Standing on a square of grass laid out on the stage, barefoot,a food marketing expert talks to a packed hall, clicking through a slide show in a TED Talk–like presentation. The central question: How do food companies sell products to people?
“Everyone believes what’s on the label,” the presenter says in her friendly British accent. Farm fresh, 100 percent natural, butcher’s choice. Terms like these allow for pork, chicken, beef, and eggs raised in less-than-desirable conditions to be passed off on consumers. The images on the slide flip back and forth between a chicken in a field and a chicken in a battery cage.
It’s around this point that you might suspect that this isn’t a legitimate presentation. Someone employed by a food marketing agency probably wouldn’t mention that 80 percent of the antibiotics in the world are purchased by the ag industry. No, the speaker is an actor, and this is all a stunt—one pulled off on an unsuspecting audience by the animal rights’ group Compassion in World Farming.
Still, the tactics she discusses, albeit with a heightened sense of drama, are real. Flicking through pictures of pigs in gestation crates and cows in feedlots, she explains that these industrialized farms are called concentrated animal feeding operations. “That’s not going to look great on a label,” she says, “hence we use ‚farm fresh.‘ ”
It’s not just slick marketing that greases the wheel of capitalism here. “The power of willful ignorance cannot be overstated,” she says in closing. “This is systemized cruelty on a massive scale, and we only get away with it because everyone is prepared to look the other way.”,,,