The idea that animals want to be eaten is ubiquitous in advertising. From smiling suicidal mascots, to heartwarming homicidal hijinks, to the erotic seduction of their killers—we’re bombarded with messages of animals desiring their own deaths. Let’s take a deep dive into the propaganda of complicit consumption.
Table Of Contents
- Telling Us What We Want to Hear
- Animal Mascots: Selling Their Bodies with a Smile
- Lending a Hand: Animals Serving Themselves Up with Suicidal Glee
- A Subversive Depiction of Complicit Consumption
- Heartwarming Homicide: Eat Them, Not Me!
- Advocating Their Own Imprisonment
- Selling Suicidal Animals to Children
- The Sexualization of Complicit Consumption: Seducing Your Killers
- These Messages Matter
- In Closing...
Do animals want to be eaten? The question seems ridiculous at face value. Even the most staunch meat eater wouldn’t assume such an absurdity, right? Well, when it comes to eating animals, we rely on any number of rationalizations and justifications to normalize the underlying incongruity of our actions.
It’s no secret that advertising and the media can have a powerful influence over human behavior. And societal attitudes and expectations are often shaped by and in turn shape the media messages that bombard us day to day.
While a level of fantasy and suspension of belief is inherent within advertisements, [tweet this] they are still crafted in response to and anticipation of what consumers want to hear. What they want to believe. What will make them consume.
And what better way to assuage any discomfort with consuming the bodies and secretions of living beings, than to portray those beings as willing participants in their own demise? [tweet this]
The concept of animals as complicit in their own consumption is not new. While often proffered in a presumptively playful manner, such as with the oft-repeated one-liner “if animals don’t want to be eaten, then why are they made out of meat”—or some variations thereof—the sheer pervasiveness of this concept, which crosses cultures and spans decades, belies such flippant dismissal.
In fact, there’s such a wealth of images, videos, and products promoting the propaganda of animals wanting to be eaten that distinct subcategories and ranges of complicity emerge. We’re going to look at a few examples—from the relatively benign to the utterly shocking. I’ll delve deeper into some of the recurring themes in future videos.
On the “tamer” side of the spectrum are animal mascots, marketing the bodies of their own kind with unbridled enthusiasm and reassuring smiles. From restaurants to billboards to product packaging to TV commercials, animals are all-too happy to encourage the consumption of their corpses.
They’re educational spokespersons for industry propaganda, like the patriotic fish featured in a 1976 American Seafood Industry commercial wherein he surveys a table full of his fallen fellows with reverent appreciation for the their killers.
They celebrate their demise with dance, as in the “I Like The Way You Moo” cow from a Colman’s Instant Beef Gravy Commercial:
Because nothing gets your toes tapping like the idea of your desecrated corpse being bathed in your own juices!
Or receiving the distinct honor of having your remains offered atop a pizza, like the Techno Chicken’s catchy celebratory dance in Domino’s BBQ Chicken and Bacon Pizza Commercial:
Taken a step further, we have animals not only happy to be eaten, but actually assisting in the process. From this 1919 French advertisement of “Good Sausage From the Prodigal Pig,” to its 21st century macabre rebirth as a dashboard bobble:
There are ample examples of animals serving themselves up with suicidal glee: [tweet this]
This is sometimes even carried to the perverse extent of being unable to resist their own delicious flesh:
There is at least one depiction of complicit consumption in popular culture that underscores rather than obscures our natural aversion to killing sentient beings: Douglas Adams’ pig who wants to be eaten from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.
Pig: “I am the main dish of the day. May I interest you in the parts of my body? Something off my shoulder perhaps?”
Arthur: “Er, your shoulder?”
Pig: “But naturally my shoulder, sir. Nobody else’s is mine to offer”
Trillian: “You mean this animal actually wants us to eat it?”
Arthur: “That’s absolutely horrible—it’s the most revolting thing I’ve ever heard. I don’t want to eat an animal that’s lying there inviting me to. I think it’s heartless.”
Zaphod: ‘Better than eating an animal that doesn’t want to be eaten.’
Arthur: “That’s not the point…Alright maybe it is the point.”
But suicide’s not the only “cide.” Let us not forget the homicide. Animals encouraging humans to eat other animals is the theme behind one of the most recognizable restaurant campaigns. That of Chik-Fil-A’s “Eat Mor Chickin” cows: (additional commercial footage featured in the video)
The adorable, Wile E. Coyote-worthy antics of these sneaky cows distract from the disturbing implication of their explicit encouragement of the mass murdering of chickens.
Taken a step further, we have animals not only encouraging, but also enthusiastically participating in each other’s homicide:
Sometimes this is even depicted as a communal consumption of one another’s body parts:
And then there’s this gem of a commercial, disturbingly entitled “New Sexy Movie Stars On The Farm”:
We even have animals instructing us on how to properly imprison them:
How to humanely handle their transport to their deaths so as to reduce bruising and production losses:
Marketing willing edible animals to children is not only commonplace but also necessary to normalize the inherently discordant concept of eating those we love:
The animal products industries even produce coloring books, quiz games and other forms of propaganda aimed directly at children, as seen in my satirical video “The Most Disturbing Coloring Book Ever!” Additionally, see my videos for kids for help teaching children the truth about our food in an approachable way!
One of the more disturbing trends within complicit consumption is the sexualization of the animals offering their bodies so willingly.
The implication of a sexual element to animal consumption itself has a range of the more subtle to the outright perverse.
On one end of the spectrum is an easily-laughed-off White Castle commercial of a semi-seductive pig-suited flash dance rendition:
Somewhere in the middle lies a Burger King ad where a man at Make Out Point is secretly eating a burger when he’s caught by an angry cow with whom presumably has a relationship:
Now one would guess the cow is pissed that he’s eating a burger. But in the final moments, the voiceover states: “New Cheesy Bacon Tender Crisp—chicken so good, you’ll cheat on beef!” The implication is that she (the cow) is jealous that he (the human) is masticating someone else’s corpse.
On the more extreme end of the spectrum, we reach the level within the sexualization subcategory that completely redefines the concept of disturbing:
We all know that sex sells. So why not make our food animals willing in every way? It’s a distinctly disquieting level of perversity and one that speaks volumes to how we value—or more so don’t value—non-human animals. They are objects. Property. Products. Here for our pleasure.
And why not? After all, they’re asking for it.
I hope that this video makes you pause and step back from the messages our media sends and we, in turn, reinforce within ourselves and our children. Advertising, after all, is just giving us what we want. It reflects the desires of society at large, helping to soothe the disquiet within us created by taking pleasure in the demise of living beings.
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For a veritable cornucopia of complicit consumption imagery, check out the now inactive but digitally preserved blog Suicide Food.
Now go live vegan, perhaps unplug and analyze from time to time, and I’ll see you soon.
— Emily Moran Barwick