Explorations of “Carnism” and how it relates to Abolition.
We are a self-described nation of animal lovers (vehemently so, as many people will firmly attest to), and we’re deeply devoted to the non-human animals that share our lives with us, asking absolutely nothing from them save for a bit of affection and loyalty, which they are more than willing to provide to us in exchange for basic requirements for survival such as food and shelter. Yet, when we claim to be a nation of animal lovers while dining of the flesh of a number of animals that suffered and died unnecessarily for our dinner, do we truly mean what we say, or are simply unaware of how selective we’re being in our preference towards certain creatures? This is the central theme with Dr. Melanie Joy’s book “Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows”, which deals with a deceptively simple idea: Is there a good reason why we care for some animals, yet condemn others to a nightmarish existence? Dr. Joy teases this idea out in her intro to the book, which explains the conversation she has with her students during her sociology classes; in essence, the student’s eventual conclusion concerning why we would love a dog but slaughter a pig is because that’s just the way things are. From an academic standpoint, this is atrociously poor reasoning and deduction, but it reeks of laziness, as well. As a species, we pride ourselves on how rational we are, and how advanced our critical analysis is, yet this particular attitude towards animals is woefully un-examined, which is deeply troubling since this matter is one of life and death for certain creatures.
That being said, there are some detractors that arrive from the abolitionist camp (although Dr. Joy, in accordance with her writings, would most likely self-identify as an abolitionist). Dr. Francione is not fully convinced that we need a new term to describe this phenomenon of why we love certain animals but condemn others to death via our palates. In the linked-to article above, he expresses the idea that the concept that there exists an “invisible” ideology is patently absurd. Francione believes that this concept of “carnism” is simply a new-found extension of new-welfarism, which has been around as its own ideology for several hundred years now. He insists that the idea of carnism is not something that is invisible; rather, “the animal welfare position is an explicit part of our culture. We know about it, think about it, and talk about it. Most people–members of the general public and many “animal advocates” alike–accept some version of it.” . Francione goes on to defend the position that carnism is simply a fresh perspective on speciesism, which is what abolitionists have been fighting against for many years now.
We must view these differing positions with an attitude of thoughtful and critical analysis, and perhaps reach the conclusion that ultimately, no matter what terms we use, we must rally around the banner of abolition, for this is the only path that will truly save the lives of the animals we care so deeply about.