On The Importance of Not Throwing Away Your Credibility

Can the cattle industry ever live
down the Oprah Winfrey lawsuit? An Associated Press story recently noted
that the Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association has set up
a hotline for people in the beef industry to call if they hear people
disparaging beef. As the organization’s spokesman Rob Hosford put it,

If we hear XYZ radio station carrying something about the
beef industry, procedures and products that is derogatory, unfounded
and untrue, with this task force we will send someone over there to
re-educate, so the next time they talk they’ll be talking form the right
side of the ballpark.

The hotline was apparently
inspired by the ongoing controversy in Texas over a billboard People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals put
up to promote its “Jesus was a vegetarian campaign.” Bruce Friedrich,
who coordinates that campaign, said the hotline was a sign of desperation.
“Clearly, they are running scared,” Friederich told the Associated
Press. “All the propaganda in the world can’t sanitize their product.”

The Associated Press report noted that the
hotline was set up a year after the infamous Amarillo trial of Oprah Winfrey
for allegedly defaming the beef industry after she proclaimed she would
no longer eat beef because of the risk of Mad Cow Disease.

Although I rarely agree with
Friedrich about anything, he is correct that many people might see the
setting up of the hotline as the cattle industry running scared. The ill-advised
(to be blunt it was idiotic) prosecution of Winfrey dealt a serious blow
to the credibility of the beef industry. All it accomplished was giving
the animal rights activists ammunition to use in their campaign against
the industry. As Friedrich himself wrote in a recent essay, those who
agree with the animal rights position are a very tiny minority. They will
almost certainly remain so unless animal industries make them into sympathetic
victims, which is precisely what the Winfrey trial did.

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