Motivation and emotion/Book/2018/Meat-eating motivation

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Meat-eating motivation:
What motivates people to eat meat?


Motivation is the driving force in behavior and is the reason we do anything. We make constant decisions about the ways we spend our time and resources. These decisions are based on different factors which compel us to action. These factors can be based on physiological needs, cold motivates us to seek warmth, hunger to seek food and exhaustion to seek sleep. They can be based on more complex needs such as the desire for intimate relationships, friends, prestige and feelings of accomplishment. Motivations to eat meat might seem simple, we are hungry so we eat, but the decision to consume meat is much more complicated and confusing than it first appears.

Food satisfies our physiological need to eat, it can help people form relationships and it can be intrinsically tied to our esteem.

Mazlow's Hierarchy of Needs (1943).png

Physiological needs, con

We primarily eat to satisfy our hunger and to preserve our own lives. We see value in continuing our life. Yet the act of consuming meat remove another life. Meat requires death. To feed the global population of 6 billion mostly omnivorous homo sapiens it requires the death of 150 billion animals each year.

We must constantly decide how we spend our time and effort to best satisfy our interests. I might feel hungry and tired. I choose to go to the shops to find food since I want to satisfy my desire for food more than my desire for sleep. I may have to choose between a beef burger and a vegetarian option. I weigh up the two options, considering the factors I think are most important, this may be taste, nutritional value and cost or the process required to create each burger. Whatever decision or action I complete is the most motivated.Humans have been motivated to hunt, kill and consume animals for millions of years(?). Many historians believe consuming meat gave homo sapiens an evolutionary advantage by providing a dense and often plentiful energy source. It's contents of fat, protein and calories have become considered to be very tasty and desirable as a result (Stanford, 1999).

At the date of writing, meat is still prevalent in diets around the world, with India (38%), Israel (13%), Taiwan (12%) and Italy (10%) being the only countries with a national population of 10% or more vegetarians (Lea & Worsley 2003). In other words, the diets of 90% of all people in all the other countries on Earth consume meat in their diet. The consumption of meat in these diets is so common that the average person will consume 15.7 kilograms of meat in a year (OECD/FAO 2015). In order to produce all this meat we use, 27% percent of global fresh water consumption, 83% percent of the Earth's farmland and create 15% of the world’s greenhouse gasses (Poore & Nemecek 2018). The process of sustaining and growing meat is very inefficient with one kilogram of cow meat requiring 15 000 liters of water and 25 kg of grain to produce (?). Only 3% of calories fed to cows is converted to cow meat, the other 97% is used to keep the animal alive (Shepon et al 2016). Despite this large cost, meat and meat products only make up 18% of human calories, with dairy products and plant matter accounting for the other 72% (Poore & Nemecek 2018). In fact, if we stopped growing crops to feed livestock and instead grew them exclusively for human consumption we could feed an additional 3.5 billion people (Cassidy et al 2013).

Most of the animals we grow for meat are kept in windowless factory farms which house thousands of animals (ASPCA 2018).When they reach the desired size they are transported in crowded trucks or trains to a slaughterhouse where they are killed. This process is repeated and results in the killing of 150 million land animals and X sea animals every day. Animals are often distressed, anxious and uncomfortable during this process(?). These factors may lead you to believe people don’t care about animal wellbeing or the efficient allocation of resources. This is however untrue, the majority of people care about the welfare of animals and don’t want to see them harmed (Herzog 2010 et al). This is most easily observed by our increasing expenditure on pets (American Pet Products Association 2014) and the progression of the legal rights we afford animals (Tischler 2012). Despite these facts, a majority of people have a diet that requires animals to be killed and usually results in animal suffering this is the meat paradox. Hello KC

This system is sustained through the high demand from the global population for meat and the willingness of people to generate supply. The cost of satisfying this demand is difficult to comprehend, it requires a huge and inefficient allocation of our natural resources, the confinement, suffering and slaughter of billions of lives every year. In fact, 150 billion animals are killed every year (?)..

This chapter will explore what factors motivate people to consume meat, with a particular focus on how culture, politics and even language change the way we think about meat.

Flesh is the soft substance consisting of muscle and fat that is found between the skin and bones of a human or an animal (?). Whereas meat is defined as "the flesh of an animal" and is more commonly associated with animals people consume (?). These two terms may appear synonymous but the distinction and implications of their use can be explored by swapping the word "meat" for "flesh" throughout your reading of this chapter

Reducing moral concern and resolving the meat paradox[edit]

The first major barrier that might prevent people from eating meat is the fact that the majority of people care about the welfare of animals and don't want to see them harmed (Herzog 2010 et al). This is evidenced through studies (Allen et al 2002) and increasing expenditure on pets (American Pet Products Association 2014) and the legal rights we afford animals (Tischler 2012). Despite this fact, a majority of people have a diet that requires animals to be killed and usually results in animal suffering. This represents the meat paradox. The most reliable way to eliminate moral tension and resolve this paradox would be not to eat animals. However, most people do eat animals and as a result resolve the moral dilemma in different ways. If the meat paradox could not be resolved this would result in a lack of motivation to eat meat as it would be deemed ethically and morally repugnant.

One method of resolving this paradox is only to eat animals that are considered less "mindful" or to perceive animals that are eaten as less "mindful". The majority of people afford moral rights to animals on the basis that they possess minds (Gray et al 2007). An animal is deemed more mindful if it is capable of suffering, [grammar?] is thought to have more complex thoughts or has the capacity to understand its fate. An animal that is less mindful is thought to function primarily off instincts. People find that eating an animal they deem to be more "mindful" to be morally wrong and subjectively unpleasant (Loughnan et al 2014). This finding applies cross-culturally as a study found that American, Canadian and Indian consumers were less willing to consume "mindful" animals and felt more disgust when thinking about it (Ruby & Heine 2012).

However, the process undertaken by people to assess the mindfulness of animals is not objective. People who eat meat tend to rate the mindfulness of animals as lower to justify the fact that they are eaten. Animals that are eaten are often perceived as being less mindful than animals that are not consumed. To test if animals are viewed as being less mindful because they are eaten or because of other factors, Bratanova et al 2011 asked participants to rate the extent to which a tree kangaroo could feel pain was deserving of moral concern. One group of the participants were told that the locals in Papua New Guinea considered the animal to be a food and ate it. The other was told that the animals were not considered food by the locals. The group that was told the animal was eaten by the locals judged it as being less capable of suffering and moral concern than the control group. It appears that simply being categorised as food makes people downgrade an animal's perceived mindfulness, thus resulting in it being deemed less worthy of moral concern.

Another way to resolve the paradox is to deny that animals suffer when grown in farms and humanely killed. This solution is closely linked with reducing the perceived mindfulness of animals and deeming them incapable of suffering like humans. Interestingly people judge human-like animals such as orangutans and monkeys as being more pain sensitive and experience greater autonomic arousal when watching them mistreated (Plous 1993). They also recommend harsher sentences for people who abuse human-like animals (Allen et al 2002). Holding these beliefs allows people to resolve the paradox by claiming that animals are never harmed in the first place. Reducing the perceived capacity of an animal to suffer and attributing to animals lesser mindfulness is a powerful means of resolving the meat paradox (Lougnan et al 2014).

Re-framing the problem[edit]

People who eat meat often categorise animals according to the function they see them completing in society. These categories inform the standards of treatment we expect for certain animals. Dogs for example are considered a pet in western culture so people hold them in high regard and are more repulsed when they are seen being mistreated. It seems cruel not to provide sufficient room for a dog to exercise and play, and $50 billion a year is spent on care and feeding of pets (Herzog 2010). Pigs are considered a food animal and as a result are perceived as being less intelligent, sentient and mindful. This in turn leads to the belief that pigs are less worthy of moral concern and they do not require the same rights accorded to dogs. The way these categories are formed is arbitrary. Pigs and dogs are both intelligent animals with the mental ability of a two-year-old human, they form social bonds and can feel pain. Pigs can be kept as pets and dogs can be considered food, indeed some cultures do consider dogs to be a food animal. As explored by Bratanova et al 2011, we know that merely knowing that an animal is considered to be food results in a changed perception of the animal's mindfulness and its deserving of moral concern. This process of categorising is another way of trying to resolve the meat paradox. It leads a people who eat meat to justify the action of eating pig when they would likely refuse to consume dog meat. Their thinking may be: "I care for my dog and I think they have a sophisticated mind but pigs are a food animal and as a result do not share these traits."

Pigs are as intelligent as dogs, form social bonds and can be kept as pets.



The vast majority of people know beef comes from cow, pork from pig and chicken from chicken but some people who eat meat live in a state of tacit denial failing to make these connections on a meaningful level (Hoogland et al 2005). By failing to turn their minds to the chain of meat production from animal to food, people can relieve the moral tension.


Motivating Factors[edit]

According to Joy (2010) there are principally three categories of justification that people provide for consuming meat to help diffuse any guilt they might experience from their diet. These categories were described as the three Ns, natural, normal and necessary. Joy 2010 argues that through socialization people come to the belief that eating meat is natural and that eating meat is written in our biology, what we naturally crave and what our species has evolved to eat. It is also believed by many that we need to eat at least some meat to get enough protein to be strong, fully healthy individuals. Through this process people observe that it is normal to consume meat as it is what most people in civilized society do and what most people expect from us. Joy proposes these are widespread beliefs that are reinforced through various social channels, such as family, media, religion and private and public organizations.

Piazza 2015 suggested there was a fourth category known as 'nice'. There is strong evidence to support this category as a primary motivator and as a justification for consuming meat. The primary motivation reported for people who eat meat is that it tastes good (Lea & Worsley 2003). Meat is high in fat, protein and calories and its good taste likely reflects an evolved preference for foods high in these components (Stanford 1999). Most places that serve food also sell meat and it has been incorporated into many dishes and is available in many different forms. Meat from different animals has a different taste and composition of fats and proteins and this diversity helps it to appeal to a large audience. A vegetarian diet is perceived to be inconvenient and this is reported to be an important influence on meat consumption, particularly for women and middle-aged people (Lea & Worsley 2001).

Piazza 2015 study surveyed 171 students and found that the four N's, natural, normal and necessary captured the vast majority (83 percent) of justifications peopled offered in defence of eating meat.

[[File:Table 1 - Coding scheme used to score participants’ spontaneous meat-eating justifications in Studies 1a and 1b.png|right|500px|thumb|Table 1: Coding scheme used to score participants’ spontaneous meat-eating justifications in Studies 1a and 1b. Source: Piazza et al 2015]

Other Factors[edit]

[Provide more detail]


Studies have found that people perceive meat as being essential to a healthy and balanced diet (Key e al 1999). This belief motivates people to consume meat. Meat can provide health benefits when small amounts (80 to 100 grams) of low fat meat are consumed each day[factual?]. Meat is high in fat, protein, iron, B12 and zinc and these nutrients are essential for maintaining health. Iron in particular is essential to preventing anaemia, a condition that is characterized by difficulty in concentrating, lethargy and headaches. Meat is also high in calories which makes it an important food for people engaging in a high exercise lifestyle.

The consumption of meat is also believed by many to be a strength giver. It is, however, not true that meat is essential to a healthy and balanced diet. Vegetarians have a lower mean body mass index and plasma total cholesterol concentration and mortality from ischemic heart disease is decreased by 24% (Key e al 1999). People who do not eat meat on average live longer than omnivores with the Oxford Vegetarian Study finding that the death ratio for all causes of mortality for non meat eaters was 0.8 when compared with meat eaters (Appleby 1999)

Culture, Religion and Tradition[edit]

Culture plays an important role in motivating people to eat meat. Meat plays an important role in most cultures and religions around the world. In order to feel a sense of belonging and to engage fully in the culture of a country you must take part in its customs. Children are raised to regard consuming the flesh of animals for food as normal and desirable. As we grow, consuming meat becomes a part of our habits and routine and goes unquestioned by most people. These habits are imbued with social rules and meanings. We can tell from the extent of meat's association with cultural rituals that it is particularly rich in social meaning. In Indonesia at Toraja funeral ceremonies, the exchange of meat is linked to status and honor. In the United States of America, thanksgiving dinner is centered around a large turkey. To refuse meat is to reject these important social rituals and traditions and often leaves people feeling disconnected and unhappy.

The number of vegetarians is increasing and as a result they are slowly changing the culture of meat consumption. The number of vegetarian or omnivore friends plays a strong role in whether people eat meat or not (Lea & Worsley 2001). Cross-cultural studies of vegetarians found that Indian vegetarians value their in-group and respect authority more than omnivorous Indians (Ruby et al 2013). This finding indicates that the decision to accept or reject meat may be tied to a sense of belonging to a cultural group and endorsement of group values.


The consumption of meat plays an important role in allowing people to express their identity, [grammar?] in particular, this applies to males. Meat is associated with power and virility (Ruby & Heine 2011). Consuming meat is tied to male identity, so much so, that meat is considered an archetypal masculine food (Sobal, J. 2005) and many males don't feel like "real men" if they don't consume it (Rothgerber 2013). This association is so strong that meat eaters are perceived as being more masculine than vegetarians (Ruby and Heine 2011). These findings are reflected by the fact that males consume more meat than females and more females are vegetarians. The social pressure applied to men by both society and themselves to consume meat to express masculinity is a strong motivator for the behavior.

People who are vegetarians may either be met with acceptance, tolerance or hostility when they divulge their dietary practices. Many vegetarians report that in social settings when they speak up about their diets, they are confronted with hostility (Romo 2012). The respondents from Romo 2012 study specifically stated that "being forthright about their diets to meat eaters can result in mockery and stereotyping and make them feel like they don't belong. The risk of hostility can lead vegetarians to devise communication plans for talking to people about their diet and can be a significant source of stress (Jabs 2000). This kind of criticism and stigma is not applied to meat eating diets and may act to motivate people to consume meat.


In order for people to consume meat they must resolve the meat paradox or suffer moral tension. The meat paradox can be resolved most reliably by not consuming animals. It can also be resolved through the belief that animals are unable to suffer or believing animals are mindless and are unworthy of moral concern. The primary motivation reported by people is that it tastes good,[grammar?] other motivations to consume meat is the beliefs that it is normal, natural, nice and necessary for a healthy lifestyle. Culture, religion and tradition all play important roles in socializing people into believing that consuming meat is natural and normal. Consuming meat also plays a role in identity and in particular a mans[grammar?] perceived masculinity.

See Also[edit]


Allen, M., Hunstone, M., Waerstad, J., Foy, E., Hobbins, T.,Wikner, B., & Wirrel, J. (2002). Human-to-animal similarity and participant mood influence punishment recommendations for animal abusers. Society & Animals, 10, 267–284.

American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) 2018, A Closer Look at Animals on Factory Farms, retrieved from, P.N., Thorogood, M., Mann, J.I. & Key, T.J.A. (1999). The Oxford vegetarian study: an overview. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 70(suppl.),525 - 531,

Bastian, B., Loughnan, S., Haslam, N., & Radke, H. (2012). Don’t mind meat? The denial of mind to animals used for human consumption. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38, 247–25,

Bratanova, B., Loughnan, S., & Bastian, B. (2011). The effect of categorization as food on the perceived moral standing of animals. Appetite, 57, 193–196.

Cassidy, E. S., West, P. C., Gerber, J. S., & Foley, J. A. (2013). Redefining agricultural yields: from tonnes to people nourished per hectare. Environmental Research Letters, 8, 034015.

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) 2018, livestock primary calculator, retrieved from

Gray, H. M., Gray, K., & Wegner, D. M. (2007). Dimensions of mind perception. Science, 315, 619-621.

Herzog, H., & Foster, M. (2010). Some we love, some we hate, some we eat. Tantor Audio.

Hoekstra, A. Y., & Mekonnen, M. M. (2012). The water footprint of humanity. Proceedings of the national academy of sciences, 109, 3232-3237.

Hoogland, C., de Boer, J., & BoersemBoer, J. (2005). Transparency of the meat chain in the light of food culture and history. Appetite, 45, 15–23.

Jabs, J., Sobal, J., & Devine, C. M. (October 01, 2000). Managing vegetarianism: Identities, norms and interactions. Ecology of Food and Nutrition, 39, 5, 375-394.

Joy, M. (2010). Why we love dogs, eat pigs, and wear cows. An introduction to carnism. San Francisco, CA: Red Wheel/Weiser. Kenyon, P. M., & Barker, M. E. (1998). Attitude

Key, T.J., Davey, G.K. & Appleby, P.N. (1999a). Health benefits of a vegetarian diet. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 58, 271- 275

Lea, E., & Worsley, A. (2001). Influences on meat consumption in Australia. Appetite, 36, 127-136.

Lea, E., & Worsley, A. (2003). Benefits and barriers to the consumption of a vegetarian diet in Australia. Appetite,6, 127–136

Loughnan, S., Bastian, B., & Haslam, N. (2014). The psychology of eating animals. Current Directions in Psychological Science, 23, 104-108.

Merriman, B. (2010). Gender differences in family and peer reaction to the adoption of a vegetarian diet. Feminism & Psychology, 20, 420-427.

OECD/FAO (2015), OECD-FAO Agricultural Outlook 2015, OECD Publishing, Paris,

Piazza, J., Ruby, M. B., Loughnan, S., Luong, M., Kulik, J., Watkins, H. M., & Seigerman, M. (2015). Rationalizing meat consumption. The 4Ns. Appetite, 91, 114-128.

Plous, S. (1993). Psychological mechanisms in the human use of animals. Journal of Social Issues,49, 11–52.

Podberscek, A. L. (2009). Good to pet and eat: The keeping and consuming of dogs and cats in South Korea. Journal of Social Issues, 65, 615-632.

Poore, J., & Nemecek, T. (2018). Reducing food’s environmental impacts through producers and consumers. Science, 360, 987-992.

Romo, L. K., & Donovan-Kicken, E. (September 01, 2012). "Actually, I Don't Eat Meat": A Multiple-Goals Perspective of Communication About Vegetarianism. Communication Studies, 63, 4, 405-420

Rothgerber, H. (2013). Real men don’t eat (vegetable) quiche: Masculinity and the justification of meat consumption. Psychology of Men & Masculinity,14, 363–37

Ruby, M. B., & Heine, S. J. (2011). Meat, morals, and masculinity. Appetite, 56, 447-450

Ruby, M., Heine, S., Kamble, S., Cheng, T., & Waddar, M. (2013). Compassion and contamination: Cultural differences in vegetarianism. Appetite,71, 340–348

Shepon, A., Eshel, G., Noor, E., & Milo, R. (2016). Energy and protein feed-to-food conversion efficiencies in the US and potential food security gains from dietary changes. Environmental Research Letters, 11, 105002.

Sobal, J. (2005). Men, meat, and marriage: Models of masculinity. Food and Foodways, 13, 135-158.

Stanford, C. (1999). The hunting apes: Meat eating and the origins of human behavior. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press

Tischler, J. (2012). A brief history of animal law, part II (1985–2011). Stanford Journal of Animal Law and Policy, 27,57–59

External links[edit]

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