Animal activism – to report or not?

01-03-2012 | | |
ter Beek
Vincent ter Beek Editor of Pig Progress / Topic: Pigs around the world

Every now and then we get questions from worried readers – why do we report on actions carried out by animal activists?

The readers’ message is often the same: whatever activists ‘reveal’ as ‘cruelties’, is usually nonsense or at best heavily spinned and dramatised, not worth any letter. So they say they are disappointed and don’t trust the media. Why on earth would we report on reports that harm the industry? Don’t we know they are rogue?
Yes, we know we have to be careful. It’s easy enough to vilify the pig industry by filming a crushed piglet or show much blood in a slaughterhouse and putting it in a different context. Still, there are good reasons not to ignore activists completely. I’ll try to explain why.
First – we don’t just report on any animal activist action that comes to our attention. We usually don’t actually.
However biased and twisted activist ‘revelations’ may be, their effects can sometimes be difficult to ignore. If a slaughterhouse needs to be closed as a result of an activist ‘revelation’; if pork boards or councils feel the need to respond or if a government minister announces a research or legislation changes, then it’s become bigger than just an allegation.
We therefore deliberately choose only to report on animal activism when third parties want to or have to respond. And this will be the news angle – pork board responds, slaughterhouse closes, or pig farm stops, etc. This is relevant news and needs covering. Not the activist message – but its consequences are reasons for us to report on it.
Once it has become this big – we do include references to original footage/ messages/ pictures. In the bigger picture this has become relevant as it did cause severe damage.
Showing them may even help the industry to see… what happened? Why do these activists go to great lengths? Is it only polemic or was there something to their criticism? Is there a take-home message for others? Knowledge is power, they say – so even these examples, however sad, make the pig industry stronger.
I understand that most producers would disapprove of these lines – and only be angry when reading about what activists have done or tried to show the world. It’s difficult enough as it is to make ends meet even without constant self contemplation!
Still, I hope you see, for a professional industry website, looking away all the time is probably even worse.