Mark Twain was the great advocator of the quote “travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow mindedness”, as he implies that your experiences of something new and different will open your mind and give you a new perspective that you might not have achieved without. This summer I will be packing my bags and my malaria tablets and venturing into the seemingly alternative universe of South East Asia. Some of these countries may not only just be some of the poorest and farthest away countries I’ve ever been to, but culturally nothing like my own, and between the language and customs, maybe the alternative universe reference was not just a joke for emphasis. One of these countries in particular is Cambodia.
Cambodia seems like a fascinating place with a huge culturally significant heritage in Asia as well as a gorgeous countryside. But there is also a dark sinister side to the place, as it was not so long ago when they were tying pregnant women to trees and ripping out their foetus’ with machetes in the killing fields during the civil war in the 70’s, to name but one horrible example. So with a history like that, it’ safe to say that Cambodia is not a normal place where normal things happen, by our standards anyway. So obviously it is a place that gives you the opportunity to do things that you can’t do anywhere else in the world. Fucked up things that may act as a representation of a culture that has gone through a history like Cambodia’s. One of these things is to pay a couple of hundred euros, and blow up a cow with a bazooka.
As mad and abstractly funny as it sounds, I couldn’t help but feel a bit taken aback by the cruelty of firing a missile at this poor animal standing in the middle of a field, blowing it up, all for the sake of entertainment. On my travels I plan on doing stuff that I won’t get the chance to do again, and I would be more than willing to pay a bit of money to fire a rocket launcher off or throw a few grenades around, but I feel to do so at a mooooving target like a cow seems a bit too much for me. Pun obviously intended.
But on the “udder” hand, I do love meat. Meat is my favourite meal. I am a meatatarian, the opposite of a vegetarian. My favourite dish is steak, stuffed with pork, wrapped in bacon and shoved in a chicken. I am simultaneously both the PETA hippie’s and Hindu Antichrist. So with all my routine and amoral consumption of dead animals then why do I feel so bad and compassionate at the thought of killing one on my own? Why do I feel it ok to reap the benefits of killing an animal yet shy away from getting my hands dirty of the responsibility of doing it myself? Why can I not feel bad to eat a cow, but feel bad for blowing one up with a missile? Hence, the “BazooCow Paradox”.
Should I not give absolutely no shits about the life of a cow since so many are killed for me to eat?
The whole “blowing a cow up with a bazooka” thing is something that I’ve brought up in a few conversations this week to gauge the response from people. Surprise surprise, everyone hated it. They found it sick and cruel and I was told by my sister that she would never respect me again if she found out I did blow up a cow. So yeah, the steaks are quite high with this topic. But with all this condemnation of killing one animal, people still defended their carnivorous ways. Some of the girls played ignorant, saying how they don’t want to know where meat comes from, even though they felt disgusted enough by the notion of a cow exploding to practically take it as a personal insult. But the one thing that emerged from everyone was that the food chain was given as justification, as because we eat the cow it is ok to kill it rather than just killing it for fun as I would be doing by shooting something at it, COWpow. And as many people would agree with this, the main point I’m trying to make in all of this is that is this not just some way of balancing our cognitive dissonance?
What’s cognitive dissonance you ask? Well cognitive dissonance is the discomfort we feel when we hold conflicting ideas, beliefs, emotions etc. simultaneously. Usually in a state of cognitive dissonance we feel either a sense of surprise, anger, denial, embarrassment or guilt. Cognitive dissonance theory suggests that we have a motivational goal to reduce our dissonances by either altering these emotions and beliefs etc. or reducing their importance to create a constant belief system for ourselves. An example would be soldiers who believe it wrong to kill, but do so in war because they feel they are protecting their country, or when you don’t get something you want then convince yourself you didn’t want it anyway. So maybe the food chain reason is given by people as a way of leveraging this dissonance in their minds, and convinces them that it’s ok to allow this to happen even though they are against the killing of animals. COWgnitive dissonance. Telling yourself that they are grown to be eaten makes it ok seems quite udderly ridiculous when you leap to their defence in a different scenario, making the cows who are bred for fed no different from vegetables. But then this brings up another debate with regards to the value of life. Which cow life is more valuable? The one that is killed for food or the one for fun? If we use the cow for food, then its legitimate to kill it because it is more valuable to us compared to the one we kill for fun, which would mean that that cow is less valuable and then in turn allowed to live. So does this mean that the death of the useful cow is just as valuable as the life of the useless cow? And uselessness is what lets you live? So justifying the killing of the cow and the value of the cow’s life is subjective to what we consider useful.
You may think you have herd all the cow puns in the world but I’m going to keep milking them.
But what would the cow think of all of this? I don’t think Daisy gives 2 shits about being useful to you after you kill her. If the tables were turned and you were going to be killed by 2 cows I doubt the thing going through your head would be “oh well, at least they can use my arse for dinner later” when your life will be flashing pasteurised. You’re going to be killed either way, that’s what I would be worried about. The value of your life depends on what, or if, those cows can use your corpse for, but either way it would be a horrible enCOWnter.
I don’t know if people consider the “BazooCow paradox” truly an ethical dilemma or not as I’m sure some see it as a “black and white” case. I feel I’m just “grazing” the surface of the topic, but maybe as quite a sheltered western society we feel the need to detach the killing for food from the killing for other reasons as a way to justify it and quench whatever contradicting feelings and guilt we may have over the killing and treatment of animals where they are methodology created and killed in a system that we take no part in except for its benefits.
Society has progressed leaps and bounds within even a couple of decades, but it was still not too long ago when the concept of a pet was considered absurd by the masses. Just as is present in many underdeveloped societies in the world today and even present within some prominent Asian countries still, back in the day animals were seen as nothing more than creatures we used for food and transport. They had no rights and the thought of treating them with the same compassion as you would show a human would probably render you insane in the eyes of others. We were a lot more proactive and self-sufficient in our satisfaction of our basic needs like food and stuff then we are today, so if you wanted meat, you had to go out and kill the animal yourself. There was no Larry from Clonmel working for minimum wage in a slaughter house to do it for you. But now because of the industrial revolution and all that it brought we are no longer apart of the process and this gap has allowed us to become softer and more compassionate in our minds to animals even though we still kill them and put their dead bodies in our mouths.
Coincidently, Mark Zuckerberg came out with a statement there a while ago saying that he is only going to eat meat from animals that he has killed himself. Even though the thought of that dorky computer guy chasing a pig around a field with a knife is hilarious, I found it quite a noble undertaking as it is taking a personal responsibility and appreciation for the things you benefit from, especially when a life is taken for them.
I have no personal beef with cows or anything, but I am still going to enjoy eating them. As living in suburban Dublin I’m not in a position to be entirely self-sufficient when it comes to providing food for myself, thank Allah, but I feel that if I was ever handed a bazooka to kill a cow for whatever reason, I think I would have to bear the responsibility of doing it myself no matter how much I hated it, as to get someone else to do it and live in ignorance may not only be COWardice, but also sort of disrespectful and unappreciative too.
So yeah I don’t know if this piece is some sort of shallow act of conscience cleaning, a genuine moral epiphany or some subconscious way of justifying and convincing myself to be some cruel cunt to dive right in and actually blow up a cow in Cambodia for the lolz, COwabunga. But if anyone reading this has an opinion on it bring it up with me as I’m kind of keen to get peoples perspective on this as I found it to be quite a “rare” subject. Hopefully it will not only give me another angle to think about it from, but it would also let me know if anyone actually reads my blog.
I suppose if worst come to worst I could always blow up a chicken or something, might be a bit less controversial.