Should children be exposed to the disturbing manufacturing methods of products they eat or use?

When I was a kid, I used to covet expensive Reebok or Nike shoes. Now that I’m an adult and fully understand how poor laborers (often children) in China, Vietnam, etc are making shoes, it makes me feel ridiculous for lusting after something that the workers only see as a way to buy rice to eat.

As parents, is there any value in having your kids understand this? If money/safety/logistics was no object, would it be valuable to have your kids tour the Asian sweatshops making the shoes, or Polo shirts, or action figure toys? (Or if logistics made that field trip unrealistic, you could force them to watch a video of the workers toiling in the factories.) Or does this inject needless guilt into children with zero effect on the morals the child ends up having as an adult?

(This is not a disguised rant against globalism and capitalism. I understand that children sewing shoes, while harsh, is better than living a life scavenging in landfills or subsistence farming.)

Another example with food. I grew up on hamburgers and hotdogs like most kids. Is there any value for kids to see how cows, pigs, chickens are slaughtered and prepared for them to eat? Or does exposing them to blood and guts just fills their head with nightmares that serves no purpose? We already expect high school kids to dissect earthworms and frogs in science class so maybe watching cows get chopped up is no big deal.

(This is not a disguised vegetarian sermon. Although meat is not my favorite dish, I do eat it occasionally. I’ve also seen my mother prepare a live chicken in the morning, cut its throat, gut it, and cook it in soup for dinner that night. I’ve seen a real rabbit shot and skinned but I’ve not seen a cow slaughtered from beginning to end.)

The idea isn’t to force a guilt-trip into children so they prefer 2nd-hand flip-flops over Nike shoes or potatoes from the backyard garden instead of McDonald’s hamburgers. That’s not realistic. But maybe get them to have a different perspective on the shoes or burgers. See the shoes as more of a utility instead of a fashion item. And they still eat hamburgers but waste less of it because you saw an actual animal die for it to get to your plate.

Any value in this or is just a pointless guilt-trip?

On other hand, I notice that many adult women like diamonds even though they are aware of “Africa conflict diamonds.” So maybe it doesn’t make any difference. On the other hand, “conflict diamonds” might be too abstract and too distant to affect consumer preferences.

But on the other other hand (I got 3 hands), canned tuna seemed to take a public relations hit when people became aware of dolphins getting caught in nets.

Seems like no consistent pattern to all this. Well, dolphins are cute and cows & pigs & African miners are ugly. Maybe that’s the hidden logic.

I grew up in the country. I saw my food animals being slaughtered from as young as I can remember. I can never remember a time when I didn’t know where my meat came from. My interest in biology stems in large part from examining the guts of slaughtered animals. I always found slaughtering days to be very exciting and interesting, a feeling shared by every rural child I’ve ever known.

The point being that showing children where their food comes form isn’t going to have any damn effect on the kid aside from leaving them a little more educated. Humans are naturally hunters. Obviously we don’t have some intrinsic revulsion at the site of fresh food.
The only time it’s going to result in any reaction at all aside form interest is if the child has been taught already that it’s wrong, whether explicitly or subconscioulsy through Bambi and kin. And in those cases where the child has already been indoctrinated showing them where the food comes from won’t achieve anything precisely because they have already been indoctrinated. It would be about as informative as taking a slave owners child though the slave quarters.

And people’s reactions are perfectly consistent. What you have to realise is that 99% of people don’t give a shit about “causes” or consequences. Their sole concern is about appearance. They will jump all over the latest cause celebre while cheerfully burning orphans at the stake. Fur and tuna were the *cause celebre *for 5 minutes, so people “cared”. Miners and pigs never were, so nobody gives a shit. Fur had its five minutes 20 years ago, and now the same people that decried it then are wearing it again because it’s socially acceptable.

Once you realise that the vast majority of people don’t even *understand *these issues, much less care about them, it all makes sense. Why do you think it’s so important for these causes to get some brain dead himbo to spruik the cause?

A local private school recently did a project where the older kids (at least 8th grade, I don’t remember if the high-schoolers were involved) raised some chickens for a few weeks, then slaughtered them and held a dinner where said chickens were eaten. I thought it was brilliant, a “this is where your food comes from” project. They did have the option of participating or not in the actual dispatching of the chickens, which was done by slitting their throats. Yum, fresh chicken!

This wasn’t intended as a guilt trip, just a heads-up that meat doesn’t grow in neat shrink-wrapped packages. A little reality for these kids is not a bad thing. Idaho is a largely rural state but these are kids from families with serious money who have probably never set foot on a working farm. (Not that I have, really, either, but trust me, these kids live in a different world from most of us.)

I forgot to make the distinction in the OP but I was thinking of mass assembly line slaughter in corporate processing facility vs a home farmer slaughtering behind the house.

Does making children watch this type of slaughter have any value? Or is it pointless trivia to fill their heads with?

Personally, I’ve always told my kids this kind of thing, every since they were old enough to talk to. I have a strong aversion to waste, and so as soon as they were old enough to say, “I don’t want to eat this,” or, “I don’t like the shirt you bought me,” or whatever, I explained to them how much work it took to get the food to their plate, and the shirt to their dresser drawer. They know meat comes from animals. I mean, that’s life! You can’t be ignorant of that.

One of my constant rants is about “How Lucky You Are” which I am sure they are both throughly tired of. Whenever I hear “It isn’t fair that I have to…” or some variation on that, I start in. “You know what isn’t fair? Some kids went to bed hungry tonight, because they don’t have any food in their house. You know what isn’t fair? Some kids don’t have to share the Wii, because they don’t have any electricity. You know what isn’t fair? Some kids don’t have to go to school, because they work all day in horrid conditions to make your shoes. That’s really unfair. You’re lucky.”

I don’t know how much actually gets though, but they complain less than the other kids I know. Whether that’s to avoid my lecture, or because they appreciate what they have, I don’t know. I guess its indoctrination, but so what? Everything else in the world is trying to indoctrinate them to believe ipods grow on trees and you HAVE to have one. That isn’t a value I want them to absorb.

As you said, some people care about whether their socks were made in sweatshops or by forced labor, while others do not. Some people care whether their cows were raised in feedlots and slaughtered inhumanely, while others do not. So merely exposing children to the facts won’t guarantee that they’ll turn one way or another.

If you’re a parent and you want your children to care about these issues, the important thing is to raise them with moral values. Children absorb moral values mainly from what they observe in the world around them, not from lectures. If they see you putting low priority on material things and high priority on moral principles, they will absorb that. If they absorb it properly, then later they will apply those moral principles when they make decisions as adults.

I fight this even in our largely vegetarian family. My sister in law (who is a major animal welfare freak) didn’t seem too concerned about other waste. She said something like “No one had to die to make this corn/soy/whatever.” To which my riposte was, “Well someone gave part of their life for it. A human being, no less. They spent time growing, processing and transporting this food so that you could eat it.” Time they could have spent playing with their kids, taking care of their parents or getting some much needed sleep.

I knew that I had lost the battle against mindless consumerism when most of the table concluded that she was doing the producers a favor by consuming the product of their labor.

I have one problem with the idea of worrying about the labor of your shoes. You look at those poor people working to assemble your Nikes, and yet, if they weren’t assembling Nikes, they might not have a job at all.

I agree that just lecturing about “meat comes from animals” and “poor kids are hungry” is too abstract and easily dismissed.

The aspect I wanted to emphasize in the OP was forcing children to actually see with their eyeballs how the products are made. (Either tours of meat processing facilities or graphic videos.)

Is there any value to them witnessing the situations or is it as worthless as lectures?

I guess it depends on what the definition of “children” is. My oldest son is 8 and he has seen me clean plenty of fish, field dress pheasants and gut a deer or two. Besides the typical “eww, gross Dad!” types of comments, I can’t say that he really gives a crap where that meat is coming from any more than before he witnessed the harvesting/processing of it.

Regarding showing him how his shoes are made, I would venture to guess it would be about the same. At 8, he doesn’t really take his thoughts to the next level. Perhaps at 10,11 or 12 that will change. Right now, he is blissfully ignorant and that’s ok with me. Life is short enough as it is. He can be a kid for a few years more.

The kind of kids I grew up with would only think, “Cool! Blood and guts!”

I don’t think the whole sweatshop thing would phase them either, particularly older kids. Too many of them work at shitty minimum wage jobs themselves to feel too horrified by Nike’s crimes against the worker.

Seeing a bunch of people in a sweatshop factory just looks like people working a factory line. Amazingly, we have factories and factory lines in the US, and they’re quite interesting and fun to see.

I wouldn’t be surprised if American factory workers will report themselves as being less satisfied with their job than Chinese sweatshop laborers.

Well, yeah. What do the laborers care if you eat their product or throw it away? They weren’t spending time growing, processing, and transporting it (time they could have spent playing with their kids, taking care of their parents, or getting some much needed sleep) out of some dream that you’d use it this way rather than that way; they were doing it to make a living. All they want from you is that you give them money for the goods you take; beyond that, they don’t give a shit what you do with them. If, for some bizarre reason, the transaction you want to engage in is one where you give them money for corn/soy/whatever that you don’t intend to eat, that’s fine by them; they prefer the money to the corn. [Granted, they’d like it even better if you gave them your money and gave them back the uneaten goods for free, but of course; once you’ve decided you don’t want it, lots of people would be happy to take it for free, not just the original producers. That you waste it rather than having allowed it to become charity is a disappointment equally borne by all.]

So what you’re teaching your kids is, “No matter how bad your situation is, you don’t have any right to complain about anything unless you’re suffering more than anyone else on earth.”

The fact that someone else is in a shittier situation than you are doesn’t do a thing to change how fair or unfair your situation is. Even when I was very young, I’d figured that much out.

The manipulative aspect of that sort of non-sequitor “argument” mostly said to me “you aren’t worthy of a real explaination or defense of my position, so instead I’m going to invoke the suffering of countless millions of people who’s suffering neither of us are going to actually do anything about just so you’ll shut up”. I didn’t tend to shut up.

Such points aren’t necessarily designed to be manipulative. They provide a context in which a child can judge how advantaged or disadvantaged they are, and what is reasonable and unreasonable to expect.

It’s more complicated than that, mswas. In many third world countries, people are reduced to such subsistence / starvation wages and inhumane jobs because of cooperation between oppressive regimes and the corporations who subcontract (or sub-sub-subcontract) the production of their products. This situation has, in turn, been brought about by a confluence of past and current events. I think that in most cases these people would prefer that Nike and Coca-Cola would have no presence in their country.

Yeah, but if they weren’t there what would be the alternative? Sweatshops owned by Nike would close and those workers would have to find jobs in some other government-run sweatshop making products for their own domestic companies and/or regimes. North Korea has plenty of sweatshops but doesn’t have Nike, Coke, or McDonalds.

What’s the difference?

I don’t see any problem with children being exposed to slaughter, but but I fail to see why it’s any more important than exposing them to a ceramics plant so they know where their plates come from or to a bakery so they know where their bread comes from is debatable. It’s important that children know that stuff has to be made, that it involves lots of people and lots of material. They can’t possibly learn how everything they consume is made, so any examples seem as good as any other.

The only possible difference I can see is ii the *trained *reactions of the children.

This idea that children should be exposed to slaughter after we’ve trained them to be revolted by it seems to only have two possible motivations. Either it’s sadistic glee or it’s an attempt to reinforce the training. Children aren’t naturally revolted by slaughter, we train them to be revolted by teaching them that anything vaguely smelly or slimy is “dirty” and to be avoided. To then forcibly expose them to the very thing that we have taught hem to fear is sadistic gloating or manipulative mind fucking.

Do you propose that we also subject children to live sex acts and a visit to the delivery room to show them where babies come from? Should we expose them to live surgery so they can see how doctors heal them? Nobody in their right mind would suggest exposing western children to those things that, despite the fact that learning the origins of human beings and medicine are far more important than learning the origins of fricken’ hamburger.

And why do we object to exposing children to those things?

Because we have taught children to revolted by those things. We have kept them shielded from any exposure while simultaneously telling them that those things are dirty and naughty and frightening and dangerous. So of course sudden exposure to the whole process of sex and childbirth or surgery will horrify them. Those aren’t natural reactions. Plenty of children in other societies see such things all the time and aren’t in the least revolted by them. But we have taught our kids that those things are taboo and that the appropriate reaction to those things is disgust.

And exactly the same applies to slaughter. I can’t see any reason why it’s more important that children be exposed to slaughter than to bread baking, beyond the assumption that you know it *will *disturb them. And to suggest that we should expose children to something that we have trained them to be dicturbed by is some really twisted shit.

Yes, but the idea is that the corporations in question help fund the regime. This is not necessarily true of all such states, just most of them. And North Korea’s elite is funded by criminal enterprises that aren’t much different.

Okay, so I’m not sure when Ruminator edited his post, but either way I get the sense that I’d be continuing a tangent if this goes on.