Should we be protecting our kids from meat advertisements?

19 Dec

There is a lively and emotional debate on this Yahoo! forum concerning the under-cover investigation carried out over the past month by the Humane Society at Virginia-based pork production factory Smithfield Foods.

At issue is not just the use of gestation cages, which immobilize the breeding sow for life, but other unhealthy practices in the meat-production industry, such as the use of steroids, antibiotics and growth hormones.

I wonder how long it will be before our societies move towards anti-smoking style regulation of the industry, especially as it influences the minds of our kids.

For years, meat producers have been anthropomorphizing and soft-pedalling their products to cozy up to children in the hopes of creating meat-eaters for life.

> “My bologna has a first name, it’s O-S-C-A-R…

> “Oh I wish I were an Oscar Mayer wiener…

Whether you love meat or don’t, most of us can agree that competitive business practices have jeopardized our long-term health. As a society we are as far removed from the raising, killing and butchering process as it’s possible to get. Out of sight, out of mind. Our meat appears as sanitized slabs on white styrofoam covered in cellophane.

Pitying the animals is fine. Having a strongly held position and acting on it is even better.

But with so much that is undisclosed and unobserved, we are the pigs to the slaughter these days.

I think rigorous regulation of the advertising, especially to children, is a necessary step.

What do you think?

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5 Responses to “Should we be protecting our kids from meat advertisements?”

  1. michaeleriksson December 19, 2010 at 9:59 am #

    If we regulate advertizing, IMO, it should be for other reasons, e.g. the excessive intrusiveness, the low degree of truthfulness, or the possibility (in the case of children) that the parents are put in impossible situations (e.g. by being the villain who is not willing to buy that cool toy every kid MUST have for just $49.99). In addition (again, in particular with children) the possibility of unreasonable influence on opinion and world-view may be a concern worthy of attention (this is at least partially along your lines).

    However, when it comes to e.g. quality of life for pigs or quality of food for humans, any regulations should be applied directly. This for at least two reasons: Firstly, indirect action is less likely to be effective. Secondly, indirect regulation would risk a slippery-slope with regard to e.g. freedom of speech.

    As an aside, I have never quite understood how e.g. the classic poster above would work. A really happy-to-be-cut pig might possibly counter the negative effect of eating someone the child “knows”, but this particular pig has always looked unhappy to me.

  2. dougbrowncreative December 19, 2010 at 11:48 am #

    Thank you for the comment Michael. There are certainly plenty of reasons to limit the exposure of kids to many advertising messages. I wasn’t suggesting that this was an exclusive reason. But I agree with your reasons and have certainly supported such actions on this blog.

    By direct action, I take it you mean regulation at the point of production? Cigarette production has shown that governments lack the will to ban the product and only intervene indirectly through advertising bans, environmental constraints and age limits. If I’m missing your point, I apologize.

    As for the poster, I don’t know how it would work either. But I have seen plenty of happy cartoon animals being led to the slaughter, which leaves impressionable minds with the idea that the slaughter house is good times. Kids are pretty sensitive creatures and when provided with the evidence, are quite capable of making up their own minds. My own daughter has chosen not to eat red meat and we support that. God Jul Michael och Ett Gott Nytt År!

  3. mike fromowitz December 19, 2010 at 2:13 pm #

    I think it’s more than just regulating advertising to children. Parents need to take an active role in learning the good and the bad about our present food chain—how it’s grown, how it’s distribute, who regulates it, and who consumes it.
    Today, agribusiness producers rely on chemical fertilizers, pesticides, animal drugs and inhumane confinement for animal production to gain the highest yields profits — no matter who it hurts. Raising foods in this manner is creating millions of unhealthy people living with degenerative diseases.
    This is not about the “ad” agencies and the ads they are producing. This is about the clients who produce this toxic food and the families who consume it out of sheer ignorance.

  4. cyberbardbarry December 19, 2010 at 6:35 pm #

    Yes. And since we have opened that door, protect them from a lot of other ads too — of course then it can get subjective, but most people might agree on most ads to be ‘rescheduled’.

  5. dougbrowncreative December 19, 2010 at 6:50 pm #

    > Mike, let’s assume the active role is being played by parents already. It’s still not enough. Kids are still influenced by the other voices in the discussion. And you know how advertising works…

    I agree it’s not about advertising…that’s just the bleeding edge of the change that’s required around this issue, in my opinion. Ad agencies are not the villains here, nor ads. It’s the businesses that go about this profiteering from unhealthy practices. I am with you on this one. But the message reaches the consumer through the vehicle of advertising. Maybe the right reverse engineering, as with cigarette advertising (remember the demise of the cigarette ad in Hong Kong?) is to pull the marketing, which will make an immediate impact on public consumption. Thanks for the great comment.

    > Baz, I would like to see all commercial advertising to children banned, as it has been done in Quebec.

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