Lying by omission is one way to define “fake news.” By that definition, virtually all the mainstream coronavirus news coverage you are watching is fake. The networks essentially refuse to discuss the origins of the catastrophic coronavirus! Sure, you may hear news hosts make oblique and passing references to “live markets” as they urge you to hunker down in your homes and whip out the Lysol. But, that – obviously – does not tell the full story. The real story is: the abuse of animals in the food system is at the heart of this global debacle that is fast destroying our economy, killing a growing number of people and forcing millions of others to live in miserable isolation! This is, indeed, mother nature’s revenge. Not my phrase. That’s how an expert in zoonotic diseases described it.
I’m not always a fan of the New York Post. But, I must give them props for telling it like it is in their investigative story about live meat markets just like the one in Wuhan, China, where this pandemic began. Here is their description of the average “live market,” aka meat market.
“In stall after stall, a mix of live and dead animals, which run the gamut from the known (pig, ox, duck, chicken) to the rare or unknown due to the condition of the carcass — stare back at you. In the wet areas of the market — usually reserved for fish and sea creatures and where the ground is slick with water and often blood — the stink is worse. The animals that have not yet been dispatched by the butcher’s knife make desperate bids to escape by climbing on top of each other and flopping or jumping out of their containers (to no avail). At least in the wet areas, the animals don’t make a sound. The screams from mammals and fowl are unbearable and heartbreaking.”
Thank you New York Post for actually acknowledging the suffering of the animals involved. My question is: why are we not hearing similar, accurate descriptions from news anchors at the major networks? To talk about a global pandemic without consistently discussing its origins is like holding a murder trial and rarely mentioning the defendant. It’s irresponsible.
Experts believe that the virus originated in bats in China, animals ripped from the wild, kept in horrific conditions and then killed to be eaten. Here’s how NPR describes the insidious process: “Patients who came down with disease at the end of December all had connections to the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan China. The complex of stalls selling live fish, meat and wild animals is known in the region as a ‘wet market.’ Researchers believe the new virus probably mutated from a coronavirus common in animals and jumped over to humans in the Wuhan bazaar.”
OK, so props to NPR too. But, what about the more popular cable news networks? Why aren’t they consistently connecting the dots between this hideous virus and the killing of animals for food? One answer may lie in what you see and hear in between the news segments. I’m talking about the commercials. Watch them! They are overwhelmingly advertisements for meat, dairy and pharmaceuticals. These happen to be the very industries that would collapse if consumers starting thinking realistically about the cruelty and bloodshed that goes into producing the ribs, burgers, wings, eggs, milkshakes and bacon that they have been conditioned to consume. Are American slaughterhouses much better than Asia’s live markets? There is still lots of blood, feces and body parts. No way around that. Meat doesn’t fall from the sky. The fact is: there is no nice way to kill someone who doesn’t want to die. Slaughter, by its very definition, is a nasty, grotesque business.
So, with the exception of some great special reports by NBC’s Richard Engel and 60 Minutes Australia, the news media continues to dance around the primal issue at the heart of this mind-boggling catastrophe, the likes of which we have never seen. News hosts question expert panel after expert panel, without ever having a full blown conversation about the horrific conditions at these markets and how meat markets are a global phenomenon and, therefore, a global problem. In case you didn’t know, there are dozens of live meat markets in New York City, for example. Some might argue… well, they don’t sell wild animals. But, is that really the point? And, do we really know that’s true? Frogs, turtles, rabbits… they’ve been spotted at some of New York City’s live markets. Could those be wild animals?
Now, it is time we ask ourselves: what is the cost of ignoring this essential aspect of the coronavirus story? If we do not learn from this monumental calamity, could we be bound to repeat it? Through our society’s willful ignorance, could we be setting the stage for something even deadlier? It’s not the first time a virus or disease linked to food animals has wreaked havoc. Remember mad cow disease? Remember swine flu, which is still ongoing in China, decimating millions of pigs before their body parts can be gobbled down someone’s throat? Remember the avian flu? The philosopher George Santayana famously said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
That philosopher also said, “All living souls welcome whatever they are ready to cope with; all else they ignore…” Right now, we – as a culture – are still ignoring the truth staring us in the face: the killing of animals for food is having a devastating impact on our world. It’s a leading cause of human illness, meaning heart disease and cancer. It’s a leading cause of climate change, habitat destruction, wildlife extinction, water pollution and water scarcity. It’s a leading cause of human world hunger because animals eat so much more than they produce as meat or dairy. Now, add to the list, it is causing the most disruptive virus of our lifetimes.
When will the mainstream media have this conversation? Hopefully, before it’s too late.
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Jane Velez-Mitchell is an award-winning TV journalist and New York Times best-selling author. She is the founder of UnchainedTV and the host of several shows on the network.