PBS: Producers’ B.S.

I remember a PBS reality television show in which a few families were supposed to live the lives of early to mid-19th Century frontier settlors. They would have to contend without electricity and plumbing and engage with each other in typical pioneer activities, like quilting bees. Could these individuals of the 21st Century handle such a rugged life?  Would marriages fall apart?  Would kids discover the joys of life without video games?  Would they be able to stay warm in winter and lay in provisions for the impending winter? We would tune in to see what the bad old days were really like through modern eyes.

Food was of course an issue. The participants were supposed to grow their own (maybe there was a dry goods store in town too). The women (since gender roles were enforced) cooked in a wood stove and spent many long, drudging hours to make bread and produce other edibles. One homestead, which included a married couple and their son, who was probably ten years old, was allocated a pig to raise and eventually eat. Over the course of this important social experiment, the piglet grew under the care of the boy. Not surprisingly, the boy, living on very close terms with an intelligent creature with a personality became attached to the pig as one would to a pet.

I have never succeeded in freeing my mind of the episode in which the pig was to become dinner.  Apparently the producers of the show had tough work with the boy who was devastated at the thought and protested. Of course, in the end, our intrepid pseudo-settlors had their quiche with bacon, accompanied by the producers’ voice-over giving us the line that they forced down the boy’s throat (before they forced the pig down it as well) that the pig would have wanted them to make use of him in that way. We don’t know who slaughtered the pig.  Interesting that such a purportedly honest look at frontier life would have admitted showing that scene.  Why did the producers omit that? A little too much reality for reality television? We could have seen how glad the pig was to give his life.

I want to find that boy and ask him if he ever recovered from being forced to stand by while the producers killed and served his friend for dinner.

2 thoughts on “PBS: Producers’ B.S.

  1. I grew up without electricity in a log house on a farm in the 50 and 60’s. We raised hogs and even occasionally bottle fed a few from massive litters. They became friendly, but I never considered them pets. They all tasted delicious just the same.

    We can learn to tolerate a great deal. Many things leave mental scars. It is all about learning to deal with those scars and quickly and moving on. Those kind of events are just practice for what we must do in life. It is all about living philosophy and picking philosophy that we can live.

    Also, keep in mind that the purpose of raising hog is for food. Hogs would have a hard time without humans to provide good conditions for them to grow, especially in the winter. We humans are opportunistic. We do as we like. It is in the genes of all living creatures to survive and reproduce and the survivors write the history.

  2. Hi and thank you for sharing your thoughts. For many years I accepted eating meat largely because I told myself the animals were raised for that purpose. Even then I was troubled by disregarding their interests and their suffering, and I certainly would have innately been unable to torment any animal or kill it. From that time, through a gradual process of awareness, I came to see the animal behind the meat. You already did that at a young age, but had no qualms about eating animals you raised. I would say that ability to ignore another creature’s interests, suffering, and attachment to life results from cultural practices which are pervasive and strongly ingrained. (Let me interject that It appears that your pigs did not suffer as factory farmed pigs do).

    Now I really start to disagree; there are many practices which culture has promoted that we do not have to continue because we can think for ourselves. In fact, if somehting has been done for a long time with a lot of cultural support, it probably very much needs questioning. For thousdands of years it was absolutely the norm to subjugate women, mistreat children, and keep slaves. Any look back to a time in history provides many shocking examples of what was culturally acceptable.Those practices were so normal, that people, even of the most enlightened minds, could not even question them. Until, one day someone did.

    My philosophy(Stoicism) has been concerned largely with maintaining my tranquility through reason and self-sufficiency, but there is a moral side to life as well. If a practice is self-serving to the detriment of other creatures, then it might be, probably is, morally wrong. “Might makes right” is no basis for a moral code, but that is the way people conduct themselves with regard to animals. We do not have to be opportunisitic to the point of being immoral. Last, and thank you if you have read this, far pigs in factory farms live such horrible lives that some die from the stress; a pig is social, fun-loving, and as smart as the most engaging dog. The treatment they receive is cruel and even sadistic, and they die horrible deaths, as all factory raised slaughtered animals do. It is a holocust of suffering that does not have to exist –all that suffering for something to chew up when there are so many other good things to eat.

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