Feb 6, 2011

Oprah Viewers Spared Reality T.V. Due to Animal Welfare Concerns

I'm probably going to give the Oprah "Vegan Challenge" show more space, energy and time than it deserves... But I've had a nagging issue ever since I saw Lisa Ling's slaughterhouse footage.  Or actually the sad lacking of the essential scenes.

What I'm referring to is the blatant and obvious omission of the actual "act".  You know, the use of the bolt gun.  The actual process of the intentional spoiling, snuffing, slaying, extinguishment, destruction, cancellation, assassination, termination and vetoing of an Other's sacred Life. That all important second when there is a breathing, healthy, autonomous, sentient, innocent "somebody" having their beingness erased from existence. You see, everything after this climactic event doesn't make much of a difference - We're only talking about matter. Not what matter.  Or better still, "who" matters.

Albeit the blood letting, evisceration, head dropping and hide pulling may be "unsettling", gross or even disgusting... But they are trivial next to the complex judgments, emotional sensitivities, fully informed, owned acknowledgment of Life taking.  The unjust murders are left invisible, sanitized and absent from consciousness.  The viewers were given an easy get out of jail pass away from this most critical and vile moment of the whole "meat" process.  I believe it was very cowardly to shield those responsible from witnessing the details of their chosen diets.
I'm glad to see I was not alone in my disappointment that the calculated and deliberate deaths of these animals were glossed over:

Powered by Produce said: The tour inside the Cargill slaughterhouse kind-of drove me nuts! First of all, they were not allowed to show the actual killing of the cow on camera (the bolt gun to the head and the slitting of the throat while dangling by one leg), which I think is important for people to see so that they realize that a living being was killed for their dinner. And, obviously, Cargill was going to be on their “best behavior” while the Oprah cameras were in there! People need to see the HIDDEN camera footage – that’s what’s real! They didn’t mention the living conditions of the animals pre-slaughter and they, of course, didn’t mention the animals who make it down to the skinner still alive and have their hide ripped from their bodies while fully conscious.

Vive le Vegan said: Yes, show the killing, that's what we need to do to eat animals - kill them.  Don't sanitize it for public viewing.  That's what we already do to meat - sanitize it, make it look pristine and unlike any part of the animal.  

So I'm Thinking Of Going Vegan said: ...but they still would not allow the actual killing to be filmed. The general manager (sorry, forgot her name) paid lip service to the idea that animals should be treated with dignity and respect and reiterated a number of times how the company and employees had a lot of respect for the former living creatures. Right. I also heard her use the phrase "harvested (gotta love that euphemism) carefully" and that killing animals was somehow part of the "natural order of things." And did you know that the stun bolt gun doesn't hurt, but renders animals completely unconscious so that they don't feel any pain when the bolt is driven into their brain?

Vegan Machine said: ...they left out the part that people like to pretend doesn't happen... the death of the animal.  They briefly described the death of the animal as being "knocked."  This means they put a 4" bolt through their brain to render them lifeless. They said that at Cargill the "knocker" stands behind the animal so they do not see them, they are not stressed by them being there and it is unexpected for them.  I think that is great, that would lower their stress significantly in my opinion.  The part that they quickly went over was when the cows get "stuck."  That is all they said about it.  The truth is, being "stuck" means the animals' throat is cut while being chained up by a leg or two that cannot comfortably support the animals' body weight so they can bleed out.  I think it is an extremely important part to leave out.  I was really surprised though that they said they could not show the animals being killed but they could show the animals' blood draining, being skinned, legs being cut off and then entirely butchered.  It was pretty brutal.  But the most important part is that the animal is killed so that people can eat them, and the Oprah show neglected to show that... .

Suite 101 said: From the description of the kill, I would think we were talking about two different events. I am curious why we are not allowed to view this glorious death. This clearly could be a deciding factor in someone’s decision to abstain from eating meat.

Our Hen House said: Cargill put out the balloons and ribbons...

Culture Mob said: Now I don’t want to cast aspersions on this particular facility. For all I know, every day there really is a song even when Lisa Ling and her cameras are not around. However, I would just like to point out that if you know that the queen of daytime television is going to be stopping by for a visit, you’re probably not going to trot out the crazy dude with the nose-piercing and the “I Heart Murder” tattoo on his left bicep. But, I dunno. Maybe that’s just me.

*Grist said: Oprah discovers slaughterhouses are more sanitary when sanitized: -- to the conscientious Cargill employees interviewed during the segment, it's clear that this is a highly orchestrated visit with a Cargill-friendly moral.

*The Miami Herald said: While Ling's footage didn't show cows being killed, it did contain graphic footage of carcasses being hoisted up and skinned. Viewers apparently aren't ready for the full story...".

*Ari Solomon on Huffington Post said: In truth, the place did look clean and orderly, as I'm sure any would when you know you have Opie coming for a look-see.
But what about every other day of the year? And what about the 20 other slaughter facilities that Oprah said turned her down? What happens in these places when no one is looking?

And here's some random comments on assorted blogs and news posts:

This program was a complete joke! Of course they wouldn’t show the “BOLT”, she said it doesn’t hurt them, they don’t feel it, sometimes it take 12 hits before the monsters that hit them with the bolt finally brings them to the ground, because many of us have seen this horror. And they wouldn’t show any of that. All those people there wanted to do was to sell their books. I feel so sick. Sorry for the rant. Make no mistake, these animals all suffer….Thanks folks for throwing the animals under the bus….

And they actually did visit a slaughterhouse with a guide ? Nice PR for CARGILL indeed.

Oprah should have shown undercover videos and REAL images of the slaugherhouses, and have Farm Sancuary as guests.

The show was a love fest to the meat industry. Hey, that steak on your plate came from a nice, happy, fat cow, that was knocked unconscious by a blow to the head and did not feel a thing after that happened! 

Clean, anesthetized TV for all to enjoy and nobody to get the shock of their lives. After all, who wants to see one cow after another getting stunned with a four inch bolt?

This show was like inviting rapists to tell their side!  I can name at least 2 dozen other well respected authorities on veganism that would have made this a show a serious discussion about the real issues.

At least Lisa Ling has a new found “conscience” about where her steak comes from. “I mean, seriously?”

It was a great PR campaign for Cargill. Cargill ethical, what a joke.

See No Evil Painting by Morwenna Morrison
I'd say these were all very astute conclusions.  

In fact, a Herzog and McGee 1983 International Journal for the Study of Animal Problems Psychological Aspects of Slaughter reports that: College students who first visited a slaughter plant, found that the killing of the animals bothered them more than gutting the carcass.

And I would agree that it's not the gore... It's the violations to Life that bothers us!

But then again, even Ms. Temple Grandin the queen diva of all things blessed in the business of animal slaughter business has the need to dis-associate herself from the actual "act" itself: "Although Grandin describes the cows' journey through her slaughterhouse system in detail, she fails to describe the end of the process when the cows are shot. Her emphasis is on the aspects of the design which keep cattle calm before their slaughter, for example the curved single-file routes and high solid walls (so cows "can only see their buddy in front of them"). Morris, at the request of Grandin, did not film any deaths. "As Temple tells her story, she takes the animal all the way up to the point of the bolt gun but not through the bolt gun and after that. It was that part of the story, her story, that I wanted to tell". We are left with the impression that Grandin in her own mind does not consider this aspect of slaughter. She does not have a picture of it". 

Note in this video (part 3) of Errol Morris's television presentation: Inside the Mind of a Killer - Grandin cannot even say the word "kill".  She like most others who consume the butchered remains of sentient beings always like to say that everything "dies."  We humans of course are so nice and respectable about making "things" "die."

Clearly no one wants to say what it is... Nor they want to see what it is.  And here is the grand finale of this already too long post. Want to know what the animal industry gave as an excuse for not showing the "offensive" footage?  

"Cameras were allowed in every stage of the process, except where the cattle were stunned in the “knock box” due to safety and animal welfare concerns".

Yeah... The welfare and safety of the animals --- S-u-r-e.

Please, investigate the truth for yourself...  None of this carefully staged taking of life was necessary. None of it was right.  Don't settle for placebos. It's not fair to you... It's not fair to the animals.

*Edited Feb 2, Feb 10


Anonymous said...

I hope someone sends this beautiful blog straight to Oprah.

PROVOKED, you did a magnificent job gathering comments from many ethical thinkers and presenting them in a way that makes this irrefutable point: those you dishonor animals are being dishonest with themselves.

Everyone involved in the act of annihilating animals -- from observers like Lisa Ling who had neither the moral courage nor the compassion to protest (but instead stood by, bug-eyed and mouth agape) to the meat industry's PR shills and stooges to the consumers who carefully select and willingly pay for choice "cuts" of meat at the grocery store -- is in violation of the laws of Life, Truth, and Love.

Not only are they violating the intense desire to NOT BE KILLED that is natural to each and every living being, but they are also violating our language, using euphemisms as a way of avoiding their guilt. As for Cargill, it sure knows how to cover its a*a -- that is, how to bloat its *bottom* line.

Surely, Cargill and everyone involved in the murders of these innocents got off lightly on Oprah's sanitized show.

Some day, each individual who knows the ugly facts but refuses to refrain from being complicit in the injustice of it all, will have to 'fess up and cease his criminal behavior. The "day of reckoning," which can either take the form of suffering from stubborn resistance to good or be a gentle awakening from wrongdoing and a simple course correction, allows humans to begin to approximate the pure hearts of the creatures whose lives they have stolen.

Anonymous said...

Oops, in the 2nd graph, I meant to write "those who..." (not "those you"). Sorry 'bout that.

veganelder said...

Great job Bea, lots of work went into the post and it shows, thank you for your efforts.

In the end, looking to current popular television to be anything but a minor source of trivial entertainment is futile.

Looking to popular television to supply "reality" is a certain way to get disconnected from that which is real.

Anonymous said...

Was no-one else bothered by Michael Pollan's (who many view as a compassionate, ethical man) comments? He proclaimed that he's at a point where he can eat meat and feel good about it; that it's okay if animals lead pretty good lives and then have just one bad day (their day of death) and that there is nothing evil about meat! Really? Well, I guess he's right if you think there's also nothing evil about rape, child porn, slavery or any other immoral act.

The slavery, suffering, terror and agony that humans sentence animals to sickens my soul.

veganelder said...

Anonymous, re Michael Pollan...I have commented elsewhere about my distaste for his notions regarding the other animals. He trumpets the traditional stance...that their lives belong to the humans and humans can do what they want...just as does Temple Grandin. Pollan does so in such a way (he seems smarmy to me) that he sounds as if he is concerned about non-human animals...which he is (I suppose) as long as that concern doesn't get in the way of doing pretty much what you want to do with that animal that doesn't happen to be human.

Both are examples of the "animal welfare" school of thought that says do what you want to with all other living beings but don't be obviously and gratuitously cruel while doing it (or at least not in public).

For instance...if they were defenders of rape...they would say rape is ok as long as you don't beat the victim prior to the rape or use more force than is necessary to get the victim to submit to rape.

They are, if you will, defenders of violence, albeit "gentle" or "minimal" or non-obvious violence.

And as such, you quite correctly note, are soul sickening.

Anonymous said...

"They are, if you will, defenders of violence, albeit "gentle" or "minimal" or non-obvious violence."

Riiiiight, as opposed to the uninformed violence and extremism of the countless terrorists, fanatics, pathological liars and psychopaths who comprise the entirety of the self-defeating Animal "Rights" nonmovement.

If you wanna truly save animals, why don't you dipshits start with the thousands of animals who are killed foer the cultivation and processesing of crops for your vegan diets?

Krissa said...

I think this show was done with an agenda. And it certainly was not to promote veganism or paint an accurate picture of it. I'm trying to refrain from any sarcastic remarks about her - Oprah should be ashamed of herself. No matter what else I think about her, I do not think she's dumb and clueless. So yeah, there was an agenda behind doing this show. And it's pretty clear what it was. And who it benefited. I'm going to show my age with this, but it's like that old Arsenio Hall line: "things that make you go hmmmm?". Shameful.

So I'm Thinking Of Going Vegan said...


...terrorists, fanatics, pathological liars and psychopaths... Really? Guess we hit a nerve, huh?

Bea, great post! And thank you so much for compiling the thoughts of others -- I'm gonna check them all out!

I still feel sad that Oprah squandered the opportunity the make a REAL difference for a change, but am encouraged that the show at least got lots of people talking and debating. Veganism is no longer being ignored, and perhaps this episode got some folk thinking about their food that otherwise would never have given it a second thought. I have to remain hopeful!

Bea Elliott said...

Hi Anonymous - Thanks... You're exactly right, Lisa Ling (and others) lack "moral courage". When I viewed the footage and Ling's tempered response, it all reminded me of the tale of the Emperor's Clothing. Instead of saying that the garment was lovely, made of a beautiful fabric, had a magnificent "print", etc. They said, (as the cow's brains were blasted): How "peaceful" and quick it was. How there is no suffering and how "orderly" everything was done. All timidly escaping the fundamental Truth that it did violate Life and Love. There's nothing kind, honest or nurturing in stealing innocent lives! That's the theme my broken record I guess. Thanks for singing that song too!

Hi veganelder - I'm very happy if my effort went to further expose the fallacy that there's any "reality" to t.v. I stopped viewing years ago, when I found myself arguing with most shows, hosts and especially the constant abrasive commercials. It has been a life-saver to find trusted, genuine thinkers (like YOU) on the web. ;)

Hi Anonymous - I believe that Pollan spouts exactly what most people desire to hear... The ultimate challenge for the enlightened is to make people dig further for the truth and to understand that even if there is only "one bad second", it is still somebody else’s life! And no act of harm has justification, especially not in the seductive titillations of "taste buds."

As veganelder says below your comment, this is the on going mantra of people who condone "use" of animals as long as the treatment of them includes no (obvious) gratuitous suffering. Those sorts need to lift the veil, to fully see that economics, taste buds, conveniences, tradition, etc. are all extraneous and invalid reasons for life stealing. These sorts grasp that animals do have interests in their lives - But they stop at animal "welfare"... Whereas, a sincerely honest person would embrace the idea that animal interests hinge on "wellbeing" instead. And "beingness" of course includes life and freedom to experience it.

And forgive me here - As I'm being addressed by several posts from "Anonymous" - It's difficult to distinguish which “Anonymous” I’m responding to...

BUT - to "Anonymous" who says "If you wanna truly save animals, why don't you dipshits start with the thousands of animals who are killed foer the cultivation and processesing of crops for your vegan diets"? First I'd like to refer you to my policies on offensive language and abusive comments. That said, I'll refrain from removing your comment because I wish to reply.

Perhaps you've not considered that the majority of crops that are cultivated (and that result in tragic loss of life) are processed to fatten animals? If one were truly concerned with minimizing the killing of the innocent (to just the absolute "necessity" of REAL food) - We'd still opt for a plant based diet... Nourishing 6 to 10 times more humans instead of the wasteful (and cruel) "livestock/flesh" alternatives. Furthermore if you grieve over needless animal killing, please don't dismiss the cost to wildlife such as birds, wolves, coyotes, etc. that are all deemed a "threat" to animal agriculture, and extinguished by the countless numbers to "protect" economic interests.

A quick search on the internet will bring you up to speed on the true costs of "meat" in regards to habitat destruction and the environment. This might be a good place to start your inquiry:

Good day.

Bea Elliott said...

Hello Krissa! "... this show was done with an agenda". That was my feeling too. It seemed contrived and scripted to lean in one (killing) direction only. I would think a truly progressive and thorough look at a plant based diet would include a large panel of advocates for such!!! I'm clueless as to what Cargill and Pollan had to do with furthering that discussion along! The only thing we can hope is that their agenda did some back-firing - Encouraging thoughtful people to examine and question deeper. Fingers and toes are always crossed... :/

Thanks So I'm Thinking of Going Vegan! I think reality poked a sensitive nerve or two myself! ;)

And why shouldn't it? It's clear that the choices about diet and food are getting uncomfortably close for some...But it’s high time for it!
As I've seen so many "fanatics" of truth say before me: "The days of ignorance are over!" Truth can only be a threat if your ideas are supported by deceit and attempts to obscure reality. In this lens, the "pathological liars" and "psychopaths" are those who make the claim on someone's body and life. They are the dangerous ones! But their influence has no power as long as people such as YOU keep us pointed and headed on the right course. Examining our food choices is the first step on that journey. And those who think we will (or can) turn back are delusional. Stomp their feet as much as they will - The road to knowledge and discovery is under our feet! Forge ahead! ;)

Bren McClain said...

Reading this brought tears to my eyes all over again. It's an almost unbearable subject for me, and that's the very reason I must do all I can to help get the word out like this blog does. I'm writing a novel about the issue of animal welfare and cows. Keep up the good work!

Bea Elliott said...

Thank you for your courageous choice to feel the appropriate empathy these precious beings deserve! It's wonderful you are writing a novel about the very neglected issues regarding our cow friends. I often think that animal rights will be won with a multitude of contributions from all sectors: sciences, theology, economics, technology and certainly through exposure through the arts! Just fabulous! Please keep me updated to your progress... I'm very anxious to hear more about your book and the story line (if you won't give too much away).

Thanks so much for dropping by and sharing this very good news! :)

Anonymous said...

A silent fool is counted wise.