The late, great, comic George Carlin did routine on the 7 things you can’t say on television. It consisted of 7 expletives that had been banned by the FCC from being uttered over the public airwaves. Carlin stated in his monologue, first produced in 1972, that there were 400,000 words in the English language, but there were 7 that were banned in the media. While media taboos on certain words have changed dramatically over 40 years, the original 7 will still get you fined by the FCC. There are also certain facts and concepts that you will never hear in the media. In some cases, it is because the media feels they are of so little importance that they are not worth giving air time to. In some cases, they are never discussed because they would raise as much furor as saying one of the 7 words. Here are a few examples from this past week.
For the past several years, both print and electronic national media have been doing stories about the growing Meatless Monday movement. According to this coverage, hundreds of schools, restaurants, businesses, and individuals are participating by not eating meat on Monday. Vegan and anti-animal agriculture activists are championing this movement. This week, however, research has come to light that would suggest the Meatless Monday movement is not growing as many would have you believe. After weeks of investigation, the Animal Agriculture Alliance has concluded that the Meatless Monday Campaign is grossly misrepresenting the campaign’s enrollment and prevalence among schools, restaurants, hospitals, and colleges. Since the inception of the Meatless Monday campaign, the Alliance has closely monitored the campaign’s progress and tried to correct its misinformation about the healthfulness of meat consumption and environmental impact of livestock production.
The Alliance found that, out of the 56 kindergarten through twelfth grade schools listed as participating, more than 64.2% no longer or never participated in the program. Out of the 155 colleges/universities listed as participating, more than 43.2% no longer or never participated in the program. Out of the school districts listed as participating, more than 57% no longer do. In addition, the Meatless Monday campaign also counts restaurants and food service providers among their allies; yet, over 35% and 47%, respectively, no longer participate in the program. “These results are truly astounding. When we started the project, we didn’t expect nearly as many organizations to not actually be participating in the program,” said Alliance President and CEO Kay Johnson Smith. “The Meatless Monday campaign tries to promote a reduction in meat, milk and egg consumption as trendy, but clearly it hasn’t taken off as strongly as they’d hoped.”
Another set of facts you never hear when the media does stories on Meatless Mondays is that Meatless Monday is a carefully orchestrated campaign that seeks to eliminate meat from Americans’ meals seven days a week, beginning with Mondays. The campaign was organized through the Center for a Livable Future at John Hopkins University’s Bloomberg School of Public Health and is funded in large part by wealthy, long-time animal rights activists Sid and Helaine Lerner.
Sometimes certain topics are ignored by the media because they just don’t care and don’t think anyone else will care. Such was the case with the storm that hit South Dakota, killing upwards of 75,000 animals and devastating the economy of the region. There were no meticulously quaffed reporters in chambray shirts standing in front of piles of dead animal carcasses decrying the lack of government aid to help the ranchers get back on their feet. In fact, the Secretary of Agriculture did not even head to South Dakota to survey the damage and promise federal aid. Had this storm visited this kind of devastation on, say, Boston, it would have been front page news for weeks.
This is why we in agriculture must work so hard to tell our story. This is why we must shout so loud to be heard by the public. This is why it is so hard to change the public perception about food and agriculture. This is why I don’t watch a lot of television news, because I usually end up yelling at the TV using some of the 7 words.
By Gary Truitt