Piglets nursing on a piece of ham

Have you ever noticed how many animals offer their own food products in ads? I must have seen dozens of pigs over the years, dressed up as chefs and urging people to buy hot dogs. These ads, needless to say, are odd and tasteless. But they are not the peak of crudity. That title goes to ads in which animals are eating themselves.

Consider these two examples:

In this McDonald’s ad, a chicken is apparently so tempted by the chicken burger made of its own flesh, it gobbles it right up, leaving only a few bread crumbs in its voracious wake. Your food is so tasty not even your food can resist it.

In this ham ad, five piglets are crowding around a plump sausage as if it were their mother, nursing on what would be her teats. What’s the message of this disturbing, sad ad? What’s good enough for thirsty piglets is good enough for you? Our ham is so natural, piglets would mistake it for their mother?

I know most humans are callous when it comes to animals, but I’ve always assumed that calling pig „pork“ or processing meat out of recognition were the only ways in which people could maintain their callousness. Thinking about the piglets their ham orphaned or their chicken burger’s ghost would disrupt that sufficiently comforting bubble. So what are we to make of these ads? They couldn’t be much more in-your-face.  When I first saw them, I was sure that the orphaned piglets who are so desperate for a mother they’d suck on a chunk of ham would make most people sad. And any living being eating itself should be off-putting, not appetizing.

These ads, if taken literally, would be so disturbing to even the most unregenerate meat eater that they must be the height of alienation rather than its antithesis. Associations of humans eating themselves or babies sucking on their dead and processed mom’s flesh in infant dependency are so repulsive, only the absolute negation of these images’ depiction of living beings could thwart such associations.

In order to still crave that ham you have to be able to look at a piglet sucking on its mother’s mangled corpse and be so convinced that you’re not looking at an animal, your mind doesn’t start to spin. In order to still order that chicken burger, you have to be able to view a chicken unable to resist the flavor of its own flesh and not gag from your evolutionarily engrained revulsion at cannibalism.

This is truly the height of alienation from animals’ lives and bodies, not its inversion.