In anticipation of this past weekend’s festivities, the animal welfare organization PETA, known for its rather radical actions and stances, decided to convince a different clientele than usual of the benefits of turning to Tofurkey instead of the real deal: children.
Every year, the organization takes advantage of the holiday to launch a wide-spread campaign, complete with tv ads like the one below, the distribution of little gravestones that children would be able to put on the dinner table, and ads like the one above.
Says PETA Executive Vice-President Tracy Reiman:
“Kids love animals, and if they thought about how turkeys feel pain and fear, just as dogs and cats do, they’d trade in their drumsticks for Tofurky in a heartbeat. This Thanksgiving, families can give all animals something to be thankful for by sticking to humane, delicious vegan meals.”
Having talked about marketing to children before, this poses an interesting moral question that I considered for a while – how ethical is it to target such awareness/marketing campaigns with a particular message at children?
On the one hand, I think a lot of adults close their own eyes to the reality of where their Thanksgiving turkey most likely came from and in what conditions it was raised (link to a great read in itself), though I appreciate the comments in this article that would have preferred a more nuanced approach by PETA, since there are alternatives of birds that were raised humanely and had a comparatively good life. Children and adolescents, in their incessant questioning and sense-making of the world they live in, often bring up topics that deserve conversations in my opinion – why do we eat cows but not our own dog? Do turkeys come from the supermarket? I think it’s too easy to dismiss this and snap “don’t ask questions!” when the question might bring up rightful inconsistencies – which might turn out not be inconsistencies when properly debated or explained.
I, for one, became a vegetarian at 14 after watching a video on animal production and animal welfare in the meat industry and have since had many internal conversations on where to define my ethical boundaries of what is right or wrong; but yet it is not a topic that is dinner-table worthy in many families.
On the other hand, children can of course be influenced very easily, especially by emotional appeals like the ad featured above with the dog/turkey hybrid, and it seems rather tasteless to use shock-value on them – leading to potential upset and, in the extreme, emotional scarring – in order to use the same nagging power on the parents that marketers of snack products and sweets cherish.
It is difficult to define the boundaries of what knowledge or appeals you would want to protect your child from versus what they have the right to be informed about… I think age also plays a major factor here, though the original article doesn’t mention which exact age group is the main target population – only that they put billboards with the first ad above around public schools, which then would obviously be seen by kids from the youngest to the oldest class there.
I don’t think I have a conclusion on my personal viewpoint yet, other than I believe in education – age-appropriate, objective, fact-driven and conversation-based education that does not shy away from uncomfortable topics but also doesn’t try to convince its audience of a particular opinion, but rather gives them the tools and information to make up their own. Whether that is what PETA is achieving is a different question.
What do you think about their campaign? Effective or unethical? Or neither?