22 September 2015
Closer to Nature? A Critical Discussion of the Marketing of ‘‘Ethical’’ Animal Products
Borkfelt, S. Kondrup, S.V., Röcklinsberg, H., Bjørkdahl, K, & Gjerris, M. (2015)
Journal of Agricultural and Environmental Ethics. Springer.
As public awareness of environmental issues and animal welfare has risen, catering to public concerns and views on these issues has become a potentially profitable strategy for marketing a number of product types, of which animal products such as dairy and meat are obvious examples. Our analysis suggests that specific marketing instruments are used to sell animal products by blurring the difference between the paradigms of animal welfare used by producers, and the paradigms of animal welfare as perceived by the public. These instruments rely on ethical, political and sustainable consumption discourses in order to sell one image of animal welfare in intensive animal production while the actual production at the same time presupposes a quite different paradigm of animal welfare. Specifically, product advertising utilizes representations tied to concepts of naturalness in depictions of both animal lives and product processes as ‘‘natural’’. Product marketing suggests a coherence between nature, production process (farm, animal), and end product, thereby creating associations that the lives of production animals are lived in nature and that their products bring a wholesome and sustainable naturalness to the consumer —thus attempting to display a green, eco-, climate-, and animal friendly production. By analyzing a number of cases from the Scandinavian food market, this paper thus illustrates the tensions between paradigms of animal welfare and concepts of naturalness as these are used in animal product marketing, discussesthe ethical implications of this type of marketing communication, and stresses the need for transparency in the area of animal welfare.