How Agencies Ushered in Factory Farming
Before I throw stones at others, I’ll throw one at myself. I’m guilty. And Nebo is guilty. As much as I want to believe we’re pure and a force for good. As much as I want to believe we’re against suffering and stand for the rights of others. As much as I want to believe we’re changing the world for both humans and animals, even in just small ways.
We’re still guilty.
We’ve helped restaurants, retailers, and many others create amazing campaigns while ignoring the factory farms at the beginning of their production processes.
We’ve worked with fast food companies that portrayed happy animals in their marketing even though their food stemmed from cruelty. We helped one of the largest retailers in the world cast itself in the light of “giving back” despite the fact that they are a leading seller of factory-farmed meat. We helped a manufacturer position its shipping solution as efficient and energy friendly, even though factory- farmed chickens were one of the core products being shipped.
Our only solace or excuse is that we weren’t fully aware. But maybe we were too afraid to be aware. Lack of knowledge or a willful ignorance of the facts isn’t a viable excuse.
Like I said earlier, we’re guilty. There are no excuses.
No more turning a blind eye to the facts. We can’t put pictures of happy cows on milk cartons when we know these cows are anything but. We can’t place a smiling chick on eggs that represent hundreds of factory-farmed chickens.
We’re not trying to live in an ivory tower. No agency can avoid factory-farmed products. They’re a part of 99 percent of animal products. But we can start making a difference. We can stop adding to the damage. We owe it to ourselves and these animals to stop portraying them in a false light — to stop making consumers think these farms are paradise.
Because they’re hell.
Conditions in factory farms are actually worse than hell.
We’ve Done this Before.
Tobacco companies paid hefty fines for their products’ dangers and their lies to the public. But advertisers were able to get by without a fine or a ding to their reputation, despite the fact that Joe Camel, the Marlboro Man and every ad campaign fueled millions of smokers to start and continue smoking. Tobacco causes cancer, yet advertisers marketed to kids. They sold doubt. They got paid. People died, and nothing happened.
Now, we’re finding ourselves at another huge moment — a moment where marketers and advertisers aid atrocities by painting false pictures. At least 10 billion animals live and die in hell on earth conditions in factory farms each year. It’s hell. Utter hell.
Yet we plop a happy cow or a chicken doing normal chicken stuff on the packaging … or even worse, on the logo. They’re roaming in pastures. They’re happy and healthy. We collectively sell the ideal of the idealized American farm.
But it doesn’t exist.
Over 99 percent of farm animals are raised in conditions that make Dante’s Inferno seem like paradise. But as marketers, we want consumers to see nuggets, bacon, filet mignon …
We don’t want them to see the cow or the chicken, or the pig … all living and breathing animals with feelings. All animals that feel pain, have dignity, don’t want to suffer and are utterly terrified. They trust us. Yet we abuse their trust and become their tormentors.
And even if we did want consumers to see the animal, we want them to think of some pre-industrial agrarian version of the farm where animals lived out in the open, ate grass, roamed and had families. We want to paint the Norman Rockwell version of farming. Of husbandry. Of the cycle of life.
This post isn’t just a rebuke of Nebo’s culpability for enabling factory farming. Or even just a rant against agencies selling out and aiding what can be considered one of the most horrific atrocities in human history. Like I said, 10 billion animals each year are slaughtered in factory farms. For 50 years, animals have lived and died in these horrendous conditions.
Blood is On Our Hands and We Can’t Run From It.
We’d arrest anyone that came even close to inflicting the pain and suffering on dogs or cats that we inflict on pigs, chickens and cows — all animals that feel and love and arguably are just as sophisticated. The only difference is, they’re food.
Which I get … but not in factory-farmed conditions. I understand the cycle of life. I understand that the world will never go vegan. That’s not the point.
What I don’t understand is how the most intelligent, compassionate and empathetic creatures to ever exist — humans — brought about factory farming.
The only redemption is that most of us don’t know. Most of us can’t imagine this atrocity. Most of us bury our heads in the sand even if we suspect it because it’s something we can’t internalize.
But advertisers and marketers know the truth. And we helped paint the picture of happy animals and happy farms while knowing the disgusting and revolting facts … while knowing the suffering.
We enabled the lie. We enabled the slaughter. We enabled the hellish conditions that 10 billion animals each year call life. This is our cross to bear.
But we have power. We created this, and we can end this. We have the uncanny ability to change hearts and minds, to persuade and move people to action.
We Have a Voice. And It’s Our Responsibility to Use It.
I challenge consumers to know where your food is coming from. Shop humanely. It doesn’t mean that you have to become a vegan or vegetarian. There are small changes you can make that won’t affect your lifestyle, but will have a profound impact on the lives of animals. There are brands that are humane, affordable and offer excellent quality products. If you have the opportunity to avoid factory-farm products, do it.
And I challenge everyone — consumers, agencies and brands — to get involved. There are several organizations out there that support this cause, like Farm Sanctuary, the Humane Farming Association, ASPCA, Compassion in World Farming, and many more.
Let’s collectively say no. Let’s stop showing consumers farms with rolling pastures and roaming animals if the farm is actually a prison. Let’s stop adding to animals’ pain.
We can no longer live in a vacuum. We can’t be perfect, but we can commit to making a change, and we can encourage other agencies to do the same. The following are a few guidelines we are committing to as an agency. I challenge all marketers and agencies to do the same.
- No more farm washing. Let’s stop knowingly and purposely using false and misleading advertising to create an image of a farm that doesn’t exist. It’s not true, it perpetuates harm and it misleads the public.
- Let’s stop creating, perpetuating and using fake labels like farm fresh, cage-free, natural and humanely raised. They’re purposely confusing and are meant to mislead consumers.
- Let’s commit to not supporting companies with unethical, cruel and/or inhumane practices toward animals.
- Let’s aim to right the wrongs of our industry by supporting organizations that stand for making a positive change in the world.
- Let’s educate our own employees — and others — about misleading labels and animal welfare. Let’s recognize this is continuing education, not a one-time event. It starts at the roots of our organizations and goes all the way to the top.
- Let’s be a positive influence on the world and make a commitment to not do harm where possible and use our abilities for good.
This is the challenge and moral obligation of our time.
We’ve stood by for too long. It’s time we rise up to the challenge and protect the voiceless.
But We Know Words Aren’t Enough…
That’s why we’re planning to create a campaign to fight factory farming, farm washing, and other advertising and marketing techniques that perpetuate this hell on earth that our animal friends have to endure everyday.
And we can’t do it alone. We’re looking for like-minded organizations, fellow advertisers and marketers, and anyone who cares about animals to help.
If you’re interested in joining the fight email us at MarketersAgainstFactoryFarming@neboagency.com.
We’re hoping to go from campaign concepts to launch by early to mid-2019. It’ll take time, effort, creativity, passion and determination. We’ll need help, but we’re committed to fighting this fight.