A Speaking Piglet Advertises Beef: An Ethical Analysis on Objectification and Anthropomorphism

TitleA Speaking Piglet Advertises Beef: An Ethical Analysis on Objectification and Anthropomorphism
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2016
AuthorsLeitsberger, M, Benz-Schwarzburg, J, Grimm, H
JournalJournal of Agricultural & Environmental Ethics
Date Published2016
Publication Languageeng
ISBN Number11877863
Keywordsadvertising , animals , Anthropomorphism , Domestic , Farm , Instrumentalisation , media , Objectification , TELEVISION
AbstractThe portrayal of animals in the media is often criticised for instrumentalising, objectifying and anthropomorphising animals (e.g. Hirschman and Sanders in Semiotica 115(1/2):53-79, 1997; Lerner and Kalof in Sociol Q 40(4):565-586, 1999; Stewart and Cole in Int J Multidiscip Res 12(4):457-476, 2009). Although we agree with this criticism, we also identify the need for a more substantiated approach to the moral significance of instrumentalisation, objectification and anthropomorphism. Thus, we propose a new framework which is able to address the morally relevant aspects of animal portrayal in the media. We closely examine the normative messages communicated by an unusual TV commercial in which an anthropomorphised piglet advertises organic beef. This serves as a case example to relate the philosophical and ethical concepts of objectification and anthropomorphism to each other and show how they can be applied. We conclude that the commercial conveys a message of animal instrumentalisation as being normatively correct within the constraint of good animal welfare. The depicted form of instrumentalisation is, nonetheless, associated with harm for the animals and thus, needs to overcome cognitive dissonance. To achieve this, animals are directly objectified by a trivialised and de-individualised portrayal. Moreover, animals are indirectly objectified even when they are anthropomorphised as they are granted significance only through being human-like. Thus, objectification and anthropomorphism are not opposing terms in our proposed framework. In addition, objectification, together with the reference to the dominant ideology, and combined with humorous anthropomorphism weakens scrutiny of these normative messages by the viewers. This eventually augments a decrease of moral concern for farmed animals in advertisement employing such portrayals. 
NotesLeitsberger, Madelaine 1; Email Address: M.Leitsberger.15@unimail.winchester.ac.uk; Benz-Schwarzburg, Judith 2; Grimm, Herwig 2; Affiliations: 1: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Centre for Animal Welfare , University of Winchester , Sparkford Road Winchester SO22 4NR UK; 2: Unit of Ethics and Human-Animal Studies, Messerli Research Institute , University of Vienna, Medical University of Vienna, University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna , Veterinaerplatz 1 1210 Vienna Austria; Issue Info: Dec2016, Vol. 29 Issue 6, p1003; Thesaurus Term: ADVERTISING campaigns; Thesaurus Term: TELEVISION commercials; Subject Term: ANIMALS on television; Subject Term: ANTHROPOMORPHISM; Subject Term: DOMESTIC animals; Author-Supplied Keyword: Anthropomorphism; Author-Supplied Keyword: Farm animal; Author-Supplied Keyword: Instrumentalisation; Author-Supplied Keyword: Media; Author-Supplied Keyword: Objectification; NAICS/Industry Codes: 541870 Advertising Material Distribution Services; NAICS/Industry Codes: 411110 Live animal merchant wholesalers; NAICS/Industry Codes: 512110 Motion Picture and Video Production; Number of Pages: 17p; Document Type: Article