SafeFood© Blog – Just the Facts, Please.
I have never taken a journalism course, and other than a short seminar on media training, I really don’t understand how the whole thing works behind the scenes. What I do know is based on what I see on TV and hear on radio and read in print.
Is foodborne illness newsworthy? Yes, I think so. It raises awareness among the public about risks and identifies need for change for some practices (these are personal, operational and oversight levels of change). What I find troubling is use of conjecture – the recent use by several media outlets in showing a video supplied by the Humane Society of the U. S (HSUS). This video was taken at ONE meat processing facility by someone “undercover”. Yes, what was shown on the video was troubling. Downed animals were prodded and cruelly forced to walk in order to meet regulations for entry into food supply. However, this was ONE instance – and I have to ask - if animal welfare was truly the driving force behind showing this video, why did it take 4 months to get the word out? This is the digital age with instantaneous communication.
The other issue I took was the reporting on this video – words of “may” and “might” and “possibly” were used to describe that the meat may end up in the food supply, even, the Child Nutrition Program (emotional tug here). What wasn’t described was the rigorous inspection process: animals are inspected before, during and after harvesting. There is VERY little chance an injured animal could be forced to meet this gauntlet of inspections. Was the entire story told? In my opinion, No. Do groups such as HSUS have agendas beyond animal welfare? In my opinion, Yes.
Be a critical thinker – before jumping on the bandwagon of “protecting animals” think about what groups such as this are all about. Livestock producers I know (and I do know a few, including my husband) care very deeply about their animals – they are their livelihood and passion. Animals often get cared for before the humans. In winter storms, producers worry about water and feed supplies. In hot summers, they worry about water supply and heat effects. During calving season, producers are on 24/7 watch, operating on just a few hours of sleep each night. Livestock producers are caretakers of their animals – they take care and are good stewards.
Let’s stick to just the facts in the news, please.
Submitted by Catherine Strohbehn, PhD, RD, CFSP February 12, 2008