Thursday, January 29, 2009

what the critics of the critics of Temple Grandin are saying

Criticize Temple Grandin for saying "death is not the most terrible thing that can happen to an animal, the most important thing is quality of life" and one of the more common responses is...

"Be real.  These animals are going to die regardless.  Temple Grandin understands that reality and she's doing what she can to improve the lives of these animals before they die.  She's influencing companies like McDonald's for the better."

Temple Grandin's only influence over McDonald's is getting marketing executives and corporate communications executives to exchange high-fives in the main conference room.  McDonald's knows a PR coup when they see one.  They'll gladly put photos of Temple Grandin posing in the stockyards on their website, right next to her breathless statement about how it's the biggest improvement in animal welfare she's seen in her 25 years in the business.

Which isn't to say she doesn't have influence because she does.  She has the same kind of credible figure influence as the scientists bought by Exxon to dispute climate change.  Most people who eat at McDonald's couldn't care less about how animals are treated.  But some do.  Some feel conflicted when they hear about the horrors of factory farms.  But then they see this animal welfare expert reassuring them, hey, everything's cool, McDonald's is doing the right thing, I'm lovin' it and you should too.  She wipes away doubts and eases consciences.

And McDonald's, they're lovin' it too, they really are.  The executive who came up with the idea of getting Temple Grandin to whitewash, I mean consult, that's the kind of stuff reserved parking spaces and corner offices are made of.  No doubt he got a first column mention in Food and Beverage Digest.  Swooning marketing executives in every industry are begging him to connect to them on linkedin.

See, advertising characters have to be made up from scratch.  Someone had to come up with the idea of the Pillsbury Dough Boy giggling when he gets poked in the belly.  The unctuous, smooth-tongued cockney accent of the Geico gecko only came into being after long months of creative struggle.  But McDonald's didn't have to burn any billable hours brainstorming Temple Grandin.  She came with her persona fully formed:  animal welfare expert.  Professor of Animal Science.  Best-selling author.  It's only a matter of time before they come up with a Temple Grandin figurine to go in the Happy Meal.

So I guess the only thing left to say is, please drive through.