Monday, August 10, 2009

Response to Fatburger Banner

Fatburger banner in restaurant: "Do you really think man clawed his way to the top of the food chain to eat soy?" Today Keith Ferrazzi tweeted that. No offense, Keith, you’re awesome, but I’m drawn to rebuttal on this banner quote.

Full disclosure: I'm on a mostly vegetarian diet (see Why), so perhaps you will find me unduly biased. However, it is a diet that I chose after lots of soul searching and meditation. This diet is my choice and not one that I force on anyone else. I'm not saying that eating meat is wrong. In fact, strict vegetarianism is not for me, and I'm even reevaluating my current stance. So, though I offer the disclaimer, vegetarianism is not something that I follow blindly and with zealotry. Aside - Even when I ate and loved meat, I found Fatburger disgusting. My one and only burger there nauseated me. I preferred In 'N Out… though I haven’t had a beef burger in probably a year and a half. Well, enough about me…

Really, Fatburger? Really? (nod to SNL) That seems both factually incorrect and a blatant attempt to exploit a desire for dominance in order to fill Fatburger’s coffers.

Humans didn't really claw their way to the top of the food chain. If you ascribe to evolution (as I do), our species evolved at this point. If you follow creationism, we were created by God exactly at the top. If you believe something else, well, maybe my argument falls apart, but I leave it to you to decide.

The human benefit is that we have a highly developed neo-cortex in our pre-frontal lobe that allows us to make our own decisions. These decisions let us work with the mammalian and reptilian centers below, but applying more logic and reasoning. We have decision-making abilities. With these decision making abilities comes moral responsibility. Given this potent brain, we don't need to be driven solely by the impulse to consume meat.

Fine, so it’s meant to be a clever advertisement, not necessarily factually correct. But we can still look at it for what it does do. It’s similar to a quote that I see at my local market: “Vegetarian is a Native American world for bad hunter.”

I’ve noticed that some meat-eaters are bothered by vegetarians, because they feel judged by someone else's choices, or they feel a little guilty on their own. Clearly, Fatburger stands to gain by exploiting this, by exploiting a primal hunger for meat, by exploiting this primal desire for dominance. They want you to buy more burgers and will manipulate your desire to feel more powerful, even if it is by being at the top of the food chain.

Perhaps, though, the true power comes from the will power to see this for the commercial manipulation that it is. It comes from the ability to choose, and to see meat consumption as a choice, and perhaps not the best choice for a human-sustainable ecology. Perhaps real power comes from being able to think beyond yourself, beyond your appetite, beyond your own need for power, and to adhere to decisions that support the rest of the world.

I am not for vegetarianism as tree-huggerism, frou-frouism, or a source of identity. I am for conscious decisions that promote a better, more sustainable world. I suspect that less dining at Fatburger would go some way in that direction.


  1. Interesting analysis, Ed.

    Factually, the banner doesn't make much sense, and morally, it is in the grey area. But then what about an average Axe commercial?

    Personally, I am much more bothered by those that make money off of sham cures and foods that claim to have health benefits without proper evidence (infamous "FDA did not review these statements" on packaging), than by this ad.

  2. You're right, of course. There's definitely a lot more blatantly manipulative stuff out there.

    The ads that I comment on are the ones that subtly exploit human weakness in a grey area while masquerading as virtuous. Well, it's not like I've established a pattern here. This is only the second ad that I've commented on in this blog. The first was by the Washington State Lottery: "Experience the joy of being resented."

    And I, of course, tend to blog about the stuff that lands close to home, like this one.

  3. Yeah, it *is* odd that WA State Lottery is so aggressively advertised, given that it is run by the state.

  4. Love that second-to-last paragraph. Well said!

  5. "I’ve noticed that some meat-eaters are bothered by vegetarians, because they feel judged by someone else's choices, or they feel a little guilty on their own." This reminds me of the way people at a bar react to a tee-totaller. I haven't experienced the meat thing though (most people assume I'm vegetarian). Love and joy to you

  6. Michi, nod on the alcohol. I often take prolonged breaks of not drinking and have seen the same thing.