Today, factory farms are considered the most economical way to farm animals, with a simple goal to increase profits for big corporations, at the cost of animals, the environment and people.
Globally, it is estimated that around 50 million farm animals are raised for consumption annually and two thirds are factory farmed.
A Factory Farm is known as a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation (CAFO), it is the process of intensive, industrial animal culture in inhumane factories. The farms often confine thousands, or hundred of thousands of animals in cramped conditions, being denied access to pastures to graze on, and enduring physical and emotional abuse.
Factory farming is not only abusing animals, but it also has devastating impacts on the environment, as the meat industry is the largest consumer of the worlds freshwater resources.
Most of us cannot bear to see animals suffer, that’s why the slaughter and mistreatment of livestock is secluded from our gaze. When consumers go to the supermarket, they are presented with a one-sided deceptive presentation of an animal product.
We see this.
And are blind to this.
Due to the exposure factory farms by animal advocates, there has been some shift in the industry. For instance, animal welfare codes such as the Free Range Egg & Poultry Australia (FREPA) developed standards that cover the following factors
- Free Range
- Health & Welfare
- Indoor housing
- Safe from predators
However, these standards still allow for chickens to be confined in shed until they are fully feathered, packed in at stocking densities of up to 15 birds per square meter under almost unrestricted artificial lighting.
It can be difficult for consumers to identify which animal product has the highest welfare, when there are labels such as ‘Grain Fed’, ‘Free-Range’, ‘GMO Free’, ‘RSPCA Approved’ and ‘Organic’. Generally speaking, the higher the welfare, higher the price. This could also be a huge factor why consumers continue for the, let’s call it ‘Green Label’ such as ‘Free-Range’ and ‘Grain-Fed’. When we, as consumers, have absolutely no idea of what has actually happened for that product to make it on the shelf.
If you want to learn more about how to identify the more ethical labels at the supermarket, Potter’s (2017) is a good start.
Why is this a problem in the Media?
The answer is simple, but complexed. It is simple because, in mass media and advertising, the truth is hidden. Why is it hidden? That is what makes it complexed.
Factory farms are only exposed by animal activists, never shown in mainstream media and advertising. This is why social media has become such a valuable tool for activist by providing a tool for people to communicate, raise awareness, share ideas and develop their own content. However, as mentioned before, we don’t like seeing animals suffer. We would rather pretend it didn’t exist.
So, what do we see in mainstream media and advertising?
We see marketing strategies constructed to help create, sustain and perpetrate a practice that is cruel and environmentally dangerous (Glenn, 2004).
What don’t we see? The truth.
This topic is something I feel passionate about, and with a marketing background, I would like to research this topic with a marketing lens. A interesting article raised the question regarding the misrepresentation of products that encourage consumption even at the expense of a consumers own interest.
Wells (2014) introduces the idea of implementing ‘no nonsense factual warnings’ about the negative consequences on meat and dairy packaging for consumers. These ethical warning labels would inform consumers of the suffering involved in producing the animal products. And thus, hopefully influence consumers to be more conscious about their purchasing behaviors.
This topic is a serious matter. Not only does it address the ethical issues in the treatment of animals, but also ethical issues in marketing. This topic is significant to the greater society, future generations, the environment and animals.
FREPA 2021, What we do, FREPA, viewed 24 March 2021, <https://frepa.com.au/what-we-do/>.
Glenn, C. B. (2004) ‘Constructing Consumables and Consent: A Critical Analysis of Factory Farm Industry Discourse’, Journal of Communication Inquiry, 28(1), pp. 63–81. doi: 10.1177/0196859903258573.
Pet Pedia, 2021, 41 Dreadful Factory Farming Statistics To Consider in 2021, PetPedia, viewed 24 March 2021, <https://petpedia.co/factory-farming-statistics/>.
Porter, A 2017, ‘Ethical Meat’, Choice, weblog post, 14 August, viewed 23 March 2021, <https://www.choice.com.au/food-and-drink/meat-fish-and-eggs/meat/articles/buying-ethical-meat>.
Wells, T 2014, ‘The Case for Ethical Warning Labels on Animal Products’, ABC, weblog post, 7 January, viewed 23 March 2021, <https://www.abc.net.au/religion/the-case-for-ethical-warning-labels-on-animal-products/10099440>.
Wholesome Culture 2021, The Ethical Issues of The Meat Industry You Need to Know About, Wholesome Culture, weblog post, n.d., viewed 23 March 2021, < https://blog.wholesomeculture.com/the-ethical-issues-of-the-meat-industry-you-need-to-know-about/>.