The campaign to promote veganism by exposing the destructive reality of the animal agriculture industry.

The ‘Animal-Based Food Taboo’: Climate change denial in media and journalism

0

The animal-based food taboo is based on a lack of moral consideration for other species. The roots of this problem is the 'ideological denial' of the human-supremacist idea. Legacy news media coverage has contributed extensively to this denial by persistently underreporting or misreporting not only the links between climate change and animal exploitation for food, but also, and mostly, by adopting a speciesist approach, giving priority to human interests solely, in the coverage of how humans treat nature and other animals in general.

NURIA ALMIRON: Climate change denial refers to the stances that advocate against the evidence posited for human-induced global warming… Since the publication of Livestock’s Long Shadow by the Food and Agriculture Organization in 2006, an increasing number of governmental and non-governmental organizations and independent researchers have pointed at animal agriculture, and, by extension, animal-based diets, as a primary contributor to global warming.

At the same time, over the last few decades, animal advocates, animal rights organizations, and many scholars and experts from a wide array of fields have revealed the cruelty and misery inflicted on non-human animals in industrial farms throughout the world, as well as the immorality of animal exploitation even on so-called “humane” farms. Extensive and intensive animal exploitation have proven to be both ethically problematic and environmentally unsustainable… Since humans don’t need animal protein to thrive—actually, the opposite seems to be the case, because animal-based diets are linked to major human diseases — a change of diet has become one of the most fundamental challenges humans face during twenty first century.

However, in spite of the connection between climate change and our food habits, the animal-based diet has been only rarely and timidly problematized by the leading institutions in society, including legacy media with the largest audiences. Research on the news media representation of the links between the animal-based diet and global warming unveils significant newspaper coverage deficits. It seems that the news media have been as uninterested in making a connection between climate change and animal agriculture as they have been in covering the connection between ethics and the consumption of other animals’ flesh and fluids.

This has only started to change in the last few years, largely due to multiple scientific reports confirming the impact of animal-based diets on the environment, including further validations from different branches of the United Nations which the media have been compelled to report. The extent to which this is altering the legacy media discourse is yet to be researched, but some related studies point at a slow progression. For instance, the plant-based diet, which is both implicitly and explicitly identified by research as a crucial factor in the mix of solutions needed for the reduction of anthropogenic global warming, is not receiving objective and sufficient news coverage or is even ridiculed or criminalized according to the limited research conducted so far on this topic.

This paper names this incongruency “the animal-based food taboo,” a denial of the possibility of a full replacement of animal-based food by plants. I call it a taboo since this possibility is considered unworthy of discussion or unacceptable by a large number of humans, mostly for cultural and economic reasons. It is no news that global warming mitigation is severely limited due to ideological reasons linked not only to habits and symbolic values but also to economic interests. The fact that some ideas—particularly the neoliberal set of ideas—are behind the main causes of anthropogenic global warming has been extensively addressed by the group of scholars analyzing the denial countermovement in the US since the 1990’s (the “denial machine” as coined by Dunlap and McCright).

However, the set of ideas that the animal-based food taboo is based on cannot be explained solely by the neoliberal triumph. As history shows, neither capitalism nor modern times have the monopoly of environmental destruction and lack of moral consideration for other species. Ethicists have consistently related this reality with moral anthropocentrism, an issue that is largely left untouched in mainstream analyses of anthropogenic climate change. This is considered elsewhere a sort of “ideological denial,” that is a denial not only of the scientific evidence for anthropogenic climate change, but also the denial of the human-supremacist ideas that are at the roots of the problem.

The animal-based food taboo is certainly weaker today compared to the past. A number of organizations, alternative media and citizens have clearly abandoned it—certainly have around 75 million vegans that are estimated existed in the world. However, this is not the prevalent stance amongst the political, social and economic elites with which the old media is interconnected… Legacy news media coverage has contributed extensively to this denial by persistently underreporting or misreporting not only the links between climate change and animal exploitation for food, but also, and mostly, by adopting a speciesist approach — giving priority to human interests solely — in the coverage of how humans treat nature and other animals in general. In this paper I suggest that news media ethics, particularly Western media codes, has contributed to this failure in reporting because they replicate the moral anthropocentric stance. Considering the problems attached to the animal-based diet, it follows this is a counter-productive, narrow media ethics approach that needs to be overcome. SOURCE…

RELATED VIDEOS: