Talking anthropomorphic animals are ever-present in so much of children's media. They play a big part in creating the where-does-your-food-come-from problem.
Here's what I mean: Recently I asked my little 4 year old nephew if we should kill a chicken for lunch. His considered response amidst his revulsion was simply,
"No! They are God's creatures..!".
"But you eat chicken Zaki", was my rather confused response.
"No!... that's chicken, the food!" feeling a sense of relief at my misunderstanding.
Considering chickens have been in his life since birth, I feel we've failed. Sigh.
I paused, wondering in my head whether I should let him remain in blissful ignorance or whether I should reveal the dirty secret. I decided on the latter and explained where chicken, the food comes from.
After a brief pause, there was a worried follow-up question:
"Where does broccoli come from??".
The concern that broccoli (one of his favourite foods) might also have come from some cute little creature, killed and chopped up alongside his chicken, was too much to take in one day. I assured him broccoli hadn't come from puppies or kittens. Instead it grew like the plants in the greenhouse. Broccoli could be eaten guilt-free!
Zaki is not alone. With cartoons, books, movies and advertising rife with animal characters, it is hard for adults let alone children to see the difference between animals and us. After all they talk and behave just like us. And hence, we lose the connection to eating farmed animals.
It's easy to blame the media but as with Mary-had-a-little-lamb, we are complicit in contributing to a food socialisation process. We have learnt over decades to distance the animals we eat, from those with whom we have a bond. It's no surprise that we pass that on to our children.
What do I take away from this:
Just because (adults and) children interact with animals, we cannot assume they've made the food connection.
(Adults and) children should appreciate that even farmed animals need to be treated well, with respect and allowed to enjoy a good life until they become "the food"
In the current mass production/gm/prevalence of harmful chemicals, we are instrumental in inculcating the value of what we eat and where our food comes from - not only in kids, but adults too!
Our smallholding projects are more important now. No pressure.