Seth Godin just posted a blog entry (Betting on smarter (or betting on dumber)) that begins:
Marketers fall into one of two categories:
A few benefit when they make their customers smarter. The more the people they sell to know, the more informed, inquisitive, free-thinking and alert they are, the better they do.
And most benefit when they work to make their customers dumber. The less they know about options, the easier they are to manipulate, the more helpless they are, the better they do.
This reminds me of the strategies of animal rights activists and the opposing strategies of animal agriculture.
On the one hand animal rights activists work to provide information about what happens to animals and the truth about animals. We work to see animals as they really are, rather than how we want them to be.
Animal rights activists risk their own safety to document the conditions inside factory farms, labs, puppy mills, fur farms, and so on. Our strategy is basically to give people the information they need to make honest choices about our use of animals.
On the other hand, most of animal agriculture takes the opposite approach. After each undercover investigation is released, the industry responds by locking down tighter, denouncing the activists, and misleading consumers into thinking that these are isolated cases.
They build higher walls around slaughterhouses, use misleading imagery on their packaging and marketing materials.
As an example, the dairy industry always leaves out the fact that cows need to be impregnated yearly to produce milk and that the resulting calves are taken away immediately. They also leave out that cows are considered "spent" after just a few years of producing many times more milk than they did half a century ago, and are sent off to slaughter.
The very use of the word "welfare" coming out of the mouths of animal agriculture advocates is a smokescreen designed to take attention away from the reality of the conditions these animals face.
Who will win in the end? Are most people open to making informed decisions or do they want to be hoodwinked by a profit-driven industry?
I'm optimistic, but it still dismays me when I talk to people on the street who wave away information with an "I don't want to know."
But that just makes it so much more important that we keep pushing to reveal the truth. That's our job as animal rights activists - tearing down those walls, revealing the dirty truth behind animal agriculture, spreading information about who these animals really are.