As consumer awareness and concern about how animals are raised and killed for food continues to grow, the demand for “humane” products has risen. Numerous surveys have shown that animal welfare is a growing priority among the public and that we’re willing to pay more for products we believe are humanely produced.
Our demand for such products has led to the creation of a number of labels ranging from humanely raised, grass-fed and free-range to cage-free and humane-certified, among others. However, these labels don’t really mean much if our true goal is the humane treatment of animals.
In a video from Compassion in World Farming, marketing consultant Kate Cooper explains just how easy it is for companies and marketing wizards to play on our “willful ignorance” to make farming practices and animal products seem acceptable because we want to believe what’s on these labels.
Choosing words and using what Cooper calls the language of innovation to put a positive spin on production practices and products that we would otherwise turn away from if we had to think about the truth makes it easy for companies to continue to sell us animal products. Our desire to believe what companies are telling us about their products is supporting what she calls “systemized cruelty on a massive scale.” Something that isn’t being stopped only because we’re willing to look the other way.
The expressions of surprise and disgust from audience members are priceless.
According to the organization, the presenter was an actress, but the audience and message were real. The secret to the success of a system that raises, confines, mutilates, abuses and kills billions of sentient animals every year around the world is simply, in a word, us.
Producers add placating phrases to their labels, make slight improvements to a brutal system and push the idea of humane slaughter to try and convince us that they’ve stopped the harm, but in the end there is no happy meat, dairy or eggs regardless of what the label says.
Milk production is dependent on stealing milk that belongs to calves, who are promptly removed from their mothers whether or not they’re at a small family farm or a giant dairy farm. Females may go on to replace their mothers, while males are sold for veal production.
Even if products are labeled free-range or grass-fed for products made of cows, sheep, pigs or goats those animals will still be subjected to being mutilated without painkillers before being sent off to a gruesome slaughter. The U.S. Department of Agriculture loosely defines free-range beef, lamb and pork as coming from animals who have grazed or spent time outside, but doesn’t include specific criteria for space or time allowed outdoors.
Chickens and turkeys who are labeled as free-range or cage-free are only required to have “access” to the outdoors, but they could still be crammed into a warehouse-style building with a small door and may never get outside. They’re also subjected to painful mutilations before being slaughtered. Butterball, which has been exposed for cruelty to turkeys on multiple occasions and whose employees saw the first ever prosecution for cruelty to birds used in food production is an American Humane Certified company. Does that sound right?
For chickens used in egg production, regardless of how eggs are labeled, all egg-laying hens come from hatcheries that systematically destroy male chicks because they have no value to producers. While some may have better living conditions than others, they’re also subjected to painful mutilations and will be slaughtered at a fraction of their normal lifespans after their bodies are spent.
These advertising practices are helping companies deceive consumers and dupe us into believing that the mass production of animal products can be done humanely when they can’t. The only truly humane choice we can make to stop the suffering is to reject the humane myth and the current system that exploits billions of individual animals we don’t need to eat.
Photo credit: Thinkstock
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