*This is a paper I wrote for a college english class years ago. I apologize that I can’t remember off-hand what the prompt was.
Information is passed on to the general populous based on what is perceived to be the most interesting. Not just the most interesting story, but the most interesting way to spin each story. Every channel remains on the air only as long as they have viewers. Because of this, newscasters sell current events the same way that retail companies sell their products, by manipulating the public into believing incomplete or false truths.
Many retailers simply tell people what they want to hear in order to get them to buy their products. Phrases that will help sell a product are printed in large, bold, eye-catching texts. Information that may spark questions about a product’s safety or effects is printed so small they are barely legible to the naked eye. The people who believe in animal rights prefer to buy products that were not tested on animals. However, these people fail to understand that the labels on their favorite products are misleading. Many cosmetic companies get away with selling their products with labels stating “Cruelty Free” or “Not tested on animals” because these terms have no legal definition (United States 2). These products may still have ingredients that were tested when they were first introduced (United States 2). Depending on the product toxicology screening must be performed of part of or whole animals. Many kinds of testing are necessary in order to get the Food and Drug Administration’s assurance of safety (United States 1).
The problem with this scenario is that the public is not aware of the paperwork submitted to the FDA for most products on the market. Consumers will only learn of a product’s trial background if they research it themselves. Many consumers are not willing to do so, trusting instead that all the important information is already represented in the product’s advertising. This trust is how the media controls public thinking in the consumer market. However, this same convenient omission of information is also how the media controls public views of current events.
The pharmaceutical companies that produce medical miracles must test their products as well, but because of their makeup and purpose, these products must pass even more rigorous testing. Again, much of the public at large prefers not to know about animal testing. Because of the enmity felt towards the research industry, bad press is very easily over exaggerated. In 2005 a research company was infiltrated by the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA made a claim that the employees at the research company were being cruel to the animals housed at the facility. This accusation was enough to spawn international news stories, web sites and forums, and gossip surrounding the entire research industry. The information filtered into the media to support the claims of PETA was a montage created from hundreds of hours of surveillance. The montage lasts only a few minutes and depicts rough behavior and bad language but does not show enough of each scene to give viewers a clear understanding of the situation. The only people made aware of the true nature of the video were the employees of the company blamed for the incident. Logically, the public’s view was steered to side with PETA. The public was not informed of the parade of inspections that followed the incident. Both the FDA and the USDA performed numerous inspections that the accused company passed. The public was also left unaware that this company was actually the third in a string of North American research labs targeted by PETA. Once PETA came under attack by the company blamed, however, the media coverage of the incident diminished to minor blurbs on specialty websites.
Ironically enough, less than one month later two PETA workers were caught dumping approximately thirty dead dogs and cats into a dumpster behind a shopping center in North Carolina (Fox News 3). The two stated that the animals were taken from several shelters in order to euthanize them humanely (Fox News 3). The two argued in court that they were rescuing the animals from sickness and overcrowding. They also claimed that they were upfront with all shelter workers with their intentions (Mueller 4). Bertie County Animal Control Officer Barry Anderson stated however that the two claimed “they were picking up the dogs to take them back to Norfolk where they would find them good homes” (Mueller 4). Six months later after a brief jury trial the two were cleared of all charges receiving only brief jail time, community service and fines of four thousand dollars each (Spies 5). These proceedings and the results there of were overshadowed by the media in favor of Super Bowl news and Hollywood romances.
When animals are put through tests in sanitary facilities where they are watched over day and night by dedicated staff and veterinarians they are considered to be abused. The media therefore follows mistakes from the research industry only, missing the relevancy of discoveries made in such conditions. When animals rights groups who are in the news regularly accusing those research companies they are heralded as humanitarians doing noble work. Any mistakes made by those animal rights groups are overlooked. The media does not represent the facts equally because research will challenge the audience to think and possibly change their beliefs while the animal rights groups will simply tug at the public’s collective heartstrings and as any fisherman will state, one good tug is sometimes all it takes to be hooked.
1. United States. Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Office of Cosmetics and Colors. Animal Testing. May 3, 1999. June 9, 2005. April 5, 2006.http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-205.html.
2. United States. Department of Health and Human Services, Food and Drug Administration. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, Office of Cosmetics and Colors. Cruelty Free—Not Tested On Animals. March 14, 1995. Feb. 24, 2000. http://www.cfsan.fda.gov/~dms/cos-226.html
3. Associated Press. PETA Workers Charged with Animal Cruelty. June 17, 2005. Feb 11, 2007. http://www.foxnews.com/printer_freindly_story/0,3566,159861,00.html
4. Mueller, Gene. PETA looks bad after two arrests. June 22, 2005. Feb 11, 2007 http://washingtontimes.com/sports/20050621-115255-8184r.htm
5. Spies, Samuel. PETA workers cleared of animal cruelty. Feb 3, 2007. Feb 11, 2007. www.ajc.com/news/content/shared-gen/ap/National/PETA_Arrests.html