While the publicity about the inhumanity of gestation crates for pigs grows (see today’s story in The New York Times), we are also in the midst of a culinary bacon explosion. (The Times also has a long profile today of Dick Costolo, the CEO of Twitter, at whose headquarters bacon is kept frying nearly constantly.)
How does this work? you might wonder. I mean: On a social psychic level?
For a partial answer, consider Petula Dvorak’s column this week in the Washington Post on how the cruelty of Meghan Mogensen, the director of the Reston Zoo, toward a particular wallaby in her care.
Mogensen, who allegedly has a history of euthanizing animals at the zoo by shooting them, slamming them into walls and feeding them to each other, was convicted of animal cruelty for drowning a wallaby at the zoo that had an injured eye — an eye that could have been easily treated, according to vets. Mogensen was sentenced to 30 days in jail.
But, as Dvorak reports, that isn’t stopping Reston’s parents from taking their kids to this sad little private facility, surrounded by housing developments. (The online photo is amazing — geese, cows, and a zebra grazing on a small field with McMansion in the near background.) Here’s what they told Dvorak:
“The kids get to really see animals here,” said one Reston mother of two, who has a season pass to the Reston Zoo and is also a member of the National Zoo, where she volunteered for years. Despite the court case and the wallaby’s death, she won’t shun the Reston menagerie.
“You know, I heard about it. I’m sorry for what happened, but we’re really big zoo supporters,” she said. Her 3-year-old daughter immediately began telling me about her favorite animal, a one-horned eland antelope she calls a “unicorn.”
“I figured everyone makes mistakes and I’ll give them one chance,” said Virginia Fredricks, a mother of two who is also a season pass holder at the Reston Zoo and was among about a dozen families who came Monday morning, despite hearing about the wallaby incident.
“It was posted on our Listserv, and everyone just went crazy. All about how horrible the place is and don’t go and how it should be shut down,” said Fredricks, who shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ll keep coming and give them one more chance. If I hear about anything else like this, we’ll stop coming. But the kids love it so much.”
Dvorak herself says her kids love the zoo. It’s magic to them. So, as she says, we are selective hypocrites: concerned about this case because it involves a wallaby and a young blonde zookeeper, not a chicken and a “portly brunette.” Circuses, zoos and meat: Just as “we pick and choose our outrage — horrified by the death of a cute wallaby, blase about the way pigs live and die to feed our bacon obsession.”
When kids and their pleasure are involved in this country, ethics often seem to take a holiday (although Fredricks’ listserv did go ballistic). Or maybe: adults and their pleasure. Of course we’re not very good at feeling bad; we’re also lousy at looking for ways to feel good that avoid obvious cognitive dissonance. Dvorak clearly doesn’t like vegans and their consistent opposition to animal cruelty wherever they find it. Her column, though, exposes something far uglier: people who now know the enormous price of the shabby spectacle their kids are enjoying, and who simply don’t care. Which means it’s going to take something other than animal cruelty — say, public health — to get them to stop subsidizing animal cruelty.
(Photo: Reston Zoo scene. Image credit: Jennifer Ennis/Flickr through a Creative Commons license.)