Meat eaters are really good at denying the intelligence of other living beings according to a new study. When people were told to eat fruit their assessment of an animal’s intelligence was higher, with meat eating people they denied that the animal could be intelligent.
In a study that excluded vegetarians, psychologist Brock Bastian of the University of Queensland in Australia and his colleagues first asked participants to commit to eating either meat slices or apple wedges. Before eating, everyone wrote an essay describing the full life cycle of a butchered animal and then rated the mental faculties of a cow or a sheep. Participants who knew that they would have to eat meat later in the study made much more conservative assessments of the animal mind, on average, denying that it could think and feel enough to suffer. The study was published last October in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.
“People engage in the denial of mind in animals to allow them to engage in the behavior of eating animals with less negative effect,” Bastian says. The researchers argue that although humans have the ability to imagine themselves in someone else’s shoes—or hooves—doing so is not always helpful. People living in carnivorous cultures may have developed this strategy of denial to better align their morals with their traditions so they may continue to consume meat without being consumed by guilt.