First the News Corp. phone-hacking scandal...now this?
Vickery Eckhoff Contributor Wall Street Journal reporters Douglas Belkin and Nathan Koppel are in good company. On May 4, they published an article on horse slaughter so eerily similar to articles appearing in a variety of unrelated publications, even ol’ Rupert Murdoch himself might be left wondering.
How did they all end up using the same specific phrases and anecdotes? Twist so many of the same key facts? Quote the same people and ultimately, critically, leave out so much available data on the issue? Were journalists cribbing off a PR script prepared by the horse-slaughter lobby? Has anyone called Scotland Yard?
Origins of a Disinformation Campaign: Rebranding Slaughter
The horse-slaughter lobby represents a handful of powerful industries looking to bring horse slaughter back to the U.S.: meat packers and slaughter operators, for one thing. Cattle ranchers and the Farm Bureau. Then there’s the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) and pharmaceutical companies (like the makers of Read Premarin). Finally, there are the horse breeders and breed registries like the American Quarter Horse Association (AQHA) and American Paint Horse Association (APHA).
Naturally, they don’t like being identified as the “horse-slaughter lobby.” That sounds too mean. Instead, they call themselves “the horse industry.” This may sound like a generic classification for horse-related businesses and professionals, but it’s not.
You can own a racing stable, breed or show horses or run a veterinary practice, but if you’re among the 80% of Americans opposed to slaughtering horses, you’re not official “horse industry” according to “horse industry” people. They’ve appropriated that term to make their views seem mainstream, all while painting public opposition to slaughter as emotional and dangerous animal-rights driven extremism.
This is all a clever bit of disinformation, since 80% of the public is a very large group of Americans. It includes a long, bipartisan list of the members of Congress, business leaders and professionals both in and out of the horse world, entertainers and regular old Americans—all of them opposed to slaughtering horses in the U.S. or exporting them to slaughter.
Currently, horses are being exported to slaughterhouses in Canada and Mexico. This has been going on for years, even when U.S. slaughterhouses were open. What has changed is the provision for federal horse slaughter inspections ready to lunge forward thanks to a closed-door session that took place in November, 2011.
Essentially, three pro-slaughter U.S. Congressmen removed language banning inspections of horse-slaughter operations in an agricultural appropriations bill that was signed by Congress and President Obama.
The “horse industry” is doing all it can to seize the opportunity and push horse slaughter down the American public’s throat—with the right PR and the media’s help.
The distinctions—between the pro-and anti-slaughter sides and between foreign and domestic slaughter—are important for the public to know because key legislation is being pushed at the local, state and federal level.
Please read more about this great disinformation campaign here.