Moral Disengagement and the Psychology of Slaughter

The following quote comes from a facinating article I’m reading called “Moral Disengagement and Support for Nonhuman Animal Farming,” published in the journal Society and Animals (2011):

“Bandura describes mechanisms that produce moral disengagement, whereby a person’s own moral controls can be disengaged from the abusive actions they are carrying out. The mechanisms he identifies are: moral justification; euphemistic labeling; displacement of responsibility; diffusion of responsibility; disregard for, or distortion of, the consequences; dehumanization; attribution of blame; advantageous comparison; and the power of progressive moral disengagement.”

This list of rationlaizations and justifations for cruelty hit home, as I’ve been doing considerable reading and writing about the killing of backyard animals. One question that I perhaps subconsciously refused to think through was what it takes–emotionally and psychologically– to kill an animal you have supposedly loved and diligently raised.  But this quote really sheds a sharp light on this concern. Should you have any doubt, moreover, that this list is inaccurate, I would urge you to read the comments to my last piece. Every single item listed above is vividly exemplified in the defensive comments made by urban homesteaders.


About James McWilliams
I'm a historian and writer based in Austin, Texas. This blog is dedicated to exploring the ethics of eating animals and animal-based products.

One Response to Moral Disengagement and the Psychology of Slaughter

  1. Pingback: News for September 15, 2011 : From A to Vegan

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