Beyond Carnism


Beyond Carnism

Founder: Dr Melanie Joy PhD
Books by Melanie Joy PhD:
Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs And Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism. Publisher: Conari Press, 2010
Strategic Action for Animals: A Handbook on Strategic Movement Building, Organizing, and Activism for Animal Liberation. Publisher: Lantern Books, 2008

Beyond Carnism is a charitable organization that works to expose and transform carnism, the invisible belief system that conditions people to eat certain animals.

Excerpts from

Carnism is the invisible belief system, or ideology, that conditions people to eat certain animals. Carnism is essentially the opposite of veganism, as “carn” means “flesh” or “of the flesh” and “ism” refers to a belief system.

Because carnism is invisible, people rarely realize that eating animals is a choice, rather than a given. In meat-eating cultures around the world, people typically don’t think about why they eat certain animals but not others, or why they eat any animals at all. But when eating animals is not a necessity, which is the case for many people in the world today, then it is a choice – and choices always stem from beliefs.

In short, carnism is a system of oppression. It is enabled by an unjust exercise of power that causes unnecessary harm to billions of individuals.

Why Eating Animals Is a Social Justice Issue

Because carnism is invisible, we assume that eating or not eating animals is simply a matter of personal ethics: “You make your choices, and I’ll make mine.” However, when we recognize carnism, we can appreciate that eating animals is in fact the result of a widespread, oppressive system. (Consider, for example, how believing that women did not deserve the right to vote had less to do with “personal choice” or “personal preference” than it did with the widespread sexism that conditioned people to believe in the inferiority of women.)

And carnism is structured like other systems of oppression, such as racism, sexism, and heterosexism. While the experience of each set of victims of oppressive systems will always be unique, the systems are similar because the mentality that enables the oppression is the same.

Ultimately, cultivating compassion and justice is not simply about changing behaviors; it is about changing consciousness so that no “others,” human or nonhuman, are victims of oppression. To bring about a more compassionate and just society, then, we must strive to include all forms of oppression in our awareness, including carnism.




4 Comments Add yours

  1. Alex says:

    I agree and disagree. It is a social justice issue, but it is not one we can force people to support. It’s still a personal choice. They make theirs. I make mine. At most, you can raise awareness.

    I’m pretty sure many other things I do offend other causes. We can’t support them all, and they can’t all support just animal rights.


  2. Hi Alex. Thank you for reading and commenting! Education and raising awareness are what I hope to achieve through this blog, so I really appreciate you stopping by and giving your opinion too.


  3. Interesting points. Thanks for sharing; I will read this book. As a vegan myself I do find that meat-eating is generally based on mis-information. Thus, education is very important. For instance, people often discuss proteins and minerals and healthy fats as a main reason to eat meat because they are unaware these can be obtained in a more health-promoting manner from plant-based sources.

    Also, as a psychologist, I study social norms. One of the strongest predictors of human behavior is our perceptions of what everyone else is doing. The perception in America is clearly that we eat meat here. So people are naturally going to conform to that norm without questioning it. Thus, it is going to be an uphill battle to gradually shift the norm toward herbivorous consumption patterns here.

    Another interesting food norm that is very pervasive is that we eat three meals a day. Why is that? Did you consult research and decide it was the most healthy schedule of meals for you? I would imagine you probably eat that way because it is simply the norm. Actually, research suggests that other eating schedules might be more healthy.


    1. Hi Andy. Thanks for reading and commenting. The intention of this website is to promote the work of people all over the world who are working towards the end of exploitation and oppression of all animals, human and non-human alike. It is an uphill battle here in the UK too, but as you say, education is key!


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