Reading Time: 3 minutes Why do we eat some animals - but love others? (Photo: Adobe. Do not use without permission)
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Mainstream Media Giant NOW THIS has premiered a video about carnism – and shared it with more than 17 million followers.

Carnism is a phrase coined by Harvard-educated psychologist Dr. Melanie Joy. It is defined as ‘the invisible belief system, or ideology, that conditions people to eat certain animals’.


According to advocacy organization Beyond Carnism: “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’s a choice, and choices always stem from beliefs.

“As long as we remain unaware of how carnism impacts us, we’ll be unable to make our food choices freely – because without awareness, there is no free choice.”

The matrix

The video explains the concept by opening on a shot of a man eating a burger – which Dr. Joy describes in a voiceover as a ‘golden retriever burger with cheese made from horse’s milk on a bun glazed with canary’s eggs’.

He’s not disturbed by this though, she explains, because his ‘brain is plugged into a matrix’ – one which keeps itself alive by remaining invisible. It distorts his perceptions of reality, meaning the man doesn’t see a dead dog, or secretions from horses or canaries; he just sees food.

Invisible belief system

“This is the matrix of carnism,” Dr. Joy explains, adding that it is an ‘invisible belief system that conditions us to eat certain animals and to never question why we eat some animals but not others’, distorting our perception of some species so we see them as food and act accordingly.

According to Dr. Joy, the matrix causes people to become ‘passive consumers’ rather than active citizens, and if they were aware of this, they would ‘recognize carnism for the atrocity it is’, and challenge it rather than support it.

With awareness, Dr. Joy says, you can ‘choose what role you play in a system’. She says people don’t have to become 100 percent vegan, but can become an ally of vegans and veganism, and be ‘as vegan as possible’ to help play a role in transforming carnism.


The video, which garnered almost 200,000 views in a day, provoked a hugely mixed response among commentators. Some were unmoved by the theory, with one saying: “So killing plants is better cause they don’t have eyes that we can look at and sympathize with? You’re still killing a living thing.”

Others simply described animal foods they had eaten recently. “I fried up this burger tonight with bacon, extra sharp cheese from Oregon, jalapeños, fried spinach on a Dave bread 21-grain bun with mustard and ate the sh*t out of it! Yum,” one said.

Another simply wrote off the theory entirely, saying: “Nope. The desire to eat meat is instinctive. Our teeth, jaws, digestive system, and body structure indicate that. Excessive industry is a problem anywhere, as is greed and overconsumption. None of this is related to being a carnivore.”


Others were more responsive to the concept, with one Facebook user writing: “Eye-opening video! So true! It just makes no sense to cuddle, pet, and love our dogs like our children – and do the opposite with pigs and cows: hitting, killing, eating them. No matter what species, all have needs and desires and wish to be alive.”

Another added: “Awesome video! Don’t do nothing because you can’t do everything. Do something! If we can make kinder choices, why wouldn’t we?”

Maria Chiorando

Maria is a news and features writer for Plant Based News. As a former magazine editor, newspaper reporter, and features writer, her work has been published by The Guardian, The Huffington Post, and various regional newspapers, as well as Vegan Life magazine and Vegan Trade Journal. She has interviewed a huge range of people, from Prime Ministers to authors, activists, pop stars and actors, and enjoys the varied range of topics writing for PBN allows her to tackle. She was previously the editor of Plant Based News for over 3 years.