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From the Scrapbook

Oct 25, 2010, Vol. 16, No. 06
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Studies on dehumanization demonstrated that denying certain human characteristics might serve as a strategy for moral disengagement. Meat consumption​—especially in the times of cruel animal farming—is related to the exclusion of animals from the human scope of justice. In the present research, it was hypo-thesized that the conception of human uniqueness (denying animals certain psychological characteristics) might be a strategy of meat-eaters’ moral disengagement. Three studies compared the extent to which vegetarians and omnivores attribute psychological characteristics to humans versus animals. In Study 1, vegetarian participants ascribed more secondary (uniquely human) emotions to animals than did the omnivores; however, there were no differences in primary (animalistic) emotions. Study 2 showed that omnivores distinguish human characteristics from animalistic ones more sharply than vegetarians do, while both groups do not differ in distinguishing human characteristics from mechanistic ones. Study 3 confirmed the results by showing that omnivores ascribed less secondary emotions to traditionally edible animals than to the non-edible species, while vegetarians did not differentiate these animals. These results support the claim that the lay conceptions of “human uniqueness” are strategies of moral disengagement.

The Scrapbook’s translation: Some European sociologists prove that a belief in human uniqueness—and by extension, we suppose, any affirmation that might be found in Judaism, Christianity, or Islam that man is not an animal—is really part of a “strategy of moral disengagement” aimed at absolving oneself of the crime of eating meat. Vegetarians feel that animals are quite human, whereas the morally inferior omnivores draw a false distinction between humans and nonhumans—for the sole reason (it turns out) that they are greedy pigs.


Sentences We Didn’t Finish

"Kishore Mahbubani, the dean of the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy at the National University of Singapore, is over for tea and I am telling him about what I consider to be the most exciting, moon-shot-quality, high-aspiration initiative proposed by President Obama .  .  . ” (Thomas L. Friedman, New York Times, October 13).


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