Putting Meat on the (Classroom) Table: Problems of Denial and Communication

  • Robert G. DarstEmail author
  • Jane I. Dawson
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Education and the Environment book series (PSEE)


Animal agriculture (including dairy) is the second largest source of greenhouse gas emissions, after energy use by buildings. Animal agriculture is also a major source of air, soil, and water pollution, as well as animal suffering. Yet efforts to raise these issues in the classroom are hampered by the “meat paradox”: most people who like to eat meat do not like to harm animals, especially animals with minds and feelings. The resulting cognitive dissonance is typically resolved by a combination of denial and stigmatization of those who question the cultural dominance of meat consumption—a response similar to that of climate change deniers. Studies of what does and does not work in climate change communication offer valuable insights for educators interested in exploring the negative consequences of industrialized meat production: emphasize local impacts, co-benefits, and shared community values; avoid moral reproach; frame the issue to engage multiple values. If the educator’s goal is to explore the morality of meat consumption itself, however, these bridge-building techniques may founder upon the fundamental and ultimately irreconcilable philosophical gulf between those who believe that it is morally acceptable to breed and slaughter animals for food and those who believe that it is not.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Political ScienceUniversity of Massachusetts DartmouthNorth DartmouthUSA
  2. 2.Government and Environmental Studies DepartmentsConnecticut CollegeNew LondonUSA

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