The Cult of Carnism

When we think of the word cult we tend to think of the Moonies or some weird religious movement that brainwashes people, takes all their money and makes them work 18 hours a day for nothing. A stereotypical generalisation for sure but you know where I’m going. The dictionary definition of the word cult is along those lines but a little more all-encompassing. It’s actually defined as “someone or something that has become very popular with a particular group of people”.

Before the Great Wars meat and dairy were much more of a luxury than they are today, something that only the privileged few could afford to eat regularly. To the average man in the street, it was the food of Kings. Following the Second World War there were nearly ten years of rationing when people had limited access to meat and dairy products. People would try and get as much as they could and by whatever means because the food of Kings had to be the best food they could eat.

To be fair they had something of a point. In those days it wasn’t so easy to get all of the protein, vitamins and nutrients needed from a diet of bread and potatoes. Had the knowledge and education been in place they could have got everything they needed from plants but the overall feeling was that if you could get your hands on meat and dairy, you did.

This mind-set became the cult of the nation, as did smoking. If you went to see your doctor during the 1950’s he may well have recommended smoking and would quite possibly have been puffing away while you were sat there in the surgery chatting to him. He would definitely have told you to eat as much meat and dairy as you possibly could.

Those people in the 1950’s were our parents and grandparents. Rightly or wrongly, but certainly as far as they were concerned, a diet consisting of mainly meat and dairy was the healthiest diet you could eat. They were also lead to believe that smoking was good for you, or at least that it wouldn’t harm you. They passed this wisdom on to us and we in turn have passed it on to our children. Many, even most of the kids I went to school with smoked at some time in their lives, as did I, at least it wasn’t unusual. All of them bar me ate meat.

The 1970’s saw the emergence of fast food and factory farming. This meant meat and dairy were even more readily available and at prices everyone could afford. Is it pure coincidence then that the rates of obesity, diabetes and heart disease have more than doubled over this period? The cost of obesity and overweight in the UK alone is £47 billion each year. This is 3% of GDP. More than 2.1 billion people around the world – or nearly 30% of the global population – are overweight or obese, with the figure set to rise to almost half of the world’s adult population by 2030. Diabetes costs us another £10 billion and heart disease almost the same. Heart disease would be higher other than it’s more likely to kill you outright.

Something few of us ever give any thought to are our core beliefs. We all have them, most come from early childhood, from our very early years until we reach our teens. Even if you don’t have a religious bone in your body as an adult, if your parents followed a particular faith you will always associate yourself with that religion in one way or another.

It’s difficult to question your core beliefs. Most people don’t even know they have them or at least are not willing to accept how much they have shaped the person they are today. We all want to believe we make our own decisions and are not influenced by our childhood. Identifying and then challenging your core beliefs can transform your approach to life. Assumed to be true, core beliefs often go unnoticed and unchallenged. Through identifying automatic thoughts, we can sometimes uncover the main beliefs that underlie our personalities.

The children of my generation were conditioned to believe that a diet of meat and dairy was the right choice, that it was the food of the affluent. My own father took great pride in carving the meat on a Sunday lunchtime. It was progress and few ever question this. Only now are governments, scientists, health organisations and business leaders realising that the 1950’s concept is actually damaging our health, the health of the planet and is unsustainable.

By 2050 our population will be over nine billion and we cannot feed that many people on a diet of meat and dairy. In the US alone we could grow enough food to feed ten billion people a year. Despite this 21,000 people die of starvation every single day across the world.

Animal agriculture is the world’s leading contributor to global warming, more than the world’s entire transportation system. If the world lived on a plant based diet, food related greenhouse gas emissions would fall by up to 70% and save millions of lives.

The World Health Organisation and Cancer UK have classified processed meat (bacon, sausages, ham etc) as a class 1 carcinogen, meaning it definitely causes cancer. Red meat is class two meaning it probably causes the disease.

Six out of ten people in the UK have high cholesterol; millions of us are taking statins or other drugs to control it. Cholesterol is produced naturally in your body, our bodies make all the chloresterol we need and you don’t need to add any more to be healthy. The only way bad (LDL) cholesterol gets into our bodies is through meat and dairy products. High cholesterol blocks your arteries and causes heart disease which is now the number one killer in the western world. Those in poorer countries who live on a mainly plant based diet have close to zero levels of heart disease.

Over 50 billion land animals are imprisoned, denied even the most basic of rights and cruelly killed every year for food. If you eat meat and dairy products then this is done in your name. Innocent, gentle and intelligent creatures are massacred just to satisfy your lifestyle and hunger. It is totally unnecessary and entirely inhumane. We can live long, healthy and happy lives without living like the brutal savages that we have become. We have to be better than this. You have to be better than this.

The belief that a diet of meat and dairy is the right choice was instilled in you when you were a child. Had this not happened, you would have grown up to love and respect all creatures. Only you can break this conditioning, only you can make the decision to think for yourself about this for the first time in your life. Deep down inside you don’t want all of these living, thinking creatures to be killed in your name. Deep down inside there is still that young child who if given the choice a thousand times over would chose to cuddle and play with an animal rather than kill and eat it.

Find the strength within yourself to question your core beliefs and become the compassionate earthling you were born to be.

Nick Bean

Environmentalist, activist, writer and public speaker. Decided to "Go Vegan" at the age of four.

One thought to “The Cult of Carnism”

  1. This is great. Your point is so sound. As more people realize the insanity of eating animal products they will inevitably be drawn to veganism. Carnism is a self destructive, immoral and unjustifiable action. Many people are ignorant or in willful denial of this truth, which is sad. If people can’t see the moral consequences of their actions then using the personal health and environment parts to inform people of the reality of their actions is a very strong argument.

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