When it comes to dietary-centered discussions between non-vegans and vegans, things can easily become heated. From academic one-upmanship of the most recent research to the far more informal frenzied exchange of sardonic memes and crafty YouTube comments, it’s safe to say: “words are had.”

Well one team of international scientists decided to analyze the arguments from meat-eating camp by bringing out the big guns: the N-Words. [tweet this]

Hi it’s Emily from Bite Size Vegan and welcome to another vegan nugget. Humans have a wide array of reasons for eating animals. From taste to tradition to nutrition, to the absurd assertion that animals want to be eaten—yes that’s a thing [just see this post] —and it’s far more common than you may think.

But what’s behind this need to justify, explain and rationalize the consumption of animals? Why do omnivores often offer up unbidden impassioned defenses of their dietary practices upon learning someone is vegan—whether they be passive apologies for consuming meat in their presence or outright attacks and challenges? [and yes, vegans flip out too!]

Well, nothing provokes our knee-jerk defenses or highlight our human capacity for award-worthy rationalizations, and impassioned justifications, quite like the perceived judgment of behaviors we’re already insecure about.

Despite the seemingly endless iterations of meat-eating defenses, a similar refrain has been coursing through them for thousands of years. (Yes, thousands.)[1]

In 2015, an international team of researchers produced the first empirical systematic study of meat-consumption rationalizations, more or less corralling the multitudes of justifications into four main categories, denoted by what they call the 4N’s: that it’s Natural, Normal, Necessary, and Nice.[2][tweet this]

Building off of the 3N’s presented in Dr. Melanie Joy’s landmark text Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs and Wear Cows,[3] the team added the 4th N of “Nice” to capture “the enjoyment people derive from eating meat,” which they said “is a major barrier to reducing meat consumption and/or adopting a vegetarian diet,” as they found that, “meat-eaters…often appeal to the tastiness of meat, or the hedonic pleasure that they derive from it, as a justification for its continued consumption,” a rationale not encompassed within Joy’s original 3 strata.[4]

In this video, I’ll be presenting an overview of this particular study, the drive behind the human need for rationalization, as well as touch upon the broader implications of the 4Ns—which reach far beyond the realm of dietary dissonance into “Many historical practices, from slavery to sexism.”[5]

Perhaps most controversially, the study strove to address the question: are omnivores inherently more tolerant of social inequality within their own species?[6][7][8][9][tweet this]

Let’s start with a quick look at the 4N’s as defined within the study’s parameters,[10] again with the first 3 taking inspiration from Dr. Joy’s Three N’s of Justification.”

The 4 Ns


N #1: Eating Meat Is Natural

Our first N “Appeals to biology, biological hierarchy, natural selection, human evolution, or the naturalness of eating meat.”


Examples include:

It is natural for humans to eat meat;

Humans are carnivores;

We’ve always eaten meat and/or have evolved to do so;

We have canine teeth;

Animals eat other animals;

Animals are here for us to eat;

et cetera


N #2: Eating Meat Is Necessary

The 2nd N “Appeals to the necessity of meat for survival, strength, development, health, animal population control, or economic stability.”


Examples include:

Humans need meat to survive;

Meat provides good nutrients;

Our bodies need the protein;

Protein is a necessary part of our diet;

and, one of my personal favorites:

Because if we didn’t, there would be an overabundance of certain animals.
[I made a video about that. A while ago….I dance in it.]


N #3: Eating Meat Is Normal

The 3rd N “Appeals to dominant societal norms, normative behavior, historical human behavior, or socially constructed food pyramids.”


Examples include:

Society says it’s okay;

I was raised eating meat;

Meat is culturally accepted or an important part of tradition;

A lot of other people eat meat;

It’s abnormal NOT to eat meat;

et cetera.

And finally the additional N #4: Eating Meat Is Nice

This new N was introduced to capture “Appeals to the tastiness of meat, or that it is fulfilling or satisfying.”


Examples include:

It tastes good;

It’s delicious;

Tastes great (I mean bacon…come on) [yes that’s actually in the official study. Table 1];

Meat adds so much flavor to a meal it does not make sense to leave it out,

The best tasting food is normally a meat-based dish;

Meals without meat would just be bland and boring;

et cetera.


It’s important to note that a number of objections and diversion tactics fall a bit outside the realm of the 4Ns.[11] In the first two studies, wherein respondents offered spontaneous justifications, categories of Humane Slaughter, Religion, Sustainability, Various Miscellany and the outright rejection of the study’s premise were recorded.[12]

While they subsequently included concepts of religion, hierarchy and fate within the “Natural” category and health arguments within the “Necessary,” at the study’s outset, the team clarified that while “there are numerous strategies available to omnivores to bring their beliefs and behavior in line, including denying that animals used as food suffer or that such animals are worthy of moral concern,”[13][14] their goal was to focus on the “common, yet under-studied mechanism [of] rationalization.”

Unlike straight up denials of animal sentience, willful ignoring or passive avoidance of what we do to animals—essentially the “I don’t see it so it doesn’t happen” mentality—“ rationalization involves providing reasonable justifications for one’s behavior when it comes under scrutiny or criticism, or when one’s behavior is perceived as discrepant with an integral aspect of one’s character.”[15][16][17]

So what were the results? To go in depth, please see the blog post for this video linked the in the description, but some of the main findings were as follows:

Overall, as expected, “omnivores had the highest 4N scores, followed by semi-vegetarians.” (meaning people who only eat some animals…apparently). “Vegetarians and dietary and lifestyle vegans had the lowest 4N scores.”

Men endorsed the 4Ns more strongly than did women.

Men also engaged in more direct justification strategies, while women tended towards “indirect strategies of dissociating or avoiding thoughts of animal suffering.”

In regards to whether “individuals…who consume higher quantities of meat…tend to be more supportive of inequality in group relationships”[18][19] and “endorse anti-egalitarian values,”[20] they found, as did previous research,[21] that “meat justification appears to be related to inequality justification.”[22]

The researchers invoked Dr. Joy’s examples of the 3Ns employment across others issues, from slavery to women’s suffrage. “Opponents of women’s suffrage… appealed to the necessity of denying women the vote to prevent ‘irreparable damage’ to the nation, to the natural superiority of male intelligence, and to the historical normalness of male-only voting as “designed by our forefathers.”[23][24]

In the end, it’s the reasons behind the rationalizations, the very need for them at all that are the most profound aspect of this entire issue. It’s something I’ve gone into in depth in many of my videos, including this revealing speech,[25] along with others I’ve listed below.

Living in a state of cognitive dissonance wherein our actions directly conflict with our own professed morals and values, causes extreme disease within us. Eating animals is, in essence, living a double life. Attempting to be animal lovers and animal killers. To see ourselves as good people while we pay others to carry out barbaric acts of cruelty we would never directly inflict upon another being.

This is what the study’s creators termed the “meat paradox.”[26] Thus, omnivores are left with the choice of either changing their behaviors to align with their values by ceasing to eat animals and their byproducts, or manipulating their perception of reality in such a way that it at least appears that their behaviors align with their values.

Not surprisingly, the majority of the world chooses the latter. Because changing our behavior when it comes to eating animals means confronting head-on our complicity in their enslavement, torture, and murder. It means facing the horrors we’ve supported and vehemently defended. It means looking ourselves in the mirror with outright honesty.

And bringing up protein, desert islands, canines, tradition, the wisdom of the masses, and all the litany of rationales, justifications and avoidances, is by far an easier and safer choice.

There is bliss in ignorance. For the ignorant.[tweet this]

I hope that this video was helpful, and perhaps even prompts the slightest moment of self-reflection at the aspects of our behavior we strive so ardently to justify.

Please share it around to spark discussion and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. Do give the video a like if you liked it and subscribe for more vegan content every Monday, Wednesday and some Fridays.

To support messages like this, see the support page or join us in the Nugget Army on Patreon.

Now go live vegan, own up to your actions, and I’ll see you soon.

see ya next nugget!



★Watch More

Do Animals WANT To Be EATEN?
How NORMAL Is Our Food? [Extreme Speech]
The NECESSARY Lies We Tell
The NICEST Way To Die [The Humane Argument]
The History Of Veganism
Why Vegans Flip Out
Answering the “Overabundance” of Animals
Meat Eating & Racism/Sexism/etc
Vegan Meals Are Boring?
Protein Concerns?
Put Your Justifications To The Test

CITATIONS: [bibliography available below citations]

[1] Emily Moran Barwick, “The History Of Veganism Series,” BiteSizeVegan.com.

[2] Jared Piazza et al., “Rationalizing Meat Consumption. The 4Ns,” Appetite 91 (August 1, 2015): 114–28, doi:10.1016/j.appet.2015.04.011.

[3] Melanie Joy PhD and John Robbins, Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism, Reprint edition (Berkeley, Calif.; Enfield: Conari Press, 2011).

[4] Piazza et al., “Rationalizing Meat Consumption. The 4Ns,” 115.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Piazza et al., “Rationalizing Meat Consumption. The 4Ns.”

[7] Felicia Pratto et al., “Social Dominance Orientation: A Personality Variable Predicting Social and Political Attitudes.,” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 67, no. 4 (1994): 741–63, doi:10.1037/0022-3514.67.4.741.

[8] Michael W. Allen et al., “Values and Beliefs of Vegetarians and Omnivores,” The Journal of Social Psychology 140, no. 4 (August 1, 2000): 405–22, doi:10.1080/00224540009600481.

[9] Bob Altemeyer, Right-Wing Authoritarianism (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1981), https://lccn.loc.gov/81195833.

[10] Piazza et al., “Rationalizing Meat Consumption. The 4Ns,” Table 1, 116.

[11] Hank Rothgerber, “Real Men Don’t Eat (Vegetable) Quiche: Masculinity and the Justification of Meat Consumption.,” Psychology of Men & Masculinity 14, no. 4 (2013): 363–75, doi:10.1037/a0030379.

[12] Piazza et al., “Rationalizing Meat Consumption. The 4Ns,” Table 1, 116.

[13] Brock Bastian et al., “Don’t Mind Meat? The Denial of Mind to Animals Used for Human Consumption,” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 38, no. 2 (February 1, 2012): 247–56, doi:10.1177/0146167211424291.

[14] Boyka Bratanova, Steve Loughnan, and Brock Bastian, “The Effect of Categorization as Food on the Perceived Moral Standing of Animals,” Appetite 57, no. 1 (August 2011): 193–96, doi:10.1016/j.appet.2011.04.020.

[15] Ziva Kunda, “The Case for Motivated Reasoning.,” Psychological Bulletin 108, no. 3 (1990): 480.

[16] Hugo Mercier, “What Good Is Moral Reasoning?,” Mind & Society 10, no. 2 (March 19, 2011): 131–48, doi:10.1007/s11299-011-0085-6.

[17] Jo-Ann Tsang, “Moral Rationalization and the Integration of Situational Factors and Psychological Processes in Immoral Behavior.,” Review of General Psychology 6, no. 1 (2002): 25–50, doi:10.1037//1089-2680.6.1.25.

[18] Altemeyer, Right-Wing Authoritarianism.

[19] Pratto et al., “Social Dominance Orientation.”

[20] Ibid.

[21] Allen et al., “Values and Beliefs of Vegetarians and Omnivores.”

[22] Piazza et al., “Rationalizing Meat Consumption. The 4Ns,” 119.

[23] Ibid., 115.

[24] PhD and Robbins, Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows, 97.

[25] Emily Moran Barwick, “The Extremism Of Veganism | Exposing The Greatest Lie,” BiteSizeVegan.com.

[26] Piazza et al., “Rationalizing Meat Consumption. The 4Ns,” 114.

A.D. Beardsworth, and E.T. Keil. “Vegetarianism, Veganism, and Meat Avoidance: Recent Trends and Findings.” British Food Journal 93, no. 4 (April 1, 1991): 19–24. doi:10.1108/00070709110135231.

Allen, Michael W., Marc Wilson, Sik Hung Ng, and Michael Dunne. “Values and Beliefs of Vegetarians and Omnivores.” The Journal of Social Psychology 140, no. 4 (August 1, 2000): 405–22. doi:10.1080/00224540009600481.

Altemeyer, Bob. Right-Wing Authoritarianism. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1981. https://lccn.loc.gov/81195833.

Amato, Paul R., and Sonia A. Partridge. The New Vegetarians: Promoting Health and Protecting Life. Accessed May 18, 2016. http://amzn.to/1qtVx9M.

Aquino, Karl, and Americus Reed. “The Self-Importance Moral Identity.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 83, no. 6 (January 1, 2003): 1423–40. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.83.6.1423.

Bandura, Albert. “Moral Disengagement in the Perpetration of Inhumanities.” Personality and Social Psychology Review 3, no. 3 (August 1, 1999): 193–209. doi:10.1207/s15327957pspr0303_3.

Bastian, Brock, Steve Loughnan, Nick Haslam, and Helena R. M. Radke. “Don’t Mind Meat? The Denial of Mind to Animals Used for Human Consumption.” Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin 38, no. 2 (February 1, 2012): 247–56. doi:10.1177/0146167211424291.

Berndsen, Mariëtte, and Joop van der Pligt. “Ambivalence towards Meat.” Appetite 42, no. 1 (February 2004): 71–78. doi:10.1016/S0195-6663(03)00119-3.

Bratanova, Boyka, Steve Loughnan, and Brock Bastian. “The Effect of Categorization as Food on the Perceived Moral Standing of Animals.” Appetite 57, no. 1 (August 2011): 193–96. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2011.04.020.

———. “The Effect of Categorization as Food on the Perceived Moral Standing of Animals.” Appetite 57, no. 1 (August 2011): 193–96. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2011.04.020.

FAGERLI, R. Aa., and M. WANDEL. “Gender Differences in Opinions and Practices with Regard to a ‘Healthy Diet’>.” Appetite 32, no. 2 (April 1999): 171–90. doi:10.1006/appe.1998.0188.

Fessler, Daniel M. T, Alexander P Arguello, Jeannette M Mekdara, and Ramon Macias. “Disgust Sensitivity and Meat Consumption: A Test of an Emotivist Account of Moral Vegetarianism.” Appetite 41, no. 1 (August 2003): 31–41. doi:10.1016/S0195-6663(03)00037-0.

Hamilton, Malcolm. “Eating Death.” Food, Culture & Society 9, no. 2 (August 1, 2006): 155–77. doi:10.2752/155280106778606053.

Herzog, Hal. Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat: Why It’s So Hard to Think Straight About Animals. Reprint edition. New York, NY: Harper Perennial, 2011. http://amzn.to/1TfCa1v.

Jordan, Alexander H., and Benoît Monin. “From Sucker to Saint Moralization in Response to Self-Threat.” Psychological Science 19, no. 8 (August 1, 2008): 809–15. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9280.2008.02161.x.

KENYON, PM, and ME BARKER. “Attitudes Towards Meat-Eating in Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian Teenage Girls in England—an Ethnographic Approach.” Appetite 30, no. 2 (April 1998): 185–98. doi:10.1006/appe.1997.0129.

Kunda, Ziva. “The Case for Motivated Reasoning.” Psychological Bulletin 108, no. 3 (1990): 480.

Laham, Simon M. “Expanding the Moral Circle: Inclusion and Exclusion Mindsets and the Circle of Moral Regard.” Journal of Experimental Social Psychology 45, no. 1 (January 2009): 250–53. doi:10.1016/j.jesp.2008.08.012.

Loughnan, Steve, Nick Haslam, and Brock Bastian. “The Role of Meat Consumption in the Denial of Moral Status and Mind to Meat Animals.” Appetite 55, no. 1 (August 2010): 156–59. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2010.05.043.

Mercier, Hugo. “What Good Is Moral Reasoning?” Mind & Society 10, no. 2 (March 19, 2011): 131–48. doi:10.1007/s11299-011-0085-6.

PhD, Melanie Joy, and John Robbins. Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows: An Introduction to Carnism. Reprint edition. Berkeley, Calif.; Enfield: Conari Press, 2011. http://amzn.to/1TB4qpA.

Piazza, Jared, Matthew B. Ruby, Steve Loughnan, Mischel Luong, Juliana Kulik, Hanne M. Watkins, and Mirra Seigerman. “Rationalizing Meat Consumption. The 4Ns.” Appetite 91 (August 1, 2015): 114–28. doi:10.1016/j.appet.2015.04.011.

Pratto, Felicia, Jim Sidanius, Lisa M. Stallworth, and Bertram F. Malle. “Social Dominance Orientation: A Personality Variable Predicting Social and Political Attitudes.” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 67, no. 4 (1994): 741–63. doi:10.1037/0022-3514.67.4.741.

Rothgerber, Hank. “Real Men Don’t Eat (Vegetable) Quiche: Masculinity and the Justification of Meat Consumption.” Psychology of Men & Masculinity 14, no. 4 (2013): 363–75. doi:10.1037/a0030379.

Tsang, Jo-Ann. “Moral Rationalization and the Integration of Situational Factors and Psychological Processes in Immoral Behavior.” Review of General Psychology 6, no. 1 (2002): 25–50. doi:10.1037//1089-2680.6.1.25.

3 thoughts on “The N-WORDS Meat Eaters Use

    sally anne hubbard says:

    Good video. You have introduced us to many vegan athletes showing the world that meat is not necessary for good health.
    I always wonder if meat is so tasteful why do meat eaters cover their meat in all kinds of condiments?

    But ok,why don’t they go breed n kill the flesh they want,this may be a human slavery so trafficking to get slavery workers ,just go breed all hens,kill chick babies,rape cows n female pigs,etc ,clean out their shut ,children are traditionally slaved on USA n Canadian farms,see Reproducing Dominion by 4 H club survivor ,

    Jobs is not true,coz hi turnover of workers ijn animal breeding to slaughterhouses,n having to force their own wife n children,or foster children,prisoners of war,parole candidateswar refugees,so called volunteers children to pay for college ,what happens to children who survived the training of raping cows n female pigs? Do they then disrespect human females,is that why animal or slaughterhouse children become alcoholics by age 10 ? So it s good for the mental health professionals n osyc drug pushers,which destroy brain cells n cat scans show brain shrinkage,..so…more institutions,where meat n dairy ,etc is forced on the residents,like seniors home ,

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