Adolph Simon Ochs was an American newspaper publisher who, with $75,000 in borrowed cash, founded the New York Times. Ochs adopted the slogan “All the News That’s Fit to Print” (first used October 25, 1896) and insisted on reportage that lived up to that promise. That slogan still appears on the front page of the newspaper that promotes itself as the most important newspaper in the country. Unfortunately, the Times — along with much of the American media today — falls far short of the noble goal set by Ochs. Declining circulation and competition from on-line sources have forced print publications to adopt more and more sensationalized coverage to keep readers’ attention. The electronic media, with 24 hours news networks, have started reporting almost anything and everything as news just to fill the air time. Against this backdrop, activist organizations have found willing customers for their one sided propaganda. This has certainly been the case for animal activists and their relentless attacks on the livestock industry.
Groups like HSUS have discovered if they produce videos, allegedly taken undercover at livestock operations and show outrageous abuse of animals, and then release them to the media and place them on-line, they will get tremendous coverage. The media, to their discredit, has lapped up these images without question and jumped to the unfounded conclusions the activists purport. The balance, research, and quest for the truth that used to be the hallmarks of good journalism are forgotten when these videos go public.
In an effort to stop the victimization of livestock producers, Indiana and several other states are considering legislation to criminalize the unauthorized videotaping of agricultural and manufacturing operations. While opponents were quick to dub this effort the “ag gag” bill, the legislation (SB373) in Indiana skillfully walks the line between protection of privacy and the protection of animals. Videos of animal abuse can be taken and submitted to law enforcement authorities within 48 hours with no penalty. This allows for the disclosure of real abuse to the people who can do something about it.
If groups like HSUS were truly interested in protecting animals, they would welcome this measure, but of course they do not. They have lobbied against the legislation and have even called on their Hollywood celebrity sycophants to write letters to legislators urging them to kill the bill. This is because, if this legislation becomes law, these groups would lose one of their most affective fundraising and opinion impacting tools. Many of the so called undercover videos that have appeared on-line are highly edited and often accompanied with dramatic music. Independent analysis of some of these videos has shown that actual abuse did not occur and that some of the scenes are approved animal husbandry practices distorted to appear to be abusive. The subsequent use of these images by the media has resulted in personal and financial damage being done to individual producers as well as entire industries.
By Gary Truitt