The Tragedy Behind Children's Stories

We’re killing the animals our children love

This tiger isn’t real

My children live in a world full of animals. They read about them, watch them on TV, cuddle with them at night. But it’s all fake. It’s all commodities that just look like animals. It’s all capitalism that kills animals. Lions and tigers and bears don’t get royalties from any of this shit. It’s all a fraud.

It’s not enough that we kill animals and take their habitats. We take their very images and use them to entertain our children. It’s really quite macabre. We’re like serial killers bringing home souvenirs. When I read to my children I honestly feel ashamed.

The Mother Of Capitalism

William Petty said that “labour is the father of material wealth, the earth is its mother” and we’re a bunch of motherfuckers. We take and take from mother Earth and sister life and there’s only so much they can take. We’re rapidly reaching the point where the lies we tell our children will crash into the lies we tell ourselves.

Capitalism is built on taking land, value, labor, and lives from animals and at the same time producing this fetishized version of nature for children. Because we naturally love nature and feel close to animals, but this love is perverted into filthy lucre, like everything else.

Amazon lists 20,000 kids books about tigers, compared to less than 4,000 actual tigers in the wild. Peppa Pig is worth billions of dollars while the suffering of actual pigs counts for nothing at all. Kids watch animals on TV while eating animals on their plate, all while sitting on land stripped of animal life.

If they see real animals it’s in cages or ‘preserves’ and it’s only the breeds we like, or bred to our liking. And then we tell our kids stories about animal doctors and animal conservation, the meagre exceptions that prove human rule, that gave these creatures such a marginal existence on the Earth we once shared.

The Cancer Of Growth

The relevant section of Marx’s Capital

That William Petty line is via Marx and it gets to the root of the problem. The illusion of capitalism is that it creates value out of thin air, but this just ain’t true. Marx talks about production as “the metabolism between man and nature” and under capitalism this natural process has become cancer. Endless growth with no concern for its host.

It is sadly this cancer that we bring home to our children. It’s sad because kids genuinely love animals. Their love creates a thriving market for toys, books, and TV shows which paradoxically strips land, resources, and the very climate away from the animals they love. And it’s not just wild animals, we also fetish happy farms while feeding our children torturously factory-farmed meat. Kids will watch Peppa Pig while eating bacon.

Hence you get cartoon chickens selling fried chicken, you get animated cows selling their own children's milk, you get all these images of animals selling their own bodies with a smile. We don’t even notice the hideous hypocrisy anymore, we so comfortably inhabit the lie. Just imagine some alien species selling human meat with a grinning human logo. How fucked up would that be? That’s how fucked up we are.

The Dictatorial Lion King

The biggest problem, of course, is land-use. The very idea of private property is an injury to life on Earth, and intellectual property just adds insult to injury. Lions have lost over 90% of their habitat while the Lion King franchise is worth over $8 billion dollars. Corporations profit endlessly from animal images while actual animal life as we know it is ending, and these are not disconnected facts. It’s cause and effect.

It’s hand-wringing and maudlin, but this is what I think about when I put my kids to sleep. I tell them how few tigers there are, how we’re destroying their land, and I point out that their favorite characters are also meat.

The point is not that this relationship is necessarily bad, but that we’ve gotten deluded from having this relationship with animals at all. In my parents generation when they ate meat they often killed it themselves. My father cried bitterly when his pig Tito was taken away. Capitalism has severed this relationship between people, the land, and other lifeforms, obscured it in a web of commodities.

Unicorn Meat

So we have cows on TV and processed beef in the supermarket and our kids don’t make the connection at all, and neither do we. Everything comes from somewhere. Nothing is made from nothing. In our ignorance and our delusion we have created another reality, where we can have what we want, eat what we want, and imagine the contradictions away.

And yet the contradictions are there. I can see them in a children’s room full of toys that might as well be a graveyard. In all the books full of animals that might as well be unicorns. In all the documentaries of the natural world which, each passing year, become more and more obituaries.

My children live in a world of animals, but in the real world animals are disappearing at an alarming rate. Our children trust us, they trust their dreams, and we have just turned their kindness into commodities. We have turned their planet into profit and by the time they grow up, it will be too late.