Rationalizing meat consumption. The 4Ns

Appetite. 2015 Aug:91:114-28. doi: 10.1016/j.appet.2015.04.011. Epub 2015 Apr 9.


Recent theorizing suggests that the 4Ns - that is, the belief that eating meat is natural, normal, necessary, and nice - are common rationalizations people use to defend their choice of eating meat. However, such theorizing has yet to be subjected to empirical testing. Six studies were conducted on the 4Ns. Studies 1a and 1b demonstrated that the 4N classification captures the vast majority (83%-91%) of justifications people naturally offer in defense of eating meat. In Study 2, individuals who endorsed the 4Ns tended also to objectify (dementalize) animals and included fewer animals in their circle of moral concern, and this was true independent of social dominance orientation. Subsequent studies (Studies 3-5) showed that individuals who endorsed the 4Ns tend not to be motivated by ethical concerns when making food choices, are less involved in animal-welfare advocacy, less driven to restrict animal products from their diet, less proud of their animal-product decisions, tend to endorse Speciesist attitudes, tend to consume meat and animal products more frequently, and are highly committed to eating meat. Furthermore, omnivores who strongly endorsed the 4Ns tended to experience less guilt about their animal-product decisions, highlighting the guilt-alleviating function of the 4Ns.

Keywords: Animal welfare; Attitudes; Justification; Meat; Rationalization; Vegetarianism.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animal Welfare*
  • Animals
  • Diet / adverse effects*
  • Diet / ethics
  • Diet / psychology
  • Diet, Vegan / adverse effects*
  • Diet, Vegan / psychology
  • Factor Analysis, Statistical
  • Female
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Meat / adverse effects*
  • Models, Psychological*
  • Pennsylvania
  • Perceptual Defense
  • Principal Component Analysis
  • Rationalization*
  • Universities
  • Young Adult