Al-Qaeda, factory farming and the paradox of (in)visibility

I love this video on factory farming because it starts so innocently – the marketing person is taking full responsibility for the way consumers are tricked into thinking the way we produce food is ok, even quaint. But then trick number three turns the table and places the blame squarely on her audience, the consumer:

The video reminds we of a great article by Schoeneborn and Scherer (2012) about al-Qaeda, exploring invisibility in clandestine organizations. But because the targets in these two situations are very different, we get very different outcomes, using the same insight. With al-Qaeda, we are the target, so the extreme invisibility of its governance structure and operations, and the extreme visibility of its ‘products’ leads to a society of fear and insane military budgets. In factory farming, we are not the target. So the same invisibility of the governance and operations, and visibility of its ‘products’ leads to “willful ignorance” in the face of massive, systematic cruelty.

Our Broken System…

fair food

“Many of our country’s systems are in need of repair…education system…health care system…energy system…financial system…

But there is another system that gets much less attention than it deserves, even though we all rely on it to keep us alive – if we are lucky, three times a day: our food system. When a system we depend on to meet essential needs isn’t working, the consequences are enormous.The food system that evolved to bring us abundant food at low cost has grown out of control, nourishing us by destroying some of what we hold most precious: our environment, our health, and our future. The problems it has engendered – from agricultural chemical runoff in our rivers, streams, and oceans, to soaring rates of diet-related illnesses (such as diabetes) in our inner cities, to the loss of prime farmland due to urban and suburban sprawl, to corporate conglomeration that concentrates 80 percent of our meat supply in the hands of only four companies – are not isolated issued to be solved one by one. Rather they are symptoms of a food system that is broken and needs to be redesigned.”

That’s the first page of Fair Food: Growing a Healthy, Sustainable Food System for All by Oran B. Hesterman, the founder of the Fair Food Network. Well said. I’ll let you know what the rest of the book has to say.