Last Thursday we delivered a public comment at the NPR Directors Board Meeting about their thoughtless reporting on animal-related issues and their refusal to report on the serious public health and nuisance issues in urban live animal markets.
The public comment was delivered by Slaughter Free Chicago team member, Susanna Anthony:
My name is Susanna Anthony, I am a Chicago resident and NPR listener, however somewhat of a reluctant one at times.
When I crave the company of a human voice while I’m in the kitchen rinsing my arugula and braising my tofu, NPR is pretty much my only option on the radio. But as I reach for a ripe, juicy fig for my salad, All Things Considered starts airing a segment about Colorado 4-H kids and I can feel my whole body stiffen.
It is yet another fluffy, thoughtless, uncritical segment normalizing the exploitation of animals. What’s wrong with 4-H? you may ask. Well, it indoctrinates young children into the system of exploitation of sentient beings to profit off their flesh, mammary and ovary products. It teaches them to disassociate themselves from the animals in their care as they lead them to be sold for slaughter. It is not just cruel to the animals, but to the children who first get traumatized and then have to turn off their empathy in order to cope.
And this example is no exception. You have aired segments on the growing trend of eating guinea pigs, the “Tesla of chickens,” advocating pampering these birds, some of whom have names, before they are slaughtered just so that some (probably NPR-listening) peoples’ taste buds can be appropriately tantalized. You talk about pedigree dog shows while millions of “regular” dogs are euthanized in shelters every year, a food writer who becomes a butcher to better understand the value of meat, in a time where nobody needs to eat meat, while Terry Gross gaslights animal rights activists. There have been nutritionist guests making bogus claims about the shortcomings of vegan diets, accounts of the presidential turkey pardon, but without ever having reported on the horrors of the turkey industry, countless interviews with farmers making a profit off the suffering of others, without ever being called out for it.
One particularly egregious aspect to me is that often the interviewer seems to have a kind of conspiratorial relationship with the exploiter and they often make jokes at the expense of the victim, thus trivializing their suffering. For instance, I don’t remember who the interviewer was or what program the segment aired at, but a scientist was invited to talk about the effects of something on laboratory mice. They conducted all kinds of horrid experiments that the scientist described in detail and when he mentioned that the mice who received [X] were dropped into water to see if they could get themselves out of it, he and the female interviewer chuckled at the thought of these mice swimming for their lives and failing. It literally made me sick.
I have complained a few times through online contact forms, but of course never heard anything back. You as the board of directors have a responsibility to the listeners of your programs and I am here to tell you that most segments about anything animal-related are offensive to listeners like me, of which there are thousands in this city alone.
Please exercise a little thoughtfulness and turn your fluff pieces into real journalism by providing a different angle. Why don’t you ask the 4-H kid how long she cried for after having to hand her prized goat whom she had loved and cared for for more than 6 months to be killed? Or ask the cattle farmer who can’t feed the animals in his care during a drought why he is actively contributing to climate change that causes said drought? Or the “Tesla” chicken lady, who loves her chickens so much that she has them “humanely” killed, where she gets the delusional idea that there is anything humane about killing?
There is something so very hypocritical about your consistent serious reporting on issues of human injustice, then turning around and perpetuating the idea that animals, who are just as sentient as we are, are disposable commodities, put here for us to needlessly exploit, torture and kill. But, we do it nicely!
If you want me to give you more than $5 a month, I want to start hearing about the remaining 15 slaughterhouses in the city of Chicago and the effects their blatant violations of public health and nuisance laws have on the (mostly underprivileged) communities they are located in. Every time a reporter wants to broach this issue, their editor shuts it down. Probably because it wouldn’t be a benign entertainment piece. Start getting real and tackle the unpleasant truths of animal exploitation instead of perpetuating the “humane myth” or the notion that animals are commodities that don’t have value beyond how much money you can make off of them.
Animal exploitation is an issue of injustice, not entertainment.
Please help us send a strong message to NPR’s board, explaining that you disapprove of their one-sided, thoughtless, uncritical fluff pieces on animal issues and that you want to hear honest reporting that is respectful of the animal subjects or victims by guests who are actual experts on animals, not their exploiters!
Please contact NPR’s Board Liaison, Twanna Clark, at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask her to forward your message to the board members.