At the Green Week in Berlin, the Federal Minister of Food and Agriculture presented the “Animal Welfare – A Question of Husbandry” campaign. This initiative works to improve animal husbandry conditions. The initiative of the Ministry of Agriculture is in direct competition with the “Animal Welfare Initiative”, which was started in 2015 by retailers in cooperation with meat-producing companies with the same goal.
The animal welfare initiatives target the divided meat consumer. They take up the latent guilt complexes with which consumers are burdened when they become aware of the ethical problems of the massive, inexpensive consumption of meat and the associated animal husbandry methods. The consumer today faces a guilt dilemma. Meat consumption stands for quality of life and enjoyment of life. We know from depth psychological research that there is a pleasurable side associated with eating meat: we go back a little to our archaic psychic level and feed us the life force of the animal that has been killed. This psychological connection can be found to some extent in the old CA claim: “Meat is a piece of vitality”, or in the archaic male stagings as part of the beef and BBQ trend, e.g. Tim Mälzer’s “Bullerei”.
Animal husbandry and meat scandals
Modern meat consumption is completely disconnected from a real understanding of animals and animal husbandry. Anyone who grew up in the village decades ago may have noticed how farm animals were slaughtered. At that time, meat was also associated with the specialization of a “Sunday roast” in the menu. In contrast, meat consumers today have little or no contact with rearing and slaughtering. Meat is bought in the supermarket like an object. The consumers ignore any idea of living animals – which in turn makes mass consumption of meat psychologically possible. Because when the modern meat consumer realizes that real chickens were kept for the chicken wings or that the ground beef comes from the brightly colored animal, he regularly comes across terrifying images of factory farming, “concentration camp stalls” (interview quote) and animal cruelty (beak cutting, chick shredding ). These images are anchored anew with the animal husbandry and meat scandals that regularly appear in the news.
The meat consumer lives in a psychological split: On the one hand, unclouded, daily consumption of “meat products” that are completely “neutralized” and decoupled from the animal and consumed – on the other hand, mostly suppressed feelings of guilt due to sinning against the animal Fellow creature and victim animal that suffers the conditions of “factory farming” in a terrible way.
The latent guilt dilemma gnaws at the consumer. The displacement is gradually working out worse and worse, which can also be seen in the slightly declining consumption volumes. Nevertheless, the consumer is usually not consistent: Very few consumers consistently switch to the expensive organic meat. For a long time now, food marketing has also offered consumers relaxation options. The meat comes from the Erlenhof, the packaging is adorned with all kinds of folklore such as farms, windmills, wicker baskets, etc. This suggests that animal husbandry might still be like in the children’s picture book about the farm.
Romanticized picture of modern animal husbandry
The animal welfare initiatives of the economy and the Ministry of Agriculture take a different path: They refer to a realistic, not infantile romanticized image of modern animal husbandry. In the context of the modern housing conditions of conventional agriculture (which accounts for around 95% of sales), they show the realistic scope for improvements such as protection of the piglets, species-appropriate employment of the animals, better space. Instead of calming consumers down with idyllic communication, the animal welfare initiatives support real measures such as the renovation of the stables. However, it is regrettable that the new campaign “Animal welfare – a question of attitude”, which was initiated by the Agriculture Minister, is in direct competition with the “Animal Welfare Initiative” of the trade and meat producers that has already started. For the consumer, this is extremely confusing: why two initiatives for the same cause? What exactly are the differences? Why haven’t the ministry and business come to an agreement on a joint initiative? There is a risk that the laudable concern of actually improving animal welfare will be blocked by competition between the initiatives.
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