Deconstructing the Myth
Do advocacy-industry collaborations inevitably validate and propagate the humane myth?
This video celebrates the "win-win victory" achieved when celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck decided to work with two multi-million dollar animal organizatons. Together, they have developed and are promoting "new and improved" standards for the use and killing of animals whose body parts will be sold in Puck's 200 million dollar restaurant empire.
When well known animal advocates join a major animal user such as Puck in a mutually complimentary publicity campaign, is it fair to say that they are transferring some of their credibility as animal protectors to Puck and his products? And is it equally fair to say that Puck, a celebrity chef who caters the Academy Awards' Governor's Ball, is not in turn transferring some of his mainstream popularity and acceptance to these organizations?
Is there something inherently disturbing about animal advocates sitting at a table and nodding with approval as Wolfgang Puck describes the tastiness of his latest creation, which is virtuously made from the livers of "free-range" chickens? When an animal advocate says in this context, "No one wants to be a scold..." is he trivializing the efforts of those who call into the question the right of humans to use and kill animals as they please? Are human rights advocates who call our attention to products made in sweatshops being "scolds?"
While such a collaboration is clearly beneficial to both the animal groups involved and the animal users, is there a down side for the animals themselves? Is it, for example, propagating the idea that it is actually possible to use and kill animals in a way that is truly respectful, compassionate, or humane?
When animal advocates help develop new methods of using and killing animals, and then enthusiastically endorse them, are they in danger of having a vested interest in the public perceiving such work as successful, regardless of the behind the scenes reality? How likely would it be, for example, for either of the collaborating animal advocacy organizations to investigate and expose to the public the gruesome reality of what actually happens to the animals used and killed to keep ever increasing amounts of cash flowing into businesses like Puck's?
Veal, the flesh of baby calves, is one of the top three items at Puck's upscale restaurants. Were video footage documenting the horrific last moments of these unfortunate baby animals to become available, would these animal organization's show it, or would they now have reason to suppress it, and thereby save their own reputations? This demonstrates but one dimension of the many questions about conflict of interest that arise when advocates for an oppressed group, in this case animals, collaborate with those profiting from the use and killing of members of that oppressed group.
Notably, one of the animal organizations that participated in developing Puck's new approach to using and killing animals was a well known farm animal sanctuary. Can a sanctuary claim to protect and stand for the rights of animals, and at the same time consult with animal-using corporations on how to improve the methods of using and killing them? What if, for example, human rights groups were to partner with oppressive regimes in developing new and improved methods of executing political prisoners? How credible would they then be as human rights advocates?
To learn about the hidden truth of the dairy and veal industry, see the slide show Happy Cows: Behind the Myth."
For further background on the politics of advocacy/industry collaboration, see Project for the New American Carnivore: From Niman to Lyman in 10 Short Years
Invasion of the Movement Snatchers: A Social Justice Movement Falls Prey to the Doctrine of Necessary Evil
Hogwash!: Or, How Animal Advocates Enable Corporate Spin
"To sin by silence when they should protest makes cowards of men."