Thursday, September 15, 2011

Diary of a young Hormel PR executive

It’s my first week on the job and I’m a nervous wreck. I wonder if I’m up for it. I mean I’m prepared. I’ve studied the classics. I have a quotation from our VP Julie framed above my desk. It’s from when the video surfaced of pigs being beaten with metal poles and slammed to the cement floor in one of our supplier farms in Iowa. I can recite Julie’s response by heart.
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.
How did she come up with that? If the press called asking me for a statement, I would have frozen up. I would have said, “well, yeah, we kill them because you eat them. What’s the issue here? How does the way we kill them make any difference?”
But she realized people out there want to think pigs they eat are well-treated so they feel better about eating them. So in a moment of inspiration, she came up with a classic statement of outrage. She almost makes me believe we care about the well-being of the pigs. I can never aspire to that kind of greatness.
Then there’s the Hormel statement on corporate responsibility. Another instant classic.
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 the animals have the best welfare.
I read things like this and I feel like I’ll never amount to anything. I would have thought slaughter and humane treatment are a contradiction, that people would laugh at me if I made a statement like that. We kill thousands an hour and we believe in treating animals humanely? We’re the best ambassadors for animal cruelty but we call ourselves the best ambassadors for animal welfare? Wow. I never would have come up with that in a million years. I’ve got so much to learn. Well, nose to grindstone. Keep studying, keep learning. I’ll get there.