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by Mary Harrington
Monday, 13
March 2023
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10:05

Peta’s ‘Last Of Us’ advert dials up the fear message

Guilting the population into compliance is the organisation's only weapon
by Mary Harrington
Screengrab from PETA’s latest advert

The animal cruelty campaigners at Peta had a knack for clickbait even before clickbait was a thing, famously persuading models including Eva Mendes, Pamela Anderson and Joss Stone to pose naked for campaigns against the use of fur, leather or animal products. Now they’ve joined the growing chorus telling us to go vegan or face disaster.

A new advert titled ‘The Last Of Us’ depicts ruined, post-apocalyptic scenes overlaid with a child’s voice reproaching the viewer: “You always told me not to put my finger in the socket…run into the road…talk to strangers…in case I got hurt.” But, the child continues, “you never said don’t eat meat or dairy. Now look what you’ve done.” The strapline: ‘Animal agriculture is killing the planet’.


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The ad is designed (effectively, as I’m writing about it) to produce a reaction. Inevitably, then, it has less to offer on the policy or recipe front than it does on Children of Men styling and provocative claims. But other than reinforcing the determination of that growing subset of millennials and Gen Z who say they don’t want kids because of fears about climate change, what exactly is Peta suggesting we do instead?

The vegans are right, strictly speaking, that industrial animal farming for meat, dairy and eggs is bad for the environment. Runoff from cattle and poultry barns is highly polluting, while vegans could well question the use of arable land to grow cereal crops to feed animals instead of just feeding the grain directly to people.

But here’s the thing: this simply reflects a larger-scale and very thorny problem, which is that industrial farming is bad for the environment full stop. As I’ve argued, just swapping out the industrial production of animal protein with ‘plant-based meat alternatives’ would leave us still structurally reliant on wildlife-destroying industrial monocropping, including heavy use of soil-eroding nitrogen fertilisers and pesticides that harm insects and small birds.

In addition, this industrially-produced crop then has to be further processed in centralised facilities to be converted into the ‘plant-based protein’. It then further requires carbon-intensive packaging and redistribution for sale to vegans, so they can feel good about reducing their carbon footprint by going plant-based.

There is a way out of the bind. It doesn’t involve bullying, cajoling or frightening people into going ‘plant-based’, but rather seeking a return to smaller-scale, more labour-intensive and sustainable mixed farming with animal manure as fertiliser. But this would mean reversing more than two centuries of farm consolidation, rural depopulation, and food chain lengthening, and as such would mean bullying, cajoling or compelling a different and even less compliant set of interests: Big Food, Big Ag and Big Fertiliser, not to mention major landowning interests that, increasingly, include such untouchables as Bill Gates and BlackRock. Any such policy would run counter to so many entrenched regulatory, commercial and political systems that in policy terms it would be dead in the water, no matter the fond fantasies of agri-romantics such as yours truly.

And for as long as we’re stuck in those entrenched systems, we face an unappetising choice. On the one hand objectively cruel, highly polluting and ever more guilt-generating industrialised meat and dairy production; on the other, less cruel but scarcely less industrialised ‘ecomodernist’ alternative protein sources, centred on monocropping for hyper-processed ‘plant-based’ food-like substances that in most cases people don’t even really want to eat. No wonder those campaigners who rightly worry about the impact of industrial animal farming are left with no option but trying to frighten us into compliance.

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Ben Scott
Ben Scott
6 months ago

I’ve often wondered how me walking down to my local butcher and buying locally produced meat, wrapped in paper is bad for the environment, but driving to the supermarket to buy vegetables, mass produced in Kenya, India, Peru, etc., placed on small plastic trays and wrapped in cling film is going to save the planet. I’m sure PETA could explain it.

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
6 months ago
Reply to  Ben Scott

No. No, they couldn’t!

Tony Price
Tony Price
6 months ago
Reply to  Ben Scott

Of course you are right there, and I am in the same lucky position, but for the large majority of the population, certainly of the ‘developed’ world, that is not an option.

Elliott Bjorn
Elliott Bjorn
6 months ago
Reply to  Ben Scott

”I’m sure PETA could explain it.”

PETA could not explain anything because they are coming from a position 100% based on feelings:

The feeling being HATE; they hate you, hate humanity, the West, hate our history, culture – they hate babies, families, pets, livestock, animals; they hate all which if decent in Humanity, and would crush it and its works and spirit.

They are a sign of how utterly Sick and pathologically self loathing and depraved modern society is.

They hate families and society…..They have one wish – to destroy Humanity.

Mike Doyle
Mike Doyle
6 months ago

I’m all in favour of P.E.T.A – People Eating Tasty Animals.

Robbie K
Robbie K
6 months ago

I once seriously considered having a small farmstead – turns out that yes it can be rewarding, but it’s one hell of a grind, and no wonder previous generations wanted to get away from it.
So there’s no point blaming big ag – the finger points at us, the consumer. We want cheap fresh products instantly available without the effort. And once you’ve had that, it’s very hard to go back.

polidori redux
polidori redux
6 months ago

I am not unsympathetic to Mary’s argument, but let’s be clear that making agriculture more labour intensive is simply a polite way of saying ” make us all poorer”.

Tom Lewis
Tom Lewis
6 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Not me, I’m a farmer

John Riordan
John Riordan
6 months ago
Reply to  Tom Lewis

Actually it would make you poorer too. You’d be paying wages for low return manual labour instead of buying diesel for high return mechanisation.

Elliott Bjorn
Elliott Bjorn
6 months ago
Reply to  polidori redux

No it is Not.

What is poorer to you? If you got 50 pound sacks nutritionally whole Purina Human Chow, all industrially planted, fertilized, harvested, processed, packaged and delivered to your food bin – and thus saved 50% of your food costs – would you count that as being ‘Richer’?

Is life to you when all processes are done mechanically you are Richer? And when ever humans do something a machine could do – you are poorer?

Sad comment – sad all the upvotes.

Billy Bob
Billy Bob
6 months ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

You clearly don’t understand (or are deliberately ignoring) how productivity works, and how increasing it makes society more financially wealthy

polidori redux
polidori redux
6 months ago
Reply to  Elliott Bjorn

That’s right. We were so much richer in the middle ages, when 90% of the population was employed in agriculture – All those happy, dancing peasants living the dream. Remember, the number of people employed in an activity is the measure of its cost.

Last edited 6 months ago by polidori redux
Lindsay S
Lindsay S
6 months ago

Ahh PETA, batsh*t crazy is what they are! This is the problem with care in the community. The community becomes the asylum and soon we don’t know who is crazy and who isn’t!

Elliott Bjorn
Elliott Bjorn
6 months ago
Reply to  Lindsay S

there is a touch of satanic in their loathing of humans

Steven Campbell
Steven Campbell
6 months ago

The government rules, regulations and tax policies have made the days of the small multi-use farm almost extinct. As with most of our issues of the day, downsize the government and much of the problem gets much smaller.

Tony Price
Tony Price
6 months ago

Really? Would not the mega-ag-ind corporations be the ones to suck up the less-regulated space?

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
6 months ago

Do people realize that industrialized farming has literally lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty and hunger? It has freed up labour to do more productive, wealth generating occupations.

North America has less acres of land devoted to agriculture today than it did 100 years ago. There is more forest today than there was 100 years ago. There are actual paintings depicting agriculture in northeast US 150 years ago, that today is forest.

When the Dutch govt buys out and takes over 3.000 farms, it isn’t saving the planet. It’s simply shifting production to some other less productive location, probably requiring five times the amount of land, and making us poorer and more hungry.

This romanticized notion of small farm, sustainable agriculture is silly and dangerous.

Robert Cocco
Robert Cocco
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

No, they don’t realize what it takes to feed lots and lots (and lots) of poor, hungry people.

laurence scaduto
laurence scaduto
6 months ago

Mary’s right; smaller farms are the way to go. A very good argument can be made that it’s better to buy from local producers and small retailers than sending our money to the distant, and usually quite wealthy, stockholders of some corporation.
High prices would be a serious problem. Small farms couldn’t compete on price. But after a shake-out period and once some equality was brought to the government subsidies routine, I wonder if the prices wouldn’t start to even out. Both my local bookshop and local hardware store managed to squeeze their prices almost as low as their big box competitors. It would be up to us to be willing to pay a few cents more in order to keep our economy fit for human beings.

Last edited 6 months ago by laurence scaduto
Robbie K
Robbie K
6 months ago

Small to medium farms were promoted as the sustainable option some 25 years ago under Agenda 21. It never happened, and that really is down to economies of scale.

Kat L
Kat L
6 months ago

The food tastes better too. Compare tomatoes for example.

Mashie Niblick
Mashie Niblick
6 months ago

The central issue, as you imply Mary, is the cruelty of industrialised farming.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
6 months ago
Reply to  Mashie Niblick

The true central issue is that there are 8 billion people on the planet and increasingly it will become impossible to feed them (us), clothe us (them) and give medical care. But nobody discusses what to do about that

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
6 months ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

We are perfectly capable of feeding the world, unless the govt steps in and regulates a reduction in food production.

JR Stoker
JR Stoker
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

That is effectively what governments are doing – reducing food production – by the endless tinkering with energy and green policies

Robert Cocco
Robert Cocco
6 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Sri Lanka found out the hard way, fast.

Steve Murray
Steve Murray
6 months ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

It seems that at least some Gen Zers and Millenials are seeking to do that. Unfortunately, their lifestyle choice not to reproduce will be massively outweighed by reproduction elsewhere. Plus, we’ll all be worse off as a result of the demographic imbalance, for no actual gain.
At that point, the only recourse will be further employment opportunities for migrants, of the economic variety. This could, in some ways, be seen as a natural process since waves of migration have occurred into Britain since time immemorial.
None have occurred since the rise of a new form of global consciousness with the internet, and therefore it won’t just be those populations existing adjacent to the British Isles that are aware of the possibilities. This article also demonstrates how current attempts to reform immigration policy need to be mindful of this by ensuring a fair and more expeditious means of granting asylum and work visas.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
6 months ago
Reply to  JR Stoker

There’s plenty of resources to go around. It’s just that they’re concentrated into the hands of a tiny proportion of the world’s population.

Simon Blanchard
Simon Blanchard
6 months ago
Reply to  Mashie Niblick

At last, someone gets it.

Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
6 months ago

It would seem that industiral based farming is not necessarily “bad for the environment full stop” as described in detail here :
Is organic really better for the environment than conventional agriculture? Hannah Ritchie October 2017 https://ourworldindata.org/is-organic-agriculture-better-for-the-environment
As always, way more complicated than your average journalist seems ready, willing or able to contemplate.
And as JRStoker has pointed out, way too many people on the planet aspiring to a Western lifestyle and food production in the wrong places to satisfy these expectations, for the current state of affairs to continue indefinitely.

Last edited 6 months ago by Elaine Giedrys-Leeper
k r
k r
6 months ago

Lets talk about the biofuels industrie first.

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
6 months ago

” … a return to smaller-scale, more labour-intensive and sustainable mixed farming with animal manure as fertiliser. ”

Agree 100%. And meat needs to become more expensive, and it does not need to be eaten every day.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
6 months ago

The farming comments are woke eco sandaloid b***ll s**t

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
6 months ago

Lots more dung – that’s the answer!

Jeremy Bray
Jeremy Bray
6 months ago

The danger of upping the rhetoric is that experienced by the boy who cried Wolf. When no catastrophe actually appears the next alarmist message may not believed even if it is more soundly based than previous over-dramatic warnings.

Andrew McDonald
Andrew McDonald
6 months ago
Reply to  Jeremy Bray

The catastrophe has already happened, though, so your point is lost. Look at UK bird populations- down by between 50 and 95% across the board since the 1970s. Half the wild animals in the UK have disappeared in the same period. That’s a catastrophe.

Paul Hendricks
Paul Hendricks
6 months ago

I suspect young people who say they don’t want to reproduce out or concern for plants and animals actually would want to reproduce–they just can’t see how under current conditions, and so grab hold of this or that convenient justification, all the better if it makes them appear enlightened and virtuous.

And of course, even those young people who wish to reproduce face obstacles and delays.

A clear-eyed evaluation of the sexual revolution would be the first step in reversing this unfortunate trend of failing to be fruitful and multiply.

Elliott Bjorn
Elliott Bjorn
6 months ago
Reply to  Paul Hendricks

They do not reproduce because evil has captured the education, entertainment and social media system. They are taught to not want a family, but just self, from childhood. It is 100% to destroy the family – intentionally.

Also the Government which makes it too expensive to raise children middle class by thousands of rules, tax code, and other ways for wicked social engineering reasons. If you destroy the family you make people isolated, communities no longer exist – and the people are helpless because they are just alone and lost with no ultimate reason for anything.

Abortion is almost a religion – that and getting children and parents and ‘Health’ and education to sterilize the children and teach them to not marry, or be able to afford a house.

‘Here you are children: Birth control, abortion, hormone replacement, gender confusion, and a tax system that makes all hold jobs full time and the schools made into such horrible places you would not trust your children to them, and un-affordable child care as you work all day.

Kat L
Kat L
6 months ago

I agree. Smaller farms for the first world and the remaining industrial farming can feed the third world until they can become self sustaining. People like to be connected to the land. Sadly there are no more farmers left in my family.

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
6 months ago

what utter rubbish…. unlike every other MH piece….