The animal activist Karen Dawn has put together a wonderfully informative and uplifting look back on news related to good news for animals published in 2015:
“Cecil was undoubtedly the biggest animal media story of the year. The outpouring of grief was not limited to the one single lion who was lured out of national park and shot by a trophy hunter. In a monologue that was uploaded to YouTube and Facebook, receiving 17 Million views, Jimmy Kimmel epitomized public opinion as he asked why anybody would want to kill a lion. Cecil’s death brought trophy hunting into the limelight and under scrutiny in 2015. Many airlines banned the transport of hunting trophies as we saw the tide turn forcefully against the macabre sport.
The Pope made huge news when he released his encyclical, “On Care of our Common Home.” With the directive that we should not “cause animals to suffer and die needlessly” and with the following stunning line he gave animal advocates a great opportunity for follow-up: “Clearly, the Bible has no place for a tyrannical anthropocentrism unconcerned for other creatures.” Tyrannical anthropocentrism. That’s from the pope!
Bruce Friedrich grabbed the opportunity, and managed to get op-eds about the pope’s directive published in both the Los Angeles Times and USA Today, in June and September respectively, in which he made clear that in the US in this day and age, eating animals is indeed causing them to suffer and die needlessly.
The New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof followed up on the pope’s encyclical with a column titled, “A Pope for All Species.” He noted that the pope’s call for animal rights was not getting enough attention. Kristof was clearly attempting to change that, and he surely had some impact with his column in the New York Times.
Kristof also covered a Mercy for Animals undercover investigation of a poultry slaughter plant. He described what the animals suffer in horrifying detail. In another column, titled, “Our Water-Guzzling Food Factory,” he referred to the “ruthless cruelty” of factory farming and let his readers know that nothing would reduce their water consumption as much as limiting their intake of meat. In another, titled “The (Fake) Meat Revolution” he opined, “My take is that the optimal approach to food, for health and ethical reasons, may be vegetarianism.” And in a warm-hearted piece on “Hero Rats,” animals who can help detect land mines (being too light-weight to set them off) Kristof let us know that the handlers develop such affection for the pampered animals that killing rats in their homes becomes out of the question.
Throughout 2015 Nicholas Kristof offered a consistent, persuasive and widely circulated voice for animals.
Kristof’s wasn’t the only strong voice for animals in the New York Times. When, thanks to the fine work of the folks at the Animal Legal Defense Fund (and others such as PETA’s Matthew Strugar), Idaho’s ag-gag law was overturned, the New York Times editorial board covered the event with an editorial titled “Exposing Abuse on the Factory Farm.” The piece noted “the often sadistic treatment of factory-farmed cows, pigs and chickens” and referred to ag-laws as “nothing more than government-sanctioned censorship of a matter of public interest.”
The New York Times gave front page place placement to its own investigative piece on shocking animal abuse at the taxpayer funded U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, following up with a searing editorial on the issue. And Sea Shepherd’s fight against illegal fishing in Antarctica also made the paper’s front page, as did, in the same week in July, a story on the human slave trade in Thailand titled “Forced Labor for Cheap Fish.”
The paper also published, “I Was an Animal Experimenter,” in which Paul Gazda discussed the hideous things he did to pigeons and rats when he worked in a lab, and told us of his awakening twenty years later.
Given the reach, prestige and influence of the New York Times, looking back and seeing that kind of coverage in the paper (plus more) over the year is reason for hope.
Other influential papers gave animals important coverage this year. I noted above Bruce Friedrich’s Los Angeles Times piece on the Pope. He also placed a superb pro-veg piece in that paper titled, “The Cruelty Behind Your Ballpark Hot Dog.” And the Los Angeles Times also ran Daniel Engber’s “The confusion of fur-hating carnivores” in which he reminded readers, “You can sew a lovely coat without a speck of fur, but you can also cook a sumptuous meal without a shred of meat.”
Just in time for the holiday season, the little powerhouse group Compassion Over Killing released their undercover investigation of a pig slaughter plant. It got superb and widespread coverage, including in the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal, which noted, “workers dragging and beating pigs at a slaughterhouse that supplies Hormel Foods Corp.”
The Wall Street Journal also covered HSUS’s undercover investigation of a Costco egg supplier, as did the New York Times and many other outlets. The UK Mirror described the video as “sickening.”
As Jon Stewart left Comedy Central and ventured into late night prime time television, his venture, guided by his wife Tracey, into the vegetarian world also got a lot of media attention. Jon and Tracey have become part of the wonderful Farm Sanctuary family, as they are in the process of turning their New Jersey farm into one of the organization’s rescue centers. And Tracey has released a beautiful book on our relationship with animals, titled “Do Unto Others.” The widespread coverage, including a fun and inviting interview on NPR’s Fresh Air, has been a boon for animals.
Just as warm and inviting has been the advertising campaign for Vodafone. The ads have gone viral on social media, which reaches more people than any traditional media can. At Thanksgiving I sent out the company’s beautiful Tommy the Turkey ad, in which a family prepared to raise and slaughter their own Thanksgiving turkey but fell in love with him instead. Earlier in the year they had released, “Piggy Sue,” another must watch: https://youtu.be/_KTfyrTTey8
(That’s the New Zealand version — there is a Scottish version as well.)
And in time for Christmas there was this Piggy Sue follow-up: https://youtu.be/Ujvin8f5i1A
When a communications company uses the veg message in its advertising it suggests a societal shift for which we can all give thanks.
While we are on the topic of social media: if you are on Facebook and you don’t follow (via hitting “Like”) Vegan Outreach, you are missing out. It seems every day they post a new heartwarming graphic that’s ideal for sharing. Here is today’s http://tinyurl.com/h9g7fs9
The Blackfish effect did not let up in 2015. Ex SeaWorld trainer John Hargrove released his book “Beneath the Surface” and got a lot of great press, including a compelling interview on NPR’s Fresh Air. And in response to a request by SeaWorld for a permit to expand its tanks in San Diego, the California Coastal Commission added a stipulation that SeaWorld must stop breeding orcas. That led to more great press.
Now SeaWorld is suing the Coastal Commission. The San Diego Tribune has a poll asking, “Should SeaWorld be allowed to breed orcas?” Please vote. And the article on the same page could really use some animal friend comments beneath it. We can help turn the lawsuit into another opportunity for good media coverage. Go to http://tinyurl.com/qe8c6gj
The Washington Post weekly columnist, Charles Krauthammer, used the Blackfish Effect as his jumping off point for a column titled “Free Willy,” in which he suggested that while we may be disgusted by things our ancestors have done, “contemporary practices will be deemed equally abominable by succeeding generations.” He wrote, “I’m convinced that our great-grandchildren will find it difficult to believe that we actually raised, herded and slaughtered them on an industrial scale — for the eating.” Remember, that’ a columnist in the Washington Post!
We got great news this year for elephants as Ringling Brothers pledged to stop using them in circuses by 2018. (That’s when the Los Angeles and Oakland bullhook bans come into effect.) That led to more widespread media coverage about the treatment of wild animals in circuses.
That’s just a small sample of the great coverage animals got in the media in 2015.”
Thank you to Karen Dawn and her Dawn Watch http://www.dawnwatch.com
And thank you to all for sharing and spreading the news on animal awareness!