Meat eaters downplay the minds of animals so they can continue to eat the bodies of animals »
There’s a very interesting study in this month’s Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin that we vegans may find particularly fascinating: “Don’t Mind Meat? The Denial of Mind to Animals Used for Human Consumption.” It’s all about how meat eaters cope with taking a life so they can have a hamburger. What, you don’t get the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin? It’s OK! Thankfully, a Psychology Today blog and the University of Queensland both break the study down for us.
One part of the study asked participants (all meat eaters) to rate how willing they are to eat different animals. Then they asked them to rate the mental ability of different animals. Guess what? People were more likely to eat the animals they attributed lower mental ability to. OK, not surprised. This could just mean people eat dumber animals.
The next study asked people to picture cows and sheep. People who pictured them living in happy sunny fields rated the mental abilities of the animals higher than those who specifically thought of the cows and sheep being raised as food. Now we are getting somewhere!
Still another study asked these meat eaters to write about the process of raising and killing animals for food. They were all told there would be a food sampling after they finished writing. Half the people were told they’d be served fruit and half the people were told they’d be served beef and lamb. Before they ate, the participants were asked to rate the mental abilities of cows and sheep. Now, get a load of this!: The people that were expecting to eat meat rated the mental abilities of cows and sheep much lower than the people that knew they were going to eat fruit. Say whaaat?!
The abstract summarizes the implications nicely:
Many people like eating meat, but most are reluctant to harm things that have minds. The current three studies show that this dissonance motivates people to deny minds to animals. Study 1 demonstrates that animals considered appropriate for human consumption are ascribed diminished mental capacities. Study 2 shows that meat eaters are motivated to deny minds to food animals when they are reminded of the link between meat and animal suffering. Finally, Study 3 provides direct support for our dissonance hypothesis, showing that expectations regarding the immediate consumption of meat increase mind denial. Moreover, this mind denial in turn reduces negative affect associated with dissonance.
So, how wacky are meat eaters?! They don’t even know they do this! Wacky meat eaters. I wonder if people who don’t eat meat get any mental benefit because they don’t have to reconcile this dissonance. Know what I mean? Like maybe we save mental energy and can focus that energy on additional intellectual endeavors. Hold up, I think we just figured out why I’m such a Super Genius!