Truth in Satire: The Onion Peels Back the Humane Myth
A few days ago I ended a post by suggesting vegans would do well to keep a sense of humor. The Onion, America’s leading source of satire, was obviously listening. Yesterday, it weighed in on an issue important to every reader of Eating Plants: the myth of “humane” animal agriculture. The opening, ostensibly written by the owner of one “Nature’s Acres Ranch,” sent my eyebrows skyward:
Consumers today are more conscientious than ever about the choices they make at the supermarket. They want to know that the food they put on the table for their family is all-natural, environmentally friendly, and humane. And that’s why we here at Nature’s Acres Ranch hold ourselves to a higher standard and produce only the finest grass-fed and 100 percent additive-free beef. We guarantee that our cows are ethically raised on sustainably grown pastures before we hang them upside down from a moving conveyor and slice their throats wide open.
A tragic image. But this article was too good to be true. I’ve repeatedly expressed disgust with mainstream media’s failure to address the ethics of animal agriculture. But here was a mainstream source nailing it on the head because it was a satire of mainstream media. What better proof that conventional media has indeed had its collective head in a hole? It’s taken satire to yank it out. The article continues:
Our independently owned family farm is committed to one guiding principle: making sure that you, the customer, receive the best-tasting, highest quality beef from cows that are healthy, active, and eventually suspended fully conscious inside a facility thick with hot, blood-choked air and the frantic bellows of dangling, profoundly fearful animals.
That’s our pledge to you.
I wondered, as I was contemplating this article, how animal rights activists would react to it. I suppose you could make a case that the Onion piece is somewhat offensive because it could be said to trivialize the death of innocent animals by writing a mocking article about them. To me, though, it’s a rather brilliant way to drive home the lunacy of those who really think they can get a cruelty-free burger. It’s consumers who are being mocked. Another excerpt:
As owner and president of Nature’s Acres and a lifelong rancher myself, let me assure you that our animals are treated with exceptional care using only traditional methods from the very second the calf is born on our farm, to the moment a cascade of blood showers from its gaping, half-severed neck, to the day our award-winning beef reaches the grocer’s case in the organic section.
It is, in a way, frustrating that so many of us hammer away at this point repeatedly but go unnoticed while The Onion speaks and the world listens. But at least The Onion is speaking the right language. To wit:
So next time you choose a steak or ground chuck to throw on the grill, consider a healthier, more humane, and tastier option, and look no further than the Nature’s Acres Ranch line of products. We’re the one with the smiling cow on the label!
And I’m the one with a smile on my face.