The 4 Excuses People Use to Justify Eating Meat

<a href="http://www.istockphoto.com/photo/man-eating-steak-10544064?st=feeb6c0">Robert Ingelhart</a>/iStock

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There are plenty of reasons to stop eating meat: Fears over growing numbers of terrifying superbugs that have sprung out of our antibiotic-ridden meat supply, objections to the horrifying conditions factory-farmed animals are subjected to, and concerns over health risks posed by meat consumption (for both people and the planet)—to name just a few.

Around 90 percent of people who eat meat say they do so for one or more of four reasons: It’s natural, necessary, normal, and nice.

Given all this, meat eaters increasingly find themselves having to defend their diet. Now, a team of international researchers has identified the four most common excuses they use. According to a report published last month in the behavior nutrition journal, Appetite, around 90 percent of people who eat meat use these “four Ns” to justify their diets:

  1. It’s natural. People have always eaten meat. Why stop now?
  2. It’s necessary. Without meat, it’s impossible to get enough protein and other nutrients.
  3. It’s normal. Almost everyone eats meat, and I don’t want to be different.
  4. It’s nice. Meat is delicious!

The researchers conducted six separate studies to find out more about how the four Ns play a role in helping meat-eaters rationalize their diet and how their beliefs can tell us more about the behaviors that drive them.

They found that those who endorsed the four Ns the most strongly cared about fewer species of animals, were less likely to consider the moral implications of their food choices, and also showed less concern for issues not related to diet, like social inequality. The studies also showed that four-N advocates experience less guilt than responders who showed ambivalence—and that the more someone believes in the four Ns, the less willing he or she is to cut back on meat consumption in the future.

The authors point out that insights into these attitudes reveal more than just the “why” behind meat consumption; they highlight where there might be opportunities to change beliefs—and ultimately behaviors. Though researchers found that “necessary” and “nice” were the most strongly voiced defenses and might be most difficult to overturn, Americans are eating much less meat than they used to, and cultural movements like Meatless Monday have made it clear that people can at least be convinced to cut back. Plus it doesn’t hurt that vegetarian fare has come a long way in the tastiness department.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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