Dealing with Carnistic Defenses: 'All This Talk About Animals Is Making Me Hungry for a Juicy Steak!'
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Vegan lifestyle articles that discuss ways of living in peace with humans, animals, and the environment.


Free From Harm
September 2012

Dan Piraro Bizarro carnism carnistic
Cartoon by Dan Piraro,

Have you ever found yourself in a situation with someone who completely derails the discussion with a statement that goes something like this: “All this talk about animals is making me hungry for a steak!” or “All this talk about cows is making me crave a big hunk of cheese!”

Some of us would find this so off-putting, we would retaliate with something insulting and end the discussion then and there. But that’s actually the worst thing you could do. It’s exactly what these statements intend to do, that is, shut down the discussion. And their sincere passive-aggressive hope is that you will shut it down, leaving them with the last word.

So should you call their bluff?, ask them to admit to you and themselves that animals mean nothing more to them than a cheap piece of meat? Some would argue, it’s just not worth the energy to continue at this point. I completely disagree. It’s a golden opportunity to show the conviction you have in your beliefs and to point out to them what’s really behind such a statement. Because when they realize what’s behind it, I see them backpedalling.

Put aside your emotions for a moment and instead read between the lines at what someone is really telling you when they make such a statement and then find a creative way to respond that will take the higher ground and restore the discussion back to one that takes the interests of animals seriously.

And here’s what they are really telling you: “Back off! I am in control. In response to your suggestion that the issue is bigger than me, I am reaffirming my control over my right to eat what I want.” Humans are superior and have dominion over animals. I was raised with this belief and unconsciously carry this belief into my adult life. When it is questioned, I build a fortress around it to protect it from attacks. I feel entitled to eat animals because the dominant culture supports this as a cultural norm.”

By diverting the attention away from any serious attempt to understand and respect animal interests, these statements expose a strategy of oppression that has existed for thousands of years to justify any and all manner of oppression against more vulnerable beings (including of course our own kind). The strategy is this:

If we can destroy one’s identity and therefore one’s value, we can justify doing anything we want to them with no moral obligation connected to our actions.

The inferior “others” have often been our own kind — Jews, African slaves, Aboriginals, American Indians, women and gays, to name a few. Most of these have been challenged and defeated but there is one last great refuge for the human legacy of oppression: the victims so vulnerable, they don’t even have a voice to defend themselves. And this class of others is, of course, animals. They are a perfect target for this oppression. The prefect silent victim — immune to justice and unable to retaliate. Animals even make some extremely rich and profitable, contributing to a multi-trillion dollar industry that the global economy has come to heavily rely on.

Chances are the people that make such statements never thought this through and never intended to align themselves with the cowardice and thuggish brutality that claims the most vulnerable as its victims. They are, like the vast majority of us, people who just want to fit in, to conform to social norms , yet you’ve just identified the issue of eating animals with the abnormal and the basest of human vice: the mindset of oppression that society finds, not just reprehensible, but also socially, culturally and morally unacceptable. This association can open the door to a major shift in consciousness.

So the next time you are confronted with “I sure could go for a juicy steak right now” kind of statement, take a deep breath and consider your response.You can sling an insult back at them and gain nothing or you can peak their interest and help move them beyond these silly, self serving statements of juicy steaks and gooey cheese to something that might get them thinking differently. I’ve done it, and I’ve seen it work. Give it a try. And please share your experiences with me. 

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