La revue Viandes et produits carnés

La revue française de la recherche en viandes et produits carnés  ISSN  2555-8560

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Humans and meat: a story of love and hate

Human societies are habitually omnivore and have coevolved with meat, a valuable dietary resource that has been vital to evolution and survival. This evolutionary entwinement is of a biosocial nature, whereby meat exerts several functions exceeding its nutritional role. Even nowadays, albeit less overtly, so-called ‘meat traditions’ are involved in the structuring of communities through their role in bonding as well as in hierarchical consolidation. In addition, their semiotic aspects are extraordinary. Eating meat, however, requires the killing of animals, which may be considered as a disquieting activity to the human psyche. Solutions to deal with this effect are culturally contingent. Whereas hunter-gatherers usually kill on a basis of deference, domestic societies seem to shift to a more dominion-oriented approach. In both cases, slaughter is profoundly ritualized. Postdomestic societies, however, act in fundamentally different ways, whereby the killing of animals has been confined to slaughterhouses and meat has largely become a product abstracted from its animal origin. Postdomestic praxis has been labelled as carnism (term used especially by the partisans of veganism to designate the consumption of meat despite a disgust of killing animals). Yet, the information revolution has led to an increasing exposure to the practice of animal killing, creating societal upset in some consumer segments. Several trends can be identified as a result of this new paradigm, which are based on a heterogeneous set of solutions, ranging from meat avoidance to cultural contextualization, often via ‘story-telling’.


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