found that “…eating two ounces of chicken per day—the equivalent 

of a third to a half of a boneless breast—exposes a consumer to 3 to 5 micrograms of inorganic 

arsenic, the element’s most toxic form.” Daily exposure to low doses of arsenic can cause cancer, 

dementia, neurological problems, and other ailments in humans.

            To many people the health and environmental benefits that come with the elimination of 

carnism are the reason for changing their diet, but for many other vegans and human rights 

activists, the reason for their no-animal-product diets is more about the pain inflicted on animals. 

Scientists have proven animals can feel pain. This means cows, chickens, pigs, and even fish. 

“’Wild-caught’ sea animals 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” (PETA 2012).  The pain inflicted among animals used for the production

 of commercialized food, fur, shampoo, makeup, etc. is undeniable, tragic, and heartbreaking, yet 

these procedures remain the norm in our world today.

            Up to now the heath issues of carnism, which are both psychological and physical, have been addressed using strategies such as shame tactics, public announcements, campaigns, and celebrity endorsement. Although these efforts have made a difference in creating the vegan population and enthusiasm that exist today; this process of transforming society’s mind set is a long, difficult, and sensitive process, and unfortunately we still live in a world full of slaughter houses, hypocrites, and incomprehension/lack of education today.
            I do believe the creation of the word ‘carnism’ and the spreading awareness of this social 

issue is what will address and destroy carnism in the coming decade. ‘Carnism’ does something 

that ‘veganism’ doesn’t and can’t. Carnism address more than the fact that some people eat meat 

and some people don’t, it digs deeper to try and explain and address why people eat cows but not 

dogs, or why some people don’t eat eggs but wear fur. 

The invisibility of carnism makes eating animals appear to be simply a matter of personal ethics, rather than what it actually is: the inevitable end result of a deeply entrenched, oppressive system” (Carnism.org).

         When our globe as a whole truly realizes the dangers of the gruesome habits of carnism, we 

will as an entire world become publically healthier. Jiddu Krishnamurti said it best when he said, 

“It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”

Sources Cited:

Davis, John. "International Vegetarian Union - History of Vegetarianism - Russian Vegetarian Societies." International Vegetarian Union - History of Vegetarianism- Russian Vegetarian Societies. International Vegetarian Union, 15 Oct. 2013.Web. 07 Oct. 2013.

Dumpling, Peaceful. "Top 6 Most Vegan Friendly Countries in the World." Peaceful Dumpling, 8 Aug. 2013. Web. 08 Oct. 2013.

Franz, Edward. "9 Health Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet." Natural Health Organic Living   Blog. Global Healing Center, 1998-2013. Web. 04 Oct. 2013.
Mercy For Animals. "We All Want to Help Theplanet. But How?" ChooseVeg.com: Eating Vegetarian Is Good for the Environment. N.p., 2013. Web. 04 Oct. 2013.

Organic & Natural. "Top 10 Reasons Why It's Green to Go Veggie." Down to Earth Organic & Natural, 2012. Web. 04 Oct. 2013.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "Fight Global Warming by Going Vegetarian." PETA.org. N.p., 2013. Web. 04 Oct. 2013.

Roberts, Ethan. "How Carnism Impacts You and Your World." How Carnism Impacts You and Your World. Carnism.org, 2013. Web. 18 Oct. 2013.

"Urban Dictionary: Carnism." Urban Dictionary. N.p., 2012. Web. 18 Oct. 2013.

"Vegan 2000." ThinkQuest. Oracle Foundation, 2000. Web. 04 Oct. 2013.

Vocab, Schott. "Carnism." Schotts Vocab Carnism Comments. New York Times, 11 Jan.   2010. Web. 17 Oct. 2013.

World Health Organization. "Human Vitamin and Mineral Requirements." FOOD SND     AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION OF THE UNITED NATIONS. WORLD   HEALTH ORGANIZATION, 2002. Web. 14 Oct. 2013.