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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 4 February 2003 Issue

PAWPRINTS, FOOTPRINTS & ANIMAL CHATTER
By Judith Marie Gansen

Article 19 - The Southern Poverty Law Center Article and The Media

The Media:

Some people actually fear animal advocates or activists. I ask myself where did this fear come from? I am not a dangerous person and I have never broken the law, in fact I get teased alot because I have never even gotten a moving violation as a driver-- honest truth. In fact people who really know me generally call me a kind and gentle person who can be strong and assertive too but always law abiding. Where do people then get their perceptions of who we are as human beings? Answer: the media--newspapers, radio, magazines, TV, and now the internet. At times misinformation from our enemies too. Sadly, the good work we do is less often reported-- it simply isn't as exciting or attention getting and therefore ratings of the news shows or paper sales aren't as high for the "boring" stories--pathetic, isn't it? Why aren't there more positive stories about our efforts on the media?

In watching how the media reports about us, I always see stories of activists going naked for fur. Is bad press better than no press--it may help movie stars but does it help us? If any violence can be linked to animal activists it is also reported quickly--something like "the damage is suspected to have been done by animal activists" and sometimes the follow-up story if there is one will come later and many may not hear it or it will be buried in the paper if animal activists were not really to blame. The feeling the general public gets is that we are something to fear--we are radicals, extremists or God forbid, "terrorists." I have often thought isn't it strange that unlike any other group completely unwarranted statements are allowed to be passed on from station to station. I mean, if Democratic headquarters was broken into (again--remember Watergate?), you wouldn't say "Republicans are believed to be responsible for this theft" or say some guns are stolen you wouldn't hear "the anti-gun people are suspected." If a crime was committed against a person of color you wouldn't automatically say the KKK was involved. Why this double standard against us? I believe we have an image problem and it is fueled by those in our movement who use violence as a tool. The media is also quick to jump on a story where anyone claiming responsibility is believed to be the culprit without the benefit of the results of our justice system. Instead of animal activists being innocent until proven guilty we seem to be guilty until proven innocent. We are also "shaking up the system" and that causes fear which is understandable--people often fear change. However, even police officers know that someone confessing to a crime may not have committed the crime. The last I knew, people in our wonderful country are innocent until proven guilty even sitting in jail awaiting trial but people often get "tried" by the media and this is apparently especially true with the animal rights movement.

Sadly the animal activists who commit acts of violence with no regard for the consequences of their actions are not "pro-animal"--they are criminals and they are not helping change public opinion, they are simply helping to reinforce what anti-animal people have been saying all along--we are a bunch of nuts who like to do violence. In fact, some of the same people doing violence to "help" animals have often been arrested before for non-animal causes--they may like the "thrill" it gives them or have some other hidden agenda or even could be from the anti-animal side infiltrating us so that we are discredited--this has already happened. Intelligent activists know that if a fire is set in a lab, firefighters could get hurt and those people usually have kids and animals who depend on them and love them too. This is why the consequences of violence are rarely worth the "collateral damage" done at the same time--actions like those only hurt our movement and create fear and mistrust.

Anyone can say they are from PETA or ALF or HSUS but that does not make them members nor does it make their actions speak for the organization as a whole. Why does the media assume it does so often? Whatever happened to doing good research? Even within one organization you will find advocates who differ in their solutions to animal problems. A single member of an organization who is given media attention does not always speak for the entire group.

The Southern Poverty Law Center Article

I have always had great respect for the Southern Poverty Law Center who are a non-profit group working to fight against intolerance and hate groups. Then along comes this article on their website:

SPLanti animal article or go to: http://www.splcenter.org/cgi-bin/goframe.pl?dirname=ntelligenceproj&pagename=ip-4w3.html  

I have quite a few issues with this article and wonder at the motive for putting this on their website. So far, no author is named. Secondly, from the title one could automatically assume we have all become violent which is ridiculous. The article also fails to establish a distinction between those in the movement doing good in the world and those few doing violence. It damages our movement because by putting that article on a respected charity's website it makes that very poorly researched article seem legitimate.

Should we all be placed in the same category as other hate groups? Are we volunteering our valuable time and spending our own money to cultivate hate? Are we working so hard for our own benefit? Are we all about violence? Unlike other charity work I have done, animal advocates often don't get thanked for their volunteer work (the animals can't of course) plus often our work is somewhat "anonymous" so it is missing the perks of other kinds of volunteering--there are few banquets held for us. If the author of that article wants to place us in the category of "haters," yes it is true I hate the people who harm animals and I suppose that makes me a bad Christian. I have always hated any big bully picking on something smaller and helpless--a man beating a woman, a parent abusing a child or a big guy picking on a little guy. It's just wrong and I will continue to stand up for those who can't speak for themselves or for those who can speak but are too frightened to speak. I have been on the receiving end of the bullies of the world and so I know the pain personally but the experiences have made me stronger. If people who have been hurt and who care don't speak up for the weak and defenseless, then who will?

A wonderful quote on the SPLC website is by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. It reads:

"until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream"

Isn't it incredible how the work of animal advocates is so much like the work of the Southern Poverty Law Center? That quote could easily be used for our cause. We are both working selflessly for good causes. We are both doing spiritual work to make the world a better place for all of us. But we are all also capable of making mistakes--and putting that article on their site was a mistake in my opinion. Let's all learn from our mistakes and continue to work to make the world a better place to leave to all the children of all races, the animals and our fragile environment.

How Animal Advocates Can Help With the Media:

Ask yourself how many newspeople know an animal advocate personally? How many newspeople know of our good accomplishments? Why not? They are overworked and all under deadlines and trying to get top ratings. It's very competitive in their world. We can easily help--after reading your copies of any pro animal publication, pick a newscaster and mail it to them, local or national. Buy a station or editor a subscription to your favorite animal organization if you can afford to. If possible write a nice note, send a card or type a letter and explain why you are sending it to them. I mail my old copies of animal publications to newscasters as well as lawmakers--they need to see inside our world because they have such power over our movement.

Second, subscribe (for free) to Dawnwatch. Karen Dawn does wonderful work monitoring the media of any kind.

Her website is: http://www.dawnwatch.com/  or click Dawnwatch

Some day I pray that the entire world will understand that we should never tolerate cruelty or injustice towards any living creature, even the ones who can't communicate with us.

Judy

Staff: Animals in Print (free online animal publication) http://www.all-creatures.org/aip/  
Pawprints, Footprints & Animal Chatter
shortietek@aol.com  

"We exist to educate and through compassion and knowledge improve the lives of all beings."

Return to Animals in Print 4 Feb 2003 Issue

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