A Structured Literature Review of the Meat Paradox


  • Sarah Gradidge
  • Magdalena Zawisza
  • Annelie J. Harvey
  • Daragh T. McDermott


Many people wish to avoid harming animals, yet most people also consume meat. This theoretical ‘meat paradox’ is a form of cognitive dissonance and has grave negative consequences for animal welfare and the environment. Yet, despite these consequences, the meat paradox literature is sparse. The current structured literature review (SLR) explores primary literature up to May 2020, supporting the paradox and uniquely reviewing all known triggers of the paradox (e.g., exposure to meat’s animal origins), all known strategies to overcome the paradox (e.g., avoiding thinking about consumed animals) and how different people (e.g., those of different genders, occupations, ages, dietary preferences, cultures or religions) utilise varying strategies to overcome the paradox. For instance, the review uniquely demonstrates how dietary identity, dietary adherence and meat consumption frequency, among other demographic and psychographic factors, all affect moral (dis)engagement from animals. Overall, this paper has wide-ranging theoretical implications for the meat paradox and social psychological literature, and practical implications for meat reduction policies.