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No Appetite for The Human-Like: Anthropomorphism and Meat Consumption

By separating animals from a human-like status and human characteristics, meat eaters can more easily avoid empathizing with animal suffering, and thus have an easier time participating in it.

TOR POTHECARY: ‘Research has shown that one of the primary motivators for people to undertake a veg*n diet is an empathetic concern for animals and their welfare… Recent studies sought to show that anthropomorphism (assigning characteristics associated to humans onto non-human entities) of animals can be a strong indicator of decreased meat consumption as well. The authors believe this correlation arises because people who recognize human characteristics in non-human animals are more likely to empathize with them, which then causes the reduction in meat consumption…

The research results established that it was specifically anthropomorphism of animals that was the cause for reduced meat consumption, not a general tendency to anthropomorphize everything in the environment. This was an important distinction, as it shows that reduced meat consumption is not an indicator of some type of confusion in the perception of reality… The results showed that higher levels of empathy towards animals is directly correlated with lower meat consumption and a higher tendency to anthropomorphize animals. These results support the authors original hypothesis that empathic concern for animals mediates the relationship between animal anthropomorphism and meat consumption…

Importantly, on the flip side, the research showed that the consumption of meat causes people to avoid anthropomorphizing animals in an effort to avoid being in a state of ambivalence. Omnivores need to reconcile their behavior of causing animal suffering by avoiding anthropomorphizing of animals to justify their actions in meat consumption. By separating animals from a human-like status and human characteristics, meat eaters can more easily avoid empathizing with animal suffering, and thus have an easier time participating in it. Vegetarians, on the other hand, do not have the same dilemma in their actions, and thus can more easily attribute animals with human-like characteristics without any form of moral dilemma’. SOURCE…

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