Today Abby Bean tipped us to the story of a rooster who spends his days outside Gus’s Fried Chicken restaurant in Collierville, Tenn. Everyone thinks it’s so funny! “He runs this place!” exclaims the titular Gus. People have called the local Animal Care and Control out of concern that the rooster will be hit by a car. He’s like their mascot!

Why do patrons of a fried chicken restaurant love to see a live, (relatively) free rooster outside of the place where they go to devour this rooster’s fellow birds? The fine people at Suicide Food (RIP) know: When the animal you’re about to eat seems to approve, and even encourage (this rooster “greets” patrons, remember) your consumption of it, you no longer have to feel guilty about causing a living being to suffer and die for your meal.

No matter what his true intentions, this rooster has become a chicken ambassador; his presence tells people, “I’m a chicken, and if I haven’t yet burned this place that cooks my dead fellows to the goddamn ground, then it must be acceptable in my moral universe. Fried chicken for all!”

I wonder how long until someone tries to feed the rooster a piece of chicken.


The UK “loves” pork?  »

UK pals, please tell me, WTF is this? I mean, I know what it is but are they serious?

This is a new campaign, at least to me, encouraging people to take a stand for quality pork? The Assured Food Standards gives their stamp of approval to various food providers that meet their standards. From their About Us:

Assuring food safety through every part of the supply chain is a vital priority for the food industry and for its many millions of consumers. Couple this with the demand for traceability of food; a concern for minimised pesticide residues; and in livestock production, increasing consumer awareness of animal welfare issues; the need for meaningful farm assurance is self-evident.

Now, honestly, I am not an abolitionist vegan; I think any improvement to quality of life for farm animals is good. I think the simple acknowledgment that animals deserve ANY quality of life by the government and general public is significant. It lays the foundation for the eventual realization that animals are totally sentient and deserve freedom and the best nature has to offer! OK, maybe that won’t happen, but it does set a precedence. If people agree farm animals deserve a certain quality of life, that means they believe that animals have rights. That’s a big deal. And if the rights of animals elevate to such and such today, tomorrow we can push that ceiling higher.

I think it’s good to give meat-eaters the option to buy meat that’s slightly less inhumane, and this seems better than the crazy double-speak of “cage-free” and whatnot. With that said! This campaign pains me. Does it have to be so fucking cutesy? Their mascot is a smiling pig. WTF.

I’ll tell you about “sausage’s best friend”: It’s the rest of its organs intact, living in a goddamn pig. I mean, “Stand by your ham”? Fuck you.

Here’s my suggestion for their next advertising campaign: Pictures of a real factory farm, with pigs falling off a conveyer belt and being stuffed into pens and beaten. And then be like, “Stand by your ham!” And then that would be the whole ad. Genius!


Chipotle, I am skeptical of your “revolución!”  »

So, Chipotle is calling for an end to the mistreatment of pigs, and now I feel conflicted.

My attention was alerted to this call to arms by the very excellent Suicide Food Blog, which has written up the Mexican food chain in its Monday, Sept. 20 post. Chipotle has a new ad campaign, and it’s all about feeling good about what we eat. The ad in question is actually printed on Chipotle’s bags and features a hip, hand-drawn-looking manifesto, complete with cute little drawings and flourishes. The text reads:

¡Viva La Revolución! Okay Pigs, It’s time for us to get together and start fixing this system. We see the way that our pig friends get treated at their factory farms, and it’s time we fight so all pigs can have the same rights we have! No more tight, confining pens! No more antibiotics or non-vegetarian feed!!!!!!!! We can do it! Yours Truly, el Pig”

Now, I’m all for a total pig revolution, and failing that, I’m all for reforms that lead to better lives for pigs, but I’m not sure I buy it coming from Chipotle. As this post on points out, major companies that consume a lot of animal product calling for better treatment for pigs is a good thing with the potential to positively impact a lot of piggies’ lives. And that’s all well and good, but a slick, focus-grouped advertisement on a fast-food takeout bag does not an actual, accountable commitment to animal welfare make. Is Chipotle going to use meat only from pigs who were not raised in confining pens and were given vegetarian feed? Who knows!

I find this ad to be more of a call to complacency than anything else, which disturbs me. A major restaurant chain is co-opting revolutionary language and imagery to sell “ethical pork” to what it must know is an uneducated population—how many of Chipotle’s customers know about harmful pig-farming practices, animal welfare issues, or animal agriculture at all.

The Chipotle website dedicates a full section to “Food with Integrity,” which functions basically as their dictionary. According to Chipotle, “Naturally raised” means “raised in a humane way, fed a vegetarian diet, never given hormones, and allowed to display their natural tendencies.” There’s a lot that that warm-n-fuzzy definition doesn’t cover: the contents of the vegetarian diet; how often the pigs are bred; how long they’re allowed to live before being sent to slaughter; and what kind of stockyards and feedlots they are sent to come slaughter-time. By creating their own animal agriculture lexicon, Chipotle gives customers license to feel good about eating their Chipotle pork products without any verifiable reasons to. The company’s ultimate goal is perfectly clear: “We believe pigs that are cared for in this way enjoy happier, healthier lives and produce the best pork we’ve ever tasted.” And there you have it. While Chipotle may want pigs to lead better lives, their bottom line is how good the pigs taste, and that isn’t something I can get behind.

I’m not writing off this campaign completely. As I mentioned, if this move toward more humanely raised pigs is sincere, then it is a good thing; and more than most fast food chains are willing to do. Further, as the article points out, sometimes this kind of incremental, populist movement can be the thing that starts people down the road to veganism, and that’s great. Still, though, as a vegan, I’m uncomfortable with trumpeting a corporate happy-meat ad campaign as a real step forward, not to mention that I’d feel like a hella sellout carrying my vegan burrito in one of these cheeseball bags.

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