the Guardian – Jan 09, 2015
Michael Moss’ powerful New York Times’ investigation into the United States Department of Agriculture’s Meat Animal Research Center (“U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer In Quest For Profit”) predictably outraged readers. The collective angst came not just because of the center’s ghoulish and inept experimentation; not just because the research animals suffered to boost profits in the livestock industry; but because the public learned that taxpayers had footed the bill — and had been doing so — for fifty years.
Compare that discovery to the recent media attention given to a very similar program, one involving even more animals, conducted to boost livestock industry profits, costing even more taxpayer dollars, and degrading millions of acres of public rangelands in the American West: The Bureau of Land Management’s Wild Horse and Burros Program (WHB).
The news media regularly covers this program. Articles about wild horses appear daily, in fact. So why is the public incensed over the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Meat Animal Research Center while the WHB program goes ignored?
The difference is in the reporting. Coverage of the Meat Animal Research Center (which we review here) was initiated by government whistleblowers within the research facility. An experienced investigative reporter subsequently spent a year researching the claims, largely through Freedom of Information Act requests. Federal and corporate perspectives were handled with appropriate suspicion.
Coverage of the WHB program, on the other hand, is typically sourced almost entirely from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and the industries benefiting economically from wild horse roundups: notably, private ranchers holding public grazing permits (though mining and energy development companies profit, too).
If Moss, in his reporting on the Meat Animal Research Center, had turned to the USDA’s web site and livestock producers to ask about doing research to boost industry profits, would anyone ever know about “easy-care sheep” and lambs left to perish in rainstorms courtesy of unknowing taxpayers? Of course not.
But coverage of the WHB program was dominated by those groups making money off it. David Philipps’ New York Times article (“As Wild Horses Overrun the West, Ranchers Fear Land Will Be Gobbled Up,” critiqued here) and Caty Enders’ Guardian piece (“Why You Really Should, But Really Can’t, Eat Horsemeat”) are two cases in point…(CONTINUED)