The mainstream media’s new villain for 2019 shows just how messed up its priorities are

A cow and a vegan activist
Ed Sykes

2019 has only just started. But the mainstream media has already lined up this year’s villain for attack. And its choice of prey reveals its truly warped priorities. Because it’s targeted people whose aims include ending corporate torture and fighting against one of the main culprits of environmental destruction.

The media should always aim to punch up – towards the powerful. But we’ve just seen yet another example of it punching down – towards people trying to hold the powerful to account.

Punching down

Just as shameless attention-seeker Piers Morgan took aim at Greggs and McDonald’s for offering meatless products this week, Channel 4 joined in the assault on people who choose not to eat meat. In a confused mess of a programme on 2 January, the media outlet claimed to expose “The Truth About Vegans”. Critics quickly slammed its “biased approach” and “misrepresentation” of vegan groups. And indeed, the documentary essentially came across as a hit-job on behalf of the powerful meat industry.

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The programme admitted that veganism is “better for your health, the environment and animals”; but it focused most of its attention instead on the “extreme tactics” which some activists use to oppose a billion dollar industry that profits from killing many billions of animals every year. Fortunately, though, most people saw through the propaganda:

(Earthlings is a shocking 2005 documentary exposing “humankind’s total dependence on animals for economic purposes”.)

In fact, even some critics of ‘militant vegans’ expressed their disappointment with the Channel 4 hit-job:

The documentary also appeared to accuse some vegan protesters of antisemitism. This was in relation to controversial comparisons between the meat industry and the Holocaust. Although a few Jewish people themselves have made the comparison, many others have strongly condemned it.

Media manipulating people’s emotions

Channel 4, Piers Morgan, and others in the media appear to have no problem with doing shameless PR for the meat industry. And, to be fair, people don’t like being lectured on what to eat, so there’s bound to be some resistance when established eating habits are challenged. It’s an emotional issue. But so is animal rights. A key reason why many people become vegetarians and vegans, for example, is compassion and love for animals.

It feels all too often, however, like establishment media forces encourage fear and contempt towards people who’ve chosen not to eat meat. Rather than highlighting the loving motivations behind such choices, they inspire hatred of those who make them instead.

Emotions, meanwhile, distract from the facts. And these facts affect everyone – regardless of whether we eat meat or not.

The whole ‘truth about vegans’

Reasons for people shunning meat focus on four key elements:

  • Ethics. The obvious reason. If we love animals and understand their suffering and consciousness, we don’t eat them.
  • Health. Experts consistently recognise diets shunning meat and focusing on “fruits, vegetables, beans, lentils, whole grains, nuts and seeds” to be the healthiest. To put it simply, we don’t need meat to be healthy. And we’re actually better off without it.
  • Environment. A report from late 2018 called for a drastic reduction in human consumption of meat (beef in particular) in order to feed ourselves sustainably without adding to the environmental devastation of our planet. Other reports previously suggested that the meat industry (beef and dairy in particular) makes up at least half of the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for today’s climate chaos. Researchers have also insisted that “a vegan diet is probably the single biggest way to reduce your impact on planet Earth”.
  • Economy. Meat is usually one of the most expensive items on any shopping list. So changing to a plant-based diet can work out cheaper. Ignore the myth of vegans being wealthier; because many working-class people around the world have been avoiding meat for decades (and centuries) – all without having to go to posh alternative restaurants. Climate change, meanwhile, disproportionately affects the Earth’s poorest people the most, even though they hardly eat meat in comparison with Western diets.

So yes, establishment attacks on people who don’t eat meat affect everyone. Because if we focus on the facts alone, we can see that our health, our planet, and our finances can all benefit from moving away from meat. And that’s without even starting to discuss ethics and emotions.

Whenever a corporate giant is scared, that’s a good thing

The powerful meat industry is clearly worried. And so it should be. Because despite its friends in the media trying to smear its opponents as extremists, there’s nothing it can do to escape the facts.

The media, meanwhile, has picked the wrong villain. Because although it’s done us all a disservice with its attacks (both those who eat meat and those who don’t), it’s also exposing the meat industry to the light of day. And that’s something the world badly needs.

Featured image via screenshot

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