Telling Animal Ag’s Shocking Truth

Inside Dakota Ag

“Something has to die for us to live,” says Wes Jamison and we shouldn't be afraid to tell and show consumers what goes on in a packing plant.

Published on: November 26, 2012

I was blown away by what Wes Jamison said when he lectured at South Dakota State University recently.

Jamison, a Palm Beach Atlantic University professor of political science and an expert in animal welfare messaging, showed example after example of simple, powerful and effective advertising from the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Humane Society of the United States and other groups.

In one advertisement, a puppy and baby pig stand side by side. The caption reads: “How can you love one and eat the other?”

Words next to a photo-shopped illustration of a chicken’s head on a cat’s body read, “If your cat tasted like chicken, would you eat it?

In a protest against the use of BSThormones in dairy cows, a naked woman with a “GE” for “genetically modified” branded on her hip and a milking machine strapped onto her four -- yes four -- breasts kneels like a cow on her hands and knees above the words: “It not natural.”

In most situations, agriculture advocates haven’t matched the power of their critics’ messages, Jamison says.

A person in the audience of SDSU students and area farmers and ranchers asked if a picture of a starving African boy with flies in crawling over his face and in his nose and mouth would convince consumers that farmers need to be free to produce more food.

In reply, Jamison snored as if he had fallen asleep while the man made his case. He said the message is too complicated and takes too long to convey. You only have 7-9 seconds to make an impact, he said.

“Worse,” he said, “it’s not true.

If you want to feed the hungry, stop feeding the grain to animals. That’s what the other side would say, he said.

U.S. livestock producers are feeding the rising middle class in developing countries. These people are not starving.

“Nobody is dropping perishable chickens over Nigeria,” he said.

Another person asked if consumers really want to know the truth about what happens on a farm or, worse, a slaughter plant?

“Agriculture has always been wet, often times dirty and sometimes bloody,” Jamison said. “I think consumers can handle the truth” because meat is a good product that consumers are in the habit of eating it and habits are tough to change.

Research shows that when consumers see what’s happening in a slaughter plant they are shocked and appalled -- for about 48 hours. Then they resume eating meat, he said.

Another person asked Jamison if there should be a required course taught in school about where food comes from.

“Let me take that further,” he replied. “I think we should require every child in America by the fourth grade to have a class called ‘Food Literacy,’ whereby they raise an animal, prime it, slaughter it, cook it and eat it.”

After the applause from the audience died down, he added, “the only way you can bring home the reality of what happens to animals is not with some spin propagandized animal ag class” have to teach people that “it takes the death of something for us to live. That is the reality of food literacy. Something has to die for us to live. That is the essence of ag education and we have avoided it because it is so shocking.”