Don’t Worry, Be Happy….

The below is from the New York Times “Watching” e-mail I get (which usefully helps sort the good from the bad in the streaming universe). Hard to imagine them advising “Skip if you don’t want to think a lot about racism.” Or poverty. Or how f*cked we are.

I guess climate change is still an optional existential threat.

Is A Condor Forced To Fight A Bull Graphic?

The New York Times says no.

Well, we are used to seeing cruelty being inflicted by humans on other species in the name of culture.

But at least a NYT story and video featuring a Peruvian ritual that involves tying a condor to a bull was objectionable enough to be examined by the NYT Public Editor, Margaret Sullivan.

PETA called out the piece, arguing it should have come with a warning that it depicted graphic cruelty to animals. Sullivan went so far as to conclude that more space and voice should have been given to opponents of the practice, and those who deem it cruel (which is sound). But her discussion of whether the video was objectionable, and warranted a warning for graphic content, was interesting:

The video, intended to explain an important cultural practice in Peru, amounts to depicting animal abuse, wrote Amanda Schinke, a PETA spokeswoman.

Although we appreciate that the story touched briefly on conservationists’ opposition to this practice, we were surprised that it did not address the cruelty inherent in strapping a wild bird to a terrified bull and instead presented this cruel practice as a venerable tradition. It creates the impression that The Times endorses cruelty or insensitivity to animals. Would you please add a disclaimer that the story – especially the photo and video elements – depicts graphic cruelty to animals?

The Times, which is rapidly increasing its production of videos, brings the same standards to those videos that it does to its other journalism.

Does this video meet those standards? And is a disclaimer necessary here?

I asked Richard L. Berke, a senior editor who is directing video development, to respond.

“We do want to be sensitive to taste and possible offensiveness,” he said, “and in this case we were careful to edit out anything graphic.”

He noted that The Times often does use a disclaimer to alert viewers to disturbing or graphic content. Images of war and disaster, as in this video, which does include a disclaimer, are the most common examples.

In this case, however, “the video didn’t merit a disclaimer,” Mr. Berke said.

What’s interesting is that Berke seems to feel that the amount of blood or ripped flesh is what determines whether the images are graphic, rather than the entire concept of strapping a condor to a bull and then watching them try to rip into each other.

Would Berke consider a video of a pit bull ripping into a human which doesn’t show much injury or blood “graphic”? I would bet yes, because it is a human that is being harmed.

In any case, Sullivan agreed with Berke. Which goes to show that while human violence and cruelty involving other humans is considered “graphic” enough to warrant a warning, human cruelty to animals is still not objectionable enough to get the same treatment. Which is a telling insight into how we continue to view (nonhuman) animals and the human treatment of animals.

Mark Bittman Is Coming Out (Slowly)

It’s been interesting to track NYT’s food writer Mark Bittman’s growing preoccupation and alarm over the human, environmental, and animal costs of meat production and consumption. He’s not yet an all-out vegetarian crusader. But he seems to be getting there one column at a time.

Here, he calls on meat eaters to be heroes by….eating less meat. Okay, that’s not terribly inspiring, but he is quoting Bruce Willis in Armageddon, so at least he has the Apocalypytic context right:

Here’s the thing: It’s seldom that such enormous problems have such simple solutions, but this is one that does. We can tackle climate change without inventing new cars or spending billions on mass transit or trillions on new forms of energy, though all of that is not only desirable but essential.

In the meantime, we can begin eating less meat tomorrow. That’s something any of us can do, with no technological advances. If personal choice enacted on a large scale could literally save the world, maybe we have to talk about it that way. We could be heroes, like Bruce Willis in “Armageddon,” only maybe the sacrifice is on a more modest and easier scale. (You already changed your light bulbs; how about eating a salad?)

Well, “heroic” and “modest” don’t usually go together. So I’ll stick to my personal hope that one by one people simply decide to stop eating meat altogether, instead of eating the planet into fiery, supervirus-infected oblivion, one heaping platter of sirloin at a time (while aiding and abetting an animal Holocaust for good measure).

I’d urge you to read Bittman’s piece, anyhow, because even if his rallying cry is a bit timid, his summary of all the impacts of meat eating and production is concise and bracing. It came out of a request the NYT made, asking readers to defend the ethics of eating meat (Bittman was a judge who helped pick the winner and finalists). He writes:

A fascinating discussion. But you need not have a philosophy about meat-eating to understand that we — Americans, that is — need to do less of it. In fact, only if meat were produced at no or little expense to the environment, public health or animal welfare (as, arguably, some of it is), would our decisions about whether to raise and kill animals for food come down to ethics.

That seems odd to me, since it is exactly all of those things (cost to the environment, public health, and animal welfare), which are at the heart of any evaluation of the ethics of meat eating and production (especially factory farming).

Anyhow, it feels like it won’t be long before Bittman is writing about vegan cooking, and wondering why anyone eats any meat at all.