Media Responsibility

Posted: September 28, 2008 in Compassion, Homelessness, Morality, Stupidity

Once upon a time, I had a tremendous amount of respect for PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). I’ve always believed that human beings should treat the other living creatures with who we share this planet with a measure of respect. Moreover, I’ve viewed willful abuse of any animal as being unacceptable. As a result I’ve always applauded the efforts of any animal rights advocacy group.  

Over the last few years however, I’ve become highly disillusioned with PETA – in particular as their "advocacy" work seems to have become a bit more distorted and extreme. In fact, after what I read in the news a couple of days ago, PETA has zero credibility in my eyes. And, as far as I’m concerned they’ve become just another circus act.

Don’t misunderstand me. I still believe that we, as human beings, continue to hold a moral responsibility to treat our fellow creatures humanely and with respect. But, let me explain my disillusionment with PETA.

On Thursday, as I read the headlines I came across three articles, How about a double scoop of mama’s milk?, PETA Urges Ben & Jerry’s To Use Human Milk and Ick Cream: PETA Asks Ben & Jerry’s to Make Ice Cream with BREAST MILK, regarding PETA and their latest attempts to urge us humans to treat animals with kindness.

It seems that PETA wants the cow’s milk – which is currently used in the making of ice cream – to be replaced with human breast milk. PETA’s entire thesis? According a letter sent to Ben & Jerry’s Homemade, Inc. from Tracy Reiman, PETA’s Executive Vice President, PETA officials believe that,

"… a move to human breast milk would lessen the suffering of dairy cows and their babies on factory farms and benefit human health."

In the last paragraph of the letter Ms Reiman writes,

"Won’t you give cows and their babies a break…?"

The third article gives information regarding why PETA all of a sudden wants ice cream makers to begin using human breast milk,

"PETA cites a new restaurant opening in Switzerland called Storchen that plans to use human breast milk in its soups, stews and sauces. Donors will apparently be paid for supplying the restaurant with breast milk.

But the letter did not mention that Storchen’s plan ran afoul of health regulators in Switzerland. The restaurant made headlines in Europe when it began advertising in German newspapers looking for human breast milk, but the plan was scrapped after government inspectors threatened to take legal action."

Note that PETA did not mention that Swiss health regulators scrapped the attempts of the restaurant. That’s one glaring omission for such an organization such as PETA to "conveniently" leave out.

What intrigues me about all of the news coverage this received is that even La Leche League International – which is the world’s oldest breast feeding support organization and which strongly advocates breast feeding – thought that PETA’s "idea" was absurd.

What bothers me is that the news media actually found PETA’s "idea" news worthy – and all over dairy cows.

Yet, the news media doesn’t seem to find it noteworthy to report that there will be approximately 3.5 million American’s who will experience homelessness this year; and that of those folks, roughly 1.35 million of them will be children (half of which will be under the age of 5); or that some 400,000 American Veterans will call the streets of our cities home; or that nearly half of all of America’s homeless women are so due to fleeing relationships filled with domestic violence; or that approximately 30% of America’s homeless suffer some form of mental disability and are unable to care for themselves.

As it turns out, the majority of Americans believe that homelessness is a serious issue in their community; and that not enough is being done to address the situation.

The various news outlets believe that they hold a responsibility to report the news to their local communities. Actually I believe that they do indeed have that responsibility. However, I also believe that they have a responsibility to "educate" the public as well – and not just present the news in such a way as to be sensationalistic or entertaining.

In all reality, news articles that present the homeless in a humanistic light are very few and far between. The overwhelming majority of the time the homeless are portrayed as a social nuisance. Yet, it is only a small percentage of homeless who are actually "troublemakers."

Most of the homeless are just folks who consider themselves lucky if they end up getting at least one meal to eat today, or a bed at the local shelter to sleep in tonight. They are folks who, at one time or another, lived in a house or an apartment in our own neighborhoods. They are folks who were our co-workers; fellow parishioners; our friends.

Most importantly, they are our fellow human beings.

That alone is reason enough for us to extend a helping hand of compassion and kindness.

At least I think so.

  1. AnAmerican says:

    Isn’t this story form PETA absolutely incredulous? I’m a huge animal lover but I also agree with you in how unbalanced the media is in reporting about the issues of homelessness within the US. Although homelessness is increasing at an alarming rate within the US communities, there is hardly any mainstream media that has picked up on the severity of this social issues. We really do need fair, unbiased journalism that takes a stand on delivering the real issues that face our society. Human milk in food products just isn’t at the top of the list right now.

    (BTW: I read about the story of the Swiss culinary trend with human milk. I think PETA better get their facts about humans in order. Not only is the thought of eating food with human secretions in it quite repulsive, the health risks cannot be overlooked.)

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