Monday, December 1, 2014

Post-Speciesism and the Commodification of Animal Rights: Aldi's "Love Ireland" Campaign

I'm living in Cork, Ireland for the semester and have been exploring new stores, new vegan food, and new ways of advertising food products. Something I quickly noticed was the "Produced in Ireland" labeling scheme. The "Love Ireland" campaign seeks to challenge globalized food production, an environmentally taxing process that outsources agricultural work, threatens the state in creating a dependency on outsiders, and strains the local economy with job loss and import costs. Localizing food is an important form of resistance to this process. Local produce may cost more, though, in a globalized world. To counter this, advertising campaigns seek to reframe local food as patriotic, moral and familial, and ethical.  

At Aldi, I came across a full color booklet provided to customers that pulls on Irish nationalism and nostalgia for the past to push Irish-made food.  Certain themes repeat to frame "Love Ireland" products as an ethical choice and a political action: green pastures, families, and happy animals. Unfortunately, in a speciesist world where Nonhuman Animals and their products are still considered "food," Nonhuman Animal rights has become a commodity. 

If we conduct an informal content analysis of the Aldi brochure, we can see how animal welfare is carefully constructed to encourage purchasing and to increase production.  This is an important counter to the belief that working to improve welfare will move society towards the abolition of speciesism. Nonhuman Animal rights groups promote reforms as easy victories, but in doing so, they create problematic alliances with industry to reach "compromises" that are often framed as economic incentives. Commodifying animal rights works to entrench speciesism by facilitating a "post-specisism" ideology. The public is made to believe that animal rights have been achieved through careful media campaigns that create a false challenge to systemic discrimination against other animals. In a "post-speciesist" world, few would openly admit to wanting animals to suffer and most believe themselves to be "animal lovers." This false ideology obscures structural oppression, thus protecting and perpetuating it.

Starting with the cover, we see a dairy cow identified as "Daisy the dairy cow," though it is clear that her real "name" is 0722. Naming her on the brochure implies that she is individualized and treated as a person with interests, though she was pulled from her mother at a young age, repeatedly raped, had her own babies taken from her, and will end up as hamburger before she reaches adulthood. Indeed, she was probably dead before her picture hit Aldi stores.

Meet the Loughnanes, who produce Irish "pork" in a fashion that has been "handed down through four generations of Loughnane family butchers," with all of their "ingredients" sourced in Ireland. Rhetoric of family, tradition, and heritage implies that buying pig flesh under the "Love Ireland" label is an ethical action. This framework obscures systemic violence, but also increases it.  Brendan O'Reilly's "100% Irish" "free range eggs" come from birds who are "free to roam" and are "happier hens because of it." Aldi's program has helped him to "reach a much bigger market."

Callan Bacon Ltd., a family using "traditional" curing methods on their "humble premises," have been butchers for four generations as well. Aldi's program has increased their staff to almost 200 in the past five years.

The Town of Monaghan's "small indigenous fresh dairy produce manufacturer" "depends on the support of retailers" to get their products to consumers, and Aldi's support has helped them to establish their presence in the marketplace.

The Grady family dairy employs 140 people in their cow exploitation farms: "Aldi's support has contributed to our ability to maintain our long tradition [,,,]"

Killower Farm claims: "Happier cows. Tastier yogurt." People pay for "tastier yogurt," but they are also paying for the fantasy of "happy cows":  "Their cows enjoy a lifestyle that involves clean air, lots of fresh grass and a gentle routine. [...]  The cows enjoy their routine and will even appear at the gate to be milked if the Farm Manager, Sean, is running late!" One is left to wonder if they line up to be raped and slaughtered as well.  Sadly, this false claimsmaking works: "As a result of working with Aldi we have been able to employ extra people on our farm in Enniscorthy."

At this "free range" family chicken farm, producers report: "Demand from Aldi for our products has helped secure our family farm income and also provides employment to several local poultry industry services in Limerick." 

Irish Country Meats, a "lamb supplier," ensures readers that Aldi's lambs are, "predominantly reared outdoors, grazing freely on Irish pastures. These are the ideal conditions for raising lamb and result in fresh meat that is not only lean and nutritious, but totally natural too."

ABP "beef suppliers" have also reported remarkable growth since working with Aldi. They now work with a network of over 35,000 farmers, spending over 450 million euros each year in the "acquisition of cattle" and staff employment.

Welfare "reform" and local food initiatives are not moving us towards abolition; they are facilitating a false ideology of post-speciesism and make the industry more viable. It paints an inherently violent industry as a patriotic, family-centered, traditional, and ethical industry.