Tuesday, November 13, 2012

New York Times: Perpetuating Libels?

Today the New York Times ran a shoddy report about Green Mountain College's decision to euthanize one of the pair of aging oxen who were the school's mascots.

The two animals, Lou and Bill, became near celebrities when the college announced plans to slaughter the animals and serve their meat in the student dining hall.  But those plans were canceled when no slaughterhouses nearby would accept the two.  Times journalist Jess Bigood quotes the college provost as saying that "slaughterhouses were barraged by threats from the animal rights activists and refused the animals, so we were unable to carry through with our plan."

This claim has been repeated and reprinted endlessly, but has any reporter ever tried to verify it?  The plain fact is that whether or not you agree with their more confrontational tactics, animal rights activists have never killed anyone or threatened bodily violence to their opponents. With a few rare exceptions involving property damage, animal activists have pursued peaceful ends through peaceful means, in the Gandhian spirit.  Those means include letter writing, petitions, picket signs, calls for boycotts, and publicity campaigns, which are all legitimate and far short of intimidation or physical bullying.  

I have read Green Mountain College's Facebook page, where there are indeed dozens or hundreds comments regarding the oxen's fate posted from around the world--many angry, passionate and opinionated but not one even hinting at any kind of mayhem.  A typical rant: "Shame shame shame ... what a disgraceful primitive act, may karma rear its ugly head ..."  Were slaughterhouses also threatened with bad karma?  Perhaps, but the New York Times--without any factual basis--makes it sound like something far more sinister was involved.

I am tired of having animal advocates falsely branded as perpetrators of violence when their entire philosophy is one of non-injury and compassion.  The Times has unfortunately compounded this libel by its failure to investigate the actual nature of the "threats" received by Vermont slaughterhouses.  My guess is that the real "threat" posed by animal activists is in making visible the hidden brutality of what happens there.


Charlie Talbert said...

I read this NYT piece earlier this morning and missed the shoddy journalism that your post calls out.

News stories with no evidence so routinely depict animal advocates as angry and violent that we grow accustomed to it.

And how ironic. Animal agriculture's ceaseless violence against sentient beings - 17,000+ per minute in the U.S. alone - is hardly news at all.

Except when those who profit from it issue press releases that greenwash the confinements, castrations, mutilations, and slaughter with tales of sustainable, locally-sourced, grass-fed, organic "product."

Rebecca Stucki said...

The NYT was not the only publication to print the same inaccuracies. I can only conclude, because of their similarities and slant, that the stories all originated with GMC. I'm working on a letter which I would like all defenders of Bill and Lou to sign which will ask those same publications to print our side of the story and to do their research before printing deliberate misinformation.