How what you eat determines what you think

In my post Let Beyonce be I wrote about how we forget that not only may attitude influence behavior, but behavior may also influence attitude. What this means is that the way we behave regarding something, influences our beliefs about it. These beliefs can then be seen as rationalisations of the behavior.

Here is what I think is an example of that. I’d welcome your input if you think I’m mistaken. Look at the picture below: a toreador on the left, a slaughterhouse worker on the right. Basically, these people do the same thing: their profession is killing cows. If you present this picture to a general (omnivore) audience and ask: which of these people do you resent the most, then you know the answer is going to be the toreador. But why?

butcher and toreador

When I ask this question in presentations, I get different answers, maybe the main one being that while the toreador kills animals for entertainment, the butcher is at least concerned with something essential like food. This may very well be the way people look at it, although I’d venture to say that eating meat is obviously not less trivial than an age old “tradition”. Another reason people give is that bullfighting is more like torture, while the slaughterer’s task is to provide a killing that is as quick and painless as possible. These and other explanations are certainly valid, but I think there’s a more important reason for the fact that people judge these two cases very differently:

Most people are not participating in bullfights in any way, so it’s easy for them to disapprove of the bullfighter. Most people are eating meat, so disapproving of the butcher is a lot harder. So I think this is a case of people’s behavior influencing their beliefs.

What this means is that if we want people’s beliefs about eating animals to change, it is very important that we, as a society, become less dependent on animals for meat. The newest generation of meat substitutes (in the US: Gardein, Beyond Meat etc) are doing a great job at that, and also in vitro meat could obviously be of incredible significance.

By all means, keep informing people about the negative aspects of meat, as with some that will change their behavior. But consider also that the other way around is important too. Help make sure they have tasty vegan food experiences.

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