Categorization As Food On Perceived Moral Standing Of Animals
To better understand how it is that most people can simultaneously love animals and eat meat, this study examines how classifying an animal as “food” influences attitudes about that animal. The researchers found that categorization of an animal as “food” changes beliefs about an animal’s capacity to suffer, thereby reducing moral concern for the animal and allowing people to love some animals while continuing to engage in meat eating.
“Most people love animals and love eating meat. One way of reducing this conflict is to deny that animals suffer and have moral rights. We suggest that the act of categorizing an animal as ‘food’ may diminish their perceived capacity to suffer, which in turn dampens our moral concern. Participants were asked to read about an animal in a distant nation and we manipulated whether the animal was categorized as food, whether it was killed, and human responsibility for its death. The results demonstrate that categorization as food – but not killing or human responsibility – was sufficient to reduce the animal’s perceived capacity to suffer, which in turn restricted moral concern. People may be able to love animals and love meat because animals categorized as food are seen as insensitive to pain and unworthy of moral consideration.”