Cognitive Dissonance, Vol. 1 - "Klaus"

Holiday movies. I love them. I crave images and stories of the magic of the season, even though I am not a religious person (in the most widely accepted definition of such, anyway).

I also love great animation in general. I love Pixar. I love Disney. I love Avatar. And I love that so many of these companies create media which, as Colleen Patrick-Goudreau points out in her brilliant book The Joyful Vegan, foster the ideas of loving, or at least being kind to, non-human animals. Humans are the only real immediate threat to the beautiful, admittedly sometimes brutal, but nevertheless otherwise completely balanced ecosystem that is our natural world.

The first real horror we experience in the iconic Disney film "Bambi" is when all of the animals run for their lives because, as Bambi's mother ominously explains to him, "Man was in the forest." More recently, the box office smash hit "Finding Nemo" (love this movie to pieces!) tells the story of a fish who is taken from his family and from his natural habitat to be sold as a "pet" - condemned to a confined life for the entertainment of "man."

I​ find it interesting​ (read: disturbing) how one movie for kids can put a fish as our protagonist (Finding Nemo) and another casually slices and dices fish right in front of our faces (Klaus)​. Of course our protagonist, Jesper, in Klaus is rightfully appalled by the smell of the dead fish and the sight of the fishmonger, Alva, carving up the fish carcass. Unfortunately, he is mostly because Alva used to be a beautiful and well-kempt teacher ("Holy moly, what happened to you?" says Jesper upon seeing an old photo of Alva) and now hard labor has mussed her hair and caused her disposition to harden (yet another potentially problematic message for our children).

Alva ripping the spinal column out of a fish carcass

Fortunately, Alva redeems herself, but barely, by indicating that she has been "reduced" (as she puts it) to her occupation of selling corpses because of the senseless feud between the clans in the town, suggesting that fish mongering is a less admirable job than teaching, and perhaps even that violence begets violence (I know, I'm reaching). Nevertheless, the idea that fish mongering is a viable alternative for someone whose actual skill set - and desire - is teaching children, is problematic at best. With such confusing messages, it's no wonder why people grow up with cognitive dissonance about which lives are worthy and which ones we condemn.

With the exception of certain indigenous peoples, we eat fish and hunt deer purely for pleasure. No human needs any carcass trudging through their intestines to live happy and healthy lives. And people whose work it is to kill animals and handle carcasses, like the Klaus character Alva, have an increased risk of cancer and other diseases.

Amazing alternative meats, including vegan fish-like meats, exist in many markets - check your local grocery store and try them today! Ask any of the clerks if you have trouble finding them.

I live for the day where the kind of brutality we see in movies like "Klaus" only exists in movies and we have to explain to our children, after watching them, why the world used to be so mean to animals. We learned in Finding Nemo that "Fish are friends, not food." I hope that we heed this invaluable lesson while there are still fish to be friends with.

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