At veganstrategist.org we were able to get our hands on a confidential document, coming from somewhere high up the International Animal Food Producers Union (IAFPU). What we have is an interview with a Mr Ham Burger. Mr Burger appears to be a strategist within the meat industry. In this classified interview, Mr Burger is asked for his favorite strategies to undermine the growing animal rights movement. Let’s read and learn… **
Interviewer: In the USA and Europe, meat consumption is declining, and that is at least in part due to the work of animal rights and vegan activists. It has come to our attention that you have been tasked to develop a strategic plan to structurally undermine this movement, both from within and without. Is that correct?
Ham Burger: Oh yes. We can no longer afford to let things run their course and we are now in attack modus. We’ve had some moderate successes in the US with the ag-gag laws, but we’re not sure if they’ll hold up and there’s a lot of resistance against them. So we are looking into many other options.
Interviewer: Can you talk about some of those options?
Ham Burger: Sure thing. First of all, we made a map of the movement. Our enemies, as it were. We’ve looked at the connections between them, and singled out the main players.
The big organisations like HSUS, Peta, Mercy for Animals, Farm Sanctuary, and in Europe, Animal Equality are the most dangerous and hence are the most important to tackle. We need to hit these groups where it hurts: in their funding, which comes from individual citizens. Our plan of attack for these organisations is twofold. Among the general population, we want to spread the message that these groups are incredibly radical, dreaming of a world that none of us, normal citizens, want (a world without meat and dairy!?). Internally, within the movement itself, we will focus on the opposite. We will say that these groups are not that radical at all. We’ll say that they are actually in bed with us, the meat industry, and that these groups’ goal is not a vegan world, or at least, that they are extremely ineffective. We might also play the moral card, saying that what they do is actually immoral from an animal rights point of view.
Interviewer: Something like this?
Ham Burger: Hey, this is awesome! Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, ineffective and immoral, right. You know, what’s really damaging to us is these groups’ lobbying for animal welfare legislation. Legislation regarding animal welfare makes everything so much more difficult for us, and in the end will make animal products a lot more expensive, which will inevitably cause demand to slow down further. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem too difficult to make the movement believe that this lobbying for welfarist regulations is really problematic.
Ham Burger: Right, see, they already believe this. So, another thing I would try to convince the animal rights movement of, is to communicate as radical and absolutist as possible. I don’t have to tell you that our industry is not afraid of that little fringe part of the movement that wants everything right here, right now and sees things very much in black and white. What’s dangerous is when the movement starts to be reasonable and patient. What’s dangerous is when they start telling the public that they can go step by step. It’s just basic psychology that a much bigger number of people will want to start taking steps when they’re being asked to do something that seems actually feasible. So, anyway, it would be great if the animal rights movement would be as black and white as possible, ideally telling everyone to go vegan, and that everything else, everything short of vegan, is pretty much worthless.
Interviewer: I found this on the web. Is it yours?
Ham Burger: Ah, interesting. Well, no… but it could have been. Who’s this from?
Interviewer: Some guy. So, considering what you just said, I assume you think that the Meatless Monday campaign is really problematic?
Ham Burger: Oh yes, that [expletive crossed out] is just a disaster for our industry. That single [expletive crossed out] campaign creates so many meat reducers, that all together they could really tip the system. All these ah… we call them reducetarians… all these people are together the main cause for the decline in sales and consumption of meat. It’s hard to discredit the campain for a general public, but within the movement we have some ideas.
Interviewer: Maybe like this?
Ham Burger: Yes. We’ve’ll emphasize that Meatless Mondays are not necessarily vegan, and of course this campaign is by definition incremental, so it should be possible to convince part of the movement not to support this and actively speak out against it. Can you send me a copy of this?
Interviewer: Sure thing. What else do you think is important to focus on from the industry side?
Ham Burger: I must say, every time a celebrity has some kind of vegan stint, we’re terrified, to be honest. They get such huge attention for that, it’s incredible. Have you seen what happened when Clinton or Beyonce jump on this vegan thing? Of course you’ve seen it, because it was in the news all over the world. It’s just terrible. Again, I’m not sure how to discredit that with the general population, but within the animal rights movement I think our approach should be to point out their hypocrisy – most of these celebrities are not perfect vegans, or full time vegans, so it’s not difficult to show that. That way, we hope to get part of the movement to attack the celebrities through social media and thus alienate them from the vegetarian movement. Maybe then they will shut up about their eating habits, or, ideally turn back to meat, you know. And then with people like Ricky Gervais, who care about lions and giraffes, but are not yet talking about meat, we have to make sure they stay that way. Maybe if the animal rights movement gives him enough flack he’d get really disgusted with them. That’s the hope, at least.
Interviewer: Something like this meme?
Ham Burger: Yes, spot on!
Interviewer: What is extremely damaging for the industry, it seems to me, are all those undercover investigations, and especially the media attention they are getting. You talked about ag-gag laws, but do you have other plans?
Ham Burger: Ag-gag laws have been partially successful, but we’re also looking to undermine the support for these investigations within the animal rights movement. We are thinking of maybe planting the argument that these investigations are unethical, as the activists have to actually participate in the things they are against, you know. Or at the very least, they have to watch without doing anything. Both facts seem to run against the animal rights philosophy, if you ask me. On top of that, by now, these organisations must have so much material already that we could argue that, given that these investigations are unethical, they are also redundant. Also, we could point out that maybe publishing this undercover footage doesn’t really contribute to the abolition of meat, but rather to improving welfare.
Interviewer: Right. I can see that.
Ham Burger: Now, I kept the most important thing for last. The animal rights movement – or animal liberation movement or whatever… they are constantly arguing amongst themselves about which groups should call themselves what, but we honestly don’t care. Animal rights, liberation, protection… to us it’s all the same, but they seem obsessed with the terminology somehow. Anyway, I digress. This movement is mainly focused on moral arguments. They try to make people see that it’s wrong to kill and eat animals, or that the conditions in which the animals are raised are wrong, etcetera. Now, we don’t believe they can ever win this fight based on morality alone. However, what is very dangerous to us is the rise of all these new alternatives, especially the products the new Silicon Valley startups have come up with…
Interviewer: You mean companies like Hampton Creek, Beyond Meat, Impossible foods…? What are you doing against them?
Ham Burger: Exactly, all those guys. The moment they manage to develop true alternatives for any of our animal products, which are not more expensive, just as tasty, not derived from animals, and maybe even healthier and – I hate to say it – more sustainable… that will be when the [expletive deleted] really hits the fan. So, in terms of what we’ve been doing… Not that much for now. This is something our task force (myself and my colleagues, Mr Nugget and Ms Chop) are giving a lot of attention presently. We’ve had some failures, like the Unilever suit against Hampton Creek, and some very small successes, like the smear campaign against Daiya Foods [who got a lot of flack for using non vegan dishes in its advertising – ed. ], and a very critical article on Hampton Creek in a magazine, where a journalist was able to dig up some dirt about them through ex-employees. But like I said, we’re looking into this and much more needs to be done.
Interviewer: Do you think the movement itself could be enlisted in some resistance against these products or companies?
Ham Burger: Yes, I think there are possibilities. We may try to influence opinions in terms of these products not being natural, for instance. In the case of in vitro meat, many vegetarians are already against it, saying it’s still meat and still encourages the idea that meat is necessary, etcetera. So I think we’ve got some stuff to go on, yes. Also, our research seems to point out that in a very general sense, a big part of the movement wants the revolution to happen for moral reasons, and preferably for moral reasons alone. So they’re not really that enthusiastic about people switching because alternatives are cheaper, healthier or tastier…
Interviewer: Thanks for this interview, Mr Burger. I hope to touch base with you at a later stage, when some of these ideas have been firmed up.
Ham Burger: Thanks. Definitely.
** Just to make sure: this is *satire* 🙂
References: except for the first, all pictures, including the text on undercover investigations, have been published on this Facebook Page.