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Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder

September 23, 2013

Last night I had the privilege of attending Doctor Melanie Joy’s presentation on Carnism.  You can sit through the same presentation via this link at

Why We Love Dogs, Eat Pigs, and Wear Cows

Instead of writing about the presentation, since you may view it for yourself, I would like to write about an issue with regard to veganism and the feelings of despair and worse we sometimes experience.

Carnism-Induced Trauma and Secondary Traumatic Stress Disorder

At the end of the presentation Doctor Joy addressed the fact that those of us who are already active in the movement for equal rights for all, including our animal friends, may be subject to become its victims as well.  This occurs through over-exposure to the atrocities. The result is secondary traumatic stress disorder (STSD).  The cause is carnism-induced trauma.

STSD may result in symptoms which include “intrusive thoughts or images, flashbacks . . . loss of faith in humanity . . . survivor guilt . . . depression”.

If you are an ethical vegan I am sure that you have experienced at least one, if not all, of the above symptoms as well as many others.

What I learned by attending Doctor Melanie Joy’s presentation is that “atrocities cause(s) mass traumatization of not only the primary victims (farmed animals) but of secondary victims (humans) as well.”  This is known as carnism-induced trauma.

My dear friends, I know you understand exactly what I am writing about here.  We have all experienced this.  And now there is a name for it.

Doctor Joy affirmed why we do what we do: to live a life of least harm.  She reminded us that this includes ourselves.

STSD and carnism-induced trauma harm us.  The pain is intense and I have heard some describe it as a weight that presses down so hard it is almost impossible to bear at times.

What can we do?

We must practice non-violence towards others and, equally important, towards ourselves.  This means that if bearing witness to violence causes these symptoms, then do not do it.  We have already acknowledged the issues and we understand them and act accordingly.  Therefore to continue to bear witness to the atrocities creates yet another victim; ourselves.  It is perfectly alright to not look upon those suffering animals.  It does not make you weak.  It does not make you less involved or less dedicated.

Even if we do not look upon those videos or photos we are still exposed to it every day with every billboard, milk truck, commercial, or trip to the grocery store.  It is a constant barrage, a reminder, of the suffering of which only we seem to see.  To be constantly faced with the results of such suffering is traumatic enough without ever having to see the actions that caused it.

So please take care of yourselves my friends.  You are so important to his world.

There are resources on the website if you would like to learn more about STSD and carnism-induced trauma.

Trauma Stewardship by Lipsky and Burk is a book that delves deeper into this issue and offers tools for coping and prevention.

Stay strong.  Peace

From → My Journal

One Comment
  1. Amazing things here. I am very glad to see your article.
    Thank you so much and I am looking forward to touch you.
    Will you please drop me a mail?

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