Thursday, 9 January 2014

The Scarecrow

I stumbled across this video on the internet today and decided to share it for a number of reasons. First of all, as an illustrator I am a huge sucker for anything that's visually engaging. The animation in this video is by Moonbot Studios and it is simply gorgeous, using a lovely colour palette and great character design. And on first impressions it seems to be a decent commentary on animal farming too - what more could you want? Well there is certainly one rather large issue that I have with it.

The film follows a scarecrow who is being shown the cruelties of farctory farming while the humans blindly eat animal products without knowing their true origin. This draws a comparison with the way real humans can often be blissfully ignorant when it comes to consumption. The scarecrow, frustrated and upset by the way the animals are raised, then rides home where he discovers a single pepper on a plant in his garden. You can practically see his mind make the connection right there. So off goes the scarecrow, truck laden with delicious, nutritious vegetables to present an alternative to the meat-heavy diet in his world, in the same way vegan activists take to the streets with their plant-based treats and leaflets. The phrase 'Cultivate a better world' is even hung on a banner above his stall as if to emphasise his non-violent, activist stance. Pretty neat animal rights campaign right there, huh? Unfortunately not.

The video, along with the accompanying app game, was funded by Chipotle Mexican Grill in the US to promote their welfarist stance on food production, i.e. happy exploitation. Discovering this after watching a three minute tale of empowerment through education left me with a bad taste in my mouth. If we want to make informed choices about our food we need to analyse all levels of production, including slaughter. Instead companies like this reinforce the idea that it is ok, or rather desirable, to exploit and kill animals as long they are "raised outside or in deeply bedded pens, are never given antibiotics and are fed a vegetarian diet." But then, what do you expect from a large corporation whose most profitable products are animal-based?

I'm just frustrated that such a great quality film couldn't have been put to better use. It frustrates me that animal-based industries can afford to make these films as advertisement for their unnecessary products and as welfarist propaganda. If this film had ended with the phrase 'Go vegan' and a few links to resources it would have had a profoundly different effect.