Gloss on First Use of Carnism

I like glossaries. So I thought, why not as I try to get back into this blog after a brief break for focusing on another writing project. From Melanie Joy (Ph.D.,Ed.M.)’s From Carnivore to Carnist: Liberating the Language of Meat:

Some people refer to meat-eaters as carnivores; yet, human meat-eaters are actually omnivores, as they consume both flesh and plants. Moreover, the terms carnivore and omnivore suggest a biological predisposition toward flesh, while contemporary, wide-scale meat eating is not a physiological necessity but an ideological choice; the millions of healthy vegetarians who have persisted throughout the centuries are testament to this. Neither carnivore nor omnivore expresses the beliefs beneath the behavior

For the reasons listed above, I have chosen to employ the terms carnism and carnist to the ideology of meat production/consumption and its proponents. Carnism stems from the Latin carn, meaning flesh or body, and is the root in carnage. Fleshist might have been appropriate, but flesh has fewer connotations suggestive of slaughter and this label may be too disconcerting and removed from the socially accepted carnivore for carnists to be willing to apply to themselves. And the term meatist reinforces the social construction of meat in which meat is perceived as synonymous with food.

Some people refer to meat-eaters as carnivores

A logical reference while we take meat to mean animal flesh (though originally mete meant food in general), and carni- is a root deriving from carnis (genitive of caro) meaning animal flesh (but also, interestingly, fruit pulp). -vores being derived from the Latin vorare, to swallow.

Yet, human meat-eaters are actually omnivores, as they consume both flesh and plants.

Yet. We have a contradiction. Human meat-eaters are not meat-eaters. They are all-eaters (omnis, all + vorare). Both in deed, for the most part, and in biological potentiality humans are omnivorous.

As they consume both flesh and plants.

We are to assume that they have the biological potential to consume physiologically both plants and animal flesh–as well as other animal parts, fungi, bacteria, protists, and a whole host of contaminates.

Moreover, the terms carnivore and omnivore suggest a biological predisposition toward flesh

Moreover. The contradiction is resolved, completely.

Latin (and Greek) derivations suggest a scientific use, despite potential for, and use in vernacular language.

While contemporary, wide-scale meat eating is not a physiological necessity

It is now (contemporary). Has it not always been so? Will it not always be so?

Wide-scale meat eating. Not all carnivorous, or meat-eating behavior is the same. This sentence speaks only to the particular: eating meat in a “wide-scale” Now.

And in this now, it is that the body does not need flesh to make flesh. The physiological necessity is absent.

but an ideological choice;

Can there be a non-ideological choice?  Does Joy imply a group-ideology? A lack of personal autonomy? Considering how ideology has become almost a dirty word, it seems possible.

The millions of healthy vegetarians who have persisted throughout the centuries are testament to this.

No longer a Now, rather meat-eating has been, at least for centuries, a choice. That is not a biological imperative. How healthy these others were is to be taken without proof, or rather by their ability to live.

She uses persist instead of live. These vegetarians (ideological choice, as opposed to plant-eaters) continued to stand (Latin, persistere, per-thouroughly, sistere/sisto-stand, appear) collectively as well as individually.

Neither carnivore nor omnivore expresses the beliefs beneath the behavior

We are not interested in actions/behaviors. It is the beliefs, the intent behind action, “beneath behavior” that should interest us. So either we can know beliefs, first-handedly, or read beliefs through actions.

For the reasons listed above,

Now we get to the meat of the matter.

I have chosen to employ the terms carnism and carnist to the ideology of meat production/consumption and its proponents.

Is vegetarianism the opposite or carnism, as Joy proposes years later? If so then is vegetarianism the ideology of those who produce/consume vegetables?

Proponents of meat consumption/production, or of meat itself? Physiological or economic consumption. Physiological or economic production?

Carnism stems from the Latin carn, meaning flesh or body, and is the root in carnage

Again, Latin (and Greek) derivations suggest a scientific use. A level of expertness. In crafting a new word from Classical roots suggests a level of knowledge, awareness–that is rightness.

Root of carnage, invokes a connection between carnism and carnage. Carnage coming from Latin carnaticum, slaughter of animals, but picking up a meaning of murder of people through Old Italian. Other words that share a root with carnism would be carnival, carnal, and possibly carnation (etymologists aren’t 100% on that one).

Fleshist might have been appropriate, but flesh has fewer connotations suggestive of slaughter

Flesh is more vernacular, Germanic. Does not lend itself as well to word making. Carn– itself is only more suggestive of slaughter when the word carnage is invoked.

and this label may be too disconcerting and removed from the socially accepted carnivore for carnists to be willing to apply to themselves.

Meat eaters don’t like to think about the fact that they are eating flesh. Most of them anyway. Also, an end goal is making carnism not just a name used by vegans, but an ideology meat-eaters “apply to themselves.”

And the term meatist reinforces the social construction of meat in which meat is perceived as synonymous with food.

Social construction. Meat is the only thing mentioned as socially constructed.

Meat was/is synonymous with food: Old English mete, food. From Proto-Indo-European (through Proto-Germanic), mat/met, to measure. See how we still use it for plant foods such as coconut meat.

Meatist, also being Germanic sounds funny with the Greek -ist, ending.

Read all of Joy’s essay.

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One Response to Gloss on First Use of Carnism

  1. Björn Axén says:

    interesting blog, I like your post. But a little comment on language. The post very anglocentric. In other germanic languages, like Swedish, it is much more common to use germanic word stems for new words, e.g. “sjukhus” – (swedish) “krankenhaus” (german) ‘sjuk’, ‘krank’ = “sick”, ‘hus’, ‘haus’ = “house”.

    In swedish there distinction between “meat” and “flesh”, it is the same word “kött” (which also refers to fruit pulp “fruktkött”, ‘frukt’=”fruit”). Actually the swedish word for food is “mat” (compare with english “meat”) and the word ”foder” (comp. ‘food’) refers to food for animals, fodder.

    In Swedish the term carnivore (spelled with “karnivor”) is used alongside the germanic “köttätare” (kött=flesh/meat, ‘ätare’ – “eater”) and it is not really a problem calling oneself a “köttätare” to distinguish oneself from vegitarians and vegans. Still I lika the term ‘carnist’ and think I will use it.

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