Cognitive Dissonance – Would You be Willing to Kill It Before you Eat It?

Deni Kirkova looks in to Cognitive Dissonance and wonders ‘Will killing animals before eating them help break people out of their delusions?’


You can now stab an animal at a fancy London restaurant, then get a manicure while someone cooks it for you to eat.


It’s the latest crazy idea from food artists Bombas & Parr. The point is to make us think about the process our meat goes through before getting to our plate. Surely this will disgust most people: no-one wants to think of themselves as a murderer, or even a killer. Who’s going to put themselves – by choice – in the place of ‘person with a knife’ or ‘stabber’ in the animal-to-meat processing chain? Are you brave enough to face that mental block you’ve allowed yourself to create between animal and food? Shudder.


Most people like to eat the cooked flesh with plants and gravy arranged prettily around it, and pretend it never had a heartbeat or ever felt fear. Many people who eat meat hate treading on snails and feel bad if they do, and others go out their way to not kill ‘terrifying’ spiders in their homes. Meat-eaters empathise with all dogs and cats, especially ones with three legs. They think micro pigs are the cutest but also love bacon. What I’ve outlined above refers to the concept of cognitive dissonance, which most people practice to allow themselves eat meat, dairy and eggs.


What is cognitive dissonance?


In psychology, cognitive dissonance is the mental stress (discomfort) experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values; when performing an action that contradicts one of those beliefs, ideas, or values; or when confronted with new information that contradicts one of the beliefs, ideas, and values.

SOURCE: Wikipedia via Festinger, L. (1957). A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance. California: Stanford University Press.


Animals bred for food feel intense fear and pain throughout their lives and until they die. Think about it. The death and suffering that happens in a slaughterhouse occurs so humans can eat meat. To say it’s anything but animal cruelty is, (you guessed it) cognitive dissonance in play. Slaughterhouse norms are gruesome, vile and cause immense distress to all non-human and human animals within them. Many who work in them leave suffering from conditions such as PTSD. Humans do not always think about this before their steak. Nor do most consider themselves pro-animal cruelty. We are a nation of ‘animal lovers’, aren’t we?


Hmm…what I’m wondering is…are Bombas & Parr secretly trying to make everyone go vegan? Or are they encouraging them to indulge in psychopathic curiosities and desensitising them even more to the animal cruelty meat-eating contributes to? Maybe it depends on the person. Is it outrageous that B&P are doing this? Or is it very interesting? It is not illegal to kill animals for food… Of course. So why not do it in plain sight? Why not get a manicure after stabbing a poor defenceless creature to death, while you’re waiting for it to be cooked so you can fill your belly?


In my opinion, it’s nicer to get a veggie burger or a vegan burrito, and not have to do any stabbing.


If you want to challenge yourself to get out of your clouded mind, you can now find out: Am I REALLY a natural-born omnivore who loves to stab terrified animals, then eat their bodies?


You may discover that, gosh, I’d actually really rather not stab defenceless living creatures, and utilise my herbivorous long digestive tracts, herbivorous round teeth and herbivorous circular-grinding jaw, together with my made-for-foraging hands, to eat some delicious plant foods.


Don’t let ‘canines’ and ‘ancient mankind’ mumbo-jumbo fool you. How about ‘evolution’, and how about just try ripping into a cow with your fierce incisors. Yeah. Thought not. Our teeth retain a gentle, slight point, but are overall round herbi teeth. Trust me, I’m a vegan bikini fitness model and personal trainer. My body fat’s like 17 per cent, my skin is glowing and my energy is sky high. I’ve got washboard abs and a full bum. My hair and nails are long and strong. Vegan two years. In my experience, veganism isn’t detrimental to health. I believe we are natural-born herbivores blinded by a profitable industry tightly involved with business and government, fed adverts and marketing from the meat and dairy industries from the day we are born to consume foods that make us sick.


Bombas & Parr are using a disgusting, vile, horrific fancy event to force us out of cognitive dissonance. Let’s see for real: do we humans think it’s fine to stab innocent living beings, or would we rather eat plants? I’m not saying I know the answer (obviously, I have my opinions) but I think this idea is, potentially capable of enlightening humankind.


Are you surprised that a vegan isn’t opposed to this? Marching outside the B&P HQ with a big sign, megaphone and signed petition? I say, let them try it and let’s see what happens.


Remember that story about the Japanese trend for eating your sushi while a live fish is skinned alive and still wriggling beneath your knife and fork? It made the public recoil in despair and disgust. Those Japanese lunatics! What B&P are doing appears ‘less cruel’ than eating something while it is still alive. It’s simply ‘glorifying’ the killing process, or making a luxury spectacle of it. Will Londoners REALLY see this as a luxury spectacle though…?


It is a demo of what a creature goes through before getting to the plate.


The only thing I’d say is, I hope the diners get full instructions on how to kill their ‘food animal’ as quickly and painlessly as possible. If you eat any amount of meat at all – just 2 slices of ham in a sandwich 3 times a week – but you don’t really think about where it comes from, why not pop down?


Here’s the full info from the B&P site: This month Bompas & Parr will launch the first of a series of experiential dining events that invite the public to consider the much-overlooked path that food takes to their plate. Specifically, it will require participants to directly kill their dinner before they tuck into it.


To kick off the series, the first class will focus on crabs and will begin with a tutorial in humanely despatching crustaceans before each participant is given their own live animal to kill.


The ritual will allow guests to take a close look at crabs, appreciating their provenance and their role within the ocean food chain amid the context of the lengths we go to in order to source and prepare beautiful and tasty food.


Then, each person will be schooled in the biologically most efficient and humane method of killing their crab, before directly ending its life, cooking it and de-shelling it.


Taking place in the world-class kitchens of the B&P studios, with Bompas & Parr’s chef in charge, the focus of Kill It, Eat It is focused on drawing attention to a culinary area that is typically veiled with mystery, with most consumers inured to the reality of what raising, culling and preparing animals to eat actually entails.


Each guest’s cooked crab will finally be dressed by the Sea Container’s team, presented back to the group as part of a meal in its award-winning restaurant.


Guests will also leave with a takeaway guide to killing to replicate the process at home. This will be accompanied by a detailed recipe card for the meal and cocktails consumed, designed by Bompas & Parr and Mondrian London specifically for the Kill It, Eat It series.


Harry Parr, partner of Bompas & Parr, said: ‘We trialled Kill It, Eat It during our studio’s Christmas party and it sparked an idea about creating a thought-provoking series of events that de-mystified our carnivorous culture in the most visceral way. The resulting workshops explore the reality of our voracious appetite for all kinds of food, assess issues of sustainability and of course celebrate the food sources themselves, all the while asking the question, if you want to eat animals, shouldn’t you be prepared to kill them yourself?’


Sam Bompas, Director of B&P, said: “We are not vegan but the philosophy does have a resonance in that we are sincerely interested in the food we eat, the journey it has taken to reach our plate and the impact we have on the world around us. In the past I’ve been vegan for a couple months, to try to gain understanding and to see London’s culinary landscape from the vegan perspective. Going out to restaurants as a vegan can be pretty bleak though happily this is improving.


“Our motivation for doing this was driven by our work as caterers. When hosting banquets vegans and others with dietary requirements represent around 10 per cent of the attendees but double the amount of work you need do in terms of menu development. As a consequence caterers and those within the industry tend to be unsympathetic and I find their food offerings can be underwhelming. I was keen to get an understanding of what it was like to be on the other side with a view to creating meals that the entire assembled company can revel in.


“We want to give people a true ‘naked lunch’ where they fully understand the implications of what is on the end of their fork. For every fish or meat dish a living being has died. As a society we’ve developed laws and regulations determining how this should happen. These can change if we’d collectively like them to.


“For the installation we determined to do exactly what is happening in kitchens all over the country. The only differences is that the diners are asked to participate in the first stages of preparation, coming face to face with what ultimately will be on their plate.


‘The strong reaction, both for and against the project, demonstrates that it is a topic worth exploring. The event exposes the tensions between what people eat and what their acknowledgement of the process.”


And regarding the event on April 30th: “The event itself was delightful and informative. Our chef taught the assembled guests (some initially nervous) about the crabs, their life, habits and culinary use before moving on to demonstrating how to humanely dispatch them. The meal itself was celebratory. It felt like everyone really savoured and enjoyed their crab. Someone said it was the best meal of their life.”


And on killing and eating animals: “If you want to eat something you should be totally comfortable with every aspect of the journey it takes to reach your plate. We personally don’t believe in strict veganism – you have canine teeth for a reason. The Aiello-Wheeler hypothesis (also known as the ‘expensive tissue hypothesis’) is its own compelling argument for omnivory. But if you enjoy eating animals, your should respect them enough to come to terms with the whole process.


“That said, if there is an alternative to the consumption of animal flesh that is as compelling in culinary terms, we are all for it. We are currently working on a number of molecular agriculture projects which will see the development of lab-grown alternatives to meat.


‘Bompas & Parr was initially founded as an artisan jelly company. There are currently no gelling agents which have the same properties as gelatine. It melts as body temperature which makes it wonderfully compelling in your desserts.


“For many years a non-animal gelling agent as good as gelatine has been our holy grail. One of the things we are most excited about is a gelatine grown through molecular agriculture which will effectively herald in a new era of post-meat jellying.”


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