Saturday, March 19, 2011

With Whole Foods new 5-step Animal Welfare rating system, there’s a meat for every level of compassion.

So Whole Foods has a new 5-step rating system. A color-coded label tells you exactly how humanely the animal was treated before it became your meat.
Step one, no crates. Step two, enriched environment. Step three enhanced outdoor access. Step four, pasture centered. Step five, animal centered, no physical alterations. Step five plus, animal centered, entire life on farm.
If you’re confused about which level is right for you, simply ask one of their helpful meat department team members.
-- Excuse me, I’m serving pork chops tonight. I didn't know what step you recommended.
-- What level of compassion do you have for the farm animals you consume?
-- I saw a video on the miserable lives of pigs in factory farms. It made me cry. I swore off pork two whole weeks.
-- Do you give a snort of disgust when you see a Costco shopper remove a box of Tyson chicken wings from the frozen section?
-- Yes! It makes me sick. Don’t these savages realize Tyson clips the beaks off their chickens with a hot blade? Tell you what else I believe. Animals deserve to live in the sunshine, romping in the fields, at least while people are in between meals. So what do you think? Do I have level five compassion for farm animals? Do I? Do I?
--Have you ever attended a Michael Pollan book signing?
--I was meaning to but…
--No Michael Pollan book signing, no level five. I’d say level three is appropriate for you.
--Hi, I’m having a dinner party, looking for a side of beef, wondering what step is right for me.
-- Did you support Prop 2 for bigger cages for farm animals, Sir?
-- Sure did. Even talked a guy I worked with into voting for it.
-- Did you put a "Stop Cruelty Now. Support Prop 2" bumper sticker on your car?
-- Uhm, well, I didn’t want to seem like an extremist or anything.
-- Better stick with level one.
-- Can I work my way up?
-- Absolutely, Sir. Go to the Santa Monica open market and sign a petition demanding more humane treatment of animals. Start a Michael Pollan discussion group.
-- Awesome. I’ll have a level five conscience in time for grilling season!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The steer selfishly tries to prevent the progressives from enjoying his flesh.

434! We know you’re out there somewhere. It’s time to become Animal-welfare approved steak. Don’t you think you’re being just a little selfish hiding in the very grass the animal welfare-approved farmer let you graze on? Think of all the good progressive people out there whose consciences won't permit them to eat meat from factory farms that cruelly abuse animals. They'll only meat carved from the carcass of cattle like you, who get to roam in the open air, graze in the green fields. Do you have any idea how happy you’re going make these people? Do you have any idea how much sweeter the chardonnay that accompanies your flesh will taste when they can reassure themselves you lived a carefree life before the animal welfare-approved farmer humanely applied the stun bolt gun that lovingly shattered your skull? In between bites, they can express righteous indignation about the horrible conditions of factory farms. They can quote each other passages from Michael Pollan essays. They can put bumperstickers on their Priuses demanding bigger cages for farm animals. And you, you want to hide in the grass and cruelly prevent these progressives from enjoying these pleasures? That’s precisely the kind of cruelty the Animal Welfare Institute wants to eliminate.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Michael Pollan and the Ghost of Steer 534 audition to be the new spokesmen for Sonic

While we’re on the topic of the pork board’s new tag line, there’s a fast food company in need of a new advertising campaign. Not Burger King. It has the king. McDonald’s, of course, has Ronald McDonald and Temple Grandin. But Sonic recently fired their long-time ad agency, so they’ll be needing a new spokesman. Hmm… Spokesmen teams can work well if they’ve got the right chemistry. You had the two Budweiser Lizzards. Bartles and Jaymes. How about Michael Pollan and the ghost of Steer 534? Naturally, Sonic executives won’t just hand them the role. They’re going to have to audition for it. So let’s get started…

MICHAEL: Hi, I’m best-selling author and conscience of a meat-eating nation, Michael Pollan.

GHOST OF STEER 534: And I’m the ghost of steer 534. Michael purchased me because he wanted to experience the entire meat production process. He raised me, fattened me...

MICHAEL: Then I ate you.

GHOST OF STEER 534: But before you did, you cared deeply about my suffering. You wrote very movingly about it.

MICHAEL: I felt deeply. I said…

The lives of billions of animals on American feedlots and factory farms are horrible to contemplate, an affront to our image of ourselves as humane.

GHOST OF 534: I think I remember you quoting that passage as you delivered me to the slaughterhouse door. It was so thoughtful of you to speak with such fire and outrage in what was a very emotional moment for me.

MICHAEL: I couldn't contain myself.

GHOST OF STEER 534: Michael cares deeply about the suffering of all farm animals, not just me

MICHAEL: That’s right, ghost of steer 534, and you know the most horrible fate that can befall a steer like yourself? Being part of bland, tasteless burger. That’s why Sonic uses only the freshest cuts of choice lean meat. Then they top it with ripe, juicy tomatoes and slather it with tangy barbeque sauce.

GHOST OF STEER 534: Don’t forget the melted cheddar cheese and crisp lettuce.

MICHAEL: I’m getting hungry just thinking about it.

GHOST O STEER 534: I wish I could help you out, Micheal, but you already ate me.

MICHAEL: Don’t make my mouth water when I have to say the tag line.

BOTH: Sonic. Because people who care deeply about the suffering of animals don't let them wind up being boring burgers!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

“Be Inspired” inspires everyone!

“Pork. The other white meat.” only appealed to the consumer. But the Pork Board’s new tag line, Be Inspired, speaks to everyone -- the slaughterhouse worker, the Hormel VP of corporate communications ... Nobody’s left out.

Be inspired! the pork board said. And the Hormel suppliers in Bayard, Iowa were. No more settling for the humdrum everyday ways of killing like shackle hoists and stun bolt guns. They used metal poles and cement floors, they shocked and impaled. It’s all on video, though not one of the videos posted on the Feed your Creativity site the Pork Board set up on PorkBeInspireddotcom. You'll only find pork recipes there now. Maybe when they expand their video library?

Be Inspired! the pork board said, and the PR flak in the Hormel corporate communications department was. When the video of the abuses in the Bayard plant hit the news, he didn’t settle for the conventional spin or the little white lie. He said,

We found the images from the Iowa farm appalling … this is simply about treating animals humanely because it’s the right thing to do … Pork producers are the best ambassadors for animal welfare in the United States.

Slaughter 1,000 animals per hour and you’re the best ambassadors for animal welfare in the United States? He didn’t worry about people asking if he was on drugs when he said that, maybe the same drugs Hormel injects into their hogs. He was inspired. He came up with a statement on the dark side of truth and it ended up in the Hormel Corporate Responsibility report and probably earned him a reserved parking spot.

Be Inspired! the Pork Board said, and Temple Grandin was. Killing was too inefficient in most slaughterhouses. Animals inexplicably resisted entering. Struggling hogs slipped on the floor, holding up the line, causing delays, decreasing efficiency. So Temple Grandin invented a grooved tile to keep the hogs hoofs from slipping. Improving efficiency. Increasing the number of hogs slaughtered. Earning herself cash bonuses from the fast food companies and the coveted Proggy Award from PETA.

Be Inspired is all-inclusive. It speaks to everyone. No wonder the Pork Board changed their tag line.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Questions for the Pork Board's PR guy

The Pork Board changed their tag line to “Be Inspired,” and the Adweek reporter asked their PR guy why.

“We’re going toward a new target of people,” the PR guy said.

Here are a few of the questions the Adweek reporter didn’t ask the PR guy: It’s estimated 112 million pigs are slaughtered every year. Do these pigs have nervous systems? Do they feel pain? When your children ask you what tail docking is, what do you say? Can you look into their eyes when you say this? Does it ever strike you as arbitrary that you treat your dog like a family member but you confine similarly intelligent creatures in cages too small for them to around in and poke them with electric prods and and fire bolts into their brains? Did you know pigs are fun-loving creatures? Did you know they love life, and fear death, just like you? Do you like your job? Have you seen the video of the workers slamming the piglets to the ground until they die, except they’re not all dead, some are still moving around in the bloody pile? Do you ever reflect that you too have but a brief time among the living? Does this awareness make you question why you spend it justifying the slaughter of hundreds of millions of animals every year? A typical slaughterhouse kills about 1,000 hogs per hour. Do you comprehend how much death that is? Do the darkest hours of night ever make you tremble for what you do?

The AdWeek reporter doesn't ask the PR guy any of those questions. He asks why they changed their tag line. "We’re going toward a new target of people," the PR guy says.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

New tag line for the National Pork Board

The National Pork Board has a new tagline. “Pork. The other white meat” is gone. The new line: “Pork. Be Inspired.” Adweek Magazine has the scoop. Now anyone who’s ever read an article about pork products knows you don’t have to read far to find a play on words. Sure, enough, Adweek can’t even wait for the article to begin. They give us the first one in the title. “The other white meat finally cedes its place in the pen." Then another in the subhead. “The national pork board hoofed out a new tagline.” People can be so somber and earnest about so many things, but nothing brings out a spirit of levity like the topic of animal slaughter. You can almost see the wide grins forming in the Adweek newsroom when they got assigned to a story on the pork tag line change. So many puns, so little article space. “Plenty of restaurants and grocery stores fattened up the margins.” Hee hee. The same playful spirit inspired the people doing the ads for the new “Be inspired” campaign. “To all a good bite,” the headline says. You get it? To all a good night. Famous line. Bite rhymes with night. Funny stuff. Some of us might not think puns and rhymes and light-hearted whimsy go with stun bolting the brains and slashing the throats of living, pain-feeling creatures, but what do we know?

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Have your conscience and eat it, too.

Dan Cudahy of Unpopular Vegan Essays has a penetrating essay on the rationalizations people use to keep themselves ignorant of the suffering caused by their consumption of farm animals.

There’s a different type of rationalization used by people who acknowledge the misery and horror farm animals endure but are unwilling to stop consuming them. People like Michael Pollan. One of his recurring themes is how conflicted he feels about it all. Michael Pollan doesn't want the animals to suffer. He wishes there were a way he could get at their tasty flesh without having to slaughter them. This desire to eliminate their suffering lets Michael Pollan off the hook. Because as Kant said, it's the intent of the act, rather than its outcome, that determines whether or not an act is moral.

Michael Pollan gives himself big points for the forthright way he questions his consumption of meat. The honesty of his self-analysis cancels out any culpability he might feel and even allows him to vview his consumption of animal flesh as a morally praisworthy act. He offers up his sympathy to the soon-to-be slaughtered animal and manages to convince himself this somehow lessens the suffering. After all, the tortured, slaughtered animal is far better off being tortured and slaughtered by someone saddened by its suffering than someone who couldn’t care less.

You read his dismissive remarks about vegans and it becomes clear his rationalizing mind takes him a step beyond that. Not only is he morally superior to the unwashed masses unconcerned by the suffering of the animals they eat. He is also superior to the people who aren’t strong enough to endure the same moral conflict he does. He is willing to agonize and bear the burden of his hypocrisy and, ultimately, rationalize his way out of it. People who refuse to consume animal products take the easy way out. They are unwilling or unable to endure the moral conflict that Michael Pollan endures.

He credits himself for having beliefs counter to his own self-interest and for how strictly he holds himself accountable. He also gives himself a point for the moral courage it takes to be so frank about a belief which indicts not only himself, but, by extension, the animal agriculture industry and so might be frowned upon by executives with the power to cancel his lucrative speaking engagements at colleges and universities.

It's his pride in considering himself a thorn in the side of animal agriculture that explains how Michael Pollan can constantly express outrage at the way factory farms treat animals without any apparent awareness of the irony that such an unforgiving indictment is coming out of the same mouth that chews animal flesh every meal.