How is it possible to love animals yet still eat meat? Two researchers at the University of Oslo in Norway wanted to know. In their recent study, they concluded that both how we present meat and what we name dishes affects our empathy towards the animal, and our desire to eat the dish.

In the study, the scientists found that calling meat “cow” and “pig” rather than “beef” and “pork” reduced participants' willingness to eat meat dishes. In addition, seeing meat in a more whole form, such as a roasted pig with its head still attached, or viewing lamb chops next to an image of a living lamb, also reduced participants' willingness to eat meat dishes. Due to this, the team concluded that in order to consciously eat meat, many of us have created a distance between our food and an animal with abilities to think and feel.

“Highly processed meat makes it easier to distance oneself from the idea that it comes from an animal,” explained lead researcher Jonas R. Kunst in a recent statement. According to Kunst, the less that people think about food being an animal, the more comfortable they felt eating it.

For the study. Kunst and his colleague Sigrid M. Hohle conducted five studies in Norway and the U.S where over 1,000 volunteers, mostly meat eaters, were presented with meat or vegetarian dishes. Results showed that helping participants to remember that the meat was once a living animal helped to increase likliness to choose the vegetarian dish, with some participants showing more sensitivity to meat consumption than others. Although this idea has previously been proposed, Kunst and Hohle say they are the first to scientifically show that meat eaters have the tendency to distance themselves from what they are actually eating in order to make it easier to consume meat.

The team hope that the findings could be used to help persuade more individuals eat less meat. High meat consumption is not only bad for the environment, but it is also linked to many health problems, such as increased risk of colon cancer and type 2 diabetes.

Source: Kunst JR. Hohle SM. Meat eaters by dissociation: How we present, prepare and talk about meat increases willingness to eat meat by reducing empathy and disgust. Appetite . 2016

Read More:

Vegetarian Diet Benefits: What Happens When You Quit Eating Meat? Read Here

WHO Confirms Eating Meat Causes Cancer, But How Did This Once Healthy Food Become So Deadly? Read Here