February 03. 2013 4:56PM

Another View: Why do activists oppose swift reporting of animal cruelty?


Animal liberation activists were in an uproar last month in the Granite State. Was it a horrible case of dog-fighting or cat hoarding? Not at all. Their fur was flying over a proposed law that would actually reduce animal cruelty.

If that sounds like a man-bites-dog story, that's because things aren't what they seem.

The legislation at hand is a proposal to require that any video recordings of livestock cruelty be turned over to authorities within 24 hours. It's quite simple and the benefits are obvious: It will help fight animal cruelty by getting the police involved quickly.

It's a bizarre and unfortunate reality that animal rights groups are opposing this effort to reduce animal cruelty. But it reflects their priorities.

Animal liberation groups such as PETA and the Humane Society of the U.S. (that is not affiliated with local humane societies) have developed a cottage industry in filming alleged cruelty for weeks or months and then releasing it with a big media splash later. They get their faces on TV and their names in the paper when they think timing is right for a good PR campaign. And the animals? A few of them might suffer longer bouts of abuse while the activists film and wait, as happened in Ohio a few years ago.

The record is muddled. At times, animal rights activists have uncovered horrible acts. That's all the more reason to have to notify the authorities immediately. Police, not animal rights groups, should make the judgment call on whether to continue to film and investigate, or whether to step in with immediate corrective action, which could result in criminal charges and employee termination.

At other times, animal rights groups have simply produced propaganda films and passed them off as animal cruelty. For example, last year the group Mercy for Animals released a video allegedly exposing cruelty in the pork industry. However, upon review an expert panel of animal scientists found that the animals were generally well taken care of - but the media damage had been done. The proposed law would help remedy this by allowing law enforcement, a neutral arbiter, to decide if any animal cruelty had legitimately taken place before a biased animal rights smear campaign is launched.

Heavily spliced video can be misleading.

It's important to keep in mind that animal liberation groups like Mercy for Animals or the Humane Society of the United States have a larger, vegan agenda to eliminate meat, eggs, and dairy from our diet.

These activists have an incentive to "spin." They employ professional media flaks, but these groups have few, if any, veterinarians or farmers on staff who understand farm animals and have hands-on working experience. They have an incentive to create the most misleading video possible and release it to the public. It isn't difficult to make farms look strange; most people in the press and general public have never been farmers. Animal liberationists are just ideologues looking to smear farmers. These vegan groups think using animals for food is animal cruelty. About 99 percent of Americans don't.

While animal rights groups are concerned that this bill might make their media spin jobs tougher, they have not offered any credible argument against this bill as to how it would hurt animals. That's because it wouldn't. Getting law enforcement involved will only help.

That these groups oppose such efforts shows their true priorities: Garnering media hits over helping animals.

Rick Berman is executive director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit coalition supported by restaurants, food companies and consumers to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices.