How a Children’s Cartoon Damaged Japanese Agriculture: In the 1970s, a popular anime on TV in Japan called Araiguma Rasukaru portrayed a kid and his adorable raccoon sidekick—and it led to a serious invasive species situation.
The Animated Battle for Agricultural Hearts and Minds
In the classic Road Runner cartoons, the formula was simple and the outcome a certainty. Coyote’s attempts would fail because of his hair-brained schemes and his propensity to purchase faulty equipment from Acme. In the 60s, we kids saw Road Runner beep-beep his way down the road, while Coyote had to peel himself off the bottom of a two-ton safe. We had no trouble figuring out the plot, characters, and theme—after all, by ten years of age, we had refined our analytical skills by watching hours of the Three Stooges.
In this digital age, cartoons aren’t so simple. Cable cartoon networks hype superheroes, animated apps for smart phones offer angry birds, and satire has grown bolder since the start of the Simpsons two decades ago.
So I am not surprised that the world of agriculture now features cartoons in the battle for hearts and minds. Various companies, organizations, and interest groups use animation to sway opinions about many topics, but the specific cartoons I ran across recently involved hog production. A well-presented blog called “Agriculture Proud” provides links to two cartoons intended for the kiddies. These short segments have opposite views about how farmers should raise pigs.
** In A Pig’s Tail, HSUS provides what they call “a short but compelling animated film about a pig’s perspective of factory farming.”
** In Farming, the Ohio Bacon Farmers Organization “invites you to see why we raise pigs in barns and how farming has changed over the years.” This is a very short segment, but related videos are available at this same YouTube site.
The blog writer makes it clear he is not a fan of HSUS, and he thinks the public gets barraged with misconceptions about farming. Activist groups seem to think the same thing—from the opposite view. Most adults could watch cartoons and form an opinion, but I wonder if such messages have much effect on children.
My two brothers and I logged up many hours watching Popeye gobble spinach to enhance his powers. Some sources say this cartoon series increased spinach sales, but I don’t think it affected our farm dinner routine. “Please, Mom, we’re dyin’ for more spinach,” did not replace our usual “Pass the gravy” or “Ouch! Tom flicked a pea at my head.”
And now that I look back on it, we may have missed the underlying themes in Road Runner, too. Apparently its creator was satirizing Tom and Jerry cartoons and others like it. Could it be that when the coyote gets blown up by his own booby trap, we were supposed to recognize meaningful symbolism?
By the time we were eleven or twelve years old, Dad proclaimed Saturday mornings officially “unplugged,” so our cartoon watching started to fade as we spent more time cleaning the barn and hog house. Cantankerous sows and noisy baby pigs provided the soundtrack as we dug pitchforks into manure, hauled feed to pens, and spread straw for bedding. I’d rather have worked in the cartoon versions of “Hog Life for Dummies” –where the sun is always beaming, the pigs are shiny pink, and the buildings never need to be mucked out. by dan gogerty (cartoon from govloop.com)