In Defense of Animals Appalled at Oprah's Mink Slippers

In Defense of Animals sent to a newsletter in late January including an item expressing its outrage over Oprah Winfrey’s apparent fondness for fur,

On a recent Oprah Winfrey Show, Oprah gave all of her guests a gift of mink-trimmed slippers in drawstring mink bags. Please let Oprah know that animals raised for fur are kept in miserable conditions [etc., etc.] . . .

You know when Oprah Winfrey’s handing out mink slippers, all of this nonsense from activists about the fur industry being on the run is about as accurate as everything else the animal rights movement produces.


In Defense of Animals Newsletter. In Defense of Animals, V.2, #3, January 31, 2003.

Leave Oprah Alone Already

The Associated Press recently
ran a long profile of the Texas cattlemen who have the dubious distinction
of spending large amounts of money in an effort to keep alive a lawsuit
against Oprah Winfrey for disparaging remarks she said about beef on her
show several years ago. Winfrey already successfully defended herself
in a civil lawsuit brought by the cattleman, that in this writer’s opinion
made the Texas beef industry look very bad. Winfrey may show poor judgment
in relying on someone as unreliable as Howard Lyman for dietary advice,
but the same right to free speech that lets the industry and others show
the animal rights claims are nonsense also protects those who hold other

According to the Associated
Press story, the cattlemen have spent close to $6 million pursuing the
case against Winfrey – currently they are appealing the result of the
civil trial on several grounds – and are willing to spend even more get
a court to hold Winfrey liable for her comments.

Charles Babcock, an attorney
for Winfrey, says that he does not see Winfrey giving in any time soon
either. “We feel this is a meritless lawsuit,” Babcock said.
“A jury decided it is a meritless lawsuit. The court of public opinion
says it is without merit. The trial judge said it is without merit. We
think the court of appeals will agree, but if not, we’re ready to go do
it again.”

The whole business carries
a lot of the stench associated with the |McDonald’s| lawsuit against activists
who passed out pamphlets in the United Kingdom accusing McDonald’s of
doing everything from producing food that caused cancer to destroying
the environment. Under British libel laws that heavily favor plaintiffs,
the so-called “McLibel” case became the longest running trial
in British history and when it was all said and done McDonald’s won an
award for a paltry $96,000.

Like the McDonald’s lawsuit,
the cattlemen’s obsessive pursuit of Oprah Winfrey is the sort of intimidation
tactic I would expect to see from animal rights activists.

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.