Cows laughing out loud, chickens dancing, pigs laughing and cutting themselves to pieces… In the advertising world, certain animals are portrayed as if they like to be eaten. A marketing strategy denounced in early 2010 by an American blogger, who describes this phenomenon as ‘suicide food’.
In the field of advertising, everything is good to attract the consumer. And when it comes to animal products, it’s hard to imagine a bloodied carcass being displayed on a tray of pork chops. Instead, advertisers prefer to bet on happy and lively animals. An irony when you know how these beasts were treated before they land on our plates.
You are probably thinking of the famous Laughing Cow ad, a brand of the French company Fromageries Bel. Or that of the “Croustibat” breaded fish, represented by a golden fish dressed like a sailor, with a dazzling smile and an imposing biceps. In other words, colorful cartoonish images of happy animals… at the thought of being eaten.
This phenomenon has been closely followed by American vegan blogger and activist Ben Grossblatt, who even gave it a name: “suicide food”. That is “any image of animals pretending to be eaten”according to its definition.
An idea that comes close to the idea of the “absent referent”, theorized by American essayist Carol J. Adams, author of the essay The Sexual Politics of Meat (1990), stating that there is no relationship between the live animal and the piece of meat ready to eat. “The animal is made absent by its name and its body as an animal, so that the flesh may exist”, she explains. An interesting postulate reminiscent of the famous sentence: “If slaughterhouse walls were transparent, everyone would be vegetarian”spoken by singer Paul McCartney in the documentary Glass walls.
With ‘suicide food’ the idea of an absent referent becomes the more complex the more clearly the animal is displayed, the better at making people forget that it has suffered, and thus in a way to make the consumer feel guilty. This advertising trend is also frowned upon by several animal rights associations, who do not hesitate to underline the misleading nature of these advertisements.
“We have released more than 100 studies that reveal the suffering inflicted on so-called farm animals. We have never encountered a smiling cow or a dancing chicken. We have never seen an animal happy or even unmoved in a slaughterhouse, in the face of its death. Never”in particular, hammers L214 in a recent Facebook post.
However, some brands seem to have revised their copy. Now more sober in tone and illustrations, recent cured meats ads are content to show a photo of the animal in question, without giving it anthropomorphic traits or positive emotions. The “Croustibat” mascot has also gone from goldfish to ghost (although the latter is more reminiscent of the mermaid figure).
“Suicide food” thus seems to be losing ground, even though a good number of images and slogans will undoubtedly remain in people’s memories for a long time to come.
(ETX Daily Up)