Harpers Magazine Props Up Animal Extremism

Harper’s Magazine Props Up Animal Extremist Agenda

Winston Churchill once said, “A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on.” Indeed, the rampant dissemination of skewed studies, misinformation, and outright lies is a cornerstone of the animal and environmental extremist movements. Additionally, media outlets and personalities are quite often willing accomplices in the propagation of extremist ideology. What’s worse, rebuttals from animal experts are usually limited to industry publications and are rarely granted the advantage of mainstream audiences.

Giving an Audience to a Group Which Commits Crimes

A recent article in Harper’s Magazine illustrates the issue very clearly by regurgitating debunked animal extremist talking points. The article also ventures onto dangerous ground by giving publicity to the animal extremist fringe group, Direct Action Everywhere (DxE). Even in established animal extremist circles, DxE is viewed as a pariah because of its extreme and illegal activities.
Instances of trespassing, burglary, harassment, and vandalism are regular occurrences and are counted as coups among DxE members. Since the group’s creation in 2013, DxE members have been charged with more than ninety felonies, mostly for stealing animals or trespassing. They euphemistically refer to their actions as “nonviolent civil disobedience.”

Article Promotes Committing Crimes for Attention

The Harper’s article was written by Elizabeth Barber and titled “Standing Trial: Should We Care About Animal Liberation?” and features DxE press coordinator Matt Johnson. In the article, Johnson was described by an acquaintance as being “a great puppet master of creative mayhem and balls-to-the-wall escalation and inspiring fear. He says he sees himself spending ten years in prison.” Additionally, the article reveals that Johnson once seriously considered setting himself on fire for his cause, but “when he looked into the idea, he found that a climate activist who had self-immolated in Brooklyn that year hadn’t garnered much press.”

Author is Biased

Harper’s had to know the background of the extremist group before publishing which begs the question: why would they grant DxE the space to promote their extremist agenda? As is often the case, the simplest explanation is the best. The writer, Elizabeth Barber, is a vegan herself and is sympathetic to the cause. In the Harper’s podcast about the article, she is careful to separate herself from DxE, stating that she “explicitly chose not to break any rules,” but goes on to say that “I’m obviously a vegan and obviously trying to do a service to animal activism.”

Unverifiable and Fallacious Statements

Throughout the article, Barber makes unverifiable and fallacious statements, no doubt rightly assuming that her audience takes them as true. The article itself reveals some of the methods utilized by extremist movements stating, “The political scientist Erica Chenoweth has argued that you have to persuade about 3.5 percent of a population to take action for a cause before you can enact real change… Achieving that goal requires the constant conversion of hostile opponents into passive supporters and passive supporters into active participants.”

To this end, animal extremists rely on lies and sensationalism.
Barber states: “I don’t eat any animals or products made from animals, but my family and friends do. I imagine that if they were to read an article about a protest at a giant slaughterhouse, they’d say they don’t eat chicken produced in such an inhumane facility. (They would be wrong since nearly all the animals eaten in the United States are raised and slaughtered at such places.)”

The Facts

The facts are that the humane treatment of food animals is ensured by the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA). The HMSA requires the humane treatment and handling of food animals at slaughter plants while also providing a quick and effective death. According to the USDA, “The Act was originally passed on August 27, 1958, and is enforced by the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS). In 1978, the Act was amended to allow USDA, and FSIS inspectors to stop slaughter activities if they think an animal is being handled inhumanely. HMSA protects all livestock except poultry.” The humane handling and processing of poultry are covered by the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA).

Mis-Using Unusual Circumstances

Barber’s article puts particular focus on Johnson’s involvement with events at certain Iowa pork farms during the pandemic, when the closure of numerous processing plants forced some producers to depopulate their facilities, meaning that without places for thousands of harvest-ready animals to go for standard processing, they had to be humanely disposed of in other ways.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) guidelines state: “the term depopulation refers to the rapid destruction of a population of animals in response to urgent circumstances with as much consideration given to the welfare of the animals as practicable.”

In a June 2020 news release, Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Mike Naig said, “Pork producers are going to extraordinary lengths to find solutions, but it’s not enough to make up for the backlog happening on farms. Euthanasia is a very difficult decision for producers to make and is always used as a last resort.”

An AVMA journal article stated: “The farm evaluated the feasibility of each de-population method, and methods were ranked on the basis of animal welfare impact, aesthetics of the process, operator safety, timeliness (ie, number of animals that could be depopulated in a set amount of time), and environmental impact of the carcasses.” After other possible methods were eliminated due to a lack of resources, practicality, and environmental concerns, the method chosen was ventilation shutdown (VSD).
“… There are not a lot of good ways to kill hundreds or thousands of pigs in a short time. Can you think of a better way? Hold them down one-by-one and inject them? Shoot them in the head? These are 300-plus pound animals…Trust me, many companies lost a ton of money by essentially having to bury food, so this was not an economic decision as much as a ‘we need to do something now and there aren’t a lot of options decision,” said one veterinarian.

Capitalizing on a Tragic Situation

Even amidst the dire and unprecedented circumstances surrounding the pandemic, animal extremists were certain to not let a good crisis go to waste. Like “ambulance chaser” lawyers, DxE capitalized on the emergency measures brought on by the pandemic and resulting events that even Barber described as “unusual” in her article. Despite the fact that VSD is far from standard practice in the pork industry, DxE illegally planted cameras in a large indoor pen where VSD was scheduled to take place, simply to manufacture shock value and “garner press.”
The willingness of extremists to stretch the truth to fit their agenda is plainly explained in Barber’s article: “VSD had stunned the public in a way that more routine violence does not—Matt was nevertheless hoping to show in court that VSD was not a horrifying anomaly but the logical conclusion wherever pigs are treated as commodities.”

Author Essentially Admits Participating in Activism, Not Journalism

At the end of the article, Barber claims that she tried to attend a pork industry convention for the purpose of writing the said article but was refused entry because she couldn’t prove that she wasn’t an activist. Conveniently, this is not easily verified. Interestingly, however, in the Harper’s podcast, Barber states that the boundary between being a journalist and an activist is a “flimsy, porous one.”
“Eating meat is not unlike all the other ways in which we destroy our ideals; we forsake our principles when it is convenient to do so. Most of our moral choices are unpoliced, except by way of our own conscience.”

Alarming Trend Will Impact Food Security for the Nation

Providing animal extremism with a platform is an alarming trend we are seeing in the media. This article is not the first of its kind, nor will it be the last. Our organization has exposed media bias, and promotion of animal extremism in the past. This is of great concern because the agenda of animal extremism is to dictate the food people eat and it is very clear to us that many media outlets are focusing only on the short-term spike in reach and ratings.

There appears to be no consideration of how their participation in animal extremist ideology will affect our way of life and our ability to feed our nation.

The media needs to understand its role in our food system and how they are impacting our nation’s food security.


Skewed Studies Used to Advance Extremist Agenda HERE

Biased Attacks on Beef Industry Debunked by Facts HERE

A Closer Look at DxE HERE

Information about Food Security HERE HERE HERE

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