Monday, January 12, 2009

The softer side of Hormel

Last time we saw pictures of Hormel employees with piglets, they weren't cuddling and making cooing noises at them.  It was at a farm in Bayard, Iowa, and the employees were doing things so horrific criminal charges were filed.  But looking through the Hormel Corporate Responsbility Report, seeing photos like this one, it seems things have changed.   It's only a matter of time before there's a new line of Hormel greeting cards celebrating the special bond between Hormel employees and their piglets.  But hold on.  They almost had us but hold on.  The cuddling and the cooing is a nice attempt and we don't want to demean the hard work of a PR department that worked overtime coming up with the concept, but see under normal circumstances people who cuddle and caress and shower affection don't slaughter the supposed object of their affection.  That was the tip-off here.  That's the reason maybe we aren't wiping away moist tears from our eyes as we contemplate the special bond between slaughterer and soon-to-be-slaughtered, putting it up there beside mother/child in the hierarchy of cherished relationships.

We were almost fooled, but we came to our senses in the nick of time.  Now we take take a closer look at the photo and see the Hormel employee's vice grip around the piglet's jaw.  Her mouth frozen in a semi-open position between forced smile and open-mouthed disbelief that she's been roped into this PR stunt.  You can almost hear the raspy whisper hissing through teeth out of the right corner of her mouth:  "tilt your fucking head to the right or I'll snap it off.  Another photo?  Fucking PR department thinks I got nothing better to do?  I said tilt your fucking head to the right.  Maybe you and your pals want a little reencatment of what happened on that Iowa farm."

What happened on that Iowa farm made headlines.

Once Hormel made the shocking discovery that the public was outraged, they were quick to respond.  Everyone in their PR department called home to say they wouldn't make it back in time for dinner that night.  Julie Craven, VP Corporate Communications, responded to the footage in no uncertain terms.
We found the images of the footage from the Iowa farm appalling and they are inconsistent with our standards and industry standards for animal handling.  The abuse on the video shows practices that are completely unacceptable.
My understanding of PR-ese is limited, but I think I can translate:

We found the existence of this footage appalling.  How did they not know they were being filmed?  The images are inconsistent with our standards and industry standards for keeping what what goes on in our suppliers' farms out of the public eye.  In the future, we will be vigilant in demanding that all our suppliers adhere to our standards by doing a better job screening their workers to ensure none of them is carrying a concealed video camera.

The Hormel Corporate Responsibility Report is also mindful of that PR disaster.
This is simply about treating animals humanely because it's the right thing to do ... we take our zero tolerance policy for the inhumane treatment of animals very seriously.

Pork producers are the best ambassadors for animal welfare in the United States.  They set the standard and do everything they can to make sure their animals have the best welfare.
Again, the PR agency department deserves kudos for the attempt.  Distort the truth a little and people will call you on it.  But come up with a lie so audacious, so far removed from reality, and they'll think you couldn't possibly be so brazen as to fabricate something like that so there must be some truth to it.  The Corporate Responsibility Report really showcases the creativity and imagination of the PR department.  Good job, folks.  Keep your heads up and don't let the skepticism of a few people get you down.  It doesn't mean you're bad liars.  You're very skilled liars.  You should take pride in your lying ability.  The photo of the Hormel employee cuddling the piglet, the line about pork producers being at the vanguard of animal welfare, that's good stuff!  It belongs in your portfolio.  It deserves to get honored at the next PR awards show.

But sadly the hard work of the Hormel PR people is all for naught.  Everyone knows the true meaning of the zero tolerance policy is that Hormel will have zero tolerance for undercover videos made of inhumane treatment of animals.  Any supplier who violates the zero tolerance policy by somehow allowing the undercover filming of piglets getting their heads slammed to the floor or metal rods shoved inside them will be immediately replaced by suppliers who know how to keep activists and their cameras the fuck away from their farms.