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Animal Welfare, Culture

Photo of the Day: The Power of Naming

I came across this advertisement from Wisconsin Cheese:

Humanizing the products, not the producers.

What were the names of the animals who suffered as their bodies were exploited to make this sandwich?

What’s in a name? This advertising campaign wants consumers to name their grilled cheese. Giving a unique name to this product is doing two things:

The first thing it’s doing is reinforcing the status quo. When we name something, we have authority and power over it. The animals who were exploited to make up some of the sandwich were powerless. Giving a name changes the thing that we are naming, and we do this all the time in regards to our food products. All of the food products in the sandwich that were derived from animal flesh or secretions have all been renamed in an attempt to distance ourselves from what we’re actually consuming. Right below the lettuce is a piece of red pig flesh that we call “ham” because people find it unappetizing to call it what it is —  pig flesh. Right below the pig flesh is something we have to call “cheese” because we don’t want to say what it actually is — cow secretions.  To this point:

Language is a powerful tool in shaping values and beliefs. Because language both reflects and reinforces culture, the words we use will either challenge or bolster the status quo. This is why, for example, technicians in laboratories are taught not to name the animals on whom they experiment, lest they begin to perceive the tool or subject as a being. This is also why slaughterhouse workers refer to the animals whom they slaughter by their inanimate names, even before they are killed: chickens are called broilers, hens are layers, bulls are beef. By turning beings into objects it becomes possible to treat their bodies accordingly.

Dr. Melanie Joy, PhD

The second thing this picture is doing is humanizing the sandwich, which immediately appeals to our emotions.  But what of the dairy cows who suffered so someone could enjoy cheese? Dairy cows aren’t given names; instead, they are tagged with a number and put to work. Their “work” includes: being forcibly and artificially impregnated on a “rape rack“, being kept in a near-constant state of pregnancy, and having their newborn babies stolen. Further abuses, such as workers sexually abusing the cows, have been committed. And when dairy cows are of no more use to the industry they are shipped off to become hamburger.

Dairy cow who suffered abuse in Wisconsin for your DiGiorno cheese pizza.

Dairy cow who suffered abuse in Wisconsin for your DiGiorno cheese pizza.


(In case it’s not clear, I made that modified graphic, above.)

So sad. Please reconsider your choices, and opt to go dairy free. Dairy cows are someone, not something.


About The Paw Report

I graduated from St. John's University School of Law in 2012, and am admitted to practice law in New York State. I was a member of the New York City Bar Association's Animal Law Committee for three years. I was born and raised in Rhode Island, but moved to New Mexico when I was 18. After dabbling in film for two years, I graduated from the University of New Mexico with a degree in Anthropology. I've been living in New York City since 2008, and currently reside in Brooklyn with my boyfriend and our two cats. I am a former organizer with Direct Action Everywhere - New York City.



  1. Pingback: Number of the Day: 133 billion pounds of food in 2010 went uneaten | The Paw Report - May 12, 2014

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