Speaker: Melanie Joy

Beyond Carnism: Awareness to Create a More Compassionate World

“With awareness, we can create a better world for all beings, human and non-human alike.”-- Dr. Melanie Joy 

Like many of us, Dr. Melanie Joy, a Harvard-educated psychologist, professor, and vegan activist, grew up without giving too much mind to a behavior that most of the human beings living on the planet share: eating animals, and eating some animals rather than others. Have you ever wondered why you can eat a turkey sandwich, bowl of chili, or hot dog but still love your cat or feel your heart melt at the sight of a baby lamb? This is the question that, after a serious bout of illness causing a stark turnaround in attitude toward eating meat, led Dr. Joy on a nearly two-decades-long quest for an answer. That answer culminated in a now increasingly popular term and concept: carnism.

Carnism, explains Dr. Joy, “is the invisible belief system, or ideology, that conditions us to eat certain animals.” Because carnism is an ideology, it’s invisible, meaning that it is easily internalized, resulting in normalization and institutionalization. In her work, Dr. Joy makes a vital link between carnism and other violent ideologies, suggesting that “ideologies such as carnism run counter to core human values, values such as compassion, justice, and authenticity.” So in order to survive, such ideologies “need to use defense mechanisms that distort our thoughts and numb our feelings so that we act against our values without fully realizing what we are doing.”

And so arose one of the main motivations of Dr. Joy’s work: raising awareness. Dr. Joy suggests that even an issue of great global scale is possible to confront with hope. “Simply becoming aware […] allows us to reclaim our rationality and freedom of choice and to become more active participants in creating a more humane and just world,” believes Dr. Joy.

Dr. Joy’s activism has found many forms over the years.  In 2010, Dr. Joy founded Beyond Carnism, an international organization working to expose and transform carnism; she is also the co-founder of ProVeg International and the co-director for the Center for Effective Vegan Advocacy (CEVA). She is the author of the award-winning book Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism, published in 13 languages.  She is also the author of Beyond Beliefs: A Guide to Improving Relationships and Communication for Vegans, Vegetarians, and Meat Eaters and of Strategic Action for Animals.

Dr. Joy’s commitment to raising public awareness about carnism drives the creation of shareable resources such as this online presentation, “The Secret Reason We Eat Meat,” and. her presentations on carnism, such as her interview with The Plant Based News, have been acclaimed on six continents. The video of her recent TEDx Talk on carnism is in the top 1% of the most-viewed TEDx talks of all time. Dr. Joy has received press through media outlets such as BBC, ABC Australia, NPR, and The New York Times. 

Dr. Joy has won the Institute of Jainology's Ahimsa Award, whose recipients include Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama, for work in global nonviolence.

Join us in conversation with this committed activist and compassionate, lucid thinker!

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