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Seductive and Destructive: The Insidiousness of “Happy” Exploitation

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Guest Post by Tracy Alexandra McDonnell


We need to shatter and dispel once and for all the insidious myth that it is somehow possible to exploit non-human animals “humanely.” Think for a moment how truly seductive – and destructive – is the appeal of increasingly-commonplace, industry-driven terms such as “grass-fed” beef, “cage-free” eggs, “locally and sustainably-raised” honey, “organic” milk, “crate-free” pork, “artisan” cheese, “free-range” chicken and, perhaps the most outrageous of all, “humane” slaughter.

This is the language of myth, the language of denial, the language of magical thinking, a collection of deadly smoke-screens, pretty lies which help us to erase any trace of cognitive dissonance, to help us stay “comfortable,” to help us to be “sure,” to help us continue to avert our eyes, our ears, and our minds from the brutal injustice that is animal exploitation.

Not coincidentally, it is also the language of marketing, whereby industry exploiters tell us what we *want* to hear, what we *want* to think, what we desperately *wish* to be true – anything but what is actually happening:, the senseless, unspeakable horror of animal exploitation. Indeed, the proverbial “see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” is the modus operandi of the entire industry, essential to its smooth and efficient operation, its merciless heart of darkness obscured and conveniently hidden from our sight.

These obscenely profitable fairy tales are being spun out like cotton candy at a cheap carnival, the kind that looks wispy and beautiful but which makes you deathly sick afterward, a sickness not only of the body but of the mind and the spirit as well. Gary Francione’s grim but spot-on observation compares the animal industry hucksters to corrupt medieval clerics, handing out high-end plenary indulgences, and the “conscientious omnivores” – a majority of whom would describe themselves as “animal lovers” – are the wayward “faithful” who just can’t get enough, who are only too happy to pay a premium to perpetuate their own self-delusion that by doing so they are somehow absolving themselves from their participation in an industry that is rotten at its core, that is inherently and hopelessly unjust.

Perhaps most tragic of all, the myth of the “happy” farm and its healthy and “happy” animals is being cynically marketed and aggressively promoted not only by the animal industry but by virtually all of the large “animal” organizations as well – the very groups that purport to have the best interests of the animals as their priority. The truth is that the promotion of so-called “humane” animal products has proven to be a staggering financial bonanza for both industry exploiters *and* the large animal “charities”, virtually all of whom are profiting more than ever as a result of the sick and dysfunctional paradigm in which they make millions while the animals continue to endure the diabolical commodification of their reproductive systems, their families, their flesh, their skin, their fur, their liberty, their very lives. The sacred bond between mothers and their offspring is systematically severed and brutally destroyed for reasons no more compelling than palate pleasure, fashion, convenience or “tradition.”

It is crucially important to remember that those selling these products are only responding to consumer demand. Decrying the evils of factory farming while continuing to consume animal products does not get us off the hook from a moral standpoint. Whether or not we are consuming animal products from a CAFO or the local farmer’s market, we are actively and willingly participating in institutionalized evil.

Thus, until we as consumers stop demanding animal products, the exploitation of animals will *never* end. *We* must “be the change we wish to see in the world.” Going vegan, dedicating ourselves to non-violence and refusing to participate in the evil of exploitation, remains the single most powerful thing any person can do for animals, for human health, and for the planet. In the words of the old song, “peace on earth” really does, in the end, “begin with me.”


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