A recent survey commissioned by the Innovation Center of U.S. Dairy found that seven percent of all American adults think chocolate milk comes from brown cows.
Let that sink in for a moment.
If I worked for the dairy industry, that statistic would probably make me happy. It indicates that there are millions of consumers who really don’t know the truth about where their food comes from. That’s great for the food industry, but it’s horrible for the billions of animals who are bred for their meat and secretions.
Billboards, magazine ads, and television commercials are designed to influence us to consume. Animals are cut up, packaged in cellophane and styrofoam, and packed into the grocery store as beef, wings, breasts, shanks, and loins. Industry takes cows, chickens, turkeys, and pigs out of the language it uses, which makes it easier for consumers to forget to even ask what those cuts of meat started out as.
Even “conscious consumers” are in the dark. When it was announced that Amazon had purchased Whole Foods Market in a multi-billion dollar deal, an email went out to customers. In part, it read:
Meat will still come from animals raised with no-added growth hormones, ever. And all eggs in our dairy cases will continue to come from cage-free hens that aren’t given antibiotics. Those standards are core to Whole Foods Market and we will remain committed to them.
What Whole Foods’ antiobiotic and hormone-free, 5-step Animal Rating program leaves out is the reality that awaits every animal raised for food products. Free-range or otherwise, there are no happy chickens. Grass-fed or grain-fed, there are no happy cows. The painful and difficult lives of these animals end in violent deaths that are rarely seen and certainly not considered by millions of adults who think brown cows are responsible for their chocolate milk.
This ignorance is one of the reasons why I’ve supported campaigns run by organizations like Mercy for Animals, where they pay people a dollar to watch a video, exposing them to the abuse that is rampant in food production. I believe we should know where our food comes from. I believe that people should know the truth.
And yet, it becomes increasingly difficult for me to engage on social media when faced with these videos and violent images. “If you eat pigs, you should watch this.” “Would you be able to slit her throat? Then why pay someone else to?” These statements are valid, of course. We need to speak out for those who can’t speak. But can we do so with warning, with compassion?
Is there a happy medium between violent images and sugar-coated memes? I hope so. Because while the dairy industry is laughing its way to the bank, we’ve got animals to save.
Image: Tim Abbott