The Conundrum of Convenience // Nina Odegaard

Convenience is the key. “The key to what?” one may ask. Well, I hope to bring about a clear and concise answer to this question by drawing from my thoughts, research, readings, and writing that have cumulated over the course of my two-quarter class, Critical Thinking and Writing (CTW) – Food, Self, Culture and Human, Animal, Machine. It is not uncommon to come across a relentless desire to make life easier in all aspects possible in the American culture. If one looks to the technological advances of this day and age, this desire is evident in the constant attempt to reinvent the wheel and make the car drive faster.

The content of my CTW 1 and 2 classes has allowed me to detect this obsession with convenience within the confines of the food and entertainment industries. Specifically, I have examined the relationship between the consumer and such industries. So let us return to the question regarding to what convenience is the key. After evaluating my work over the past two quarters, what I have found to be most astonishing is that the food and entertainment industries exploit our American culture’s obsession with convenience and use it to their advantage in order to make a profit off the uniformed public. Therefore, convenience is the most easily and most often used tool to maintain ignorance within consumers. It is the key to injustice.

photo 2It was truly shocking how much evidence of a disregard for ethics was present all throughout my research. I was constantly asking myself, “How could anyone do that?” One of the first places I first asked this question was in the writings of Jonathan Safran Foer: “Farmers — corporations is the right word — have the power to define cruelty. If the industry adopts a practice — hacking off unwanted appendages with no painkillers, for example…it automatically becomes legal” (Foer, 51). This quote is an excerpt from the book Eating Animals, and this work did a thorough job of opening my eyes to the inner workings of factory farming. After I was able to get a basic knowledge of, apparently common, horrible practices such as cutting off appendages of animals without painkillers and not calling it cruelty, I was able to delve deeper into other aspects of research that connected back to it. So what does this have to do with convenience? Well, in this case, companies like Perdue Farms Inc. see it in their best interest to “cater to” the demand for convenience of the public by pushing the limits of how cruel they can be without getting reprimanded for it – all for the sake of a profit. The way I see it, corporations like this don’t really care about what the consumer wants. They are only concerned about making money.

My research continued and I encountered the story of Carole Morison, one of Perdue’s chicken farmers, in a movie that we watched in class. She talks about how being a part of the factory farming industry as a chicken farmer is likbeing a slave to a company. I watched an interview with her in which she offers some explanation as to why she feels this way: “The companies keep the farmers under their thumb because of the debt thaphoto 4t the farmers have. To build one poultry house is anywhere from $280,000-$300,000 per house” (Food Inc.). So why are these companies like Perdue Farms acting so unjustly toward their own workers? I believe this is the case because the only thing that is on their mind is money when it really should be about running a corporation honestly and efficiently. But no, these companies have to supply a demand for convenience. It is clearly evident that profit is what is driving Perdue Farms to conduct the company the way it does, not a sincere care for its chickens, consumers, or workers.

I then moved on to exploring what the key aspect of companies are that allow them to perform such acts of injustice. I found my answer in the research of Philip Zimbardo. At the time, I was actually learning about him in my Psychology class, and we watched his TED Talk. I was struck by something that he said about being abusive: “If you give people power without oversight, it’s a prescription for abuse” (Zimbardo). It all made sense. Of course these factory farms are exploiting consumers for the sake of money. No one is there to constantly check on how companies run their operations, so it is obviously going to lead to abusive actions. All they have to do is cover it up and say it’s all being administered in the name of convenience.

After examining the way in which these companies are run, I looked into how they are being supported by the government. By means of statistical evidence, I found answers in the use of government subsidies: “From 1995 to 2012, corn subsidies in the United States estimated a total of $84.4 billion.” After I presented this question in my essay, I followed it with a series of questions: “Why is it that the government is subsidizing crops like corn instead of vegetables? Why is this nation choosing to offer corn as a main food source to the poor? How can companies like Tyson Foods claim that they are concerned with the families across the country when they are robbing them of nutrition by using crops like corn so much?” (Environmental Working Group). Impoverished families are looking for something convenient and inexpensive in their diets, so the food industry offers them fast food restaurants. Because the poor cannot afford anything better, they have to resort to eating unhealthy food. Sounds pretty unjust to me.

photo 5SONY DSC

Now to turn to the entertainment industry. Have you ever seen the movie Water for Elephants? Well whether you have or not, you should know that it was given the “No Animals Were Harmed” stamp when the movie was produced (Animals Were Harmed). You should also know that a video taken undercover was released to the public that revealed the training stages for the elephants before the actual filming of the movie. These wild animals had to be coaxed to respond in certain ways on set. Therefore, the most effective way that the trainers thought this could be done was through forceful and painful tactics. The video showed elephants, even babies, being beaten with the bull hooks and receiving electric shocks that caused them to scream in pain (Zelman). All for the sake of entertainment. If this isn’t unjust, I don’t know what is.
WATER FOR ELEPHANTS

For consumers in the entertainment industry, it is so easy to turn a blind eye to animal abuse. Therefore, it is partly their fault for ignoring these events. It also goes back to the idea that movie producers are aware of the fact that consumers want convenience and ease in entertainment, so they take advantage of this for profit. In this essay I compared the food industry to the entertainment industry: “Because of the movie goer’s lack of knowledge when it comes to what is really happening with animals on a movie set, there exists an even bigger issue of transparency than that of factory farming, and one ends up supporting something that he or she does not actually hold to be ethical.” There is something wrong with this picture. Something is wrong in the relationship between the consumer and the producer. There are no ethics involved, no justice. Only a desire for convenience that rules all aspects of these industries.

At the end of one of my essays, I asked my readers to keep something in mind. I will also share that with you.

Be aware and continue to seek awareness. Change will stem from this. In order to destroy the corruption, one must begin to dismantle it piece by piece. Once this is accomplished, the desire for convenience may start to whither. An honest relationship between the consumer and producer may be fostered. We first must gain knowledge.

Works Cited
“Animals Were Harmed.” Hollywoodreporter.com. The Hollywood Reporter, 6 Dec. 2013. Web.23 Feb. 2014.

Environmental Working Group. “2012 Farm Subsidy Database.” EWG Farm Subsidy Database. EWG Farm Subsidies, n.d. Web. 09 Oct. 2013.

Foer, Jonathan Safran. Eating Animals. New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2010. Print.

Food, Inc. Dir. Robert Kenner. Movie One, 2008.

Zelman, Joanna. “‘Water For Elephants’ Animal Abuse Allegedly Revealed In Undercover

Video.” Huffingtonpost.com. The Huffington Post, 11 May 2011. Web. 21 Feb. 2014

Zimbardo, Philip. “Philip Zimbardo: The Psychology of Evil.” TED: Ideas worth Spreading. TedTalks, Sept. 2008. Web. 7 Nov. 2013.

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