Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations
As Valentine’s Day approaches, the question on many a mind–or maybe just mine–is, Where’s the dissonance in “cognitive dissonance”? According to About.com Psychology,
The term cognitive dissonance is used to describe the feeling of discomfort that results from holding two conflicting beliefs. When there is a discrepancy between beliefs and behaviors, something must change in order to eliminate or reduce the dissonance.
An apt example of cognitive dissonance is the human propensity to love animals and to loathe seeing them suffer–nonetheless, to consider them tasty and edible even while suspecting (if not downright knowing) that the journey from lovable to edible requires suffering. If you’re one of those people, hang in there–we’ll talk you through it. Just relax and allow yourself to cognitively embrace the dissonance…
What set me off on this unharmonious path was a post I stumbled across at “pork, knife & spoon,” the official blog of the National Pork Board. (My motto: I troll meat industry websites so you don’t have to.) A February 7, 2012 post entitled “Valentine’s Day Gifts for Pork Lovers” shamelessly features cute pig gifts–as if cute pigs are entirely divorced from the horrors of meat production. You’ll find Beanie Baby piglets, pig figurines, pig-shaped cookies, pig jewelry, Arnold the Snoring Pig (a plush pig who wiggles and snores!), and more–and all offered without the least hint of irony. People love pigs in all their permutations, and the pork industry–and pig paraphernalia purveyors–know it. Compartmentalization is key here, people.
But notice how quickly things take an ominous turn from the cute and cuddly to the cured and crispy. This is where the cognitive dissonance comes in–or, more’s the pity, doesn’t come in. Here’s another plush pig that wiggles and oinks, but his name–Mr. Bacon–spells certain doom. Here’s one that enters the realm of the surreal, given that it’s at a site called Bacon Freak: The Sooo-weet Heart Plush Piggy:
Who doesn’t want a cute little plush piggy for Valentine’s Day? Certainly not anyone who doesn’t like adorable, huggable piggies, that’s for sure! These little guys come in an assortment of Valentine colors (red, pink, and white) with little embroidered hearts scattered around their piggy bodies. Think of them as little heart kisses.
Do these people really think we don’t know that the living, sentient stand-ins for the huggable, plush piggies are getting their adorable piglet tails and testicles cut off without anesthesia in factory farms this very moment? (Graphic photo: scroll down here.) Then again, given the secrecy surrounding industrial animal production, and the current surge by the industry–aided and abetted by willing state legislatures–to pass ag-gag laws criminalizing the ability to secretly record these atrocities, maybe we actually don’t know. Maybe we can have our piggies…and eat them, too.
While this doesn’t involve Valentine’s Day, it is a jaw-dropping, forehead-slapping example of cognitive dissonance at work: The Iowa Blue Ribbon Bacon Festival, held a few days ago. Yep, it’s in Iowa, the state that far outranks any other for factory farmed pig misery (according to the Factory Farm Map) with 17,938,431 suffering animals.
Got irony? Watch as children rush to get close to Bonnie, the precious piglet who served as the festival mascot. “Be gentle!” admonishes a parent (oh, if she only knew what lurks in Bonnie’s future…). Then, in an act of phony magnanimity, Iowa Governor Terry Branstad (the very same governor who signed the nation’s first ag-gag bill into law last March) “pardons” Bonnie by proudly proclaiming her “free from the sizzle of the frying pan for this year’s festival.”
Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up. If Bonnie becomes a breeding sow, she’ll have 3-5 years before the sizzle catches up with her. In the meantime, cruelly confined, she’ll endure repeated cycles of impregnation, gestation, and birth. She’ll be robbed of her piglets before they’re weaned, and the cycle will begin anew until she’s just plain worn-out. The trip to slaughter will be its own special nightmare for the pig who once served as the darling of the festival.
But Bonnie, Shmonnie…forget about Bonnie! Back to Valentine’s Day! If red roses proclaim one’s love and passion, what do bacon roses say? Considering what the 2010 Harvard meat study revealed about cured, processed meats, they might be saying, “Happy Valentine’s Day! Let’s update your life insurance policy, dear!”
Now that you’ve confronted your dissonance, cognitively-speaking, here are just a couple of suggestions for Valentine’s Day observances. I know, I know, it’s beyond the last minute, but these gifts take just a couple of mouse clicks, and one of them doesn’t even require money. First, make a donation to your local farmed animal sanctuary in honor of someone special. Small sanctuaries are almost always looking for help with feed and electricity costs, especially at this time of year. In each and every one of those sanctuaries–guaranteed–are animals with stories as compelling as Bonnie’s. Next, announce your gift with a valentine e-card from Vegan Peace. Finally–and this is simply a suggested gift to give to yourself and the animals–if you’re still eating the Bonnies of the world, consider cutting back, going vegetarian, or going whole hog (couldn’t resist) by going vegan.
And you’re done, you compassionate devil, you!