LEGO Farm Animals
LEGO Farm often features animals that are clean and well fed. Some animals even appear to be smiling, and that’s appropriate considering that they are viewed as living creatures rather than commodities. Animals have feelings, and these LEGO Farm animals seem to believe that everything is awesome. No worries about grandpa being shipped off to the slaughterhouse.
LEGO Farm does not feature construction sets for concentrated animal feeding operations. In addition, LEGO Farm sets allow lots of room for cows, sheep, horses, and pigs to move around freely and enjoy life. Concentrated animal feeding operations do not exist, toxic lagoons of feces do not exist, and the farms do not occupy hundreds of acres in the world of LEGO Farm.
Perhaps surprisingly, the animals do not appear to be eaten in LEGO Farm. Yes, LEGO Farm presents a vegetarian (although not vegan) diet. In LEGO Farm sets, the animals seem to be raised only for eggs, wool, or milk: not for human consumption. Such a diet means less impact on the environment, as livestock eat a lot of food and drink a lot of water to grow to the proper size for human consumption. By promoting a diet of primarily vegetables, LEGO Farm could be promoting a more efficient conversion of solar energy absorbed by plants. Instead of animals eating plants, and then humans eating animals, LEGO Farm is suggesting we cut out the middleman (animals) by simply eating the plants. At most, LEGO Farm promotes eating the eggs and milk.
LEGO Farm sets are toys, not a direct representation of reality. But one should still pause and consider what kind of message is being sent to young impressionable minds. Will children grow up eating chicken and hamburger, not realizing that chicken and hamburger were once living birds and living cows? This kind of sheltered upbringing is not healthy. It leads to a parent having awkward conversations at the dinner table, such as “Mommy, why does daddy say he likes his steak bloody? Where does the blood come from?” This type of question comes from the omission of what happens to animals on farms.
On the other hand, LEGO Farm can be seen as presenting a more idealized view of living on a farm. The animals are smiling because they are cohabitating with the farmers who feed and take care of them. The farmers are happy because the animals provide milk and wool, so the farmers treat the animals well. Perhaps LEGO Farm presents a vegetarian ideal.
Either way, the ambiguity in this message about where our food comes from is a problem. It’s not that the LEGO Farm theme is attempting to participate in a global conspiracy to hide where meat comes from. LEGO is not intentionally trying to hide the chemicals that are used to grow crops. This is not some weird iteration of the X-Files. But unlike the fantasy car represented by a Hot Wheels toy, for example, food is a very immediate issue for many people. Everyone must eat to survive. Hot Wheels can represent a car that people dream about having, but may never have. The dream Hot Wheels car is never part of everyday life for most people. LEGO Farm, on the other hand, brings many people close to sometimes hidden parts of the food system in which they participate every day. For that reason, perhaps LEGO Farm should be held to a different standard than other LEGO sets and other toys.