Dying for Their Kraft

Animals in advertising are pretty much a golden goose – dogs doing human things inevitably sells beer. Cows scrawling misspelled messages inevitably sells chicken. Horses looking majestic inevitably sells…beer again. But a recent story has cast a light on the dangers of animals being used for advertising.

A shark died on the set of Kmart commercial a few weeks ago, after it was transferred across the country and kept in a small pool for a time. You can read the details in the link. It’s a troubling situation, and one without an easy answer. After having some horses die at the HBO show, Luck, and several other occurrences of similar animal deaths, the question has to come up:  should we not use animals as “actors?”

Granted, Luck was cancelled, and yes, Kmart was “saddened,” but are these going to stop people from employing animals in commercials, TV and film? Should it? With CGI nowadays, it isn’t hard to recreate a shark or a horse or a sloth, so maybe there’s no need to use the real thing. Geico’s certainly doing alright.

Accidents happen – you can’t prevent that. And accidents happen to people on set, too. But the people are making a conscious choice to get involved, and they know the risks. Plus, they’re getting paid, and to my knowledge, that shark wasn’t in SAG. It wasn’t like the shark died for its art – it died so that people can be coerced into buying cheaper boxes of Kraft mac n’ cheese from a Sears-owned department store behemoth.

I don’t expect to see only CGI dogs in Bud Light ads anytime soon (if I have my way, I don’t expect to see any Bud Lights ads at all ever again). It seems like individual situations are drawing the anger of people, but the big question of “Is this ethical?” is being sidestepped. I think it’s time we had that larger conversation.

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