Why we eat meat without guilt, but hate seeing animal slaughter

In her book ‘For A Moment of Taste’, former PETA CEO Poorva Joshipura writes about how categorising an animal as ‘food’ changes our view of it. Until we see it being killed.

POORVA JOSHIPURA 6 August, 2020 12:50 pm ISThttps://www.facebook.com/plugins/like.php?href=https://theprint.in/pageturner/excerpt/why-we-eat-meat-without-guilt-but-hate-seeing-animal-slaughter/476120/&layout=button_count&show_faces=false&width=105&action=like&colorscheme=light&height=21

Representational image | RawPixel
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When I ate meat, if someone were to have asked me if I loved animals, I would have said an enthusiastic ‘yes!’ After all, I adored playing with dogs and cats I would come across, enjoyed feeding squirrels and birds with my grandmother and liked watching wildlife documentaries with my father. 

However, eating animals requires someone ripping them from their families and butchering them—this is something everyone knows, even if they do not know the details of how it is done, and I knew that much too. Yet, I ate meat anyway. What allowed me to do so? What might allow others to do the same?

Also read: Will more people turn to vegetarianism in a post-coronavirus world?

The Brazilian Supermarket Prank 

Scientists have been studying this conflict, between caring for animals and killing them to eat them. This phenomenon has been labelled ‘the meat paradox’ by University of Kent and Université Libre de Bruxelles researchers Steve Loughnan, Boyka Bratanova, and Elisa Puvia. 

And we generally do care for animals. That’s why countries have laws protecting animals, why societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals (SPCAs) and other animal protection groups exist, why there was such national outrage when tigress Avni was killed, why the global horror when Cecil the lion and later his son Xanda were killed by trophy hunters in Zimbabwe, and it is likely why you are reading this book. In fact, many of us find what has to happen to animals to produce meat wrong, at least in principle, what little we may know about it, even if we eat meat. 

A prank that was set up at a supermarket in Brazil, in which a man pretending to be a butcher offered samples of free fresh pork sausages to the store’s customers, proves this point. Shoppers would visit the counter, eat and admire the pork. Then, the butcher would offer to make more, but to do so he would bring out a live piglet and put the animal in a machine that appeared to instantly grind her up and turn her into fresh meat. In reality, another prankster was sitting in the machine safely collecting each baby pig. Although customers had just readily eaten pork, they were aghast when they thought a live pig was about to be killed. One woman spat out pork from her mouth, others pleaded with the butcher not to kill the young pig and even tried to physically stop him from doing so. None of them picked up another piece of the free fresh pork that they had eagerly eaten before seeing the live pig. If you were one of the customers, what would you have done?

Ranking Species on Worthiness of Moral Concern 

While many of us are perturbed by the thought of slaughter of any animal, several studies found people who choose to eat animals are inclined to reject the thought that animals are capable of complex emotions and are likely to draw a further line between the emotional capacities of animals usually used for food (such as chickens) versus those who are not typically eaten by humans (like parrots). Both are birds, but the findings of these scientists indicate that people who eat meat are prone to believe parrots can feel more deeply than chickens, even though there’s no scientific support for such a view. Refusing to acknowledge animals, especially animals used for food, have the ability to experience deep emotions, appears to let many of us dismiss what happens to them in the production of food. 

Through studies conducted by Loughnan and his colleague Brock Bastian of the University of Queensland, the pair describes how vegetarians tend to compare with meat eaters in thinking about the mental faculties of animals when told they will be killed. Vegetarians did not alter their view of that animal’s acumen when told an animal, such as a lamb, was set for slaughter. When meat eaters were told the same thing, it was found that they generally reduced their view of the animal’s mental abilities. This, the researchers surmise, may be a ‘defensive way’ to allow us to consume animals without much guilt or remorse.

Another experiment shows merely categorizing an animal as ‘food’ effects how most people perceive the animal’s rights. In this study, researchers introduced a tree kangaroo to participants—an animal the participating individuals were not familiar with. They were given general information about tree kangaroos and then some were told that the animals were for eating while others were not. Those individuals who were told the species was food considerably regarded tree kangaroos as less deserving of concern than the other participants. 

Labelling an animal ‘friend’ has an effect too, but an opposite one—doing so tends to increase our respect for the friend species. This labelling of animals as ‘friend’ versus ‘food’ and the psychological effect it has on how we then view them is surely what helped me, when I consider it in hindsight, to simultaneously love animals like dogs and cats and eat animals like cows, chickens and pigs.

Also read: A Dutch butcher is winning hearts by making plants taste just like meat

If this is the effect one study had on people’s minds, imagine the result of being told repeatedly, like we usually are from a young age, that certain animals are for ‘food’ by authority figures, like our parents, or members of our community or people we want to be accepted by, like our friends. What if these individuals would have instead categorized those same animals as ‘friend’? Would we have thought differently? 

Today there are many vegetarians and vegans in the United States, but in the ’80s and early ’90s, the repeated messaging to me as a youngster from most people was speciesist: Animals like cows, sheep, pigs, chickens and fish merely existed to be eaten and animals like dogs and cats are friends. In other words, particular species are worthier of respect than other animals just by way of being. Indeed, though I happily ate what I considered to be the ‘food’ members of the animal kingdom, I would have eaten my own foot before I ate a dog. If we are raised in a meat-eating family, or if our families engage in rituals or customs that involve killing or eating certain animals, something similar is usually the repeated messaging we hear too. 

This excerpt from A Moment of Taste by Poorva Joshipura has been published with permission from HarperCollins India.

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Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara are passionate about spreading knowledge about a vegan lifestyle


New film The End of Medicine—created by award-winning British filmmaker Alex Lockwood and What the Health co-director Keegan Kuhn—aims to spotlight the role of animal agriculture in the rise of zoonotic diseases such as COVID-19. 


AUGUST 1, 2020


Vegan actors and couple Joaquin Phoenix and Rooney Mara have signed on as executive producers of new vegan documentary The End of Medicine. The new documentary, which began filming pre-COVID-19 in October 2019, is directed by Alex Lockwood (the award-winning British director behind 73 Cows and Test Subjects) and is produced by Keegan Kuhn (co-director of vegan documentaries What the Health and Cowspiracy). Through poignant interviews with world-renowned scientists, The End of Medicine aims to expose the culpability of the animal agriculture in creating massive public health threats such as antibiotic resistance, swine and bird flu, food-borne illness, MRSA, and, the current pandemic COVID-19, which is thought to have started at a wet animal market in Wuhan, China late last year.

“We hope that The End of Medicine is an eye-opening call to action and ignites a spark of willingness to change our habits. The science is irrefutable,” Phoenix and Mara said in a joint statement. “Modern animal agriculture will continue to make us sick if we don’t radically change our patterns of consumption.”

The feature-length documentary is expected to wrap production by the end of 2020.

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Vegan Film Platform Launches Listing Over 200 Movies


Among the films on the database are The Game Changers, What the Health, and upcoming documentary They’re Trying To Kill UsMARIA CHIORANDOJUL 11, 2020

The platform lists more than 200 vegan-interest films 
The platform lists more than 200 vegan-interest films 

A new film platform sharing 200 vegan-interest movies launched this week.

VegMovies lists movies with ‘a vegan message, a vegan character, the goal of reducing or exposing animal suffering and exploitation, a focus on climate change, or a focus on sustainability that does not specifically recommend consuming or exploiting animals’.


Clicking on each movie’s profile will show viewers where they can view the film depending on where they are, a film synopsis, and warnings if the movie is graphic and could upset viewers.

The site hosts upcoming films, as well as those that are currently crowdfunding, as well as established movies.

Among the films on the database are The Game ChangersWhat the Health, and upcoming documentary They’re Trying To Kill Us.https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/25iKJUk2cCE


VegMovies was created by Jason Schramm – founder of Veg Groups which ‘builds websites to help people make compassionate lifestyle choices’ and has a portfolio of platforms including VegEvents and VegMealDelivery.

Schramm discussed VegMovies in a recent YouTube interview with Vegan Mainstream, saying he had the idea three years ago, when he realized how difficult it can be to find vegan films – often links are broken, or they aren’t filtered in any way, which is difficult for viewers who want to avoid graphic content.

“I started collecting a list of 200 movies,” he said. “So I had this list, I’ve been adding to it over time, and then after I launched VegMealDelivery a couple of months ago…I thought what is my next project going to be…I had to evaluate which of my ideas would help people the most.”

He decided to work on VegMovies, using the digital infrastructure he had already built for VegMealDelivery, meaning he was able to get the platform up and running in two just months.

You can find out more about VegMovies here

Bakery Turns Vegan Overnight After Watching Earthling Ed’s Video On Dairy Industry


Owner Silvia Stocchino ‘immediately’ replaced eggs and dairy in her company’s desserts after coming across ‘This Is The Truth’LIAM GILLIVERUPDATED:JUN 27, 2020ORIGINAL:JUN 27, 2020

Earthling Ed described the news as 'amazing' (Photo: Fairypan)
Earthling Ed described the news as ‘amazing’ (Photo: Fairypan)

London bakery Fairypan Cake Studio has revealed it turned vegan overnight after watching a video on the dairy industry.

Owner Silvia Stocchino recently told popular Instagram account VegansOfLdn how she ‘immediately’ replaced eggs and dairy in her company’s deserts after coming across Earthling Ed‘s ‘This Is The Truth’.

The video reveals 18 month’s worth of footage taken on hidden cameras that were placed around dairy farms in the U.K. – showing workers ‘violently beating’ and ‘abusing’ cows.https://www.youtube-nocookie.com/embed/x9sSDTbJ8WI

‘So much respect for you’

“So much respect for you, Silvia. Fairypan is based in East London, their packaging is biodegradable, and the peanut butter cheesecake is the best cheesecake we’ve tried,” VegansOfLdn wrote.

“We shared a box of [gifted] treats with our non-vegan neighbors and they all approved too.”

Stocchino’s story was also shared by Earthling Ed, who thanked the baker for ‘making the change’ and described the news as ‘amazing’.

I Tried 3 Plant-Based, Fast-Food Breakfast Sandwiches and Oh Boy

12Paul KitaJune 26, 2020, 11:30 AM PDT

Photo credit: Paul Kita/Men's Health
Photo credit: Paul Kita/Men’s Health

From Men’s Health

Fast-food chains, like the rest of us, are struggling through the global pandemic. Sit-down dining options are still limited in many states, drive-thru lines are serpentine, and employees fear their safety.

How are fast-food chains responding to these challenges?

With plant-based breakfast sandwiches!

This week Starbucks announced their new Impossible Breakfast Sandwich, which joins the Impossible Croissan’wich at Burger King (debuted in early 2020) and the Dunkin’ Beyond Sausage Sandwich (the OG plant-based breakfast sammich, which came out late October 2019).

With each new announcement of their plant-based offerings, the highly paid marketing departments at these global chains adorn their product with a sparkly health halo.

Dunkin’ says of their sandwich helps “deliver the nutritional and environmental benefits of plant-based protein.” Burger King advertises that their version is “sausage made from plants” and sets a picture of the sandwich to a backdrop of bright “eco” green on their drive-thru menus. And Starbucks advertises its plant-based breakfast sandwich as part of a new way to start your day.

As a longtime fan of meat-based breakfast sandwiches, and an occasional taste-test and health-check reviewer of their plant-based alternatives, I decided to strike out from self-quarantine and try all three (yes, all three!) of these new fast-food, plant-based breakfast sandwiches in one morning.

And because I was stir-crazy and always in need of fresh ideas to entertain him, I brought along my toddler-aged son.

This was going to be fun, right?

The Starbucks Impossible Breakfast Sandwich

Photo credit: Paul Kita
Photo credit: Paul Kita

Starbucks markets their brand-new faux-tein breakfast sandwich as a “plant-based sausage patty, combined with a cage-free fried egg and aged cheddar cheese on an artisanal ciabatta bread.”

It sounds so very … Starbucks.

After my toddler and I waited in a lengthy queue that passed a series of increasingly aromatic dumpsters, I picked up our sandwich, parked, and found a table at an adjacent Five Guys. There we unwrapped our first plant-based breakfast sandwich (and my son’s first ever!) in the morning light.Story continues


Beyond Meat shares fall after McDonald’s ends Canadian trial of meatless burger



  • McDonald’s Canada stopped testing a meat-free burger made with a Beyond Meat patty on April 6.
  • The chain has no plans to bring back the menu item at this point.
  • McDonald’s has yet to test a vegan burger in the U.S.
The "P.L.T." sandwich is arranged for a photograph at a McDonald's Corp. restaurant in London, Ontario, Canada, on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020.

The “P.L.T.” sandwich is arranged for a photograph at a McDonald’s Corp. restaurant in London, Ontario, Canada, on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020.Cole Burton | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Shares of Beyond Meat fell 7% in morning trading after the CBC reported that McDonald’s stopped testing a burger made with its patties in Canada.

In a tweet to a consumer asking about the burger, McDonald’s Canada said that the test ended April 6. The chain has no plans to bring back the item at this time. 

McDonald’s stock was trading down 1%.https://platform.twitter.com/embed/index.html?creatorScreenName=CNBC&dnt=false&embedId=twitter-widget-0&frame=false&hideCard=false&hideThread=false&id=1255271846888574978&lang=en&origin=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cnbc.com%2F2020%2F06%2F25%2Fbeyond-meat-shares-fall-after-mcdonalds-ends-canadian-trial-of-meatless-burger.html&siteScreenName=CNBC&theme=light&widgetsVersion=3f79a62%3A1592980045844&width=550px

“We can only comment generally and share that we were pleased with the test,” a Beyond spokesperson said in a statement to CNBC.

Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown told analysts in early May that the test concluded “for no negative reason at all.”

“I mean, we feel very good about our relationship with McDonald’s. And what’s going to be happening both, there and potentially elsewhere,” Brown said. “So, by the nature of it being a test, it had a beginning and an end.”

In September, McDonald’s joined the push for more meat alternatives in North America when it started testing the meat-free P.L.T. burger in southwestern Ontario. The test expanded to another 24 locations in January for a 12-week test.

McDonald’s said in a statement that there has been no change to its relationship with Beyond Meat.

“We’re evaluating learnings from our recent test to inform future menu options. As we look ahead, we will plan to bring plant-based options to the menu at the right time for customers in individual markets,” the company said.

Other international McDonald’s markets have found more success with meatless burgers. Restaurants in Germany, for example, have added veggie burgers made by Nestle to their menus.

In the United States, McDonald’s has yet to test a vegan burger. The coronavirus pandemic led the chain to streamline its menus temporarily and to push back product launches, including a new chicken sandwich.

Rival Burger King has been serving an Impossible Whopper nationwide for nearly a year. The Restaurant Brands International chain recently announced that it will be adding a meat-free breakfast sandwich to national menus.

Beyond’s stock, which has a market value of $8.9 billion, has risen nearly 84% so far this year. Shares of McDonald’s, which has a market value of $140 billion, has fallen 8% in 2020. 

WATCH NOWVIDEO01:28Beyond Meat launches cookout value pack in latest play for market shareTRENDING NOW

Fish Is Not A Health Food: Here’s Why

Some who stop eating meat continue eating fish in the belief that it’s good for them and that fishing is less cruel and destructive than farming – nothing could be further from the truth
You don't need to eat fish to get your quota of essential fatty acids (Photo: Adobe. Do not use without permission)

You don’t need to eat fish to get your quota of essential fatty acids (Photo: Adobe. Do not use without permission)

We need fats called essential fatty acids for our cell membranes, brain and nervous system. They help regulate blood pressure, blood-clotting, immune and inflammatory responses and are called ‘essential’ because we can’t make them in our bodies, we must get them from food. ALA is an omega-3 essential fatty acid found in plant foods such as flaxseeds, rapeseeds, soya, walnuts and their oils.

We convert it, in our bodies, into the longer-chain omega-3s EPA and DHA. These are also found in oily fish, which they obtain from algae. Conversion rates in the body can be low, which is why some people insist that fish oils are essential for health. They are not, in fact, they could be doing more harm than good.

UK guidelines recommend that we should eat at least two 140g portions of fish a week, one of which should be oily. This contributes to the widespread belief that eating oily fish or taking omega‐3 fish oil supplements reduces our risk of heart disease, stroke and death. The research tells a different story.

Gold standard research

Cochrane reviews are regarded as the highest standard in evidence-based research. A 2018 review found that increasing EPA and DHA from oily fish or fish oil supplements had little or no effect on heart health.

These findings are consistent with many other high‐quality reviews. They also found that ALA from plant foods may slightly reduce the risk of cardiovascular events and arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm).

Another 2018 review, this time from the British Journal of Nutrition, found that higher ALA intakes from plant foods were linked to a reduced risk of heart disease. So it seems you’re better off with plant-based omega-3s. In fact, over the past two decades, many studies have shown a similar lack of effect from fish oils and a beneficial effect from consuming ALA directly from plant foods.

Mercury rising

Some studies show that oily fish, and particularly fish oil supplements, can actually have the opposite effect than that claimed and instead increase the risk of cardiovascular events.

The American Heart Association says this might be explained by the damaging effects of methylmercury, an environmental contaminant found in fish. A study of men in Eastern Finland, where mercury levels in fish are high, found that the level of mercury in their hair and the amount of fish they ate were linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular death.

In other words, those eating the most fish also had the highest levels of mercury in their hair and the highest levels of cardiovascular death.

Some studies show that fish oil supplements can actually increase the risk of cardiovascular events (Photo: Adobe. Do not use without permission)

Some studies show that fish oil supplements can actually increase the risk of cardiovascular events (Photo: Adobe. Do not use without permission)

Toxic shocker

All the world’s oceans are contaminated with toxic pollutants such as methylmercury, polychlorinated biphenyls and dioxins, and many act as damaging neurotoxins.

They can accumulate as you move up the food chain, especially in oily fish, cancelling out any supposed beneficial effects of omega-3s.

Conflicting advice

We have the extraordinary position in the UK, where women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are advised to eat oily fish because the omega-3s it contains can help a baby’s nervous system develop.

On the other hand, all girls and women who are breastfeeding, are pregnant or who are planning a pregnancy – and even those who may one day in the future want to have a child – are warned not to eat more than two portions of oily fish a week.

The reason for this advice is that pollutants in the fish may build up and seriously affect the baby’s development in the womb. And there are more warnings – children, pregnant women and women trying to get pregnant are also told to avoid eating shark, swordfish or marlin because they contain more mercury than other fish and this can damage a developing baby’s nervous system.

So, damned if you do, damned if you don’t!

Oily fish includes: herring, pilchards, salmon, sardines, sprats, trout and mackerel. However, the list of fish to limit or avoid has been extended to include some white fish which may also contain similar levels of pollutants – sea bream, sea bass, turbot, halibut and huss (dogfish). And this is supposed to be a health food.


Pollutants are not the only problem as filter-feeding shellfish, such as mussels and oysters, can accumulate bacteria and viruses from their environment and when eaten raw, can pose a direct threat to health. Norovirus is one of them and can cause fever, nausea, vomiting, cramping and diarrhoea.

It is one of the most common causes of food poisoning in the UK and is also called the winter vomiting bug because it’s more common in winter, although it can be caught at any time of year. Norovirus infections spread very easily from person-to-person contact or simply by touching surfaces that have been contaminated with the virus and then touching your mouth.

Outbreaks are common in hospitals, nursing homes, schools and cruise ships and can also occur in restaurants and hotels. The virus is usually mild and lasts for one to two days. Symptoms include vomiting, projectile vomiting, diarrhoea and fever. Most people make a full recovery within a couple of days but it can be dangerous for the very young and elderly people.

Many outbreaks are linked to shellfish contaminated by human faecal sources. Contamination of bivalve shellfish, particularly oysters, with norovirus is recognised as a food safety risk, one study found 69 percent of 630 oyster samples ordered from vendors across the UK were found to be contaminated with norovirus.

Those pregnant or breastfeeding are advised to eat oily fish - but those trying to get pregnant are warned not to eat more than two portions of oily fish a week (Photo: Adobe. Do not use without permission)

Those pregnant or breastfeeding are advised to eat oily fish – but those trying to get pregnant are warned not to eat more than two portions of oily fish a week (Photo: Adobe. Do not use without permission)

Hepatitis E

Hepatitis E is endemic in many developing countries where it is spread via a faecal-oral route. Outbreaks are relatively rare in developed countries due to better infrastructure, water supply and sanitation.

However, there have been clusters of infection in developed countries not associated with travel to areas where the virus is prevalent that are instead associated with zoonotic transmission. In the UK, there has been a steep rise in cases over the last decade.

Livestock, such as pigs, can act as reservoirs and high levels have been found in wastewater and manure from pig units, highlighting the potential for it to enter watercourses and then accumulate in shellfish. Infectious hepatitis E virus has been found in animal faeces, sewage water, inadequately-treated water, contaminated shellfish and animal meats.

Fish farms are not the answer

Fish farms now provide more than half of all fish consumed by humans but are certainly not the answer. These overcrowded, unnatural pens transmit disease and cause water pollution; choking marine life with persistent organic pollutants, antibiotics, chemicals from parasitical treatments, anaesthetics, disinfectants, feed additives, metals and antifoulants.

Farmed fish tend to contain less omega-3s as they are fed omega-6-rich vegetable oils in addition to fishmeal and fish oils. Yes, fish are being pulled out of the sea in order to feed farmed fish and livestock.

Our oceans are being decimated and ancient coral reefs destroyed at an unprecedented level by fishing on an industrial scale. Marine ecosystems are collapsing as bottom-trawlers plough through sea beds, with up to 90 per cent of some fish species having been depleted, decimating populations of large-bodied marine animals who depend upon them.

This domino effect could disrupt ocean ecosystems for millions of years to come. The nonsensical belief that fish cannot feel pain still prevails despite abundant scientific evidence showing that fish experience conscious pain in the same way as mammals and birds. Pain is an essential element of evolution, teaching creatures which things it is essential to avoid.

Fish in the U.K.

Surprisingly for an island nation, fish is not a popular food in the UK, with the average adult consuming just 54g of oily fish per week.

The good news is you don’t have to destroy the oceans, inflict pain or eat neurotoxins and carcinogens to get your essential omega-3s. Plant foods can provide more than enough to keep your heart healthy and combat inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.

Or, if you choose, you can take an algal-based vegan omega-3 supplement supplying EPA and DHA without the risk of contamination, and none of the ethical and environmental concerns of eating fish. Help our oceans become healthy again and leave fish alone.

Find out more about fish and health here

This article was first published by Viva!