Meat and the benefits of ambivalence


Meat is a troubling subject. On the one hand most humans love to eat it; the world is expected to double its meat consumption within a few decades. On the other hand, this increase also makes many meat related problems get out of hand. In societal debates on meat, meat eaters often appear to be on the wrong side of the moral line. Yet, below the surface of moral polarizations, many people – meat eaters as well as non-meat-eaters – are ambivalent about meat. Ambivalence is unpleasant and it comes with various (subconscious) mechanisms to reduce it, such as strategic ignorance. The result is that attitudes to meat look more unequivocal than they really are. I will discuss some mechanisms of strategic ignorance concerning meat. Attention for ambivalence may enable a more satisfactory understanding of present attitudes to meat than analyses in terms of straightforward attitudes. In addition, a greater appreciation of the plausibility and legitimacy of ambivalent attitudes may counter tendencies of denial and reveal similarities between meat eaters and vegetarians. This in turn may enable a less polarized and more creative societal space for the search for alternatives and solutions. One idea that may help to acknowledge ambivalences on meat is cultured meat, or in vitro meat.


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© Wageningen Academic Publishers 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department Communication, Philosophy and TechnologyWageningen UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands

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