Colbert’s Cognitive Dissonance: Eating Prosciutto While Pigs Watch
By Amanda Crow, Guest Contributor
The other I night I was catching up on my favorite show, The Colbert Report. Seconds into the March 27th episode I was horrified. In his cold open, the caption reads “When Pigs Fry,” and Stephen Colbert gleefully announces that his guest is a farmer who is trying to breed the tastiest pig.
Once my rage subsided, I watched this interview in order to commentate on it. (You’re welcome.) It filled me with so many mixed emotions and thoughts, but here is my summary in two words:
cognitive dissonance | noun
the state of having inconsistent thoughts, beliefs, or attitudes, esp. as relating to behavioral decisions and attitude change
Colbert’s love of meat even while demonstrating a strong side of compassion has always infuriated me! Despite his conservative character, he manages to exhibit quite a progressive voice. Watching him regularly, it is very clear that he is a kind, giving, loving person even though he pretends to be the opposite. In the past his commentary on meat-related news stories has been about the hypocrisy of loving some and eating others and about problems with our food system. At the same time, he embraces his love of eating animals. This bizarre interview exposed Colbert’s deep cognitive dissonance.
His guest, Carl Edgar Blake II, lived his prior life as a computer programmer in Iowa before turning to breeding pigs. He seems like a very intelligent guy. Sadly, he used his smarts to research pig breeding, hoping to recreate a breed that won world fairs in the 19th century. According to the non-vegan world, he has succeeded by cross breeding a Russian wild bore with a Chinese pig.
The conversation continues with Colbert playing on the fact that the pigs are from two “commie” countries and asks,“What’s wrong with American pigs?” Blake says there is something wrong with them because they are raised in confinement living in their own excrement all day. Yes, great point, Carl! He also believes American pigs are poor tasting with no fat. (Grossssss *eye roll*)
Colbert probes about how Blake raises his pigs with his clear disapproval of confinement. Blake claims he raises them as naturally as he can “in the dirt.” Colbert cleverly retorts, “At what point do they naturally meander into the slaughterhouse?” followed by a joke about getting the pigs to kill themselves (with a jab at vegetarian Morrissey).
This part so clearly illustrates how people want to feel good about eating animals when they “know” the animals lived a good life (a point Colbert joked about while interviewing Jonathan Safran Foer), extending to the disillusion that the animals sacrifice themselves to be our food. Even the farmer wants to feel good about eating pigs because he raises them “naturally.” Too bad their deaths are still premature and unnatural.
The kicker? To complete this interview, they bring out two of the farmer’s adorable piglets…one for each to hold. Of course the audience’s reaction is “AWWWWW!”
Colbert cradles Hamlet, a tiny black piglet with a harness on (!!!), even trying to soothe the squirming little baby with a “shhhhhh.” He then asks the farmer if naming the pigs makes it easier to eat them later, and Blake admits that he doesn’t like to get too personal with them. Wow, what a touching moment! Surely I can feel hope that people will make the connection with their food and this cute creature that is smarter than their dog.
Colbert grabs a plate of prosciutto that came from one of Blake’s pigs, and they both gleefully eat it while holding little piglets.
Photo credit: (piglets) Joe Shlabotnik and (prosciutto) ImipolexG and (Stephen Colbert) MikeBrowne via Flickr and mashup via YDV