Newly published research has found a possible connection between animal meat consumption and aggression towards intimate partners.
The study was published in the Journal of Family Violence on April 29, 2023. Researchers surveyed 245 undergraduate students via an anonymous format. Participants had a mean age of 19.26. Just over half (52.7 percent) were white, with slightly more being female (56.7 percent).
Study authors collected data on respondents’ animal product intake, depressive symptoms, lifetime “use” of intimate partner aggression, and degree of speciesism. Speciesism is a term used to describe the belief that humans are superior to other animals. Researchers measured this by asking participants to rank how much they agreed with statements like, “Humans have the right to use animals however they want to.”
Researchers discovered that those with a higher consumption of animal parts were both more physically and psychologically aggressive towards their partners.
High animal product consumption was also linked to greater speciesism. Similarly, those who appeared more speciesist were also more likely to report use of violence in relationships.
“Results from this study were generally consistent with hypotheses; greater consumption of animal flesh was associated with both physical and psychological intimate partner aggression both at the bivariate level and when controlling for other associated correlates including depressive symptoms and speciesism,” researchers wrote in their report.
They later note: “Results suggest that eating non-human animals may not only be associated with greater risk for negative physical and mental health issues, but also engaging in harmful behaviors towards others including intimate relationship partners.”
Speciesism and aggression
It’s not the first time researchers have sought to better understand speciesism in humans, and the psychological repercussions of it.
In 2019, researchers discovered that higher speciesism was associated with other oppressive views relating to racism, homophobia, and sexism.
Based on this – and separate research that found people with more speciesist views tended to look down on low-status groups – study authors of the just-published report concluded that the link between aggressive behaviour and speciesism “should not be surprising.”
They also theorized that “hypermasculine attitudes” may play a role in both increased speciesism and relationship aggression. Additionally, aggressive behavior may be further exacerbated by hormones in animal flesh, researchers noted. This includes adrenaline and cortisol, which can spike during the slaughter process due to animals’ extreme stress and fear.
Authors of the recent research acknowledged limitations of their study. In particular, future studies should engage a larger and more diverse sample.