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Friday, December 8, 2023

The Hen Run motion pictures and the way we discuss to children about manufacturing facility farming, defined

The 2000 youngsters’s film Hen Run is among the darker and extra subversive movies made for teenagers: The story follows a flock of lovable, although fairly depressing, chickens who conspire to flee a farm earlier than their impending slaughter.

Regardless of the grim subject material, it’s charming and entertaining, totally incomes its 97 p.c critic’s ranking on Rotten Tomatoes. The script reads prefer it was written by PETA, but it was a field workplace hit and stays the highest-grossing stop-motion animated film ever made.

Subsequent week, Netflix is releasing a sequel — Hen Run: Daybreak of the Nugget — with the identical theme however up to date to replicate our more and more dystopian animal farming system.

This time round, as a substitute of escaping a farm, the identical chickens are breaking into one to rescue one in every of their flock members (which additionally occurs to be the technique of some animal rights activists).

The farm in query is Enjoyable-Land Farms (tagline: “The place chickens discover their pleased endings”), an infinite, futuristic poultry operation through which a mad scientist has created a tool that, when worn across the chickens’ necks, makes them pleased to be slaughtered.

To a number of the chickens, Enjoyable-Land seems to be just like the idyllic pasture depicted within the commercial, but it surely’s all an phantasm — a giant room painted to seem like an old-timey farm. In a single scene, a hen slams right into a wall, which is painted to seem like the sky — seemingly an homage to that haunting scene in The Truman Present. When the mind-altering gadgets are briefly turned off, the chickens are horrified by their manufacturing facility farm actuality.

Two clay-molded chickens stare around at the Fun-Land Farm with expressions of anxiety. Other chickens play in the background, swinging on swing-sets and sitting on seesaws.


The movie looks like a pointed critique of the manufacturing facility farm trade’s use of misleading advertising to persuade the general public that animals are handled much better than they are surely, what’s often known as “humanewashing.” It’s a heavy message packaged in an entertaining, if formulaic, youngsters’s film, and it’s a radical departure from how animal farming is usually depicted in youngsters’s literature and movie.

What ought to children find out about meat?

Within the mid-2000s, creator and illustrator Ruby Roth was educating artwork to elementary college children. Roth was, and nonetheless is, a vegan, and typically college students would ask her about what she was consuming. She appeared for a youngsters’s e-book that defined her perception system and confirmed the fact of animal manufacturing facility farming in a approach youngsters may perceive, however she couldn’t discover one, so she ultimately made her personal: That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals.

Revealed in 2009, the e-book’s depiction of animal agriculture was fairly tame. It sometimes illustrated some normal types of animal cruelty — like holding egg-laying hens in tiny cages — in a approach that’s unhappy however not graphic. Nonetheless, the e-book precipitated an uproar.

Roth stated she was accused of scaring and brainwashing youngsters. Little one psychologists on the Immediately present, she recalled, mentioned the supposed hazard of studying her e-book to children.

“Essentially the most fascinating a part of the entire outrage was that by calling my e-book controversial, it appeared to me we had been admitting that what we do to animals is simply too scary to speak about,” Roth stated. “So to me, that stated we wish to be willfully ignorant and impose that ignorance on our youngsters.”

However children had a really completely different response to the e-book, Roth stated, proposing sensible options like shopping for leather-free footwear or altering what they eat, and wildly imaginative ones, like “flying over the nation and rescuing all of the animals.”

“Whenever you converse frankly to youngsters, they actually concentrate as a result of they’re used to individuals talking right down to them or sugarcoating conversations,” Roth added. “I discovered that youngsters had been engaged and .”

It’s straightforward to dismiss Roth as somebody who’s pushing her ideology onto children, however I’d argue the default message society sends children about animal farming is worse — in that it’s a complete fabrication. Children love animals, but youngsters’s books cause them to imagine that farmed animals reside fortunately and may freely transfer about. That these animals go on to change into the burgers and nuggets children eat is just about by no means talked about.

“Youngsters are socialized to not determine the animal that they’re consuming,” stated Anastassiya Andrianova, an affiliate professor of English at North Dakota State College who researches how animal farming is portrayed in youngsters’s literature. “Not solely is the animal absent once they’re introduced on a plate as meat, however even the best way that our language capabilities, it camouflages and mystifies that hyperlink.” Pig meat known as “pork,” “bacon” and “sausage,” whereas cow’s meat is “beef” and cow’s milk is simply “milk.”

In actuality, 99 p.c of the 9.7 billion land animals raised for meals within the US yearly reside in brutish situations on manufacturing facility farms, the place they’re mutilated with out ache aid, crammed collectively in warehouses, and compelled to wallow in their very own waste. Many are drugged up on antibiotics to outlive these situations, they usually’ve been bred to develop greater, quicker, and pump out extra eggs and milk, all to the detriment of their welfare.

A wall of chickens in small cages.

Chickens headed for slaughter on a transport truck in Canada.
Jo-Anne McArthur/We Animals Media

Chickens in cages at a industrial egg farm within the US.
Edwin Remsburg/VW Pics by way of Getty Photos

When youngsters are proven the fact of those situations, some can sense one thing is incorrect. Mercy for Animals, a farm animal welfare nonprofit I labored at previous to Vox, created a video through which youngsters are proven photos of hens and pigs in tiny cages, an ordinary farming follow. “They’re soiled and trapped,” a 4-year-old says. “It’s not good to deal with any animal like that,” says a 7-year-old.

After I was a child, I most likely would have had an analogous response, however I didn’t study any of this till I used to be in highschool.

There’s no easy reply to the query of what age youngsters needs to be given the chilly, laborious information of meals manufacturing, and in how a lot element. However Roth is true that the hysteria over her e-book says much more about adults’ discomfort with how animals change into meat than about what’s good for kids.

That discomfort is usually described by psychologists because the “meat paradox,” outlined in a 2010 paper because the “psychological battle between individuals’s dietary choice for meat and their ethical response to animal struggling.” It reveals up within the many lies we inform ourselves, and move right down to our youngsters, about our relationship to animals.

One examine of Australian mother and father, for instance, discovered that almost all falsely inform their youngsters that animals are “killed fastidiously and with out cruelty.” Thirty to forty p.c of American children aged 4 to 7 assume frequent animal merchandise, like bacon, hotdogs, hamburgers, shrimp, and even hen nuggets, come from vegetation, a 2021 examine discovered.

As youngsters age, their pure love for animals tends to be tamped down. Children are taught that “turning into an grownup requires you to form of go away behind your attachment and fondness for animals,” Andrianova stated. The connection morphs from one in every of kinship to one in every of hierarchy, with people on prime. Animals are “like us, and but they’re separate from us in ways in which we have to justify as a result of we have to justify utilizing animals for labor, consumption, clothes, and other forms of technological means,” she added. “This paradox is on the very core of who we’re as people.”

Not every bit of youngsters’s media that takes place on a farm must be the subsequent Hen Run or That’s Why We Don’t Eat Animals. Nevertheless it’s affordable to hope that youngsters needs to be knowledgeable sufficient to at the very least perceive hen nuggets come from chickens, to have a way of what turning animals into meat entails, and to have the flexibility to observe their ethical instincts and have some say in what they eat. The identical goes for adults. It shouldn’t come as a shock that buyers so simply fall for meat trade promoting that makes farms seem like the model they internalized from youngsters’s literature.

I can already hear farm state politicians excoriating the evils of “essential farming principle” if youngsters’s media truly started to replicate the fact of animal agriculture. However we’d change into a extra humane society if we had been extra sincere with ourselves, and kids, about the place meat comes from.

A model of this article initially appeared within the Future Good publication. Enroll right here!

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