NPR and Animals
It’s been a long time since I posted something not related to nutrition. And as exciting as nutrition is, once in awhile I can use a break!
There is an animal advocacy-related issue that has been sticking in my craw for the last few years. I listen to a number of NPR shows on my iPod while exercising, driving, and doing house chores, and for the most part I really enjoy them – that is, except for the lack of sensitivity and sophistication with which they treat animal issues.
On the one hand, you have Terry Gross on Fresh Air who does stories on how intelligent some animals are, and then doesn’t blink when a researcher talks about invasive research on them. Similar experiences can be had listening to Radiolab and This American Life. But they are much better than the Planet Money crew who consider farmed animals inanimate objects at best and worthy of contempt at worst.
These are programs that show a great deal of sensitivity to most progressive issues. And while I have a pretty high tolerance for our meat-centered, animal-unfriendly culture, it really burns me to hear these otherwise-enlightened people talk so insensitively. At the very least, they could care about offending their audience, which has many animal advocates.
Much worse than being personally offended, I am concerned that millions and millions of progressive listeners who might otherwise care about animal issues are listening to intelligent, sophisticated radio show hosts and guests dismiss animals’ suffering as unworthy of concern on a daily basis. It cannot be good for what we are trying to accomplish.
After hearing This American Life’s episode “Animal Sacrifice” I reached the tipping point and decided to write them. Below is my email. I am posting it here in hopes that it will help bring some awareness to what I think is a significant, though very subtle problem for our promotion of animal liberation.
This American Life:
I am a longtime listener to This American Life and an occasional donor. I absolutely love the show and am amazed at how you can produce such interesting content week after week.
I know you probably get a lot of feedback any time you mention animals and so I hesitate to write you about this, but your website says that you pass the email around and take comments seriously, so I thought I’d give it a shot.
I have been disappointed in how NPR shows, in general, treat the subject of animals. I realize that NPR is not made up of animal rights advocates, but for a network of people who are so progressive and forward-thinking on so many other issues, the views on animals are not enlightened. The Animal Sacrifice episode (which I listened to weeks ago and have been contemplating writing about ever since then) underlined this point for me. The way animal issues are dealt with on NPR must offend a large portion of the audience in ways that NPR would never be willing to do with any other issue.
I would like to give the entire network a sensitivity training on the subject, but, obviously, that is not realistic. What might be realistic would be for TAL to do a program with some serious thinkers on the issue, such as Peter Singer of Princeton University or Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States. I hope you will consider it.
And thank you again for all the great stories you continue to provide!