Posted by: Bill Tracy | July 27, 2010

Parents, Not Pigs

I was a Big Brother in the mid-1980s. My intentions were pure, but I wasn’t very good at it. My “little brother” was a high-schooler living with his mother in a modest Washington, DC area apartment. She was a good woman doing the best she could for her son. Her income as a government clerk was minimal. One Saturday morning as the son and I left his mother’s apartment to go somewhere we were talking of his upcoming test for the driver license.

Mother Son

A mother providing food for her child. When the child has the money to buy his own food, he can be "the decider," and get whatever he likes.

As we walked past his mother’s car in the parking lot he said something about how she was going to have to get him a good car – he had no intention of being seen driving around in her old junker. Rather than understanding what motivates a teen, I got furious about his remark. I saw it simply as patent disrespect for a mother who had very little and was doing her best to keep a roof over his head, give him decent clothes and food and get him educated. Hell, it was her trying to deal with his emotional needs that got him involved with the Big Brother program. I was infuriated at his ingratitude and warped expectations. As I said, I wasn’t very good at it.

Today, I understand a lot more, but I still have no tolerance for children who do not respect the care and love provided by their parents. That’s what got me so upset about Hatfield Meats. They are a “pork producer” closely aligned with the Philadelphia Phillies baseball entertainment operation. They advertise on the radio station that broadcasts the games, WPHT-AM. Even though I’m in California I listen to the games on that station over the Internet. Between innings I usually mute out the commercials, but recently I heard a Hatfield ad and could hardly believe what I was hearing.

Cow in the shade

The iconic happy, California cow. A pleasant pasture and a shady spot under the tree. Compare that to his mammal relatives in factory pig farms operated by "pork producers."

The Hatfield ad begins loudly banging out a version of Rossini’s William Tell Overture. (That’s what it sounds like to me; I’m no music expert.) A young boy is singing a message, apparently to his parent, voicing great dissatisfaction with being served leftovers so often. At one point he accuses the parent of maliciousness, saying: “I think you’re making this out of spite.” When I heard that I was right back in my 1985 Big Brother role. Here is a child, totally dependent on his parents for everything, and he aggressively bullies them, accusing them of feeding him something he doesn’t want as if they’re committing a passive-aggressive act of vengeance against him. When did we switch to this new parent-child relationship? The airing of such a commercial suggests the company believes this is okay, that’s it’s a norm in today’s families. Children should now make demands and parents must comply. I wrote to Hatfield suggesting they consider changing their advertising. So far I’ve heard nothing from them.

Marketing, I clearly understand, uses children to influence the purchase decisions of their parents these days. That’s an old standby at this point. When I was growing up, in a time and place very distant, I might try to convince my parents to buy me a Davy Crockett coonskin cap, but no corporation was telling me to tell my parents what pork chops to buy. And my parents wouldn’t have been interested in my pork chop opinions anyway. They were providing the food, and if I wasn’t grateful for that, “well you better get grateful, mister.”

If you go to the Hatfield Web site, you’ll find they are nothing but a wonderful corporate citizen promoting the best possible “family values.” Apparently they are a privately held company, family-operated under the Clemens Food Group name. Their president, Douglas Clemens has this to say in their “sustainability report,” Building a Foundation for the Future:

“Our Core Values of Integrity, Ethics and Stewardship are the basis of every business decision we make. Our Core Value of Stewardship can mean many things, but in the big picture, it means building a foundation for the future, or sustainability. As you read through this report you will see how we are committed to acting as good stewards to our team members, the environment, our products and customers, animal welfare and the community.”

Deer in the yard

Our fellow animal creatures include this deer in my yard the other evening when I arrived home. He had already started on his salad course.

That all sounds very nice. What could be more Mom and apple pie than integrity, ethics and stewardship?  But broadcasting an advertisement where a child bullies a parent doesn’t fit those values for me. How is that being a good steward for the community? I suspect Hatfield doesn’t truly care about what they say they care about. Like all corporations, they genuinely care about profits and the “sustainability” of their own corporation. Anything else is simply posturing. I don’t know if they’re evil, but I sure don’t like what I see.

The most damning thing I’ve seen is a video about Hatfield’s treatment of the animals that are the basis of their corporate profits. Under the Clemens Food Group, they operate a pig farming entity called “Country View Family Farms.” A billion dollars of Wall Street marketing talent couldn’t come up with a more wholesome sounding name. Yet, this video tells a wholly contradictory story at Country View Family Farms. Before I post the link to the video, two disclaimers:

  1. I am not an animal rights nut. I don’t believe animals are people. Neither should they be given voting rights. However, I do strongly believe animals are our living creature partners on the planet and deserve respect. The ones that provide food for us by giving up their own lives deserve not only respect but genuine reverence.
  2. This video is brutal and is not for the squeamish. If you choose to watch it, you will see things you do not want to see and that you surely want to deny. I can still hardly believe the viciousness I saw in it. Also, given the nature of the video, you will have to provide age verification to see it. This can be done by signing in or signing up for a Google/Youtube account.

http://www.youtube.com/verify_age?next_url=http%3A//www.youtube.com/watch%3Fv%3DfDiSR0LGry8%26has_verified%3D1

On their Web site, Hatfield is proud to direct you to what they think is a more positive video. It’s their documentary about the creation of the “Hatfield Hot Dog Launcher.”

Chicken on a grille

A professional tending teryaki chicken on a grille. Wholesome food well prepared. Looks good even to me, and I don't like chicken.

The video features Eric Haman, Hatfield employee. He apparently oversees operations of the hot dog launcher. They take this cannon to Phillies baseball games and use it to shoot hot dogs at the crowd in the stands. Apparently the 40,000 or so people in the stands see this as just good, clean fun. That puts me in the small minority of people who see this as barbaric. To me, it’s disrespect for animals that gave their lives to provide food for humans. Adding insult to injury, this video shows someone dressed as a pig cheering on the hot dog shooting activities. No doubt, he is meant to represent approval from the animals. The pigs apparently love it and wish they could be there for the fun!

If you feel compelled to communicate with Hatfield, contact information is on their Web site:

http://www.hatfieldqualitymeats.com/

I wouldn’t let the children communicate with them though. Hatfield can’t be trusted around kids.

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Responses

  1. Our local cable operator ran a series of dreadful spots in which tarted up 7 year-old children alternately instructed and manipulated their parents into purchasing the deluxe cable package. I wondered at the marketing executive who thought parents would approve little girls dressed whorishly or enjoy being bossed around by them.
    Are we so desperate to evade our adult responsibilities that we gladly hand our decision-making over to children? Is that why we don’t discipline our children and instead bribe them? And by discipline, I mean spend time with, impart values by our words and actions and setting guidelines and standards for behavior. Oh, yeah, and yelling at them when they don’t show their moma proper gratitude!

  2. First of all, what do you truly know about Hatfield, the Clemens Food Group, and more important the integrity of the family who owns them? I suspect nothing.

    Here are a some INFORMED answers to your UNINFORMED comments:

    To make a blanket statement that ALL corporations simply care about profits, is is an absolute ignorant statement, especially when it comes to the Clemens Family businesses. You would be hard-pressed to find another organization that does more for the community, charities, and the world abroad. They not only donate more to charity than any other organization I know, but they use their resources, talents, and abilities to better the our community, state, country, and the world.

    The animal cruelty issue that you mention was an isolated incident. It took place at one out of hundreds of farms. They discovered the problem, on their own, six months prior to when this video was originally aired, and corrected it. They not only fired the people who were involved, but they instituted a new, company-wide program that insures something like this should never happens again. If you knew them, which you don’t, you would know how deeply this impacted them and how important it was to them to correct it. They hold themselves to a higher standard, and they do it because it’s the right thing to do.

    Obviously the radio spots are meant to be humorous. Anyone who looks deeper and makes assumptions as to underlying messages, must have issues themselves. The Clemens organization is truly a FAMILY organization. They don’t just talk about it, they live it. They have donate millions of dollars to family and kids organizations, troubled youth programs, and countless other organizations. Not because they have to, but because they care.

    I won’t even bother to address the Hot Dog Launcher video, because your point is too ridiculous to even respond to.

    I would encourage you to be more concerned about living a good and moral life yourself, instead of judging others and making false acquisitions, that you have no facts or first-hand knowledge to validate.

  3. I guess Chuck’s on the payroll….

  4. What a horiffic video. I could not even watch it. I turned it off. I DO love pork, but it is enough to make me want to become vegetarian.


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