The Diet and Lifestyle Choices Interview

“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” – Mahatma Gandhi

The start of the interview was fairly easy, asking me how many times per week did I exercise, my smoking status, my diet, some behaviours I engage in, such as recycling newspaper, bottles or cans, my view on global warming and so on. Then, there were questions about animals, such as do we live with any companion animals, do I consider myself an animal lover and would I ever knowingly do something that caused harm to animals. They were still straightforward to answer. Afterwards, some questions explored a few sensitive topics about the treatment of animals. Some of them were emotional in nature and I have learnt some information that I had not been exposed to in the past.

In the first half of the interview, I said that I would never harm animals when alternatives were readily available, and that I consider myself an animal lover, yet I described my diet as including meat. I believe this view is inconsistent. In psychology, it’s called cognitive dissonance, when there is a disagreeable feeling people experience when one belief or action conflicts with pre-existing belief or action. I answered this discrepancy by saying that I didn’t realise that before, but by taking this interview, it made me aware of the inconsistency. I’ve always thought that there are animals to be “pets” and there are some for eating. Self-awareness is employed here, which is an understanding of one’s own knowledge, attitudes and opinions. Not knowing all the facts about animal abuse gave rise to my own limited self-awareness. Inaccuracy in our opinion seems for the most part disturbing, for what is more personal than opinions. Yet, inconsistency in our opinions is as strong as in our knowledge of facts. Another aspect of psychology that was used here is self-persuasion. By showing me the different facts on animal abuse in food production, I was persuaded to change my opinions or habits. I wasn’t coerced. I was free to choose. And I decided to try to be aware of my diet and minimize eating meat, if there are alternatives. Overall, the interview was very informative and an eye-opener for me. I’ll try to modify my eating habits, in all probability good for my health and the environment.

Having slept on it and after some deliberation, some questions were formed. Where do people draw the line on what is an acceptable use of animals? How do people decide whether a practice is morally acceptable? For me, it was the question: If you knew that animals raised for meat experienced extreme physical pain from procedures such as castration without anesthesia, would you continue eating meat? That’s when I answered: No, I would not eat meat. Did I just give in because I wanted to conform? Conformity is a type of social influence involving a change in belief or behaviour in order to fit in with the group. Did I want to fit in with the group because of a desire to be correct or to conform to a social role, or to be seen as being positive? Did I just accept the view of not eating meat if I had known that animals raised for meat experienced extreme physical pain from procedures such as castration without anesthesia?

I have some sort of a dilemma with this issue. I like eating meat. I love all animals and plants. I don’t think I could ever go completely vegetarian but, I have cut back on the frequency of when I eat meat. I have been trying to educate myself more about where my food comes from. I’m trying to steer towards organic food. I just try to keep making small changes where I can, so hopefully one day, I will be satisfied with the origin of all my food. I buy eggs from a nearby small family farm. I have nearby farmers markets to get produce and meat, but, even there you have to be careful because not all of them are even organic or cruelty free. I have been researching local farms that sell grass fed, humanely raised meat but, the whole process is time consuming and confusing. I do, however, believe that we can eat meat as long as it is respectfully raised and gratitude is given for its sacrifice.

The difference between taking a web interview with taking a traditional human interview is the use of technology. It is a convenient way to meet participants from different parts of the world. We don’t have to be in the same room to have the interview, and we can have the interview anytime and anywhere. We communicate through multiple choice and typed words for clarification. The disadvantage could be that our nonverbal signals can’t be observed. The interviewer seems to have a personality, that of an inquisitive or probing manner. I can’t think of an instance when the interview didn’t make sense or seemed to contain errors in wordings or logic. It was a comprehensive and in-depth interview. It was able to respond in much the same way as the human interviewer, with changes in question wording, response alternatives and interview topics.

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