Tag Archives: pets

I exist therefore I destroy: reflections in the age of further cognitive dissonance

I’m glad we are capable of cognitive dissonance. In other words, that we can hold in one brain, ideas at odds with one another.

Today I had a piece of bacon dipped in chocolate (a recent posting from AVClub had me curious and this is one taste I will be coming back to). I ate and enjoyed this piece of bacon which added one more piece to the thousands I have consumed to date (not that I have been keeping track, might be hundreds, not sure) not to mention the many cuts of pork, and the bits of ham I have eaten over the years.

Some people would say that this means I do not like pigs. In fact, not only do I like them, I worked on my grandfather’s farm with them (free range pigs for those who make the distinction) and observed their obvious intelligence, their curiosity about the world and their love of community. I was in even closer relationships with cows, which I milked every morning, and anyone who has ever milked cows by hand on a traditional farm, knows that a bond develops between you and the animal. Do I eat beef? Yes.

Some people hold that those who eat animals do not love them.I think most people like animals, and that almost everyone who eats them likes them well enough.I also think that most people like nature in general despite the act that every day by the very act of existing they eat up a little more of it.

I have a daughter who I love dearly. That daughter eats up larger and larger pieces of the world as she grows. My own ecological footprint is very much larger because of her. I am entirely to blame for her footprint and all the footprints of her potential offspring. That I had her does not mean that I do not love the world, and yet paradoxically, it is the worst possible thing I could have done. My reproduction could end up being more momentous than any oil spill depending on how fertile she and her children are.

One more confession. I own a pet. A Siberian husky (in my lifetime personally I have had another Siberian, a few turtles, and a cat and have been part of households where we shared more dogs and cats, birds, and gerbils). I believe in the freedom of animals, of natural living, of fair treatment and yet I enchain an animal to keep me company. I isolate it from its natural pack and constrain its behaviors in many ways. I love my dog but am I being just? Do I not use the same excuses for having it that were used to justify slavery? It lives a healthier and safer life than in the wild etc..

Is there any possible resolution to this conundrum? Its part of being human that we can even ponder our effect on the world, and though cognitive dissonance probably arises simply because there is no overall plan to make our abstractions and behavior cohere to some internal consistency, it is intriguing to imagine that it arose to resolve this horrible paradox of being, that to live is to destroy, and though we can minimize the damage we cannot erase it.

Some might put this down to just coming to terms with “the circle of life”, that we must embrace the dark as part of the light, that all energy is reborn but if your car happens to run over my dog, that is of no consolation to me. And that philosophy could well lead one to accept genocide and murder. I think the answer lies more in being aware of the pain of existence rather than avoiding it through sophistry.