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Terrence O’Keefe, WATT’s content director, provides his perspective on everything from animal agriculture trends that impact our food chain to food-safety related issues affecting chicken and egg production. O’Keefe has covered the poultry industry as an editor for more than a decade and also brings his experience in plant management and poultry production to comment on today’s issues.
Broilers & Layers / Poultry Processing & Slaughter / Egg Production

No pretense of objectivity in USA Today editorial

March 26, 2015

When I read the USA Today editorial slamming the U.S. broiler and egg industries for current layer housing and broiler live receiving and stunning practices, I thought it read just like it had been dictated by an animal rights activist group. Then I took a closer look at the graphic the editorial board chose to illustrate the editorial and use in its teaser on the home page of the opinion section, and I realized they probably weren’t even embarrassed by how little objectivity was used in their analysis. They use a graphic from the group Mercy for Animals, which, in addition to having a picture of a processing line with birds on it, clearly states “Mercy for Animals” and has two of this organization’s “logos” and then the text, “Take Action, Choose Veg, Donate.”

I’ve been in the media business for over a decade, and I know how hard it can sometimes be to find a suitable graphic to illustrate an article, but with USA Today’s resources, couldn’t they find something that didn’t contain a call to action from an activist group? I suppose by choosing this graphic the USA Today editorial board was providing a public service by letting readers know that there isn’t any room for objectivity in its pages.

USA Today did publish a reply to its editorial from John Starkey, president, U.S. Poultry & Egg Association. Starkey makes good points in response to the editorial board’s attacks on the industry, but this doesn’t mean the paper is being objective. The fairer approach would have been to just publish an opinion piece from Mercy for Animals or the Humane Society of the United States and offering the opportunity for the industry to respond.

I hope that the editorial board takes up Starkey on his offer for them to visit layer farms and broiler processing plants to learn about what really happens there. Perhaps it they do this, the next opinion piece they write about poultry industry practices would actually be worth reading.

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