The American meat industry has a fraught relationship with the visibility of its operations and the public narrative about its treatment of animals. As activists have used photographs and videos to reveal the industry's normally hidden practices, those in the meat business have historically pushed back by increasing the secrecy of their operations. However, the last decade has seen the industry turn to a new strategy: aggressive public relations outreach rooted in the paradigm of transparency. Generally, these are highly mediated public relations exercises, but at Indiana's Fair Oaks Farms, tourists are physically invited onto a fully functional hog breeding farm, which doubles as an agritourism destination and a microcosm of the industry's public relations strategy. Fair Oaks relies on both the tropes of alternative farming tourism and on strategic revelation—including literal glass walls—to craft a publicly palatable narrative about factory farming and factory-farmed animals.
Transparency and the Factory Farm: Agritourism and Counter-Activism at Fair Oaks Farms
Jan Dutkiewicz is a PhD candidate in the Department of Politics at the New School for Social Research. His work is concerned with the relationship between markets, violence, and social change in the contemporary United States, especially as these relate to everyday commodities. His primary research project focuses on the moral, political, and economic conflicts engendered by large-scale animal agriculture, a topic about which he has written for journals including Society & Animals, and publications including The Guardian and Jacobin.
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Jan Dutkiewicz; Transparency and the Factory Farm: Agritourism and Counter-Activism at Fair Oaks Farms. Gastronomica 1 May 2018; 18 (2): 19–32. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2018.18.2.19
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