The Communication of Animals

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“Animals are commodities that we own and that have no value other than that which we, as property owners, choose to give them” (Francione, p. 37, 2008). This statement exhibits the ideologies and perspectives of our cruel culture and displays the level of enormous entitlement humans possess. The commodification of animals resonates so deeply within society that it is impossible to determine the source of this morally questionable frame. The exploitation of animals is a socially acceptable practice and is communicated through all facets of society: the education system, the legal system, in advertising, in cultural norms and in Canadian heritage. The reason this morally incorrect frame is culturally accepted is due to hypocognition (the lack of information included in a frame). As activists groups mobilize and communication campaigns aimed at increasing awareness spread then the level of exploitation will simultaneously decrease. Society, media, and institutions currently depict animals in immoral frames to allow the exploitation and slaughter of these animals to be socially acceptable. The existing status quo (“frame”) needs to be broken down to include words such as: suffering, torture, factory farming, and mutilation to break society’s current views towards the commodification of animals. The inclusion of these words (as seen with the Canadian commercial seal hunt) into the frame will lead to enlightenment and therefore make consumers feel uncomfortable with their conflicting ideals (cognitive dissonance). Throughout this paper I intend to explore how factory farming and the Canadian commercial seal hunt are communicated to the public in morally questionable frames in order to deflect guilt (cognitive dissonance) and increase profits. For the purpose of this essay, the institutionalized frame which involves human consumption of animal products will be referred to as the “animal market frame”. Framing has been a vital tool in the development of the discourse surrounding animals and is one of the various reasons for the wide spread acceptance of exploiting animals. Framing refers to the social construction of a phenomenon by mass media sources or specific political or social movements (Ashcraft & Mumby, p. 18, 2004). A frame has the “power to encourage certain interpretations and place them in a specific field of meaning, while discouraging other interpretations” (Ashcraft & Mumby, p. 18, 2004). Frames have the power to influence an individual’s perceptions and ideologies and draw attention to specific issues while simultaneously instructing individuals on how to think about and perceive an issue. Frames are physically realized in neural circuits in the brain (every word is defined through the frame it neurologically activates) and are created due to constant communicative repetition through various avenues such as: the communication of cultural norms, education systems, legal system, advertising and mass media (Lakoff, p. 72, 2010). According to Lakoff (2010), “words themselves are not frames but under the right conditions, words can be chosen to activate a desired frame” (p.73). The “animal market frame” is universally understood by society and is activated through the communication of words like “consumerism”, “butchers”, “groceries”, “fine dining”, “veal”, “bacon”, or “deli” which masks the true origin of the animal products. The “animal market frame” is also connected to education, government, and religious institutions as occasions like Christmas, Thanksgiving, or Easter are framed around the consumption of animal products. Many frame-circuits have direct connections to the emotional regions of the brain therefore, when a frame is activated often an emotional reaction follows suit (Lakoff, 2010). The current institutionalized “animal market frame” connotes feelings of happiness, gratification and pleasure. The consumption of meat is an enjoyable experience and is associated with positive emotions.  The...
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