Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: The Power of Social Conditioning

I see the power of cultural conditioning all the time, every day, when I encounter kind, loving people who would never dream of hurting or killing an animal but continue not to question the exploitation of animals, particularly for food.

“Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows” is a book written by Dr. Melanie Joy,  a social psychologist, professor, and personal coach who has been involved in the animal liberation movement since 1989 and is one of the most brilliant speakers on behalf of sentient creatures.

Dr. Joy explains why it is that good people do not readily face the fact that their choices to buy animal products result in enormous suffering and violent death.

It then makes sense as to why good people– who would swerve to avoid hitting an animal on the road, and who would stop to help an injured creature they encountered– don’t make the connection: they are so powerfully conditioned by society (as I have been) that their compassionate beliefs do not match up with their behaviors.

This is why no matter how delicately an animal advocate speaks of the cruelty inflicted on animals on our factory farms and slaughterhouses, many people react defensively, angrily, dismissively, or simply refuse to engage on the subject.

“Often, vegan advocates assume that a person’s defensiveness is the result of selfishness or apathy, when in fact it is much more likely the result of systematic and intensive social conditioning.” ~Dr. Melanie Joy

Our conditioning begins early and is constantly reinforced. Ads on TV, radio, billboards, etc., constantly make us feel that “normal” people eat animal products and there’s nothing to think further about, it’s all being done by everyone around us, and to question it is to set ourselves apart, often resulting in scorn, ridicule, or loss of friends and family.

And yet, if you ask most people in the Western world what they think of the Korean cat and dog meat trade, they will react with horror and express disgust that humans can be so cruel, dismissing the fact that the same violence is inflicted on cows, pigs, chickens and other animals here in the west.

Part of this disconnect is due to the fact that most people never get to know cows, pigs and chickens, and therefore they don’t think of them the way they think of their pet cat or dog, and yet all creatures feel emotions, all are capable of joy, of bonding, of sorrow, pain and suffering, of loneliness and grief, each one with a distinct personality, and not one deserving of suffering and death.

Change is not easy for humans, myself included. We resist it. We like to be comfortable and to feel that some things will always be the same, and we don’t want to admit that we might be living in disharmony with our ethics or contributing to suffering in some way.

But when we refuse to take stock of the truth that will ask us to change our choices to line up with our beliefs and ethics, we are not being honest with ourselves.

However, more and more people are beginning to question their cultural conditioning and the devastating effect it has on animals (as well as the environment and their health) and are making kinder choices, and I applaud people like Melanie Joy who are helping shed much needed light on this enormously important subject.


Posted on January 17, 2016, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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